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Solicitor operated under radar for 12 years without insurance

Insurance: Lack of cover was clear risk to clients

A sole practitioner who practised without authorisation or indemnity insurance for 12 years to 2016 has been struck off by the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal (SDT).

Peter Rollin told an investigator from the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) that he believed he was authorised because he had a practising certificate.

He was born in 1942, and admitted to the roll of solicitors in 1969 before practising as a sole practitioner under the name Peter H Rollin Solicitor. He lives in Diss, Norfolk.

Before 2009, solicitors had to notify their regulator that they were operating as sole practitioners; from 2009, they had to obtain specific authorisation as ‘recognised sole practitioners’.

Mr Rollin accepted that he should have done both of these things, but told the SRA he had previously been a sole practitioner between 1985 and 1997 and “to the best of his knowledge” had not needed to apply for authorisation.

An agreement with the SRA, approved by the SDT, said: “He should have taken out indemnity insurance and accepts he has no excuse for not doing so. However, no client ever intimated a claim against him or his firm either during his time of practising or subsequently.

“He did keep accounts records but not in the proper format as required by the rules. He did not carry out reconciliations, but had very few live clients at any one time.”

Mr Rollin admitted a long list of rule breaches, including failing to act with integrity, or in the best interests of clients, and in a way that diminished public trust in the profession.

He also breached the accounts rules by failing to keep proper accounting records, record dealings with client money in a client account or carrying out reconciliations.

The tribunal said Mr Rollin had admitted “serious professional misconduct” and was “particularly concerned with his deliberate decision” not to take out indemnity insurance.

“There was a clear risk of harm to the profession and to clients arising from his actions. Given his extensive experience he ought to have known his conduct was in breach of his obligations and the tribunal considered this to be an aggravating factor.”

The SRA said Mr Rollin was “able to avoid regulatory safeguards by not being registered or authorised”, such as the need to submit accountants’ reports despite handling client money.

“Although dishonesty is not alleged against the respondent, he has acted without integrity over a very lengthy period.

“He did so deliberately and to avoid having to pay for indemnity insurance. His actions should attract the ultimate sanction.”

The regulator said Mr Rollin practised in “high-risk areas” such as conveyancing, probate and wills, which would “no doubt have resulted in the payment of high insurance premiums, which [he] avoided”.

Mr Rollin was struck off and ordered to pay £5,000 in costs.