Decision - Fined
Outcome date: 5 March 2020
Published date: 9 March 2020
Firm or organisation at time of matters giving rise to outcome
Name: Cassell Moore Law Limited
Address(es): Edward Pavilion, Albert Dock, Liverpool, L3 4AF
Firm ID: 599476
This outcome was reached by SRA decision.
1. Agreed outcome
1.1 Paul Kenneth Breen, a former employee of Cassell Moore Law Limited (the Firm), agrees to the following outcome to the investigation of his conduct by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA):
- he is fined £1,600
- to the publication of this agreement
- he will pay the costs of the investigation of £600.
2. Summary of Facts
2.1 Mr Breen was employed by the firm from July 2014 to March 2016 as Head of Catastrophic Injury.
3. On 17 August 2015, Mr Breen inappropriately forwarded an email to a colleague with content that was highly derogatory and grossly offensive towards women and persons of a particular religious group. He was not the author of the email and did not expressly endorse the content, although he forwarded it without condemnation. The colleague did not forward the email to others.
4.1 Mr Breen admits, and the SRA accepts, that by inappropriately forwarding the offensive email onto a colleague he failed to carry out his role in the business in a way that encourages equality of opportunity and respect for diversity, in breach of Principle 9 of the SRA Principles 2011.
5. Why a fine is an appropriate outcome
5.1 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.
5.2 When considering the appropriate sanctions and controls in this matter, the SRA has taken into account the admission made by Paul Kenneth Breen and the following mitigation which he has put forward:
- the views communicated in the email are not reflective of his true character and belief
- he has expressed remorse and is deeply ashamed of what was said in the email he exchanged
- the behaviour will not be repeated.
5.3 The SRA considers that a fine is the appropriate outcome because:
- the conduct/behaviour had potential to cause significant harm
- there was a reckless disregard of risk of harm.
5.4 A fine is appropriate to uphold public confidence in the solicitors' profession and in legal services provided by authorised persons. This is because the SRA regards the email as unacceptable and by reference to the Enforcement Strategy, there is evidence to show his conduct/behaviour had the potential to cause significant harm and therefore some public sanction is required to uphold public confidence in the delivery of legal services. A financial penalty therefore meets the requirements of rule 4.1 of the Regulatory and Disciplinary Procedure Rules.
6. Amount of the fine
6.1 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).
6.2 Having regard to the Guidance, the SRA and Paul Kenneth Breen agree that the nature of the misconduct was low because Mr Breen cooperated with the investigation, his conduct has not continued after it was known to be improper and, there is no pattern of misconduct. The Guidance gives this type of misconduct a score of one.
6.3 The SRA considers that the impact of the misconduct was medium because it had the potential to cause moderate impact. The Guidance gives this level of impact a score of four.
6.4 The nature and impact scores add up to five. The Guidance indicates a broad penalty bracket of £1,000 to £5,000 is appropriate.
6.5 In deciding the level of fine within this bracket, the SRA has considered the mitigation at paragraph 4.2 above which Paul Kenneth Breen has put forward.
6.6 The SRA has also considered that the email was exchanged internally and not released to others, nor released in the public domain, the content was not endorsed or commented upon and, there is no evidence of a repetition of the misconduct. The SRA has also considered that Paul Kenneth Breen had a clear regulatory history, as well as the mitigation and insight he has demonstrated. The SRA considers a basic penalty of £2,000, which is towards the middle of bracket B, to be appropriate.
6.7 The SRA considers that the basic penalty should be reduced to £1,600. This reduction reflects that the misconduct was expressly admitted by the Mr Breen within 6 weeks of the issue coming to his attention.
7.1 The SRA considers it appropriate that this agreement is published in the interests of transparency in the regulatory and disciplinary process. Paul Kenneth Breen agrees to the publication of this agreement.
8. Acting in a way which is inconsistent with this agreement
8.1 Paul Kenneth Breen agrees that he will not deny the admissions made in this agreement or act in any way which is inconsistent with it.
8.2 If Paul Kenneth Breen 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.
8.3 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.
9.1 Paul Kenneth Breen agrees to pay the costs of the SRA's investigation in the sum of £600. Such costs are due within 28 days of a statement of costs due being issued by the SRA.