Refusal of an application for restoration to the roll of solicitors

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Refusal of an application for restoration to the roll of solicitors

The Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal (SDT) recently refused a former solicitor’s application to be restored to the roll.


Mr MI was admitted as a solicitor in 2010. He was struck off the roll by the SDT in 2014 because of serious misconduct. His misconduct revolved around ‘paying off’ witnesses in a fraud trial connected to his client. MI was convicted in 2021 of perverting the course of justice and was sentenced to a five-year term of imprisonment.

In 2014, the Tribunal found the following allegation proved:

“1.1 The Respondent was convicted on 20 December 2012, upon indictment, after the jury had been sworn, of conspiracy to pervert the course of public justice, contrary to all, alternatively any, of Principles 1, 2 and/or 6 of the SRA Principles 2011.”

The Tribunal found that:

“It was clear to the Tribunal from the sentencing remarks, the press releases and the very fact of [MI’s] conviction of conspiracy to pervert the course of public justice at a time when he was a solicitor, that he had caused a great deal of damage to the reputation of the solicitor’s profession … [MI] had acted with a complete lack of integrity and he had abused the trust placed in him as a member of the solicitor’s profession.”

Application for Restoration

MI sought restoration to the roll. The SDT acknowledged his personal character remediation but did not regard it as sufficient to justify restoration. They underlined the need for detailed cogent evidence of substantial employment within the legal profession. MI provided evidence that he had completed a six-hour course on the Code of Conduct, but the SDT saw this as inadequate in demonstrating up-to-date knowledge of solicitors’ regulatory obligations and duties.

Concerns Raised by the SDT

Although there was evidence of improvement in character, this did not automatically justify restoration. MI acknowledged the wrongdoing and advanced references from other legal professionals who regarded him as an asset to the profession, having regard to what he had done to remediate following release from custody.

The committee found that MI had failed to demonstrate substantial and satisfactory employment in the legal industry, even though MI had performed quite a lot of non-reserved work in the industry following his release.

His single six-hour course and his experience in a number of jobs post-release was insufficient in demonstrating ongoing professional development.

The SDT expressed great concern about MI’s proposed role as in-house counsel, where he would be the only lawyer. The SDT found MI would lack the necessary supervision and this is where many applications for restoration show weakness.

The SDT highlighted the seriousness of the facts. Payments had been made to witnesses with a view to obstructing prosecution of his clients. The SDT ultimately found that the protection of the profession’s reputation necessitated the refusal of the restoration application. MI was ordered to pay £1,500 in costs.

Criteria for Re-Admission by the SDT

The SDT looks at several factors when considering whether to re-admit a former solicitor:

Character Reformation: Personal growth and rehabilitation are important, but they alone are not enough.

Evidence of Employment: Detailed evidence of ‘substantial and satisfactory’ employment in the legal profession is very important in demonstrating a commitment to the industry.

Continuing Legal Education: Every qualified lawyer must demonstrate ongoing professional development through relevant courses and training. It follows that an application for restoration must contain evidence of this; arguably to a greater degree than the minimum requirement, especially in cases where a shortfall in knowledge was part of the original case.

Proposed Role: The suitability of the proposed role can be crucial. Ambition may have to take second place to restoration in the first instance. The applicant will also need to show ready access to meaningful and suitably qualified supervision. This requirement is usually subject to detailed analysis in healthcare fitness to practice cases, where supervision has a direct bearing on the welfare of patients. Applications for restoration should give supervision a similar level of importance as it can often be the determinative factor when the applicant submits that restoration would not have a negative impact on public confidence in the profession.

Gravity of Past Misconduct: The severity of the original misconduct and its impact on the profession’s reputation is clearly important and applicants should not seek to minimise established facts. Better to recognise and demonstrate insight, rather than try to avoid and cloud the issue.

Comparing with Other Decisions

Each case is unique and has to be placed in context. Factors like the nature and scope of the misconduct, the duration of removal and cogent evidence of remediation heavily influence the SDT’s decisions. The SDT are tasked with identifying rehabilitation in safeguarding the profession’s reputation, so applications for restoration must demonstrate how this can be achieved. Restoration is not an automatic right. Applicants must meet the criteria and the SDT have received quite a few applications over the years that simply didn’t address the fundamental points.

Upholding public confidence in the legal profession remains paramount and the SDT’s refusal to restore MI to the roll highlights the need for the application of rigorous criteria. The SDT will recognise remediation and reform but will weigh all relevant factors in deciding whether trust in the profession can be maintained before re-admitting an applicant. A structured, logical application supported by persuasive evidence is an absolute requirement in advancing the best case. In fact, I sometimes advise that delaying an application to build a better submission is much more effective than an earlier application, supported by what the applicant regards as ‘just enough’ to justify a hearing.

At the end of the day, potential applicants would do well to look at Sir Thomas Bingham’s comments in Bolton v The Law Society [1994] CA:

“It is required of lawyers practising in this country that they should discharge their professional duties with integrity, probity and complete trustworthiness...Any solicitor who is shown to have discharged his professional duties with anything less than complete integrity, probity and trustworthiness must expect severe sanctions to be imposed upon him by the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal...If a solicitor is not shown to have acted dishonestly but is shown to have fallen below the required standards of integrity, probity and trustworthiness, his lapse is less serious, but it remains very serious indeed in a member of a profession whose reputation depends on trust. A striking off order will not necessarily follow in such a case but it may well.”

Any potential applicant should have these thoughts front and centre before they make an objective decision on whether their submission is complete, persuasive, and ready. Ideally, they will take advice before pressing send because rarely will the SDT consider an application that could not have been improved following expert legal input.


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