A partner who signed statements of truth in defences to road traffic claims by adding a colleague’s electronic signature without the colleague’s knowledge has been suspended from practice for 28 days. The suspension of Paul Fraser Langley, admitted in October 1995, began on 1 February, according to a Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal judgment published yesterday. 

Electronic signature

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According to the judgment, Langley, who at the time of the offending was a partner based in Plexus Law’s London office, self-reported his actions to the Solicitors Regulation Authority.

The tribunal heard that Person A, an assistant solicitor at the firm and one of the file handlers for whom Langley had responsibility, went on unplanned sick leave. Langley reviewed Person A’s case holding of around 130 files and identified matters needing urgent action.

Langley undertook some of the most urgent work himself. He signed six statements of truth by copying and pasting Person A’s electronic signature. After returning to work, Person A emailed Langely to say he was uncomfortable with his signature being used on documents he had not drafted.

Langley, who apologised for his conduct, applied to the court to file and serve amended defences for each of the six matters where he had signed the statements of truth with Person A’s signature. The court granted all six applications.

In his report to the SRA, Langley said: ‘I should have signed the defences myself as had satisfied myself that the facts stated in it were true. I am extremely sorry for my error. In my haste to deal with the many very urgent tasks and my own work I did not take appropriate care.’

The judgment said: ‘The tribunal found that Mr Langley’s culpability was high. He was solely responsible for his conduct, having had direct control of the circumstances giving rise to the misconduct. He was an extremely experienced solicitor, who was a partner in the firm with supervisory and management responsibilities.’

The tribunal said it noted that Langley had self-reported and ‘taken immediate steps to rectify the situation by informing both the court and the other side in all six matters’. It added: ‘The tribunal also noted that the matter having been reported, the court granted permission for the defences to be amended and did not report any of the matters to the SRA.’

As part of the agreed outcome, Langley was also ordered to pay £3,500 in costs.