Mental Health Matters- Emma Walker of Leigh Day takes a look at recent SDT ‘dishonesty’ decisions
Emma Walker is an Associate Solicitor at Leigh Day, working in the firm’s Regulatory & Disciplinary team. For over 3 ½ years, Emma worked as part of the team responding to the SRA’s investigation and prosecution of Leigh Day.
In September 2018, Leigh Day launched its own Regulatory & Disciplinary team, in order to advise and support others with their compliance, regulatory and disciplinary needs. Emma forms part of that team.
Read the team’s insights and updates online, via Twitter, or on LinkedIn.
On Tuesday 13 November, the High Court handed down judgment on three significant appeals brought by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (“SRA”) of cases from the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal (“SDT”). In each case, the SDT had made findings of dishonesty against a solicitor before deciding that, due to working conditions and mental health considerations, “exceptional circumstances” justified a sanction short of strike-off.
Why were the SDT decisions wrong?
The High Court allowed the SRA’s appeals, quashed the suspended suspensions the SDT has given out and struck-off the three solicitors, concluding that the SDT’s sanction in each case was “unduly lenient and clearly inappropriate”.
In his judgment, Lord Justice Flaux explained that, when the SDT came to assess whether there were exceptional circumstances relevant to sanction, it did not focus on the critical questions of the nature and extent of the dishonesty and degree of culpability and weigh them in the balance. He continued: “Had it done so, it should have concluded that in none of these cases could the dishonesty be said to be momentary.” CLICK TO READ MORE