So What Should A Legal Professional Do If They Receive A Call From A Prisoner Client?

| General



The recent case involving a legal professional shone a light on how such persons should be conducting themselves if they receive a call from a prisoner.  

What Happened In The Case?

The legal professional had accrued over one decade’s worth of experience at a Midlands-based legal services provider. She had been instructed by a client who found themselves arrested, taken to the police station and was remanded in custody for sixteen weeks until October 2019. During the time the client was incarcerated, the legal professional sent two text messages to the client’s mobile phone. The two exchanged eighteen pieces of correspondence made from the same device. However, the prisoner had not been authorised to possess a mobile phone. The authorities arrested the legal professional and she was dismissed for communicating with a serving prisoner in November 2019.

In May 2021 she admitted intentionally encouraging or assisting a prisoner to communicate using an unauthorised device. She received a suspended six-month prison sentence and community service.

Be Sure Your Sins Will Find You Out…

If the legal professional thought she had escaped she was mistaken. The authorities informed the SRA regarding the conviction, and it prevented her from working for any regulated firm. It said that by communicating with her client like this was tantamount to encouraging and assisting him to commit further offences, against his best interests.

What Did The Solicitors Regulation Authority Say?

The regulator commented that in her office as an accredited police station representative, she should have been aware that her conduct contravened her legal and professional obligations. It highlighted the high standards of professional judgement which legal professionals should show.

Lessons Learned? 

Legal professionals practising criminal law should be aware of the law and risks presented by prisoners

  • possessing 

  • utilising

and 

  • corresponding 

on mobile phone devices whilst incarcerated. The Law Society advises legal professionals that they may intentionally, purposely, inadvertently and consciously be committing a criminal offence if they communicate with an incarcerated person like this. Clearly advising those clients from the prison community to adhere to the rules on mobile phones and not use such devices. Avoid motivating clients of a criminal persuasion to become involved with further enterprises whilst they are incarcerated and steer clear of supporting such persons to commit future offences.

The Society also offers some sage advice to such persons finding themselves in the predicament of receiving a call from a prisoner: 

  • end the communication if the circumstances point to the call being made from a prisoner on a mobile device

  • communicate with the client that continuing with the correspondence will put the legal professional in a position whereby they are committing a criminal offence

  • provide similar advice to members of staff in the legal services provider

  • advise the caller that they are violating the law and such future approaches will not be answered and

  • gently remind such callers that any further correspondence will mean that the legal provider can no longer provide their respective services, instructions will be withdrawn and their files will be closed.  

The Law Society advises legal professionals that they are permitted to return their telephone calls on the basis that the call is made on a mobile telephone number provided to the respective person or the legal professional’s legal team. However, the Law Society make clear that this must be on the basis that the legal professional is genuinely, honestly and truthfully unaware that the exchange of correspondence has been made from a device which was not authorised for use.

 ASSESSING FIRMS

#BlakeMorgan #LClyde&CoLLP #CapsticksLLP #Hempsons #KingsleyNapleyLLP &RadcliffesLeBrasseur #BatesWells #CMS #DACBeachcroftLLP #FieldFisher #HerbertSmithFreehills #Russell-CookeLLP #BlackfordsLLP #CharlesRussellSpeechlysLLP #KeoughLLP #MurdochsSolicitors #StepehensonsSolicItorsLLP

THE ARTICLE WAS WRITTEN USING THE FOLLOWING SOURCES 

[SOURCE 1] Hyde, John – Firm employee who texted prisoner banned by regulator - Firm employee who texted prisoner banned by regulator | News | Law Gazette

[SOURCE 2] Law Society – Communication with prisoners by mobile phone – 5th December 2019 - Communication with prisoners by mobile phone | The Law Society

[SOURCE 3] Solicitors Regulation Authority Principles

[SOURCE 4] Section 43 Solicitors Act 1974 - SRA | Guidance on approval of employment under s41 and s43 of the Solicitors Act 1974 | Solicitors Regulation Authority

[SOURCE 5] Section 40D of the Prison Act 1952

[SOURCE 6] Section 23 Offender Management Act 2007

[SOURCE 7] Crime and Security Act 2010

[SOURCE 8] Section 8 Accessories and Abettors Act 1861

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