A former partner at international firm Simmons & Simmons has been fined £15,000 after she failed to tell the Solicitors Regulation Authority about a drink driving conviction, which only came to light when she was arrested for failing to provide a breath sample five years later.
Helen Mathias Hancock, admitted in 1988, pleaded guilty to failing to provide a specimen of breath for analysis and failing to stop after an accident in 2019.
A witness saw Hancock, 57, ‘driving all over the road including on the wrong side, narrowly missing curbs and stopping in the middle of the road’ before she crashed into a parked car, Cardiff Magistrates’ Court heard.
Police officers said Hancock ‘appeared intoxicated, unsteady on her feet and smelt of alcohol’ and ‘refused on several occasions’ to provide a breath sample before she was arrested, according to a ruling by the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal.
She was later given an eight-week sentence, suspended for 12 months, disqualified from driving for four years and ordered to carry out 60 hours of unpaid work.
After the SRA was told about her arrest by South Wales Police, Hancock told the regulator that ‘my first conviction for driving with excess alcohol was in 2014’ – a conviction she had not previously disclosed.
For the earlier offence, Hancock had been fined £2,000 and disqualified from driving for 12 months after pleading guilty to driving while over the limit.
Hancock, now director of legal affairs at Bristol Water, admitted failing to notify the SRA of both convictions, though she said she was ‘unaware’ of the need to report her previous conviction and ‘had intended to report’ the 2019 conviction before the police notified the regulator.
The SDT found that a £15,000 fine was ‘proportionate, reflecting the seriousness of the respondent’s misconduct’, and ordered Hancock to pay £1,286 in costs.
In light of Hancock’s admission that she had failed to report her convictions, the SRA considered it was ‘not proportionate and in the public interest’ to pursue further allegations of breaches of the SRA principles.