The Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal has ordered a family law solicitor who was convicted of fraud after wrongfully claiming £37,000 in income tax repayments to be struck off. Dianna Lee, also known as Dianna Gerald and admitted to the roll in December 2007, was not present at this morning's hour-long hearing.
Lee, formerly of Cheltenham firm Family Law Consultants Limited, was convicted of four counts of fraud by false representation at Manchester Crown Court in 2016. She was sentenced to 21 months in prison, suspended for 18 months, and 200 hours of unpaid community work.
Solicitor Kiran Sidhu, representing the Solicitors Regulation Authority, told the tribunal that, by virtue of her conviction, Lee had failed to uphold the rule of law and proper administration of justice, failed to act with integrity, and failed to behave in a way that maintained the public's trust.
Sidhu highlighted His Honour Judge Martin Steiger's sentencing remarks, describing Lee's behaviour as 'disgraceful' and saying that she was 'wholly unsuitable to be a solicitor'.
The tribunal found the SRA's allegations proved. James Astle, chair of the tribunal, said he and the two other panel members had taken 'particularly into account' the certificate of conviction and the judge's remarks.
Discussing costs, Sidhu told the tribunal that the costs were 'very reasonable' and that the regulator tried to ensure the proceedings were brought in a proportionate manner and focused on the most serious allegations. However, after queries were raised by the tribunal, Sidhu said the hearing attendance and travel times could be reduced.
Asked to explain what the three-hour preparation time consisted of, Sidhu said: 'You will see from the various correspondence that there was quite a lot going on with this case since January 2017.' The clerk to the tribunal told the panel that Lee, in an email sent in June, asked for her financial circumstances to be taken into account.
The tribunal ordered Lee to be struck off and pay costs fixed in the sum of £4,000.