A solicitor has avoided an appearance before the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal after accepting a rebuke for failing to report his firm’s “serious financial difficulties”.
Jamie Lee Ratcliffe had worked at Tracey Barlow Furniss & Co in Worksop from 2002 and became a salaried partner in 2007 before leaving in May 2014, shortly before the firm closed at the end of August.
According to the regulatory settlement agreement published by the Solicitors Regulation Authority – which will lead to proceedings before the tribunal being rescinded – an SRA investigation identified “a number of financial irregularities”, including that the firm owed HMRC £202,800 in unpaid VAT.
Further, the firm had two loans from Bank of Scotland totalling £380,815. As a result of non-payment, the bank had issued a statutory demand and receivers had been appointed on 16 August 2013. The receivers served notice in March 2014 that they intended to close the firm’s office accounts at the end of May.
The agreement said: “The above financial difficulties constituted a material risk to the firm and its clients. Mr Ratcliffe did not notify the SRA of the firm’s financial difficulties, as was required in accordance with Principles 7 and 8, and Outcome 10.3 of the SRA Principles 2011.”
Having been referred to the tribunal, Mr Radcliffe admitted his failure and accepted a rebuke instead. He also agreed to pay £2,151 in costs.
He is now working as an assistant solicitor at Doncaster firm Grainger Appleyard.