A solicitor convicted of three counts of making indecent images of a child has agreed with the SRA that he should be struck off.

Andrew McNeill was found in possession of 23 indecent images of children when officers from Leicestershire Police raided his home address in February 2019. They also discovered five cannabis plants growing in his garage and cannabis prepared for personal use inside his house.

McNeill, admitted to the roll in 1995, had been employed by Leicester practice Frisby and Small LLP at the time of his arrest but left soon after. He was convicted at Leicester Magistrates Court in June 2020 and received eight months’ imprisonment suspended for 18 months, as well as being made subject to a sexual harm prevention order for 10 years and placed on the register of sex offenders also for 10 years.

In a case dealt with on the papers, the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal heard the images were discovered after an examination of McNeill’s work tablet which was found to have ‘suspicious’ file names. Having obtained the password and assessed 19 compressed files, the police found the 23 indecent videos. Further evidence on the tablet showed the use of privacy cleaners and virtual private networks to disguise online activity.

In mitigation offered by McNeill but not endorsed by the SRA, he outlined that he wanted to ‘put as much distance as possible’ between himself and his firm so that it might be insulated from any adverse publicity. He had referred himself to a charitable foundation working with people having trouble with their sexual thoughts and activities and has counselling sessions with them. He said the images were downloaded in a four-week period and called it an ‘uncharacteristic aberration’. On the drug use, he said he did not want to buy cannabis from dealers and tried a ‘slightly more ambitious grow’ after successfully growing two plants in his garden.

He agreed to be struck off the roll, a sanction endorsed by the tribunal, and to pay £1,290 costs.