A solicitor who misled her litigation opponent while suffering from a mental illness has been fined £7,500.
Rajwinder Kaur Bharya sent the claimant party in an employer liability case the front page of a draft witness statement to ‘buy time’, the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal heard, as that witness had been unavailable due to illness.
She then rang her opponent and stated she had mislaid the copy of the witness statement and would need further time to get it signed.
Bharya, qualified for 12 years, was an associate solicitor with Birmingham firm Eaton Ryan & Taylor (later ERT Law Limited) at the time. She resigned from the firm in July 2015 and does not currently hold a practising certificate.
The tribunal also heard that in a separate public liability matter she had caused a colleague to send a response to an opposing party saying she had not received their letter. This was known to be untrue.
Bharya made open and frank admissions to the allegations and was found to have demonstrated genuine insight into, and remorse for, her actions in correspondence with the Solicitors Regulation Authority. Following the discovery of her misconduct, the court, client and opponent were all fully informed of the position and no prejudice was caused to any party, or to the interests of justice.
The tribunal also heard that the misconduct arose at a time when Bharya was affected by ill health that affected her ability to conduct herself to the standards of a reasonable solicitor.
Her doctor confirmed that she was suffering from an illness which was known to cause cognitive impairment and which affected her ability to realise, conclude or properly apply her mind to matters associated with her work.
Whilst her culpability was ‘significant’, the tribunal said, the illness meant she could not be regarded as being ‘wholly responsible’ for her own wrongdoing.
Bharya herself had undertaken not to practise as a solicitor or provide legal services until a consultant doctor had confirmed she was well enough to do so.
It was proposed by both Bharya and the SRA that she pay a fine of £7,500. She will also pay costs of £4,591.