A solicitor who “turned his life around” and “faced up to his problems”, including alcohol addiction, after being suspended has regained his practising certificate.
The Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal (SDT) said Joseph Gary Eloket had made “significant progress” since his indefinite suspension a decade ago for multipe rule breaches after he abandoned his law firm.
However, there was no evidence that he was capable of running a law firm “and his failings in relation to the management of his former firm had been serious”.
The tribunal suspended Mr Eloket in October 2011, when he was a sole practitioner and abandoned the law firm JGE Solicitors.
He failed to act in the best interests of clients, co-operate with the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) or deliver an accountant’s report within the deadline.
He was also found to have failed to comply with an adjudicator’s direction to pay the then Legal Complaints Service costs of just under £500 and failed to pay indemnity insurance premiums for his firm’s membership of the assigned risks pool. Mr Eloket admitted all the allegations.
He applied in April this year to terminate the suspension.
The SDT heard that, after the suspension, the SRA allowed him to work as a volunteer paralegal for a law firm, but he was “released” in January 2013 “as it was considered that he had issues with alcohol”.
During a period of hospitalisation in March 2014, the SDT recounted, he “was able to acknowledge that he was an alcoholic” and later attended various programmes, including a residential rehabilitation centre, to help with his addiction.
He also attended 12 weeks of bereavement counselling, “as well as other programmes, to help him to understand and deal with other issues”.
Mr Eloket told the tribunal that he first considered making the application five years ago but decided it was premature, following conversations with the SRA.
He went back to working for the law firm that had previously employed him, again with SRA permission, until the firm closed in May 2019.
Counsel for the solicitor said Mr Eloket’s misconduct had been serious but not dishonest, and he had produced evidence which showed “the full extent of his progress in dealing with his addiction issues and the robustness of his ongoing recovery”.
His reintegration into legal work was “gradual with appropriate applications being made to extend his responsibilities” over time.
Testimonials showed that he “had turned his life around, faced up to his problems and had overcome his difficulties such that he was able to return to professional life”.
The SRA supported the solicitor’s application to terminate the suspension, subject to conditions.
Given his rehabilitation, the SRA considered that he would “provide a proper standard of service to clients and would conduct himself in the way expected of a solicitor”.
The SDT said It was satisfied that Mr Eloket had “reintegrated into legal professional life in an appropriate manner” and he “had provided strong evidence of his reformation of character and the good work he had undertaken during his suspension”.
However, there was “no evidence” that he had “remediated the shortcomings identified in the management of his former firm”.
The tribunal granted Mr Eloket’s application for a termination of his suspension and ordered him to pay £1,000 in costs.
Conditions were imposed on his practising certificate banning him from being a sole practitioner, partner or member of an LLP, a COLP or a COFA, and from holding client money or being a signatory on client account.