The Solicitors Regulation Authority will ask the High Court if Sovani James, who was found to be dishonest but allowed to stay in practice, was treated too leniently.
The regulator confirmed it will appeal the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal decision to hand James a suspended ban after she submitted that she was suffering from depression and work pressures at the time of the misconduct.
The case is likely to provide guidance for regulators on how to treat junior solicitors who cite mental health issues as mitigation for breaching rules. Two other solicitors have been given suspended bans since James and there have been calls for more compassion in how these cases are handled.
The SRA is likely to suggest that James should be prevented from practising after misleading opponents and medical experts for 17 months about the progress of a clinical negligence claim.
The tribunal had heard that she was ‘terrified’ of admitting mistakes to her firm, south-east practice McMillan Williams, and said pressures suffered by management were passed down to fee-earners who had the ‘weight of the world’ on their shoulders.
According to the tribunal, since leaving McMillan Williams in 2015 she has moved closer to home and has worked for almost three years with no regulatory issues at the Roland Partnership in Chester.
News of the James appeal came at the end of a week when the SRA challenged another tribunal decision. The regulator asked that Iain Farrimond, convicted of attempting to murder his wife, be struck off rather than indefinitely suspended as the tribunal had ordered last year.
Farrimond, a former Crown prosecutor, was sentenced to six years’ imprisonment after a knife attack perpetrated while he suffered with severe depression.
According to skeleton arguments submitted to the High Court, Ed Levey of Fountain Court Chambers, representing the SRA, said the gravity of the offence and length of sentence left striking off as the only option.
Farrimond said the tribunal was entitled to find ‘wholly exceptional’ circumstances which justified a suspension and invited the court to dismiss the appeal.