A solicitor who backdated a document in a ‘blind panic’ has been told she can continue working in the profession - but only with supervision.
Naomi Duxbury-Tetley, a solicitor since 2010, created a copy of a letter and placed it on a client file to help with an application for relief from sanctions, the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal heard.
The associate solicitor said she had tried to ‘make the nightmare go away’ to avoid a potential claim for professional negligence, and she admitted allowing the letter to mislead counsel acting for her client and the opposing party.
After being asked to sign a statement of truth, she admitted creating and backdating the document, and immediately resigned from her firm, North Yorkshire practice Mewies Solicitors.
The tribunal heard medical evidence that Duxbury-Tetley should not have been at work. It was agreed a reprimand was sufficient punishment along with conditions on her future work.
Appearing before the tribunal in July, Duxbury-Tetley, provided details about personal difficulties she had been suffering in September 2015 when the misconduct took place. She had not been sleeping well and would often wake in the middle of the night and start dictating notes. She stated she was ‘just functioning’ at the time.
Professor Keith Rix, a consultant forensic psychiatrist, appeared at the tribunal to explain Duxbury-Tetley was experiencing ‘tunnel vision’ at the time, which affected her ability to understand and to think calmly and rationally about the nature and consequences of her actions. In his opinion, the solicitor was ‘struggling to function’ at the material time and what she did was out of character.
Ben Hubble QC, of 4 New Square, representing Duxbury-Tetley, said she had been ‘mortified’ at finding herself in this position and was extremely remorseful. He submitted the public and profession would have sympathy for her.
The tribunal agreed the medical evidence in the hearing made this a ‘unique and wholly exceptional case’. The misconduct, it added, had been ‘extremely grave and had it not been for the strong medical evidence, the outcome would have been quite different and far more serious’.
The tribunal ordered Duxbury-Tetley, who has since found another employer, must be supervised by a solicitor with at least 10 years’ standing for the next three years.
Duxbury-Tetley will also pay £5,000 costs, a figure reduced from the £10,286 applied for by the SRA.