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From rewriting clients’ wills to drunk driving – SRA wields disciplinary powers over errant lawyers

SRA: Internal powers

A chartered legal executive who amended clients’ wills for her own benefit and a drink-driving solicitor are among those whose misconduct has been handled internally by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) in recent weeks, rather than referring them to a disciplinary tribunal.

Dawn Plant was working as a chartered legal executive at Scarborough firm Pinkney Grunwells when, according to the SRA, she amended three clients’ wills appointing herself as executor and also a beneficiary without advising her clients to take independent legal advice.

The regulator has made her subject to a section 43 order, which bans her from working for an SRA-regulated business without its consent.

Also made subject to a section 43 order recently was Melissa Sidhu, who was rebuked and fined £2,000 as well, the highest amount the SRA can levy on its own.

She was employed as an administrative assistant in the Birmingham office of Duncan Lewis Solicitors, where she was found to have misappropriated £6,117.

Ms Sidhu was summarily dismissed in September 2016. The SRA said it was not known whether she was currently employed or remunerated by an SRA-authorised practice.

Meanwhile, Victor Pius Amadigwe, an in-house solicitor at Haringey Law Centre in London, has been rebuked and fined £1,200.

He “deliberately misrepresented to an expert third party that he had instructed him on a conditional fee agreement to delay payment of the expert’s professional fees”, the SRA said.

Anthony Graeme Foot, a solicitor at Brighton firm Thompson Allen, has accepted a rebuke and £500 fine in a regulatory settlement agreement with the SRA after he was convicted in January 2017 of driving with excess alcohol and driving a motor vehicle dangerously, leading to driving his car onto a railway line and causing train delays and cancellations.

The court banned him from driving for 20 months and issued a £2,740 fine.

Howard Philip Gruber has been rebuked for making payments from his client account where there was no underlying legal transaction, and in doing so providing banking facilities.

Mr Gruber is currently a self-employed consultant solicitor at Abacus Solicitors LLP and Ellison Thomas LLP in Manchester.

Finally, a law firm has been rebuked, with no individuals named. BBH (Legal Services) Limited in Cheshire was found to have not followed its own policies for identifying a client and did not report to the SRA the consequences of failing to do so.