In a recent ACCA disciplinary hearing, Blake Morgan's Chris Cope successfully represented a defendant who had previously failed to disclose cyber harassment convictions when they first registered with the ACCA as a student.
Two years after being charged with cyber harassment, convicted whilst at university and ultimately serving a short term in prison, the individual RJ, applied to the ACCA to become a student. He failed to disclose the fact he had a criminal conviction. Seven years later, having passed his exams and completed his training he applied for admission to full membership, and in the process disclosed his previous convictions.
In regard to these convictions, although RJ had self-referred these matters and “demonstrated substantial remorse and remediation”, he agreed that his actions would bring himself, the ACCA and the profession into disrepute.
The sanctions available to the disciplinary committee were:
- no further action;
- severe reprimand; or
- removal from the affiliate register.
Chris and Blake Morgan’s team successfully argued that the matter could be disposed of by way of an admonishment together with costs of £5,000. The outcome also found RJ was not guilty of misconduct because there was some ambiguity on the application form as to what was to be declared. The committee also took into account that: RJ’s conduct had taken place a considerable time ago; he greatly regretted, was remorseful for and ashamed of his actions and in the subsequent years had passed his accountancy exams and matured such that he presented as a different person.
Given the seriousness of the conduct underlying the allegations this sanction can be considered a successful outcome for RJ. But also illustrates a good example of ACCA’s disciplinary committee acting in a fair and proportionate manner.
If in doubt, applicants should disclose their past indiscretions, whether it happens to be a criminal conviction, or a police caution or otherwise. Let the regulator decide whether it is a matter that should be investigated. Hiding indiscretions is a very high-risk strategy. In the case of RJ, he can now firmly put the past in the past, and move forward.
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