Bolton v The Law Society: CA 8 Dec 1993

The solicitor who had been admitted to the Roll for two years had disbursed clients money to relatives, as part of the conveyance of property without adequate security but in the expectation that the money would be repaid. The Tribunal found that the solicitor was honest and had not stolen client money ‘in a premeditated fashion’. The Tribunal took the view that ordinarily the conduct would merit striking off but, in light of the facts of the case, it made a more lenient order. The Divisional Court heard fresh evidence of good character and took the view that the suspension was disproportionate, imposing a fine in substitution.
Held: The Disciplinary Tribunal’s decision was re-instated. The court had given insufficient reason for disturbing it. A solicitor who was in breach of the Law Society’s rules should expect severe sanctions. The rules served not just to discipline solicitors, but also to protect the public. The reputation of a profession is more important than the fortunes of any individual mamber. Membership of a profession brings benefits, but also costs.
Sir Thomas Bingham MR said: ‘It is required of lawyers practising in this country that they should discharge their professional duties with integrity, probity and complete trustworthiness.’ and ‘Because orders made by the tribunal are not primarily punitive, it follows that considerations which would ordinarily weigh in mitigation of punishment have less effect on the exercise of this jurisdiction than on the ordinary run of sentences imposed in criminal cases. It often happens that a solicitor appearing before the tribunal can adduce a wealth of glowing tributes from his professional brethren. He can often show that for him and his family the consequences of striking off or suspension would be little short of tragic.’
As a principle it requires a very strong case to justify interference by the CA in a penalty imposed by the Tribunal, since its members are best qualified to weigh the seriousness of the professional misconduct before them.
. . 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. Lapses from the required high standard may of course take different forms and be of varying degrees. The most serious involves proven dishonesty . . 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. The decision whether to strike off of suspend will often involve a fine and difficult exercise of judgment . . . on all the facts of the case. Only in a very unusual and venial case of this kind will the Tribunal be likely to regard as appropriate any order less severe than one of suspension. It is important that there should be full understanding of the reasons why the Tribunal makes orders which might otherwise seem harsh. There is in some of these orders a punitive element; a penalty may be visited on a solicitor who has fallen below the standard required of his profession in order to punish him for what he has done and to deter any other solicitor tempted to behave in the same way. Those are traditional objects of punishment. But often the order is not punitive in intention ‘
and ‘In most cases the order of the Tribunal will be primarily directed to one or other or both of two purposes. One is to be sure the offender does not have the opportunity to repeat the offence. This purpose is achieved for a limited period by an order of suspension; plainly it is hoped that experience of suspension will make the offender meticulous in his future compliance with the required standard. The purpose is achieved for a longer period, and quite possibly indefinitely, by an order for striking off. The second purpose is the most fundamental of all: to maintain the reputation of the solicitor’s profession as one in which every member, of whatever standard, may be trusted to the end of the earth. To maintain the reputation and sustain public confidence in the integrity of the profession it is often necessary that those guilty of serious lapses are not only expelled but denied readmission. If a member of the public sells his house, very often his largest asset, and entrusts the proceeds to his solicitor, pending reinvestment in another house, he is ordinarily entitled to expect the solicitor will be a person whose trustworthiness is not, and never has been, seriously in question. Otherwise, the whole profession and the public as a whole is injured. A profession’s most valuable asset is its collective reputation and the confidence which that inspires.’

Sir Thomas Bingham MR, Rose, Waite LJJ
Times 08-Dec-1993, [1994] 1 WLR 512, [1993] EWCA Civ 32, [1994] 2 All ER 486, [1994] COD 295
England and Wales
CitedMcCoan v General Medical Council PC 1964
The Board advised: ‘Their Lordships are of opinion that Lord Parker CJ may have gone too far in In re a Solicitor [1960] 2 QB 212 when he said that the appellate court would never differ from sentence in cases of professional misconduct, but their . .

