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Dennison loses appeal against striking off by High Court

3 April 2012

Anthony Dennison, partner at Dennison Greer solicitors in Manchester, has lost his appeal against the High Court’s decision to strike him off.

The SDT decided not to suspend or strike off Dennison, who was partner in a law firm which vetted claims for The Accident Group (TAG). Both TAG and Rowe Cohen, the law firm, no longer exist.

Instead the SDT fined Dennison £23,500, mainly for breaching conflict of interest rules but also because of one offence involving dishonesty. For this reason the SRA appealed to the High Court to get Dennison suspended or struck off (see solicitorsjournal.com 19 July 2010).

Lord Justice Moore-Bick said the allegation involving dishonesty related to his interest in Legal Report Services, which acted as an intermediary for obtaining expert evidence in support of claims handled by TAG.

The court heard that Dennison failed to disclose this interest either to his partners at Rowe Cohen or to clients for whom LRS obtained the expert evidence.

Dennison later paid £400,000 to settle claims brought by former partners, although only a small proportion, “perhaps as little as £37,000”, represented money received from services provided by LRS.

Moore-Bick LJ said the SDT found that Dennison had “deliberately kept his interest in LRS secret” and “deliberately deceived his partners because he wanted to retain the whole of the benefit of his interest for himself”.

He went on: “The tribunal found that Mr Dennison had acted dishonestly by the ordinary standards of reasonable and honest people and, moreover, that he had been aware that, by those standards, he had been acting dishonestly.”

Dennison argued that the High Court “failed to give sufficient weight to the views of a very experienced professional tribunal” which had seen him give evidence over five days and was well placed to assess both his character and the risk to the public of allowing him to stay in practice.

Moore-Bick LJ said Dennison also maintained that the circumstances of his offence were “very unusual and could properly be regarded as falling within that very small class of cases involving dishonesty in respect of which such a severe sanction is not required”.

However, the lord justice said he was “unable to accept that his dishonesty was so trivial as to fall into what has been described as a residual category of cases for which striking off is not an appropriate penalty”.

He concluded: “As to the factors which led the tribunal to conclude that striking off or suspension was not required in this case, none of them in my view carries a great deal of weight.

“The passage of time, although a factor to be taken into account, does little to detract from the gravity of the conduct, especially when the duration of the dishonesty and its subsequent concealment is taken into account.

“The matter is made worse by Mr Dennison’s receipt, albeit by a circuitous route, of advice from the Law Society that his interests in LRS had to be disclosed,” Moore-Bick LJ said.

“The fact that the tribunal was satisfied that no member of the public would be put at risk if he continued to practise likewise does little to ensure confidence in the profession, since it would tend to reinforce the perception that the profession was willing to tolerate seriously dishonest practitioners.”

Lord Justice Moore-Bick said he did not think that even a large fine combined with a period of suspension were enough in a case of this kind and the High Court’s decision to strike him off was entirely justified.

He dismissed Dennison’s appeal. Lord Justices Hooper and Maurice Kay agreed.

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