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Tribunal rejects solicitor’s plea to end indefinite suspension

SDT: Concerns over inadequate training

The Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal (SDT) has refused to terminate an indefinite suspension imposed on a solicitor a decade ago, saying he had not proved he was ready to return to practise.

Kofi Agyeman was suspended in 2011 for accounts rule failures, failing to keep proper records and failing to deal properly with money held in client account, for example by complying with the money laundering regulations.

His first appeal against the suspension in 2015 was rejected.

Mr Agyeman told the SDT he had been working on a self-employed basis since 2013 as an immigration adviser regulated by the Office of the Immigration Services Commissioner.

He had been offered a job at a small law firm if his suspension was terminated.

He accepted before the tribunal that he had been “negligent” and argued that he had learned from his mistakes, undertaking training on the accounts rules, money laundering and the code of conduct.

The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) opposed the application, arguing that it did not meet the tests of rehabilitation or public interest.

The SDT said it had “significant concerns” about Mr Agyeman’s training.

“The most recent evidence of training was from 2019 and did not include the Solicitors Accounts Rules 2019 or the Code of Conduct 2019, both of which made substantial and significant changes to the obligations on solicitors.

“The tribunal would have expected [Mr Agyeman] to have undertaken training on the current regime, that had now been in place for over 12 months…

“The tribunal was concerned that this displayed only developing insight into what [he] felt he needed to know in order to practise as a solicitor in a way that protected the public.”

Having been self-employed, Mr Agyeman had “not been supervised, mentored or guided by a practising solicitor”, it noted, while his proposed employer had not outlined how it would supervise him.

Refusing the application, the tribunal encouraged Mr Agyeman to review guidance issued last December on how the SDT would approach applications of this nature before trying again.

It continued: “The tribunal did not expect or require any particular passage of time before a further application was made. It recognised that he had been suspended for many years.

“The basis of the refusal was not the passage of time but the adequacy of the evidence.”

Mr Agyeman was ordered to pay costs of £2,000.