A litigation solicitor who faked signatures to advance her client's case has agreed to be struck off the roll.
Lesley Layton, 36, directed an employee of her firm to copy a personal injury client’s signature onto a blank copy of a witness statement, then emailed that document to opposing solicitors.
The parties had agreed to exchange witness evidence by 29 January 2015, but this deadline passed without Layton submitting the document. On 2 February she arranged for the statement to be sent with the copied signature under cover of a letter dated 27 January.
When the defendant firm asked for the original statement to be sent through the post, she directed another individual to trace over the signatures with a ballpoint pen, in order to give the impression they were original signatures.
The Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal heard that the claim was struck out. Layton, a solicitor with Blackburn firm Lance Mason Solicitors, told a later costs hearing she had acted appropriately and honestly throughout the matter, and she would routinely produce witness statements by amending a precedent set up for RTA claims.
But she later admitted to the Solicitors Regulation Authority she had acted dishonestly in causing statements to be sent with copied signatures, and then denying having done so when questioned by defendant solicitors. The tribunal heard that Layton had acted to avoid the consequences of her failing to ensure the statements were exchanged in time.
Layton, a solicitor with an unblemished record for 10 years, also admitted filing a claim form, for a separate PI case, in which she changed the date of an accident in order to meet the three-year limitation deadline. The claim form falsely purported to have been signed by the claimant.
Layton told the tribunal she had made open and frank admissions and had always cooperated with the investigation. She had always sought to uphold the rule of law and was 'thoroughly embarrassed' by what had happened.
In an outcome agreed with the SRA, it was noted that her dishonesty was of such gravity that it would undermine public confidence in the profession. Layton agreed to be struck off the roll and to pay costs of £13,920.