A solicitor has admitted sending a string of inappropriate emails to an unrepresented party involved in divorce proceedings with his client.
Stefano Enrico Mario Lucatello, who practised as a member of south west London firm Kobalt Law, accused the woman (identified as Ms VG) of being a ‘vexatious litigant’ and told her to ‘stop playing at being a lawyer’ in emails sent from March 2014 to July 2015.
In one exchange involving four emails in a day, Lucatello said the litigant had ‘argued with [the judge] in court like a fisherwoman’.
The 56-year-old, who qualified as a solicitor in 1988, was retained by Mr AV, an Italian citizen, in matrimonial proceedings against his former wife over contact with their child and payment of maintenance.
In an agreed outcome made with the Solicitors Regulation Authority, Lucatello admitted failing to display proper professional respect and courtesy to the ex-wife, who was a litigant in person.
At one stage he threatened to have her arrested and accused her of lying to an Italian court. In another email, he said: ‘Please answer the questions and don’t try to be clever. You fail miserably.’
Following a complaint to the SRA, Lucatello was asked to comment on the allegation that he had made comments which were offensive and threatening.
The solicitor said his comments were not made in isolation but were the result of the substantial action required to be taken against a person who had taken advantage of her position as an unrepresented person.
He said the comments were ‘reasonable, fair, polite, but firm’ and followed accusations from her that he was a bully and a stalker. He added: ‘I have as an officer of the court highlighted to the courts, at all times, what my opponent’s agenda was and what she was striving to achieve.’
The SRA told the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal that the facts and proposed penalty had been agreed with Lucatello, after he had received professional advice and fully admitted the allegation against him.
There was also no evidence that the conduct had been prejudicial to Ms VG. When read in full it was clear from the correspondence that what Ms VG had said was also inappropriate.
In a judgment published this week, the tribunal said the correspondence was ‘completely unacceptable’ and it was the solicitor’s responsibility to maintain his professionalism regardless of what the litigant in person may have done.
His misconduct, following a long and previously unblemished career, was unprofessional and continued for more than a year.
The tribunal agreed to Lucatello paying a £5,000 fine and £2,500 costs.