Decision - Agreement
Outcome: Regulatory settlement agreement
Outcome date: 16 September 2021
Published date: 21 September 2021
No detail provided:
This outcome was reached by agreement.
1. Agreed outcome
1.1 Mr Kieran Morgan, 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 5 August 2017, Mr Morgan was involved in a road traffic accident. He collided with and caused damage to a parked car and a tree before being stopped by the Police. He was arrested and charged with an offence contrary to Article 15(1) of the Road Traffic (Northern Ireland) Order 1995, namely, driving while unfit through drink or drugs.
2.2 On 15 November 2017 he was convicted after a guilty plea by Laganside Magistrates Court, Belfast, of driving whilst unfit to drive through drink or drugs, failing to stop, failing to keep the vehicle standing at or near the place where the accident occurred and failing to report the accident.
2.3 The sentence was:
- disqualification from holding or obtaining a driving licence for 12 months (reduced by 3 months if Mr Morgan completed a course approved by the Secretary of State), and
- a fine of £550
2.4 Mr Morgan was also ordered to pay an offender levy of £15.
3.1 Mr Morgan admits, and the SRA accepts that by virtue of his conduct and conviction for the offences set out at paragraph 2.2, he failed to behave in a way that upholds public trust and confidence in the solicitors’ profession in breach of Principle 6 of the SRA Handbook 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 Mr Morgan and the following mitigation which he has put forward:
- this conduct is an isolated incident
- has expressed regret for his actions and has paid for the damaged car to be repaired
- he has co-operated fully with the SRA investigation.
4.3 The SRA considers that a fine is the appropriate outcome because:
- the conduct/behaviour had the potential to cause significant harm to other road users
- 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 because any lesser sanction would not sufficiently address the conduct and provide a credible deterrent to Mr Morgan 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 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 and damage 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 Morgan 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 Morgan’s mitigation as set out within paragraph 4.2 above.
5.8 Mr Morgan has made no financial gain or received any other benefit as a result of his conduct. Therefore, no adjustment is necessary 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 Morgan agrees to the publication of this agreement.
7. Acting in a way which is inconsistent with this agreement
7.1 Mr Morgan 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 Morgan 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 Morgan 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.