A council solicitor has been brought before the tribunal after receiving a second drink-driving conviction in less than three years.
James Wilson Oram, who was a solicitor at Christchurch and East Dorset District Council at the time, was banned in 2018 for 40 months and fined £700 after pleading guilty to driving with alcohol levels exceeding the prescribed limit.
The offence was aggravated by a similar conviction in 2016, which resulted in him being banned from driving for 20 months.
The Solicitors Regulation Authority, prosecuting, said Oram was twice over the legal limit when he was stopped for his latest offence, increasing the risk of injuring members of the public.
The Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal heard Oram admit that he had failed to live up to the high standards that society and the profession expected of its members.
He had been out for celebratory drinks with colleagues and had not intended to drive, but took his car after being notified of a family health emergency.
Oram said he had previously worked in private practice where a drinking culture involved entertaining clients and he became dependent on alcohol. At the material time his tolerance for alcohol had been ‘exceptional’ and he had not realised how much he had consumed before driving. He has since taken action to address his issues.
In mitigation, Oram said he had already lost a lot because of his conduct and he worried he might relapse if a heavy sanction were imposed.
The tribunal said it was just good fortune that prevented anyone being injured, and Oram had direct control of his decision to drive.
He was given credit for attending the tribunal and was supported by a testimonial from his new employer who had every faith and trust in his ability. The appropriate fine of £5,000 was reduced to £2,000 due to Oram’s mitigation and the fact he had already suffered financial penalties in the criminal proceedings. He must also pay £2,500 costs.
Meanwhile, the SRA has made a regulatory settlement agreement with City solicitor James Cashman to impose a £2,000 fine, after he pleaded guilty to driving under the influence of alcohol. Cashman, a member of Holman Fenwick Willan, was disqualified from driving for 20 months and fined £2,000 after hitting a stationary parked car in July 2019.
The SRA said the fine – the maximum penalty it could issue - provided a ‘credible deterrent’.