Don’t Medal With Clients Or There Will Be Consequences
Anybody who deals with clients in a professional capacity will need to take notice of this alarming tale and remember that actions have consequences.
A legal secretary had been employed by a solicitors practice for around four years from 2017 until her employment was terminated in March 2021. She had presumably built a trusting working relationships with her superiors and colleagues. For one client aged 74 years young the firm was storing a soughtafter medal collection in its vaults valued at around £24,000.
However, unbeknown to the firm or the now former legal secretary, the owner the medals was tipped-off by an independent third-party that the medals were not in the possession of the firm. The client’s friend had been searching the interweb and to the friend’s astonishment 200 medals were being advertised for sale on social media. The old saying ‘be sure your sins will find you out’ springs to mind. The trust the secretary had banked over the previous four years was seemingly swept aside in one fell swoop when the firm conducted an investigation and uncovered evidence uploaded to social media advertising for sale a valuable and much sought-after collection of war medals that she had in fact stolen. Evidence was also discovered that the legal secretary had also stolen items of jewellery worth approximately £10,000.
What Motivated The Theft?
The legal secretary had incurred a substantial amount of gambling debt which had apparently risen to seemingly uncontrollable levels so in a desperate attempt to reduce it the legal secretary had stolen the medals from the firm’s possession. She was then wracked with guilt after selling it to a medal collector in the Merseyside area and then subsequently to her credit handed herself into the law enforcement authorities.
Actions Have Consequences
The admission was just the start of the journey for the now former legal secretary. The firm did not take kindly at all to the wilful dishonesty put on display by their once trusted employee. It expressed its disappointment and shock a staff member had betrayed both the trust of its clients, the firm itself and the profession. In March 2021 the firm understandably made the decision to terminate the employee’s employment for the reason of gross misconduct.
The regulator of the profession, the Solicitors Regulation Authority were even more damning than the legal secretary’s own firm firm and threw the book at the now former legal secretary. It assessed all the evidence against her and imposed a fine in the amount of £600 and handed down an order under section 43 stating that it would be unacceptable for her to be employed in the legal profession ever again. The Solicitors Regulation Authority made clear that if the legal secretary sought a return to the frontline as a legal secretary in a regulated firm at any time in the future, she would be obliged to request consent from the regulator first.
This was not the end of the matter for the legal secretary as she found herself facing criminal sanctions. She was arrested, charged and convicted for the thefts. Teesside Crown Court imposed a suspended prison sentence presumably due to the evidence of remorse and guilt shown.
This should stand as a warning to anyone employed in the legal profession to not let their gambling or personal financial situations get out of hand and above all not to be tempted to resort to stealing from clients. They should realise the privileged position they are in, not risk making a colossal mistake of this magnitude and throwing away a successful career.
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THE ARTICLE WAS WRITTEN USING THE FOLLOWING SOURCES
 Payne, Mark – Hartlepool law firm worker sold stolen war medals worth on Facebook to pay off gambling debt – 29 June 2021 – Hartlepool Mail - Hartlepool law firm worker sold stolen war medals worth £24,000 on Facebook to pay off gambling debt | Hartlepool Mail
 Hyde, John – Regulator bans secretary who stole client’s medal collections – 4 April 2022 - Regulator bans secretary who stole client’s medal collections | News | Law Gazette
 Explaining Section 43 Orders – Jonathan Goodwin - Explaining Section 43 Orders (jglaw.co.uk)