Practice and Procedure


PUBLISHED July 24, 2003

The Law Society had not erred in striking the appellant solicitor off the roll of solicitors as opposed to imposing any other punitive measure.Appeal under s.49(1) Solicitors Act 1974 against the decision of the Law Society ('the society') on 1 July 2002 to strike the appellant ('N') off the roll of solicitors. N had: (i) presided over two substantial client account deficits; (ii) paid clients' funds into his office account; (iii) signed a report on title (in a conveyancing transaction) that was wholly inadequate; and (iv) released office stationery to a third party in the knowledge that it would be used in property transactions so as to purport to emanate from N. On this appeal, N argued that the society had failed to: (a) apply a sanction that was commensurate with the level and/or nature of the wrongdoing found against him; (b) give effect to its own finding that N had not been dishonest; (c) recognise that his wrongdoing with regard to the report on title was a direct consequence of his lack of experience in conveyancing; (d) recognise or give adequate weight to the fact that the third party was an experienced fraudster and N's unchallenged assertion that he had been a victim of his fraud; and (e) give adequate weight or consideration to its own finding that N had not been guilty of fraud and therefore was not dishonest.HELD: (1) The society had made no finding of dishonesty. However, the sanction of striking a solicitor off the roll could still be appropriate where a solicitor had fallen short of the standards of integrity, probity and trustworthiness expected of a solicitor (Bolton v The Law Society (1994) 1 WLR 512 considered). (2) In this case, N had fallen short of those standards as he had effectively abandoned his responsibilities to the third party and allowed his stationery to be used to perpetrate a fraud. (3) Further, the earlier incident concerning the report on title exacerbated the position. Whilst N had not been fraudulent, the risk of loss as a result of his conduct was predictable given that he had abdicated responsibility for the transaction. (4) Moreover, N's breaches of duty could not be explained by his relative lack of experience in conveyancing as he had had years of experience as a solicitor and had previously been a member of the Bar. (5) Although there had been some delay by the society it was not referable to any fault on the society's part. (6) In those and all the other circumstances of the case the society's decision could not be faulted.Appeal dismissed.