An experienced criminal solicitor who breached practising restrictions within a week of being handed them has had a five-year suspended ban activated by the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal (SDT).
According to the SDT judgment, Michael Schwartz, who has been a solicitor since 1979, was originally hauled before the tribunal in September 2016 “for failing to pay cash given to him by clients into a firm’s client account until prompted to do so” by the clients themselves.
Schwartz was handed a five-year suspended sentence on 9 September and was told he would need permission to practise again.
But it would appear the SDT’s penalty fell on deaf ears. Attending a further hearing in an attempt to have the practising restrictions removed, it emerged that Schwartz — who worked on a freelance basis — had gone back to work just days after the SDT handed down its decision.
The judgment, published earlier this week, reveals that the solicitor had been “instructed” by Birmingham-based outfit Toussaints on the “13 or 14 September 2016” and had even attended court. There is no suggestion of any misconduct on the part of the firm.
Initially claiming it was a genuine misunderstanding, Schwartz, in a written witness statement to the SDT, submitted:
I accept that I did one court attendance 14/9/16. This was prior to the publication of the SRA’s [Solicitors Regulation Authority’s] reasons and I incorrectly thought until publication I could work. On reflection I realised that this was incorrect.
However, under cross-examination the criminal solicitor accepted that he had in fact known at the conclusion of the hearing that the “restrictions came into immediate effect.”
Activating Schwartz’s five-year suspension, and ordering him to pay costs of £2,250, the SDT said that the criminal solicitor had “consciously flouted” its original order.
Read the judgement in full below:
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