Decision - Agreement
Outcome: Regulatory settlement agreement
Outcome date: 6 September 2021
Published date: 14 September 2021
Firm or organisation at date of publication and at time of matters giving rise to outcome
Name: Pearl Immigration
Address(es): Merchants Exchange Building, 465 California Street #700, San Francisco, CA 94104, United States
Firm ID: N/A
This outcome was reached by agreement.
1. Agreed outcome
1.1 Ms Urszula Wiszniewska, a solicitor at Pearl Immigration (not an SRA authorised entity), agrees to the following outcome to the investigation of her conduct by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA):
- she is fined £1,700
- to the publication of this agreement
- she will pay the costs of the investigation of £300.
2. Summary of Facts
2.1 On 4 December 2018 Ms Wiszniewska was convicted of driving while under the influence of excess alcohol.
2.2 The sentence was:
- Disqualification from driving for 15 months
- A fine of £500
- A victim surcharge of £50
- Costs of £85
2.4 Ms Wiszniewska notified the SRA of her conviction on 29 September 2019.
3.1 Ms Wiszniewska makes the following admissions which the SRA accepts:
- That by virtue of her conduct and conviction for driving with excess alcohol, she failed to behave in a way which maintains the trust the public places in her and in the provision of legal services in breach of Principle 6 of the SRA Principles 2011.
- By failing to notify the SRA promptly that she had been convicted of driving with excess alcohol, she has failed to achieve Outcome 10.3 of the SRA Code of Conduct 2011.
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 Ms Wiszniewska and the following mitigation which she has put forward:
- This conduct is an isolated incident
- Ms Wiszniewska has expressed regret for her actions and has shown insight and remorse in respect of her conduct
- No serious harm was caused to any persons or property as a result of her conduct
- Ms Wiszniewska reported the matter to the SRA
- Ms Wiszniewska co-operated fully with the SRA investigation.
4.3 The SRA considers that a fine is the appropriate outcome because:
- Ms Wiszniewska's conduct had the potential to cause significant or serious harm to other road uses
- There was a reckless disregard of the risk of harm
- Ms Wiszniewska had direct control/responsibility for her conduct.
4.4 A fine is appropriate to maintain standards and 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 Ms Wiszniewska and others. A financial penalty therefore meets the requirements of rule 4.1 of the 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 Ms Wiszniewska agree that the nature of the misconduct was low/medium. Although the conduct was intentional or arose as a result of recklessness, it appears to have been an isolated incident. There is no evidence that the conduct forms part of a pattern of misconduct. Ms Wiszniewska has co-operated with the SRA 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 although some damage was caused to her car and another road user's car, the impact was not significant. 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 Ms Wiszniewska has put forward.
5.6 Ms Wiszniewska did ultimately report the conviction to the SRA and has fully co-operated with the investigation. She has shown insight and remorse in respect of her conduct. The conduct was reckless. However, there was no significant harm or loss caused to other persons or property. In light of this, the SRA considers a basic penalty of £2,000, which is at the bottom of the bracket, to be appropriate.
5.7 The SRA considers that the basic penalty should be reduced to £1,700. This reduction reflects the fact that Ms Wiszniewska did report the matter to the SRA and he expressly admitted the misconduct at the time of reporting. Ms Wiszniewska has also completed a driving course following the conviction.
6.1 The SRA considers it appropriate that this agreement is published in the interests of transparency in the regulatory and disciplinary process. Ms Wiszniewska agrees to the publication of this agreement.
7. Acting in a way which is inconsistent with this agreement
7.1 Ms Wiszniewska agrees that she will not deny the admissions made in this agreement or act in any way which is inconsistent with it.
7.2 If Ms Wiszniewska 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 Ms Wiszniewska 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.