6 OCT. 2010
Mr Richard Buxton [ 1213725 ], Surrey, TW20
Corinna Kershaw (Lay)
Barrie Vincent FRICS
Mr Buxton is a student member of the Institution. He appears before this Panel pursuant to Bye-Law B5.2.2 (d) under which a member is liable to disciplinary action if he has been convicted of a criminal offence which could result in a custodial sentence. The Panel has heard submissions from Mrs Buckley on behalf of the Institution, and from Mr Buxton, who has appeared in person, which has been of great assistance to the Panel.
On 30 October 2009 Mr Buxton was convicted following his pleas to five offences: one of fraud by abuse of position, and four offences of money laundering arising from the fraud. The fraud was committed by Mr Buxton in relation to his practice as a solicitor and involved misappropriation of client funds in a significant amount. He received a prison sentence of two and a half years.
Mr Buxton was also struck off the roll of solicitors in relation to the same matters.
It is the submission of Mrs Buckley that the conviction renders Mr Buxton liable to disciplinary action. Mr Buxton accepts this. The Panel is satisfied that Mr Buxton is liable to disciplinary action on the basis alleged.
The Panel has considered the penalty it should impose. It has had regard to the Sanctions Policy – Guidance to RICS Disciplinary, Registration and Appeal Panel Rules (Version 3 – effective from 1 January 2010 and has considered each of the options open to it.
It is the unanimous conclusion of the Panel that Mr Buxton should be expelled from the Institution. The RICS policy provides that expulsion is the appropriate penalty in cases of fraud, dishonesty or lack of integrity. There can be no doubt that Mr Buxton has failed lamentably to meet the standards of integrity expected of him as a member of this Institution. There are, in the Panel’s view, no extenuating circumstances which would warrant any other penalty short of expulsion. The Panel has determined that it is inappropriate to impose a fine in addition.
As to costs, the Panel is under an obligation to impose such costs as it considers are fair and reasonable. It must have regard to all the circumstances of the case including the ability of a member to pay them.
It is the invariable practice of disciplinary panels to make an order for costs, and usually in the full amount sought. There is no reason why members of the profession should subsidise the wrong doings of other members. The Panel has considered this issue very carefully and the circumstances of Mr Buxton’s financial position. The Panel has concluded that his is one of those very rare cases where his personal circumstances mitigate in favour of a different and exceptional approach. Mr Buxton has just been released from prison on licence. As such, he is liable to recall at any time. He is unemployed, though he is making efforts to find himself employment, and has just started to receive job seekers’ allowance. Mr Buxton had hoped to work as a domestic energy assessor and home inspector though he now recognises that it is an option which is no longer open to him. Clearly, the nature of his conviction renders his chances of obtaining employment in the early term bleak.
Mr Buxton is paying an order for costs imposed by the Solicitors Regulation Authority. His finances are in such a precarious state that those costs are being paid by his 83 year old mother, with whom he now resides, at a rate of ₤20 per month which will take approximately six and a half years to redeem. Mr Buxton is responsible for maintenance payments for the benefit of his seven year old daughter, albeit in a nominal amount. He also has a fourteen year old daughter, whom he supports.
The Panel has been informed that such monies as Mr Buxton had were used to repay those from whom he had stolen it, resulting in his bankruptcy from which he has only recently been discharged. He has virtually no money. Mr Buxton has told the panel, and the Panel accepts that any further financial penalty will place yet another substantial burden on him.
In these circumstances, the Panel believes it would be disproportionate to make an order for costs and has decided not to do so.
The Panel orders publication on the RICS website and in Modus, the RICS journal.
Mr Buxton has a right of appeal from the Panel’s decision which must be lodged in accordance with the Disciplinary, Registration and Appeal Panel Rules 2009 (Version 2 – effective from 1 January 2010 within 28 days of this decision.