A law firm partner who sent a series of offensive messages about various religions has been suspended from practising for 18 months.
The Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal told Deborah Elizabeth Daniels that she had caused reputational damage to the profession by identifying herself as a solicitor and behaving in a way which lacked integrity in such a public way.
Daniels was charged with using her Twitter account over a 14-month period to post offensive words and/or express hostility towards Islam, Judaism and Catholicism, and to use offensive or discriminatory words in response to a photograph of a drag artist. At all times her Twitter account publicly identified her as a solicitor.
Daniels, 71 this year, has been a solicitor for 32 years and is the compliance officer at West Yorkshire firm Bird and Daniels, where she is one of the two partners.
The first tweet flagged up by the Solicitors Regulation Authority was from January 2016, when Daniels tweeted that all women ‘must carry staining pepper spray, learn self defence and do everything necessary to rid the world of Islam’.
Several respondents pointed out her status as a solicitor and tweeted replies with the SRA’s twitter handle included. Daniels tweeted to individual commenters that Islam was a ‘sexist cult’. Later she suggested that Muslims be put in a work camp and ‘educate them or get rid’.
A member of the public who followed Daniels’ tweets provided a witness statement to the tribunal which said he was shocked and disappointed to discover a highly-educated professional woman should post such messages.
Daniels admitted posting the messages and accepted they were offensive, stating that she had recently read about frightening events in the Middle East and not reflected on what she was saying.
Around a year after the first Islam tweets, Daniels sent three messages which referred to sexual crimes committed by members of the Catholic church. She also sent offensive messages related to Judaism and retweeted someone else’s message talking about a global conspiracy to rule the world. She denied being antisemitic and said her tweets were prompted by reports of killings of Palestinian children.
Daniels submitted in mitigation that she had undertaken ‘extensive and painful soul searching’ since sending the tweets and gained insight into why she sent them in the heat of the moment. She has now removed herself from social media.
Without her presence, she said, the firm would cease to exist, putting five jobs at risk.
The tribunal accepted that Daniels showed ‘genuine remorse’ and a degree and insight, and was unlikely to repeat her misconduct. The 18-month suspension was deemed to strike a balance between an appropriate punishment, recognition of the harm caused to the profession, the need to provide public protection and the mitigating factors presented. She will also pay £11,000 in costs.