A solicitor who made “inappropriate, derogatory, puerile and inflammatory remarks” in emails to another solicitor has been fined £7,500 by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA).
The misconduct of Ronald Taylor of Roland Taylor & Co in Braintree, Essex, continued over eight months in 2021, according to a notice published by the regulator yesterday.
This followed a warning in October 2018 and a rebuke in February 2022 for similar conduct – the rebuke said that Mr Taylor had made “offensive and inappropriate remarks about staff members at another law firm, both verbally and in writing”.
The fine is the latest example of the SRA flexing its power to fine law firms up to £25,000, the limit having previously been £2,000.
It also took account of Mr Taylor separately informing a defendant in possession proceedings that, unless there were proposals for payment of arrears, he would contact the defendant’s children’s school, a threat he made good on a few weeks later.
The SRA said this was a failure to uphold public trust and confidence and to act with integrity, and also breached the requirement that solicitors not abuse their position by taking unfair advantage of clients or others.
“A financial penalty will deter him, and others, from similar behaviour in the future,” the SRA said.
Meanwhile, the SRA has also handed out fines to a recognised sole practitioner and a law firm for not having in place for five years compliant firm-wide anti-money laundering risk assessments, or compliant policies, controls and procedures, until the SRA investigated them in 2022.
Both also incorrectly declared to the SRA that its risk assessment was compliant.
Graham Albert Waite of GA Waite Solicitor in Crowborough, East Sussex, was fined £5,250, with Reilly & Co, based in Solihull, £2,000.
The latter’s conduct “showed a disregard for statutory and regulatory obligations and had the potential to cause harm by facilitating dubious transactions that could have led to money laundering (and/or terrorist financing),” the SRA said.
This was particularly the case that over 70% of its work was conveyancing.
At the same time, there was no evidence of harm to consumers or third parties and the firm did not financially benefit from the misconduct.
There was insufficient detail in the two decisions to explain the disparity between the sanctions.
All three were also ordered to pay costs of £600 each.