The range of wrongdoing at law firms has been demonstrated by a series of rebukes handed out by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) in the past month.
The most recent was that of non-solicitor Graham Borley, who at the time worked as a conveyancing clerk at Liverpool firm Morecrofts, and was found to have created two e-mails which were purportedly from a client.
The SRA notice said: “These e-mails had the potential to cause loss to this client as they purported to give instructions to the firm to use part of the funds held for this client to settle sums due on other matters that were unconnected with this client. It was found that Mr Borley took steps to conceal his actions and that his conduct misled the firm’s finance partner.”
On top of the rebuke, he was ordered to pay a financial penalty of £7,500, costs of £1,350 and made subject to a section 43 order, which bans him from working in the solicitors’ profession without the SRA’s permission.
Stuart Howard Benson – who used to practise as a sole practitioner in Reading and acted for Mohammed Al Fayed in the past – was rebuked for failing to engage with the SRA regarding the closure of his firm, county court judgments and a bankruptcy order made against him. He also failed to respond to formal letters requesting an explanation of his conduct. He was directed to pay costs of £1,350.
Willem Johan Nico Louw, a solicitor at criminal defence firm The Johnson Partnership in Doncaster, was rebuked after being found guilty of assault by beating at Rotherham Magistrates’ Court. He was given a conditional discharge for 12 months and ordered to pay costs of £620 and a victim surcharge of £15.
Mr Louw was found to have failed to uphold the rule of law, to notify the SRA of the conviction and to deal with the SRA in an open, timely and co-operative manner during its investigation of his conduct. He was also ordered to pay costs of £600.
Adekunle Soyege, a sole practitioner trading as Nat Jen Soyege in Milton Keynes, was found to have practised without professional indemnity insurance for just over a month before closing his firm on 2 February 2015.
The notice said he also misled the SRA, failed to notify a client that he was practising uninsured, failed to act in the client’s best interests and provide a proper standard of service, failed to provide the client with the best possible information about costs, and failed to co-operate with the Legal Ombudsman.
Kamran Hyder, who at the time worked at Bond Dickinson in Newcastle, was rebuked and ordered to pay costs of £600.
The SRA said: “In June 2015, the council noted that Mr Hyder had a duplicate parking permit issued to him by Bond Dickinson. Mr Hyder created this duplicate from an expired permit.”
Finally, non-solicitor Tanya Morgan, who at the time was working at Leamington Spa firm Alsters Kelly, was rebuked, fined £1,000 and ordered to pay costs of £600, as well as being made subject to a section 43 order.
Ms Morgan worked for the firm for 11 years, but according to the SRA, “was found to have misappropriated property or money due to the estate of a client of the firm”. She was summarily dismissed and is currently not involved in a legal practice.