Solicitor Struck Off For Keeping Evidence Brushed Under The Doormat

| General

Solicitor Struck Off For Keeping Evidence Brushed Under The Doormat

The recent Solicitors’ Disciplinary Tribunal decision to strike off a solicitor from the roll is another lesson to be learned for all legal professionals.

Can I Get A Re-Wind?

Between 2017 and 2020 the solicitor was instructed to act for a client in an action against the police through a virtual firm. Basingstoke Magistrates Court granted a warrant permitting the police and mental health professionals to visit the client, search the premises and detain him if appropriate in their professional opinion. When the interested parties visited the Client’s home an incident occurred during which a group of police officers representing Hampshire Constabulary attempted to arrest him under the warrant.

Documentary Evidence

By way of legal background, a contemporaneous copy of the warrant is usually required to assess if it had been executed in compliance with the legal requirements.

Fast Forward

When the case came to court in 2019 the solicitor confirmed that the hardcopy paper version of the warrant was unavailable and undisclosable. On 1st July 2019, he supported this by signing the relevant section of a witness statement accompanied by a Statement of Truth.

Can I Get A ReWind?

Usually, this would be an innocuous event. However, things became more interesting. When the incident occurred, the client’s sister had permission to speak for the client and administer the claim. It transpired that on a visit to her brother’s house she had discovered a copy of the warrant folded up and placed under her brother’s doormat.

Progressing to May 2019 the solicitor was seemingly curious about the whereabouts of the warrant and inquired with the Client’s sister via email. Shortly afterward, she confirmed that she had a copy and sent it to him. To assist she sent two copies to the solicitor, one via email and another via post.

What Was The Problem?

The issue which haunted the solicitor was the signing of the statement of truth in July 2019 which was interpreted as misrepresenting that he had no access to the warrant. The solicitor should have considered the SRA’s perception of this behaviour. A better decision would have been to act with honesty about the warrant’s existence and then disclose it. In the case, the County Court judge relied on the false statement put forward by the solicitor about the missing warrant. Hampshire Constabulary submitted an unsuccessful application for a summary judgment based on the evidence.

Time Goes By

The solicitor inexplicably waited until October 2019 to admit to the counsel and Hampshire Constabulary that the warrant existed. He then felt so guilty that he sat on his secret for 20- weeks before seemingly having a crisis of conscience and feeling like he had no other option but to confess his secret to senior colleagues in his firm.

To his credit, he admitted withholding the warrant and expressed remorse about it.

Key Takeaway

This is an important lesson for anybody unfortunate enough to find themselves in a similarly precarious situation. The best course of action in becoming aware of the existence of a crucial document in a case is:

  • carefully check if documents have been received
  • ensure dates and times of receipt are recorded
  • not sign a statement of truth if you are aware of the existence of a piece of evidence; and
  • as part of the duty of disclosure disclose anything which may assist and hinder the client’s case

This will reduce the likelihood of a solicitor being struck off by the SRA.

The Legists Content Team

ASSESSING FIRMS

THE ARTICLE WAS WRITTEN USING THE FOLLOWING SOURCES

[1] Hilborne, Nick – Solicitor struck off for lying about the existence of key evidence – 19 April 2022 – Legal Futures - Solicitor struck off for lying about the existence of key evidence - Legal Futures

[2] Hyde, John – ‘Weak’ solicitor kept quiet about unhelpful evidence – 18 April 2022 - ‘Weak’ solicitor kept quiet about unhelpful evidence | News | Law Gazette

[3] Solicitors Code of Conduct

banner

Articles

  • Meeting Targets and Getting Paid

    Meeting Targets and Getting Paid

    General 12.06.2024

    Any ambiguity to the fulfilment of these clauses can lead to a contract dispute, where lawyers may get involved to resolve the issue through negotiation, mediation, or even legal action if necessary

  • Proactive Lawyers in Sports Law

    Proactive Lawyers in Sports Law

    General 20.05.2024

    Many football disputes are resolved behind closed doors. This is because there is often the need to be amicable so to no disrupt the team harmony and function. The demands of star players are often

Stay Tuned

Receive regular news, updates, upcoming events and more...