The Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal has refused to accept an attempt by the Solicitors Regulation Authority to reach an agreed outcome with a law firm partner who admitted sending offensive and sexist emails.
The tribunal heard this morning that Nicholas West, a partner at global firm DLA Piper, had exchanged the emails over more than a year with his client, the Premier League.
Two emails were leaked to the media in 2014 and the exchanges were reported.
Prosecuting the case, the SRA this morning declined to reveal the content of the emails and also sought to retain the anonymity of other people involved.
Instead, the regulator said it had come to a regulatory settlement agreement with West and his representative whereby the solicitor admitted all allegations, with an agreed £10,000 fine and £12,000 costs.
However the tribunal said it was not prepared to accept the agreement and told the SRA it should present its case in full.
The tribunal chairman, Mr Spooner, said: ‘We have specific concerns about the [agreement] document. [It says] the emails were only found by a third party at the Premier League after hours of searching. On the face of it, that appears to conflict with what is said, when [the employee who found the emails] says "I was asked to monitor and manage them".’
Spooner said the tribunal required an explanation about the number of emails involved and the length of time the exchanges lasted.
He also said the tribunal wanted to consider that a client was the recipient, and the lack of an immediate apology – indeed the tribunal heard West had sent a response to the SRA through his lawyers attempting to defend his conduct.
Spooner added: ‘We find the SRA should present its case… if it means there is a reference to the content of particular emails that should be done for reasons of transparency.’
The hearing continues.