Pump Court Chambers

Solicitor’s suspension halved following High Court Appeal

News 8th May 2015

Colin Banham successfully represented a solicitor on an appeal against a 2-year suspension imposed by the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal. The appellant had admitted allegations, which included failing to act in the best interests of his clients and failing to co-operate with the Solicitors Regulation Authority. It was argued on behalf of the appellant that, in the specific circumstances of the case, the sanction imposed was manifestly excessive and disproportionate. It was further submitted that it was correct for the High Court to interfere with the sanction as it was ‘clearly inappropriate’ (Salsbury v Law Society [2009] 1 WLR 1286).

Reliance was placed upon the case of R v Weston [1998] 31 LS Gaz R 35, where two partners with distinct roles in the same firm were dealt with differently notwithstanding the serious allegations alleged in both their cases. By analogy with other professions it was also argued that an order for suspension is a very serious sanction. For example, in MacLeod v The Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (The Disciplinary Committee of the RCVS) [2006] UKPC 39 Lord Carswell at para 27 likened an 8-month period of suspension to ‘an extremely heavy fine’. In Dad v The General Dental Council [2000] UKPC 17 a dentist had been convicted of serious drink driving offences. Notwithstanding that, the Privy Council set aside a sanction of 12-months’ suspension.

Having heard argument from both sides, Mr Justice Mostyn allowed the appeal ruling that the sanction awarded was ‘clearly excessive and inappropriate’. He halved the appellant’s suspension, allowing his return to work in the near future with conditions attached to his practicing certificate.

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