Duncan Lewis Solicitors Limited - 309586

Decisions

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Agreement - 15 November 2017

Agreement - 22 February 2017


Decision - Agreement

Outcome: Regulatory settlement agreement

Outcome date: 15 November 2017

Published date: 16 November 2017

Firm details

Firm name: Duncan Lewis Solicitors Limited

Firm address: Spencer House, 29 Grove Hill Road, Harrow-On-The-Hill, Harrow, HA1 3BN

SRA ID: 309586

Involved branches

Company name: Duncan Lewis Solicitors Ltd

Address: 104-106 Colmore Row, Birmingham, B3 3AG

Firm ID: 597664

Decision details

This outcome was reached by agreement.

Decision details

1.1. Duncan Lewis Solicitors Ltd, a recognised body, agrees to the following outcome to the investigation of its conduct by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA):

  • (a) it is rebuked
  • (b) it is fined £1,500
  • (c) to the publication of this agreement
  • (d) it will pay the costs of the investigation of £1,350

Summary of Facts

2.1. On 29 September 2016, the firm identified that 23 cash receipts from clients, received between 10 November 2015 and 23 August 2016 and totalling £6,117.00, had not been deposited into any of the firm's bank accounts. The firm replaced the money.

2.2. The firm concluded that the money had been misappropriated by an administrative assistant in the firm’s Birmingham office who had responsibility for paying the money into the bank, but had not done so.

2.3. The firm recorded the matter in their breach register but described it in the register and an internal memo as being 'not-material' and as an 'internal issue'.

2.4. The breach was not disclosed to the SRA until 4 January 2017 when a member of the SRA's staff met with the firm about unrelated matters.

Admissions

3.1. Duncan Lewis Solicitors Ltd makes the following admissions which the SRA accepts:

  • (a) That by failing to notify the SRA promptly of the misappropriation of money by the member of staff it:
    • i. breached Principle 7 of the SRA Principles 2011 ("the Principles") by failing to comply with its regulatory obligations
    • ii. failed to achieve Outcome 10.4 of the SRA Code of Conduct 2011 ("the Code") by failing to report to the SRA promptly serious misconduct by an employee.
  • (b) That it breached Rule 1.2(e) of the SRA Accounts Rules 2011 ("the Accounts Rules") by failing to maintain effective accounting systems, and proper internal controls over those systems. As a result, it failed to discover the misappropriations between 10 November 2015 and 29 September 2016.

Why the agreed outcome is appropriate

4.1. The SRA considers that the agreed outcome is appropriate because the conditions in rule 3.1 of the SRA Disciplinary Rules 2011 are met, in that:

  • a) the conduct continued for an unreasonable period taking into account its seriousness
  • b) the conduct was or was related to a failure or refusal to ascertain, recognise or comply with the regulated person's professional or regulatory obligations such as, but not limited to, compliance with requirements imposed by legislation or rules made pursuant to legislation, the SRA, the Law Society, the Legal Ombudsman, the Tribunal or the court
  • c) the agreed outcome is a proportionate outcome in the public interest
  • d) the conduct was neither trivial nor justifiably inadvertent.

4.2. In deciding that the agreed outcome is proportionate, the SRA has taken into account the admissions made by Duncan Lewis Solicitors Ltd.

4.3. The amount of the fine takes into account all relevant circumstances, including those set out in Appendix 1 to the SRA Disciplinary Procedure Rules 2011.

4.4. The SRA considers it appropriate that this agreement is published in the interests of transparency in the regulatory and disciplinary process.

Acting in a way which is inconsistent with this Agreement

5.1. Duncan Lewis Solicitors Ltd agrees that it will not act in any way which is inconsistent with this agreement such as, for example, by denying the admissions made in this agreement.

