QUEEN'S BENCH DIVISION
London WC2A 2LL
B e f o r e :
MR JUSTICE SINGH
|THE SOLICITORS REGULATION AUTHORITY||Respondent|
WordWave International Limited
A Merrill Communications Company
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(Official Shorthand Writers to the Court)
Mr E Levey (instructed by Russell-Cooke LLP) appeared on behalf of the Respondent
Crown Copyright ©
"The Respondent had shown none of the healthy scepticism which a solicitor should demonstrate when in receipt of unusual instructions. Any solicitor conducting conveyancing should be familiar with the green cards and the warnings contained. The Respondent here was willing to accept explanations from his client without either noting fully the instructions he was given or querying them. The Respondent had given explanations for the way the transaction had proceeded. However, the Tribunal was satisfied that he had failed to pay proper regard to the provisions of the green cards where there were clearly a number of issues in this transaction which should have caused concern. A 'back to back' transaction is not inherently fraudulent, but it is one of the situations in which property fraud can occur. A number of unusual instructions had occurred during the transaction. The Respondent had failed to comprehend that he should consider the totality of the transaction as well as individual instructions and must be conscious at all times of the potential for property fraud. The Tribunal was satisfied that the transaction bore the hallmarks of property fraud and found that the Respondent did not recognise those hallmarks or take appropriate steps to satisfy himself that there was no fraud. His failure to recognise his duties would put at risk clients and the public, including lending institutions. Whilst the Respondent had not shown a lack of integrity, and hence was not in breach of Rule 1.02, the public would rightly be concerned at his failure to abide by the well-known guidance in the green cards. Accordingly, the Tribunal was satisfied so that it was sure that this allegation had been proved in that the Respondent had acted contrary to Rule 1.06 of the SCC."
It will be noted from that paragraph that the Tribunal had regard to the explanations provided by the appellant but it was plainly not persuaded by them, or at least the Tribunal was not satisfied that they amounted to sufficient compliance with the requirements of the green card.
"The requirement is for me to satisfy myself on legitimacy. Each time instructions were given, they were with an explanation. The explanations were all rational and reasonable in my view. There was no point at which instructions were given without explanations and I proceeded to effectuate them. The Tribunal has not found that there was no reasonable basis upon which I could have felt the instructions were legitimate.
Where there has been full disclosure of all the details of the transaction and I find explanations reasonable, rational and credible, this obviates the reason for or any scepticism. On the occasion where there was serious concerns and proper investigation needed on the transaction, this was carried out when the issue of the third party arose. It was the existence of the third party, which I did not know the extent of their involvement or whether they would be short-changed, that initially raised a concern. Up until then it was clear everyone was getting what they wanted and there was complete openness with all parties, the angle of suspecting any fraud would have been irrational, not based on any real evidence and at best, theoretical."
The rest of his submissions are largely to like effect. In other words, it was not really a contention that the Tribunal adopted the wrong standard of proof; rather it was a contention that on the evidence the Tribunal could not properly reach the conclusion that he had committed the wrongdoing alleged against him.