Partner who employed banned solicitor is struck off

SDT: No mitigating factors

A partner who knowingly employed a struck-off solicitor has himself been struck off by the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal (SDT) and ordered to pay over £56,000 in costs.

The SDT heard that Kuldip Singh applied to the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) to employ the former solicitor as a legal assistant and was refused but went ahead anyway.

The SRA said the struck-off solicitor, referred to as ‘Mr O’, posed “a substantial risk” to the public and had been responsible for “atrocious” actions at two separate firms for a number of years.

The SDT heard that Mr O was struck off in 2008 after allowing his client account to be used as a banking facility, improperly withdrawing client money from the client account and creating a shortfall in client account.

The tribunal found that while working for Mr Singh, Mr O had operated under two other names.

Mr Singh told the SRA that the firm paid Mr O because it was instructed to by a client, and Mr O had not referred clients to the firm, but “attended the office with clients”. The solicitor denied offering Mr O any facilities or allowing him to use the office.

The SDT said that, although there was another member at SJ Solicitors in Ilford, Essex, Mr Singh – born in 1965 and qualified in 2000 – owned 100% of the equity in the firm and was both its COLP and COFA.

The SDT went on: “[His] overall motivation was to keep his practice afloat. In respect of his employment of Mr O, he would profit from clients referred to the firm by Mr O. He was the owner of the firm and controlled it.”

The tribunal said dishonesty had been proved both regarding the employment of Mr O and a failure to return client money when there was no proper reason to retain it.

The SDT found that Mr Singh, who was not present or represented at the hearing, was responsible for multiple breaches of the rules.

The tribunal found that he had caused or allowed a £231,330 shortfall to arise on client account.

Mr Singh had also used funds held on trust for one client for other client matters and acted for both borrower and lender in three transactions where there was a conflict of interest, leading to one client having to go to court to recover a loan while a loan to another client remained unpaid

He had failed to maintain “adequately or at all” the firm’s books of account.

The SDT said: “There were no mitigating factors. [Mr Singh] had shown no remorse during the investigation and not engaged with the proceedings.

“He had made no admissions save in interview. He had referred to ill health but submitted no evidence even when given the opportunity to do so.”

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