Decision - Agreement
Outcome: Regulatory settlement agreement
Outcome date: 21 September 2021
Published date: 28 September 2021
Firm or organisation at time of matters giving rise to outcome
Name: Knights Professional Services Limited
Address(es): The Brampton, Newcastle-Under-Lyme, ST5 0QW
Firm ID: 620595
Firm or organisation at date of publication
Name: Horwich Farrelly Limited
Address(es): Alexander House, Talbot Road, Old Trafford, Manchester, M16 0SP
Firm ID: 817849
This outcome was reached by agreement.
1. Agreed outcome
1.1 Martin Charles Price, a solicitor, agrees to the following outcome to the investigation of his conduct by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA):
- he is fined £1200
- he will pay the costs of the investigation of £300
- to the publication of this agreement.
2. Summary of Facts
2.1 On 22 September 2020, Mr Price was involved in a road traffic accident. He collided with and caused damage to a neighbour’s wall. He was arrested and charged with an offence under section 5 (1)(a) Road Traffic Act 1988, namely, driving while under the influence of excess alcohol.
2.2 On 8 October 2020, Mr Price was convicted after a guilty plea and the sentence was:
- disqualification from holding or obtaining a driving licence for 20 months (reduced by 20 weeks if Mr Price completed a course approved by the Secretary of State), and
- a fine of £1150.
2.3 Mr Price was also ordered to pay:
- a victim surcharge of £115, and
- costs of £85.
2.4 Mr Price notified the SRA of his conviction on 15 October 2020.
3.1 Mr Price admits, and the SRA accepts that by virtue of his conduct and conviction for driving while under the influence of excess alcohol, he failed to behave in a way that upholds public trust and confidence in the solicitors’ profession in breach of Principle 2 of the SRA Principles 2019.
4. Why a fine is an appropriate outcome
4.1 The SRA’s Enforcement Strategy sets out its approach to the use of its enforcement powers where there has been a failure to meet its standards or requirements.
4.2 When considering the appropriate sanctions and controls in this matter, the SRA has taken into account the admissions made by Mr Price and the following mitigation which he has put forward:
- this conduct is an isolated incident
- he has expressed regret for his actions and has paid for the wall to be repaired
- he promptly reported the conviction to the SRA and has cooperated fully with its investigation.
4.3 The SRA considers that a fine is the appropriate outcome because:
- Mr Price had direct responsibility for his conduct
- there was a reckless disregard of the risk of harm.
4.4 A fine is appropriate to uphold public confidence in the solicitors' profession and in legal services provided by authorised persons. Any lesser sanction would not sufficiently address the conduct and provide a credible deterrent to Mr Price and others. A financial penalty therefore meets the requirements of rule 4.1 of the SRA’s Regulatory and Disciplinary Procedure Rules.
5. Amount of the fine
5.1 The amount of the fine has been calculated in line with the SRA’s published guidance on its approach to setting an appropriate financial penalty (the Guidance).
5.2 Having regard to the Guidance, the SRA and Mr Price agree that the nature of the misconduct was low because the conduct did not form part of a pattern of misconduct, and he has cooperated with the investigation. The Guidance gives this type of misconduct a score of one.
5.3 The SRA considers that the impact of the misconduct was medium because there was moderate impact because of the damage caused to property. The Guidance gives this level of impact a score of four.
5.4 The nature and impact scores add up to five. The Guidance indicates a broad penalty bracket of £1,001 to £5,000 is appropriate.
5.5 In deciding the level of fine within this bracket, the SRA has considered the mitigation at paragraph 4.2 above which Mr Price has put forward.
5.6 Considering the factors set out in the Enforcement Strategy including the impact of the conduct, it is agreed that a fine at the lower end of the bracket is appropriate. The SRA therefore considers a basic penalty of £2000 to be suitable.
5.7 The SRA considers that the basic penalty should be reduced to £1200. This reduction reflects Mr Price’s co-operation with the SRA investigation and the admissions as to his conduct.
5.8 Mr Price has made no financial gain or received any other benefit as a result of his conduct. Therefore, no adjustment is necessary to remove this and the amount of the fine is £1200.
6.1 The SRA considers it appropriate that this agreement is published in the interests of transparency in the regulatory and disciplinary process. Mr Price agrees to the publication of this agreement.
7. Acting in a way which is inconsistent with this agreement
7.1 Mr Price agrees that he will not deny the admissions made in this agreement or act in any way which is inconsistent with it.
7.2 If Mr Price denies the admissions or 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.
7.3 Denying the admissions made or acting in a way which is inconsistent with this agreement may also constitute a separate breach of principles 2 and 5 of the Principles and paragraph 7.3 of the Code of Conduct for Solicitors, RELs and RFLs.
8.1 Mr Price agrees to pay the costs of the SRA's investigation in the sum of £300. Such costs are due within 28 days of a statement of costs due being issued by the SRA.