A former trainee solicitor, struck off alongside the rogue partners she blew the whistle on, says she feels ‘terribly let down’ by authorities in the legal profession.
In an interview with the Sunday Telegraph, Emily Scott, 31, hit out at the Solicitors Regulation Authority and Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal for failing to protect her.
The Gazette reported last week that Scott was struck off along with Jonathan De Vita and Christopher Platt, despite the tribunal accepting she had been ‘deceived, pressured, bullied and manipulated’ into covering up misconduct at their North Lincolnshire firm.
The tribunal accepted she was the only person to speak out in the firm about the misconduct, which included overcharging clients and taking advantage of vulnerable people. Despite expressing ‘considerable sympathy’ for her and acknowledging she was working in a ‘horrendous environment’ Scott was struck off and ordered to pay £2,000 costs.
Scott told the Sunday Telegraph: ‘If I hadn’t blown the whistle that company would still be ripping people off. They encourage you to give them information then hang you out to dry. This could potentially prevent others coming forward in the legal world.’
Scott had joined the firm as an unpaid intern six months before becoming a paralegal and then a trainee solicitor. She had told the tribunal she feared she might lose her job if she came clean any sooner, and also worried that friends and colleagues would blame her if the firm was shut down.
She was found to have acted dishonestly when, acting under the instruction of Platt, she falsified and backdated letters forming part of a file to be sent to the Legal Ombudsman after a client had complained.
Scott said she had been assured by a senior partner at another solicitors' practice there would be protection for whistleblowers and she filed a report to the SRA. Unlike De Vita and Platt, she attended the tribunal hearing in person, although she was not represented. Scott told the Sunday Telegraph she acted ‘naively’ and had lost a career she had pursued since she was 18.
The SRA says its whistleblowers’ charter sets out that if someone if involved in wrongdoing, reporting it can act as mitigation, particularly if done promptly.