Cited by:
CitedIn the Matter of a Solicitor and In the Matter of Solicitors Act 1974 Admn 15-Dec-1997
The appellant solicitor had been found to have appropriated client funds to himself. He appealed an order striking his name from the Roll of solicitors. He had repaid the sums, and said that he had paid them to satisfy a blackmailer.
Held: An . .
CitedDr Gosai v The General Medical Council PC 10-Apr-2003
PC (The Professional Conduct Committee of the GMC) The doctor challenged the decision of the committee to invoke its power to restrain him from making further applications to be restored to the register.
CitedDarby v The Law Society (the Office of the Supervision of Solicitors) QBD 13-Oct-2003
The solicitor appealed findings of misconduct. He had acted for a builder who complained about breaches of confidentiality and a failure to provide written information on costs.
Held: The appeal was by way of a rehearing (Preiss), but should . .
CitedCouncil for the Regulation of Healthcare Professionals v General Medical Council and Dr Solanke Admn 30-Apr-2004
The council appealed against what it said was a lenient sentence imposed on a doctor for malpractice.
Held: It was relevant to take account of the way criminal courts dealt with appeals against lenient sentences. The test in relation to an . .
CitedSingleton v The Law Society QBD 11-Nov-2005
The claimant appealed his striking off the roll of solicitors. He said he had not been dishonest. He was said to have made entries to show receipts into client account to support payments out when such receipts had not occurred. He denied this was . .
CitedBaxendale-Walker v The Law Society Admn 30-Mar-2006
The solicitor appealed being struck off. He had given a character reference in circumstances where he did not have justification for the assessment.
Held: ‘The appellant knew that Barclays Bank trusted him to provide a truthful reference. . .
ApprovedGupta v The General Medical Council PC 18-Dec-2001
(The Health Committee of the GMC) A doctor had been found guilty of serious professional misconduct by the Professional Conduct Committee of the General Medical Council. She appealed on the basis that they had not given reasons for the factual basis . .
CitedBaxendale-Walker v Law Society CA 15-Mar-2007
The solicitor appealed a finding that he had given a reference which he knew to be inappropriate, and his consequential striking off. The tribunal had found his evidence manifestly untrue.
Held: There were no grounds for disturbing the . .
CitedJideofo v The Law Society; Evans v The Solicitors Regulation Authority 31-Jul-2007
(Master of the Rolls) Each applicant challenged decisions not to allow them to become student members of the Law Society.
Held: The test for character and suitability was a necessarily high one; was one which was not concerned with punishment, . .
CitedAli and Another, Re Solicitors No 21 and 22 of 2007 CA 29-Apr-2008
The claimants challenged revocation of their student membership of the Law Society. The revocation had been made on the basis that they had declared work to be their own unaided work when they were said to have colluded on an assignment.
Held: . .
CitedMubarak v General Medical Council Admn 20-Nov-2008
The doctor appealed against a finding against him of professional misconduct in the form of a sexualised examination of a female patient.
Held: The reasons given were adequate, and the response of erasure from the register was the only one . .
CitedLaw Society v Salsbury CA 25-Nov-2008
The Society appealed against an order quashing the striking-off of the solicitor.
Held: Bolton was still the leading case though the solicitor must be given an opportunity for a fair trial. Though it was not necessary to show a very strong . .
CitedCoke-Wallis, Regina (on The Application of) v Institute of Chartered Accountants In England and Wales SC 19-Jan-2011
The appellant chartered accountant had been convicted in Jersey after removing documents from his offices relating to a disputed trust and in breach of an order from his professional institute. The court now considered the relevance and application . .
CitedSolicitors Regulation Authority v Dennison Admn 22-Feb-2011
The Authority appealed against the sentence imposed on the respondent by the Soicitoirs Discipinary Tribunal. He had been found to have taken undisclosed referral fees in personal injury litigation giving rise to conflicts of interest and to have . .
CitedHazelhurst and Others v Solicitors Regulation Authority Admn 11-Mar-2011
The claimants appealed against disciplinary orders. A member of staff had stolen substantial sums from client account. They had admitted breaches of the Accounts and Practice rules, but personally made good all losses. They said that the Solicitors . .

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Updated: 02 November 2021; Ref: scu.78479