Appeals from the SDT
The legal principles that apply on an appeal under section 49 of the Solicitors Act 1974were summarized by Cranston J inLevy v Solicitors Regulation Authority CO/12515/2010:
‘An appeal lies to this court from the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal as of right, pursuant to section 49 of the Solicitors Act 1974. By section 49(4) this court 'shall have power to make such order on an appeal under this section as it may think fit.' An appeal from the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal to the High Court normally proceeds by way of review: See CPR rule 52.11(1). The court's approach to such an appeal is set out in Law Society v Salisbury  EWCA Civ 1285,  1 WLR 1286. There Jackson LJ (with whom Arden LJ and Sir Mark Potter agreed) said: 'It is now an overstatement to say that "a very strong case" is required before the court will interfere with the sentence imposed by the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal. The correct analysis is that the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal comprises an expert and informed tribunal, which is particularly well placed in any case to assess what measures are required to deal with defaulting solicitors and to protect the public interest. Absent any error of law, the High Court must pay considerable respect to the sentencing decisions of the tribunal. Nevertheless if the High Court, despite paying such respect, is satisfied that the sentencing decision was clearly inappropriate, then the court will interfere.' "
Law Society v Salisbury built on the seminal decision of Sir Thomas Bingham in Bolton v Law Society  1 WLR 512. It would require a strong case, said Sir Thomas Bingham MR, to interfere with a sentence imposed by a professional disciplinary committee. That body was best placed for weighing the seriousness of professional misconduct. The factors which weighed in mitigation before a criminal court were not to have the same weight before a disciplinary body because the most fundamental object was maintaining the standards of the profession rather than punishing the offender. Members of the public were ordinarily entitled to expect that a solicitor would be a person whose trustworthiness was not, and never had been, seriously in question. A profession's most valuable asset was its collective reputation and the confidence it inspired. The essential issue is the need to maintain among members of the public a well-founded confidence that any solicitor whom they instruct will be a person of unquestionable integrity, probity and trustworthiness. Thus it can never be an objection to an order of suspension in an appropriate case that the solicitor may be unable to re-establish his practice when the period of suspension is past. If that proves, or appears likely, to be so the consequence for the individual and his family may be deeply unfortunate and unintended. But it does not make suspension the wrong order if it is otherwise right. The reputation of the profession is more important than the fortunes of any individual member. Membership of a profession brings many benefits, but that is a part of the price."
6th Edition » | Chapter 19