SRA reception

SRA: “Reason to suspect dishonesty” in each case

The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) closed three law firms in London and Essex in just two days last week, giving suspected dishonesty as a reason for each separate intervention.

Daybells Solicitors in Stratford, East London, was a mixed civil practice, offering property, immigration, probate and family services.

It described itself in a statement linked to its YouTube video as a “local family-run law firm which has been successfully serving many generations” after it was founded by William Daybell in 1905.

The statement said the firm was acquired this year by Nationwide Solicitors but would “proudly continue to use” the trading name of Daybells. The firm’s website is currently described as “under development”.

In its decision notice, the SRA said it had closed Nationwide Solicitors LLP, based in Ilford, Essex, and trading as Daybells, on the grounds that there was “reason to suspect dishonesty on the part of a manager or employee of a recognised body in connection with that body’s business”.

The regulator said other grounds were to protect the interests of clients or the interests of beneficiaries of trusts where members of the firm were trustees.

Lillywhite Williams & Co, another general civil practice and based in Dagenham, Essex, was also closed by the SRA last Wednesday.

In its decision notice, the SRA said there was “reason to suspect dishonesty on the part of a manager or employee of Lillywhite Williams LLP, namely Mr Naresh Kumar Chopra and Mrs Rehana Kausar Saeed”.

The third firm to be closed was JR Slade in Chelmsford, Essex. The practice carried out criminal defence work, which it combined with conveyancing, family and probate.

The SRA said in the decision notice that one of the grounds for the intervention was “because there is reason to suspect dishonesty on the part of Mr John Randall Slade in connection with his practice”.

Meanwhile, Zia Latif, formerly of AKZ Solicitors in Birmingham, has been struck off after admitting all the allegations against him, namely that: he failed to maintain properly written up books of accounts, caused or permitted monies to be withdrawn from client bank accounts in breach of the Solicitors Accounts Rules 1998, gave false and misleading explanations to the SRA, practised as a solicitor without indemnity insurance cover and failed to deliver an accountant’s report.

He also admitted dishonesty in relation to the allegation that he gave false and misleading explanations to the SRA.

As well as striking him off, the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal ordered Mr Latif to pay £22,500 costs.

In February 2014, Kamran Malik of AKZ Solicitors was sentenced to five years in prison in criminal proceedings at Birmingham Crown Court for four counts of money laundering, four counts of mortgage fraud, and one count of perverting the course of justice.

He was struck off in September after the tribunal found his convictions meant he had failed to uphold the rule of law and the proper administration of justice, failed to act with integrity, and failed to behave in a way that maintained the trust the public placed in him and in the provision of legal services.

Gordon Ramsay, SRA director of legal and enforcement, said: “Solicitors hold positions of trust and Mr Latif abused that position. He also made misleading statements, which was dishonest, and we don’t want dishonesty in the profession. The tribunal’s decision is entirely appropriate.”

Mr Latif has 21 days from the publication of the tribunal’s judgment to appeal.

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