A solicitor who was jailed for sexually assaulting a woman as she slept has been struck off the roll.
Ashley Attwood, 52, pleaded guilty to assault by penetration at Stoke-on-Trent Crown Court, which heard that he assaulted his victim while taking photographs of her. He deleted the pictures in what Judge Paul Glenn described as ‘an obvious attempt to destroy evidence’, though thumbnail images were later found on his phone by the police.
The judge added that Attwood ‘continued to lie’ and claimed the touching was not sexual after the photographs were recovered from his phone before he pleaded guilty last March, a month before trial.
His barrister told the court that his client felt ‘deep remorse’ but, sentencing Attwood to five years’ imprisonment, Glenn said: ‘I accept that is now the position but expressions of remorse carry far more weight when they are tendered at an early stage of the proceedings.’
Attwood, who was in sole practice trading as Attwood Solicitors and specialised in personal injury work, was also placed on the sex offenders’ register indefinitely.
Last month, the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal heard that Attwood accepted that ‘he did not deserve to call himself a solicitor anymore’ and that an order striking him off the roll was ‘inevitable’.
Panel chair Ashok Ghosh said in a ruling that Attwood was ‘completely culpable for his misconduct’, which had ‘caused significant harm to [the victim] and to the reputation of the profession’.
‘The tribunal determined that Mr Attwood’s conduct was aggravated by the commission of a serious criminal offence,’ Ghosh said. ‘He had tried to conceal his misconduct, by deleting images from his phone. His conduct was deliberate, calculated and repeated. He had taken advantage of [the victim] who was vulnerable at the time, having been asleep. Mr Attwood knew that his conduct was in material breach of his obligation to protect the public and the reputation of the profession.’
The SDT found that ‘Mr Attwood’s misconduct was so serious that the only proportionate and appropriate sanction was to strike Mr Attwood off the roll’, also ordering him to pay Solicitors Regulation Authority costs of £3,000.