A divorce lawyer who misled his client into thinking a letter had been sent has avoided referral to the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal because of 'exceptional' circumstances. According to a regulatory settlement agreement, Ian Thomas Giddings, from Warwick firm Woolley & Co, told his client in a divorce case in March 2016 that a letter had been sent to the court outlining the client’s wishes.
This was inaccurate, Giddings had not sent the letter. When the client asked for a copy, Giddings created a backdated letter and emailed it.
According to the Solicitors Regulatory Authority, Giddings admitted to his firm what he had done within hours. The firm’s compliance officer than reported the matter to the SRA and later provided documents showing the misconduct.
The notice states that Giddings provided evidence to show that at the time of the misconduct he was experiencing serious personal issues affecting his state of mind, including harming his ability to recognise that his actions would be considered dishonest.
He now accepts that his actions would be considered dishonest, but in mitigation he stressed his misconduct was an isolated incident over a short space of time, his actions had no effect on the client or the case, and there were no other matters of concern on his files.
Giddings, who has been practising since 2003, has never previously been the subject of disciplinary action.
The SRA notice adds: 'The circumstances are exceptional such that Mr Giddings does not represent a risk to the public and it is not necessary for Mr Giddings to be referred to the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal in order to maintain public confidence in the solicitors' profession.'
Giddings was rebuked and fined £2,000 - the maximum penalty the SRA can impose. He will also pay £1,350 costs.