Barristers sanctioned for misconduct while working as or for solicitors

Immigration: JRs were totally without merit

Two barristers who have faced the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal have now been sanctioned by the Bar’s counterpart, with one being disbarred and the other reprimanded.

Terence Symmonds became a solicitor before being struck off in 2014, but has only recently been disbarred by a Bar disciplinary tribunal.

One of his offences was failing to report the matter to the Bar Standards Board but said he assumed the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal (SDT) would report it.

He was called in 1989 and employed as barrister until 1995. After that he was an unregistered barrister until another brief spell of employment between 2001 to 2002.

Mr Symmonds was admitted as a solicitor in 2002 but returned to the Bar in 2015.

The Bar tribunal found that he had committed “discreditable” professional misconduct while working as a solicitor.

Even before the striking-off, he was fined £5,000 by the SDT in 2009 over several allegations – including failing to pay counsel fees that were due – and then suspended for a year in 2011 over several more.

The strike-off followed findings that Mr Symmonds had breached an undertaking, wrongly removed money from client account and not registered a lender’s interest at the Land Registry.

Mr Symmonds said he did not appear at the virtual hearing because he said he had been unable to secure pro bono representation and did not feel able to represent himself.

The tribunal said it “cannot but be sympathetic” to Mr Symmonds because of his personal circumstances – he had been homeless and depressed, and “some of his problems derived from the fact that a partner had mental health difficulties”.

But the findings of professional misconduct and in certain instances a lack of integrity “necessitates disbarment”, as did a failure to self-report serious misconduct.

Meanwhile, earlier this year, Jusna Begum Miah was reprimanded by a Bar tribunal for bringing immigration judicial review (JR) applications which were “totally without merit”.

She brought nine applications in a single year, which were “an abuse of process of the court and wasted court time”.

She faced the SDT last year for her work as an unadmitted fee-earner at M-R Solicitors in north-east London.

It found that Ms Miah “knew or ought to have known” that the claims were meritless and breached her obligation to the court not to bring claims which she “did not consider, or ought not to have considered” were properly arguable.

But it also found that the motivation of Ms Miah and a colleague was, “albeit ill conceived, to help their clients as opposed to any sinister intent”.

She was fined £12,000, ordered to pay costs of £26,500, and banned from working for law firms without the permission of the Solicitors Regulation Authority under section 43 of the Solicitors Act.

However, in July 2019, the authority approved an application from Winston Rose Solicitors to employ Ms Miah as a caseworker, subject to conditions that she was supervised by a named solicitor and could not work on JR applications for at least six months, after which she could apply for the restriction to be reconsidered.

The Bar disciplinary tribunal said it agreed with the findings of the SDT, including her motivation.

There was premeditation, in the sense that the JR applications were “deliberately filed” in circumstances where Ms Miah should have known of their “inherent weakness”.

The tribunal found, as had the SDT, that the unregistered barrister’s actions would undermine public confidence, and involved wasting fees on meritless JR applications when acting for vulnerable clients.

Turning to the mitigating factors, the tribunal said Ms Miah had admitted the charges, shown genuine remorse and co-operated with the investigation, so she was treated “in effect” as being of good character.

The tribunal said that, had it not been for penalties imposed by the SDT, it would have considered a sanction at the level of a fine or short suspension.

But bearing in mind the “interests of proportionality and fairness”, the Bar tribunal said it was right to take into account the SDT sanctions. The public was “fully protected” by the conditions imposed on Ms Miah’s current employment.

It decided that, having considered all the factors and “perhaps unusually for this kind of conduct”, a reprimand was appropriate.

In the light of the financial penalties imposed by the SDT, which required Ms Miah to pay £750 per month in costs to the SRA and £500 towards her fine, the tribunal said it saw “no value” in imposing its own low-level fine.

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