A solicitor who drove with excess alcohol in her system – just five months after her previous ban for the same offence expired – has been fined £8,000 by a tribunal.
Jill Elizabeth Benbow, a solicitor for more than 27 years, was stopped in January 2018 in Derbyshire and found to have alcohol levels three times the legal limit.
The Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal heard that Benbow pleaded guilty to drink-driving and she was disqualified from driving for three years, with an extra requirement to complete 65 hours’ unpaid work.
The tribunal heard this was a second conviction for the offence. Benbow ‘did not appear to have learnt’ from the first episode, which had resulted in a regulatory settlement agreement with the SRA warning that any future misconduct could be taken into account.
This time, Benbow and the SRA had reached an agreed outcome of a £4,000 fine, and she asked the tribunal to rubber-stamp this sanction. However, the tribunal recorded that the agreed outcome’s assessment of Benbow’s misconduct as ‘moderately serious’ was too lenient.
After inviting the parties to reconsider their positions, Benbow submitted that the tribunal should increase her fine to £6,000. The tribunal noted it was ‘not minded to negotiate’ on this matter and told the parties either to agree the £8,000 fine or face a substantive hearing. The parties agreed the tribunal’s recommended penalty.
In mitigation, Benbow submitted that she was going through a difficult time in her personal life. When she was stopped by the police, she had been driving to a local store to get medication for her ill son. There were no passengers and no harm was caused. She has attended courses to deal with alcohol issues and complied with all the orders the court made.
As well as her fine she was ordered to pay £1,632 costs.