A legal assistant who tricked his firm into reimbursing the cost of his course fees with a doctored letter has been barred from the profession.

Benjamin Lewis Clark had agreed with his employer, Lincolnshire firm Bridge McFarland LLP, that it would cover the cost of his CILEx qualifications if he passed them earlier this year.

Clark failed his exams but told the firm he had passed, providing a letter from CILEx confirming he had been successful. Relying on this, the firm paid him £1,275.

When the firm subsequently contacted CILEx to discuss the next stage of Clark’s studies, it learned he had actually failed his exams. Clark then admitted he had altered the letter. He was suspended in March this year and his employment ended the same month. The firm referred the matter to the SRA.

Clark admitted he misled the firm to get the money back for his course fees and provided an altered version of his letter from CILEx as proof of his success. He knew the firm would not refund his course fees if it became aware he had failed, and he admitted his conduct was dishonest.

In mitigation, taken into account by the SRA, Clark fully admitted his conduct to the firm and the SRA and has expressed regret and remorse for his actions. He said he was in debt at the time of the misconduct and struggling to keep up with the repayments he needed to make under a debt management plan.

The firm, where he worked for more than four years, confirmed he was held in high regard prior to this incident.

He was made subject to a section 43 order, barring him from working for any regulated firm without SRA permission. He must also pay £300 costs.