A consultant who practised as a solicitor when he was not authorised to do so has been struck off following a judgment by the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal. However Christopher Scroggs, admitted in 1988, was cleared of dishonesty.
Scroggs had been working as a self-employed consultant for Bristol firm Neath Raisbeck Golding Law Ltd when, between 2016 and 2018, he operated as a sole practitioner without authorisation. Although he claimed to have believed he was working ‘under the firm’s banner’, the tribunal found Scroggs was acting ‘without the knowledge or authorisation of the firm’.
Scroggs, who did not open files with the firm or arrange engagement letters between the firm and the respective clients, later requested payment to himself. The client told the firm which informed the Solicitors Regulation Authority.
In a written judgment, the tribunal said: ‘Mr Scroggs stated that he had cooperated fully with the SRA. He said he was unsure why it had taken so long for the matter to get to a hearing and why there were thousands of pages before the tribunal for a case about £2,450 in which all the alleged facts were admitted.
‘Mr Scroggs apologised for his actions. He said that he had brought shame on the profession but that he had never sought to deceive or mislead anyone.’
In a formal answer to the tribunal, Scroggs said he did not ‘shirk’ from his actions. He added that no clients were misled, and none had complained.
Scroggs accepted that his actions breached the practice framework rules but told the tribunal that he had not realised that at the time. He denied that the alleged breaches and his conduct had been dishonest. The SDT found the allegation Scroggs’ actions had been dishonest were not proved.
The judgment said that Scroggs, an experienced solicitor, was ‘dispensing with formalities which [he believed] did not apply in circumstances where the clients were so well known to him and where he considered there was no risk of any conflict of interest’. But, it added, it ‘was profoundly troubled’ by Scroggs’ request of a client to pay him directly.
Scroggs contested the SRA’s estimated prosecution costs of £18,500, saying that 170 hours of work by the SRA’s solicitors Capsticks was ‘disproportionate’. The tribunal found the SRA’s supervision costs of £600 to be reasonable but the legal fee ‘was excessive for a matter in which such extensive factual admissions were made and the areas of dispute so narrow.’ It noted that the ‘vast majority’ of bundle pages were not referred to during the hearing.
Scroggs was struck off the roll but no costs order was made.