The Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal has agreed to adjourn a substantive hearing of allegations against a telecommunications solicitor for four months following a lengthy discussion on medical evidence.
A five-day substantive hearing was due to begin yesterday over allegations brought by the Solicitors Regulation Authority against Tracey Ann Sheehan, admitted in 1995.
The SRA alleges that Sheehan approved a proposal form submitted to the partnership admission committee of international firm Dentons which included 'untrue' information about her billable hours and fees when she was a partner at international firm Taylor Wessing. She is also alleged to have provided Hill Dickinson with a business plan and schedule of her hours and billings as part of a recruitment process containing 'untrue' information. The SRA says the allegations are as yet unproven.
Jonathan Goodwin, for Sheehan, asked the tribunal yesterday to adjourn the substantive hearing, telling the tribunal that Sheehan's failure to attend yesterday was due to illness.
He said: 'When she is more able to do so, Miss Sheehan's intention is to give evidence to the tribunal to explain her genuinely held knowledge and belief at the time... Has Miss Sheehan produced supporting evidence from a doctor? Yes, she has. Does the evidence meet the required standards? Yes, it does. Is there any reason to believe the assertion of ill health is anything other than genuine? My answer to that is an emphatic "no".'
Edward Levey, for the SRA, questioned whether the medical evidence was sufficient for the case to be adjourned. He said Sheehan's doctor 'has not addressed his mind to what sort of adjustment could or might be possible to make to accommodate Miss Sheehan. For example, sitting shorter court hours, having frequent breaks, sitting in private, giving evidence behind a screen... An adjournment is not simply there for the asking.'
Levey acknowledged that appearing before the tribunal is 'stressful for anyone concerned. These proceedings are stressful.' However the medical evidence 'does not come close' to supporting an adjournment application, Levey argued. 'It's better than a sick note. But this is not the sort of evidence one would accept when applying for an adjournment, particularly not evidence one would suggest when having a third go at an application.'
The tribunal was told that the SRA had three witnesses 'ready to give evidence because we were told they were needed'. The witnesses included a Dentons employee 'who has come in specially from Dubai to be here', Levey said.
However, at the end of yesterday's hearing, Peter Jones, chair of the three-strong tribunal panel, said the tribunal was 'satisfied that the fair and appropriate thing to do is adjourn'. The substantive hearing has been adjourned until 16 March.