Solicitor who dishonestly confirmed witnessing signature struck off

SDT: Public would expect higher standards of solicitors

A solicitor who dishonestly confirmed that he had witnessed a signature on a lease when he actually had not has been struck off the roll.

Md Mohiuddin Hossain, who qualified in 2009, was practising as a consultant at East London firm Raiyad Solicitors and came to light as a result of subsequent litigation about the lease.

Mr Hossain was present when his client and two witnesses signed the lease. A Mr Ali was not present due to ill health, but Mr Hossain spoke to him on the phone to explain the main clauses. He understood that Mr Ali then signed it separately in the presence of one of the witnesses and his client.

The document was returned to Mr Hossain, who signed and stamped it to say he had witnessed the signatures.

The SDT said it did not matter that there was no legal requirement for Mr Hossain to witness them.

In a written submission to the SRA, Mr Hossain said: “Later I began to think about what I had done. How did it happen and how could I have done this? I have an impeccable record in the profession and have always ensured that I followed the SRA’s rules in each possible way…

“Had I realised what was going on at the relevant time, I would not have conducted myself in the manner that I did. I can only attribute my failings to the medication and treatment I was receiving which led me to lose concentration.”

The SDT said the public “would expect higher standards of solicitors”. The fact that Mr Hossain had said he was not a conveyancer did not matter here as his “lack of experience was not relevant to the simple question of signing to declare that he had witnessed a signature when he had not”.

The tribunal went on: “The misconduct was aggravated by the fact that it was deliberate and there was a vulnerability due to the lack of literacy on the part of others. Mr Hossain ought to have known he was in material breach of his professional obligations.”

The misconduct was mitigated by the fact that it was “a single episode of brief duration in an otherwise unblemished career”. His statements about his health were not supported by any evidence, however.

Though Mr Hossain had co-operated with the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA), his admissions had been “less than open and frank, admitting on the one hand that he had acted as alleged but at the same time denying breaches of the SRA rules”.

The SDT found his actions to be dishonest and no reason not to impose a strike-off as the usual sanction in such circumstances.

It assessed the SRA’s costs at £20,850 but reduced them to £1,800 to reflect Mr Hossain’s means.

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