Discipline – ICA under fire over ‘excessive’ fines

The English ICA’s disciplinary tribunal has been accused of excessive harshness in its treatment of an accountant fined #3,000 for using offensive language during a business dispute.

Adrian Thompson was also ordered to pay #1,800 in costs after the dispute with a bankrupt, who complained to the institute that Thompson was sending him abusive faxes.

Thompson, who denies the charges, said this week: ‘I feel let down by the institute. The fine with costs is higher than if I had committed an illegal offence, such as defrauding Customs & Excise. The affair has affected my personal life, business and health.’

Peter Mitchell, chairman of the Small Practitioners Association – which provided legal assistance to Thompson during the case – said the case highlighted practitioner concerns about the disciplinary system, particularly its harsh treatment of minor offences.

Mitchell said the case should not have been publicised and should not have merited such a large fine.

He added that changes expected as a result of the Beloff report – particularly a new ‘unpublicised caution’ for minor offences – met some of his concerns.

Douglas Llambias, an institute council member, said the fine seemed out of all proportion with others handed down by the institute, such as the #1,000 imposed on ‘cash-for-questions’ ex-MP Tim Smith, whose offences had been far more serious.

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