5.2. If Duncan Lewis Solicitors Ltd acts in a way which is inconsistent with this agreement, the conduct which is subject to this agreement may be considered further by the SRA. That may result in a disciplinary outcome or a referral to the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal on the original facts and allegations. Acting in a way which is inconsistent with this agreement may also constitute a separate breach of Principles 2, 6 and 7 of the SRA Principles 2011.

Costs

6.1. Duncan Lewis Solicitors Ltd agrees to pay the costs of the SRA's investigation in the sum of £1,350. Such costs are due within 28 days of a statement of costs due being issued by the SRA.

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Decision - Agreement

Outcome: Regulatory settlement agreement

Outcome date: 22 February 2017

Published date: 23 February 2017

Firm details

Firm name: Duncan Lewis Solicitors Limited

Firm address: Spencer House, 29 Grove Hill Road, Harrow-On-The-Hill, Harrow, HA1 3BN

SRA ID: 309586

Decision details

This outcome was reached by agreement.

Decision details

Duncan Lewis (Solicitors) Limited ( "the firm" ) of Harrow, a recognised body, agrees to the following outcome to the investigation of its conduct by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA):

1.1.1 it is rebuked.

1.1.2 it is fined £2,000.

1.1.3 to the publication of this Agreement.

1.1.4 it will pay the costs of the investigation in the sum of £1,350.

Reasons/basis

Summary of Facts

2.1 The firm entered into an arrangement with the National Centre for Domestic Violence ( "NCDV" ) for the referral of clients seeking urgent legal assistance.

2.2 The NCDV carried out preparatory work on the cases, such as obtaining the client's witness statement, before referring the client to the firm. The firm paid NCDV £170 plus VAT for each referral. The cases referred by NCDV all benefitted from public funding.

2.3 The firm did not tell the clients referred to them by NCDV that the firm had paid a fee for that referral.

Admissions

3.1 The firm makes the following admissions which the SRA accepts:

  • 3.1.1 that by making payments to an introducer in respect of clients who have the benefit of public funding, it failed to achieve Outcome 9.6 of the SRA Code of Conduct 2011.
  • 3.1.2 that by failing to inform clients of any financial or other interest which an introducer had in referring the client to the firm, it failed to achieve Outcome 9.4 of the SRA Code of Conduct 2011.

Why the agreed outcome is appropriate

4.1 In relation to the admissions above, the SRA considers that the agreed outcome is appropriate as the conditions in rule 3.1 of the SRA Disciplinary Rules 2011 are met, in that:

  • 4.1.1 the conduct was related to a failure to comply with the firm's regulatory obligations;
  • 4.1.2 the agreed outcome is a proportionate outcome in the public interest
  • 4.1.3 the conduct was neither trivial nor justifiably inadvertent.

4.2 In deciding that the agreed outcome is proportionate, the SRA has taken into account the following mitigation which the firm has put forward:

  • 4.2.1 it has stopped paying referral fees to NCDV;
  • 4.2.2 it has complied with the SRA's investigation, made admissions and apologised for it's conduct;
  • 4.2.3 it has reviewed its procedures and made changes to reduce the risk of similar breaches occurring again.

4.3 The amount of the fine takes account all relevant circumstances, including those set out in Appendix 1 to the SRA Disciplinary Procedure Rules 2011.

4.4 The SRA considers it appropriate that this Agreement is published in the interests of transparency in the regulatory and disciplinary process.

Acting in a way which is inconsistent with this Agreement

5.1 The firm agrees that it will not act in any way which is inconsistent with this agreement such as, for example, by denying the admissions above.

5.2 If the firm acts in a way which is inconsistent with this Agreement, the conduct which is subject to this agreement may be subject to further consideration by the SRA . That may result in a disciplinary sanction or a referral to the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal on the original facts and allegations. Acting in a way which is inconsistent with this agreement may also constitute a separate breach of Principles 2, 6 and 7 of the SRA Principles 2011.

Costs

6.1 The firm agrees to pay the costs of the SRA's investigation in the sum of £1350. Such costs are due within 28 days of a statement of costs due being issued by the SRA.

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