UK: Solicitor struck off after trying to hide SRA probe from co-director wife !

How he thought he’d get away with that I don’t know..!

A solicitor who was struck off after deleting emails addressed to his wife, the firm’s co-director, from the Solicitors Regulation Authority did so to ‘prevent [her] from becoming aware of the matters the SRA were investigating’.

James Huxtable, who was admitted to the roll in November 1999, also used client money causing a £50,614.21 shortfall in the client account related to two client matters.

The Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal found he acted without integrity, as otherwise he ‘would have at the very least, been able to evidence exactly what the client money had been used for’.

Huxtable did not attend and was not represented at the SDT hearing, which found all allegations against him proved in their entirety including dishonest conduct in relation to the deleted emails.

Huxtable was the co-director at Absolute Legal Ltd where he was also compliance officer for finance and administration and money laundering reporting officer.

Kamal Huxtable, also a solicitor and married to Huxtable, was co-director, co-owner and compliance officer for legal compliance. The firm closed on 30 March 2020.

The SRA started an investigation into the firm after a report from clients in relation to the sale of a property which had not been registered in the buyer’s name. A cash shortage of £50,614.21 in the client account related to two client matters was found. A lack of accounting records meant it was not possible to identify when the shortage arose or what had caused it.

The 30-page judgment said ‘by causing or allowing improper transfers to be made’ in the client account Huxtable had ‘failed to respect the sacrosanct nature of client money’.

It found Mrs Kamal Huxtable repaid the sum of £39,868.59. Huxtable was not involved in remedying the shortfall and had ‘abdicated this responsibility [to pay back the lost funds] to his wife’.

Huxtable was also found to have failed to keep accounting records for the firm properly written up, failed to carry out client account reconciliations and failed to obtain accountant’s reports.

The tribunal found he breached principle 2, 6 and 10 of the SRA Principles 2011 and principle 2 and 5 of the SRA Principles 2019 in relation to the proved allegations.

The judgment said: ‘By deleting emails addressed to Mrs Huxtable as a compliance officer of the firm and sent by her professional regulator concerning matters which Mr Huxtable was aware were under investigation, it was more likely than not that Mr Huxtable sought to hide the SRA’s investigation from her and accordingly Mr Huxtable failed to act with integrity.’

Striking Huxtable off the roll, the SDT said: ‘The tribunal found Mr Huxtable’s motivation had been to hide the firm’s financial distress and the chaos into which his accounts had descended, and to conceal the SRA’s investigation from his wife. This may have started as something spontaneous, but it became a deliberate course of action which spiralled away from Mr Huxtable.

‘Mr Huxtable had abused the trust placed in him by his clients to look after their money. Due to the poor state of the accounts, it was not possible to determine whether all the money due to his clients had been returned.’

The tribunal also ordered Huxtable pay costs of £18,500.