Solicitor fined for failing to pay thousands in counsel’s fees

Barristers: Left unpaid

A solicitor who has failed to pay thousands of pounds in outstanding fees to counsel has been fined by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA).

According to a notice published by the regulator today, Ahmed Mohammed Hersi, who sole principal of north-west London firm Hersi & Co, had not paid an invoice that has been outstanding since November 2017.

It said that, by failing to pay fees of £29,000, as well as nearly £41,000 pursuant to a county court judgment from December 2019, Mr Hersi failed to uphold trust in the profession. It is not clear whether these figures are the same debt.

Mr Hersi, who does not have a current practising certificate, was directed to pay a £2,000 fine and costs of £600.

It is not his first sanction for failing to pay counsel’s fees either. In 2018, part of a £4,000 fine imposed by the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal was due to not paying £8,000 in fees to Garden Court Chambers, with some counsel out of pocket for six years.

The debt triggered an investigation into Hersi & Co, after the Bar Council told the SRA that Mr Hersi had been added to its List of Defaulting Solicitors.

The tribunal said there was an “element of breach of trust” in that counsel expected to be paid.

Mr Hersi’s misconduct was aggravated by repeated failures and his admission that “he would probably not have paid counsel at all had the SRA not investigated him”.

The tribunal fine encompassed various other rule breaches too.

The SRA has separately fined John Peter Turner £1,700, plus costs of £450 for multiple accounts rule breaches.

Following his then firm, Kyles Legal Practice in the north-east of England, submitting a qualified accountants’ report, an SRA inspection found that, between 31 May 2018 and 6 March 2019, the firm failed to complete client account reconciliations at least every five weeks, accurately maintain client ledgers – which led to a minimum client account shortage of £25,291 – and ensure compliance with the accounts rules.

The firm replaced the shortage in full by 6 March 2019; in early 2020, it closed and went into liquidation.

In deciding a fine was appropriate, the SRA said Mr Turner, as a director of the firm, was “reckless because he disregarded the risk of harm and his regulatory obligations”. Further, while the shortages were remedied, the breaches last for almost nine months, which was “longer than reasonable”.

In mitigation, as well as replacing the shortages in full, the SRA acknowledged that Mr Turner took steps to ensure future compliance with the Accounts Rules before the firm closed.

Finally, Essex firm Tilbrook’s has been ordered to pay a £2,000 fine, plus costs of £600, for continued non-compliance with the SRA transparency rules.

Last year, compliance was made a condition of the firm’s authorisation, as there was no evidence it had taken steps to comply despite seven emails from the SRA and a notice from an investigation officer.

Its owner, Robin Tilbrook, is the long-standing leader of the English Democrats, a fringe political party of the right.

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