Tuesday 03 April 2012 by John Hyde
The Court of Appeal today ruled that the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal was wrong to spare a solicitor guilty of professional misconduct from being struck off the roll.
The Solicitors Regulation Authority had appealed after the SDT elected to fine Manchester solicitor Anthony Dennison £23,500 for five breaches of professional conduct rules.
The Divisional Court upheld that appeal, a decision which Dennison then appealed himself.
Three judges ruled that the original SDT decision was 'clearly inappropriate' and that it was 'entirely justified' that Dennison be struck off the roll.
Dennison was a partner at regional firm Rowe Cohen, which acted for clients introduced by claims management company The Accident Group (TAG). He also held an interest in Legal Report Services Ltd (LRS), which obtained evidence in support of claims handled by solicitors on the TAG panel, including Rowe Cohen.
Dennison did not disclose his interest in LRS either to his firm's partners or to clients.
The SDT found there was a conflict between his financial interest in LRS and his duty to the client. But the tribunal decided against him being struck off because several years had elapsed and Dennison posed no risk to the public by continuing to practice.
In his judgment, Lord Justice Moore-Bick dismissed this view, saying if Dennison continued to practise 'it would tend to reinforce the perception that the profession was willing to tolerate seriously dishonest practitioners'.
David Middleton, SRA executive director, said after the judgment: 'We do not believe that substantial fining powers are a substitute for strike-off when the risk to the public is substantial.'