The Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal (SDT) has struck off a solicitor convicted of serious criminal offences after he was allowed to continue in practice following two previous appearances before the tribunal for accounts and practice rules breaches.
Conceding that a warning given on his second SDT appearance had been ineffective, the tribunal said that criminal offences subsequently committed by sole practitioner Dale Robert Walker were of a seriousness that he could not remain on the roll for “a moment longer”.
Mr Walker, who did not offer any mitigation, was sentenced at Southwark Crown Court in April 2015 by to 21 months’ imprisonment for aiding and abetting an unauthorised collective investment scheme and five and a half years’ imprisonment for money laundering, to run concurrently.
The tribunal recorded that the trial judge had noted the seriousness of a solicitor being involved in a nearly £900,000 money laundering offence. The fraud perpetrated was both “subtle and cruel”, and it had had a “dreadful impact” on its victims.
The tribunal regarded the criminal offences Mr Walker had committed as “at the higher end of the spectrum of seriousness” and that his “actions had been cynical and utterly calculated”.
Compounding the seriousness of Walker’s conviction, the tribunal noted, was the fact that he had been before it on two previous occasions, with an escalation in the amount of fine he had been ordered to pay.
In April 2005 he was fined £10,000 plus £12,000 costs after being found guilty of conduct unbefitting a solicitor for Solicitors Accounts Rules and Solicitors Practice Rules breaches. In April 2009 he was found guilty of similar rule breaches, but accepting that he “had been reckless rather than dishonest in his method of charging”, the tribunal ordered that he pay a fine of £15,000 plus costs of £16,000.
The SDT recorded that: “He had been advised that a second appearance before the tribunal was an extremely serious matter. Clearly that warning had no effect upon him.”
Mr Walker was struck off the roll of solicitors and ordered to pay costs of £3,150.