A former solicitor convicted of housing benefit fraud has been banned from the profession.
The Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal last month struck off Abosede Akinleye following the 59-year-old’s conviction for fraud by false representation.
Akinleye, who also sat occasionally as a member of the employment tribunal and was not practising at the time, was found to have made a false representation in an application for a discretionary housing payment to the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea. She was sentenced at Isleworth Crown Court to a 12-month community order and 200 hours’ unpaid work for the community.
In sentencing, the judge said Akinleye signed a declaration which was purported to be a true record of her financial and personal situation, but a jury found she dishonestly and deliberately concealed a post office account in which there was a balance of nearly £3,000.
The judge made clear there was ‘no question’ of her having carelessly omitted this information.
Akinleye accepted there was nothing she could do about the conviction and admitted breaching SRA rules, but she continued to deny having acted dishonestly.
In mitigation, she accepted she made a serious error of judgement but said the post office account was a benefit account which largely paid for family members: she deliberately left this section blank on her application form because she did not want to guess what was in the account. She maintained she was eligible for housing benefit.
Akinleye said she was ashamed and profusely apologised to the SRA and members of her profession. Since her conviction, she had not been able to take up employment and was now claiming universal credit.
The tribunal accepted her misconduct was a one-off but said it had been deliberate, and the solicitor had not shown any genuine insight into her actions. She was struck off and ordered to pay £3,300 in costs.