Accounts manager tried to remove partners from roll of solicitors

SRA: Section 43 orders

An accounts manager who tried to remove her firm’s partners from the roll of solicitors has been barred from working for law firms.

Syriah Gordon-Jones can only in future work for practices overseen by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) with its permission, under the terms of a so-called section 43 order.

A notice published last week said that Ms Gordon-Jones worked as an accounts manager for Camberley, Surrey firm Neale Turk Ruchfort between 13 May and 20 October 2020.

It was found that, on or around 20 October, she accessed the partners’ mySRA accounts and made amendments to their records, as well as an application for removal from the roll of solicitors, without their permission.

She also contacted the firm’s accountants and directed them to prepare a payslip for her salary and notice pay of £5,000, when this was not authorised or agreed by the firm.

Further, she made “racist and abusive comments” towards the partners, including threats of harm.

The SRA said the conduct had “the potential to cause significant harm to the partners at the firm” and made it “undesirable for her to be involved in a legal practice”.

The SRA has also imposed a section 43 order on David Hawkins, who used to be a bookkeeper at DW Solicitors in Northampton.

He admitted failing to adjust his monthly salary to reflect the salary advancements he had received, which resulted in nine months of double salary. This was dishonest, the SRA said.

In addition, he admitted posting the incorrect monies received to the different client ledgers, which led to a shortfall in client account and the firm being in breach of the accounts rules. “It is therefore not desirable for a bookkeeper who acts in this way to be involved in legal practice.”

Both Ms Gordon-Jones and Mr Hawkins were ordered to pay SRA costs of £600.

Section 43 of the Solicitors Act 1974 allows the SRA to control the employment of non-solicitors in the profession.

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