The Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal (SDT) has removed the conditions on the practising certificate (PC) of a solicitor fined for allowing improper payments to be made out of client account.
The SDT said Jonathan Jacobs, admitted in 1998, had demonstrated “insight and remorse” and “carved out a new area of expertise in which his previous misconduct was unlikely to be repeated”.
Mr Jacobs, born in 1967, was found by the tribunal in 2012 to have compromised his independence by failing to exercise proper care when setting up a law firm to be known as Haart Owen.
Mr Jacobs was also found to have breached the accounts rules by making improper payments from client bank accounts for which he was responsible. He was fined £2,000 and ordered to pay £11,000 in costs.
A condition was imposed on his PC preventing him from practising as a sole practitioner or partner of a law firm.
He applied unsuccessfully to remove it just two years later.
On his latest application, the SDT said: “The applicant submitted that he had learned from the experience that resulted in his appearance before the tribunal in 2012, and that his underlying misconduct was as a result of an isolated sequence of events which did not properly illustrate his character at the time or since.
“Since those events, he had made every effort to re-establish himself and re-focus his career.”
The SRA supported the latest application, partly because there was no record of any further regulatory matters involving the solicitor since 2012.
“He had been employed at his current practice since January 2016 and appeared to have built up a successful practice. He worked in conjunction with a colleague and had no involvement with the financial side of any transactions. His firm supported his application and had provided a number of references.
“He appreciated that the restriction had been imposed due to his ‘naivety and stupidity’. He hoped that the tribunal would consider that his naivety was ‘transient’ and caused by the exceptional circumstances he was in at the time.”
Mr Jacobs noted that he would still require the SRA’s approval to act as a manager or owner and if he wanted to be a sole practitioner, he would have to apply to the SRA.
The tribunal noted the “particularly difficult circumstances the applicant was facing at the time of his misconduct” and “was mindful that the conduct had taken place in 2009”.
The SDT granted the application to remove the restriction. There was no order for costs.