Ex-solicitor struck off 24 years ago fails in bid to return to roll


SDT: Public interest not served by restoring ex-solicitor to roll

A woman struck off as a solicitor 24 years ago has failed in her second attempt to be restored to the roll, with a tribunal saying the passage of time did not of itself justify it.

Rita Ifeyinwa Chris-Garuba (aka Kuku) said the aim of the application was to advance her legal career in Nigeria and she offered an undertaking not to practise in England and Wales.

She said being struck off had prevented her from becoming a judge or a senior advocate (equivalent to a KC).

But the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal (SDT) said this was not relevant, finding the public interest would not be served by her restoration.

Ms Chris-Garuba first began working in England and Wales in 1996 as a registered foreign lawyer before qualifying as a solicitor in 1998. She worked at London firm Cyril Waterton Solicitors, which the Law Society (in the pre-Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) days) closed down in 1999.

The SDT struck her off in 2000 after finding that she repeatedly lied to two sets of solicitors so as to sell a property from herself (in her married name) to herself (in her maiden name).

Her other failures included misuse of client monies, not keeping books of account properly written up and not complying with an undertaking.

She first sought readmission to the roll in 2017, offering evidence of her rehabilitation and unblemished legal practice in Nigeria since 1999.

The SDT refused it given the seriousness of the dishonesty previously found, no demonstrable experience within England and Wales and a lack of “genuine insight” into her misconduct.

Among the evidence for her latest application was a letter of good standing from the Nigerian Bar, and Nigeria Police character certificate and testimonials from members of the Nigerian judiciary and legal profession.

Ms Chris-Garuba stated that the tribunal’s concerns regarding her lack of rehabilitation in England and Wales was not relevant given her intention to practise only in Nigeria and that this amounted to an exceptional circumstance.

She apologised for the property fraud, explaining that her intention was “not to deceive” but to prevent her husband going after the property as they were going through a divorce at the time.

The SRA urged the tribunal to reject the application and the panel agreed.

The failures for which she was struck off “demonstrated a flagrant disregard of the standards and obligations of a solicitor”, it said, and the passage of time “in and of itself did not warrant restoration to the roll”.

“The crux of the issue was the steps taken by Ms Chris-Garuba to remedy, demonstrably so, the underlying misconduct which resulted in the order striking her from the roll,” the SDT said.

“Whilst the tribunal noted the profession achievements of Ms Chris-Garuba in Nigeria, there was no evidence of any, let alone substantial or satisfactory, employment within the legal profession in England and Wales.

“By Ms Chris Garuba’s own admission, the legal system in Nigeria was not as robust or rigorous as that within England and Wales. The evidence advanced by Ms Chris Garuba of her legal experience in Nigeria was therefore of limited assistance to the tribunal.”

It concluded that her application did not establish that the public would be protected, the reputation of the profession upheld or public confidence in the regulatory process maintained if she were restored to the roll.

“The tribunal determined that it would not be in the public interest restore Ms Chris Garuba to the roll of solicitors.”

It also ordered her to pay costs of £3,224.




    Readers Comments

  • Roberto Mitrofan says:

    Compared to many jurisdictions, England and Wales is one of the most commendable.

  • Mr DONALD R MACLEOD says:

    Difficult to understand the tribunal’s reasoning here. She cannot work as a solicitor here, and if she has chosen to take steps abroad to rehabilitate herself, it is difficult to see why that is not relevant. Surely what matters is the conduct evidencing rehabilitation?.


Leave a Comment

By clicking Submit you consent to Legal Futures storing your personal data and confirm you have read our Privacy Policy and section 5 of our Terms & Conditions which deals with user-generated content. All comments will be moderated before posting.

Required fields are marked *
Email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Blog


Understanding vicarious trauma in the legal workplace

Vicarious trauma can happen to anyone who works with clients who have experienced trauma such as domestic or other violence, child abuse, sexual assault, torture or being a refugee.


Does your integrity extend far enough?

Simply telling a client they need to seek financial advice or offering them the business cards of three financial planners you know is NOT a referral.


Enhancing wellbeing: Strategies for a balanced work-life

Finding a balance between work and personal life has been a long-standing challenge for many professionals, particularly within high-pressure environments like the legal industry.


Loading animation