The Solicitors Regulation Authority has appealed to the High Court to strike off a solicitor serving a prison sentence for attempting to murder his wife. Criminal lawyer Iain Farrimond was sentenced to six years after admitting the attack, but allowed to stay on the roll by the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal.
The Solicitors Regulation Authority appealed at the High Court this week on the ground that the tribunal’s sanction of indefinite suspension was ‘clearly inappropriate’.
According to skeleton arguments submitted to the court, Ed Levey, from Fountain Court Chambers and representing the SRA, said the gravity of the offence and length of sentence left striking off as the only option.
Levey added: ‘It cannot be in the public interest or protect public confidence in the profession for an imprisoned criminal to remain on the roll of solicitors and thus also remain an officer of the court.’
The court heard that Farrimond, a crown prosecutor since 1993, suffered from severe depression and took a kitchen knife one night in May 2016 with the intention of killing his wife, his child and himself. His wife survived the attack despite repeated knife blows to her head and face and a further assault with a wooden ornament. The sentencing judge in the case treated Farrimond’s mental illness as ‘very substantial mitigation’ and took account of the fact his wife and other family and friends stood by him.
At tribunal, Farrimond admitted breaching a number of core duties as a solicitor and it was recognised that the harm caused to the reputation of the profession was ‘high’.
But the tribunal found Farrimond’s culpability for his actions was low because of his medical condition, it took account of his previous good character, frank admissions and glowing character references, and expressed ‘considerable sympathy’ for him. With the potential for him to recover from ill health and respond to training, it was felt disproportionate to deprive the public of a good solicitor.
Levey said the SRA recognised that the tribunal should have sympathy for Farrimond, but pointed out the sentencing judge had observed the matter was ‘in equal measure serious, shocking and sad’. The failure to strike him off, Levey pointed out, meant Farrimond could hold himself out as a solicitor even in prison.
Levey added: ‘Put simply, the imposition of a suspension (albeit an indefinite one) gave too much weight to the ‘sad’ aspect of the case but without placing sufficient weight on the ‘serious and shocking’ aspects of it.’
In his submission, Farrimond, who represented himself via a video link, argued the tribunal had adopted a correct, structured approach with full regard to its guidelines. He said the tribunal was entitled to find ‘wholly exceptional’ circumstances which justified a suspension and invited the court to dismiss the appeal.
Judgment is expected by the end of this month.