IN THE COURT OF APPEAL (CIVIL DIVISION)
ON APPEAL FROM THE HIGH COURT OF JUSTICE
QUEEN'S BENCH DIVISIONAL COURT
Royal Courts of Justice,
Strand, London, WC2A 2LL. Monday,
B e f o r e :
LORD JUSTICE ROSE
LORD JUSTICE WAITE
| ANDREW JOHN BOLTON
|THE LAW SOCIETY
MR.C. FLINT (instructed by Messrs. Marsh, Ferriman & Cheale, West Sussex) appeared on behalf of the Appellant.
Crown Copyright ©
Monday, 6th December, 1993.
THE MASTER OF THE ROLLS:
"However, the matter contained in allegation (b) was of a far more serious nature. It concerned the misuse of clients' moneys. In essence the respondent had paid money belonging to a client Building Society to his wife. That was wholly unacceptable. The respondent in anticipation of the completion of a conveyancing transaction took a deliberate risk and paid out moneys which were not available to him. The Tribunal accept that the respondent has put matters right to the extent of repaying the advance from Leeds & Holbeck Building Society. Interest and costs however remained outstanding. The conveyancing system in England and Wales depends to a very great extent upon building societies and other lending institutions being able to trust a solicitor to handle large sums of money properly and carefully. The payment out of moneys held on behalf of a client by a respondent to his wife would normally be regarded very seriously indeed. Indeed it would be unusual for a respondent in that position not to be struck off the Roll. The Tribunal are able to accept that this respondent is an honest man and he was not stealing clients' money in a premeditated fashion, he was naive and stupid and paid moneys out prematurely in anticipation of formal completion of a conveyancing transaction. He was caught out by a purchaser reneging. The Tribunal accept that the respondent's judgment might have been clouded by his relationship by marriage to that purchaser. It is because this respondent is young, relatively inexperienced, and apparently more experienced in assisting legally aided clients than dealing with conveyancing, that the Tribunal are able to consider that his behaviour was naive and foolish but did not represent a deliberate course of dishonest conduct. The Tribunal are therefore able to exercise leniency and not make a striking off order. However, they do regard the respondent's less than proper approach to the handling of clients' matters as a very serious matter indeed and they ORDER that the respondent ... be suspended from practice as a solicitor for the period of two years."
"Their Lordships are of opinion that Lord Parker CJ may have gone too far in In re a Solicitor  2 QB 212 when he said that the appellate court would never differ from sentence in cases of professional misconduct, but their Lordships agree with Lord Goddard CJ in In re a Solicitor  1 WLR 1312 when he said that it would require a very strong case to interfere with sentence in such a case, because the Disciplinary Committee are the best possible people for weighing the seriousness of the professional misconduct."
"One wonders whether there is much difference in practical effect between striking him off and suspending someone like this appellant for two years. What chance he would have of recovering a practice after two years if he were to be struck off the Roll and with the reputation of having been struck off seems to us to be negligible and probably non-existent in these times. We feel bound to differ with the approach of the Disciplinary Committee in that sense.
They were it seems to us effectively, slowly but surely, striking him off although they did not go so far as to say so, obviously. To do that to someone who is regarded as an honest man makes us wonder what they would have done to a dishonest one in the circumstances."
I think it is right that in the early sentences there the words "struck off" are used when "suspended" was the intended meaning.
Order: Appeal dismissed. No order as to costs.