A London solicitor has been cleared of misconduct over the filing of a statement which had not been seen or approved by the purported witness.
Nnamdi Gregory Ibe admitted making the mistake of submitting the document as part of an appeal against an Oftsed decision. He told the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal he had received the purported statement from his clients at the last minute and rushed it off as the deadline for service approached.
Ibe, who was in practice as a solicitor with south London firm Equity Law Solicitors, represented two clients challenging an Ofsted decision to cancel their registrations from the Early Years Register, the compulsory part of the General Childcare Register.
The Ofsted solicitor handling the case, Duncan Toole, told the tribunal he had received an email a minute before the deadline on 27 June 2017, including a document entitled ‘Witness Statement of [witness C]’. This witness later confirmed the statement had been served without her knowledge and the childminders’ claim was struck out.
Ibe told the tribunal he had received the statement directly from the clients who told him it had been sent to them by the purported witness. Ibe said he made no alterations and acted on instructions to email the statement for inclusion in the agreed bundle.
Following a two-day hearing in August, Ibe was found to have sent the document purporting to be a signed witness statement, but the tribunal accepted he had believed his clients and had no knowledge the witness had not seen it.
The tribunal found he had no other motive or intention other than to ‘get his job done’ and protect his clients’ interests. He was cleared of allegations that he acted without integrity or recklessly.
The tribunal said: ‘In hindsight [Ibe] had accepted that he had made an error of judgement and that the statement had not in fact been seen or approved by witness C.
‘This had not been good practice and was careless. However the tribunal found that at the material time [he] had acted in good faith and he had genuinely believed it to have been seen and approved by witness C and that she had given her authority for it to be sent to Ofsted.’
The tribunal found all allegations unproven and made no order for costs, leaving the SRA to pay its own costs of £19,175.