SRA cracks down on rogue lawyers, but bans its panel from defending them
Lawyers are under more regulatory scrutiny than ever and the profession’s watchdog is boosting its powers to crack down on rogues.
Last week the SRA welcomed a Court of Appeal (CoA) ruling against solicitor Anthony Dennison, who had appealed a decision that he should be struck off for his part in The Accident Group (TAG) scandal. Dennison, who was still practising as joint managing partner at Manchester firm Dennison Greer, had appealed a ruling in a case brought by the SRA against the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal (SDT). In the High Court the regulator had challenged the SDT’s decision only to fine him £23,500 for dishonesty. It said his conduct was worthy of being struck off and the High Court agreed.
4 New Square’s Simon Monty QC, acting for Dennison, argued that his conduct was not detrimental to the public and the CoA should reverse the decision.
The charges? Dennison had an interest in Legal Reports Services (LRS), an intermediary that obtained evidence for claims handled by solicitors on the panel of the defunct Accident Group, including his former firm, Rowe Cohen. He sold his shares a year after TAG collapsed in 2004 and did not disclose his holding until 2007.
The SDT had chosen not to expel him from the profession because several years had passed; Dennison had made a £400,000 repayment
to former partners; and the public would not be at risk should he continue practising. The CoA begged to differ. Dennison, it said, should be struck off.
This is not the first time the courts have supported tough sanctions against rogue lawyers. Failure to comply with the Legal Ombudsman’s orders can result in custodial sentences, thanks to Mr Justice Linblom’s November ruling.
Yet for lawyers who find themselves embroiled in such matters, access to justice just got a little tighter, with the SRA deciding that lawyers working on its panel cannot defend accused solicitors.
The move has not proved popular, with one lawyer – Finers Stephens Innocent partner Ian Ryan – quitting in protest.