A law firm principal abused her position of trust and authority to try and manipulate a civil claim against a former employee, the Crown Prosecution Service has said, after investigations uncovered the incorrect use of the Law Society copyright on legal documents.
Diljit Bachada, 45, was the principal solicitor at Bromsgrove firm Hollies Solicitors. The other party in the claim had been employed by the firm and resigned in August 2012. A dispute followed about money owed.
In May 2013, the former employee received a county court claim for the sum of £20,486.35, made by Bachada, for allegedly breaching her employment contract. Two contracts were attached to the claim, signed by Bachada and the former employee. However, the former employee realised she never signed the documents.
The CPS said the matter was reported to the police, who discovered that the Law Society copyright at the foot of each page was incorrect. The clause stated in the contract did not come into force until July 2010 but the documents had apparently been signed in January that year.
Following a six-week trial at Bristol Crown Court, Bachada was found guilty of two counts of fraud and two counts of perverting the course of justice. She was sentenced to four and a half years' imprisonment.
Another solicitor, Tharinjit Biring, 41, was found guilty of perverting the course of justice and sentenced to 19 months' imprisonment. The CPS said Biring assisted Bachada by providing false information in a witness statement.
Ian Crooks, senior crown prosecutor, said Bachada 'abused her position of trust and authority to try and manipulate a civil claim' against the former employee. Bachada and Biring 'have brought their profession into disrepute and they wil now have to deal with the consequences of their actions,' he added.
Detective Sergeant Mark Morton, of West Mercia Police, said the 'complex' case involved a detailed analysis of legal documents to establish that they had been falsified.
He said: 'Members of the public rely on those involved in our judicial service to be totally honest and incorruptible but the actions of Diljit Bachada and Tharanjit Biring have undoubtedly damaged that trust.'
A spokesperson for the Solicitors Regulation Authority said the regulator is aware of the case and is collecting all the necessary information before deciding on appropriate action.
Hollies Solicitors & Advocates, in a statement to the Gazette, said: 'Ms Bachada has left the company and resigned as director and principal in July 2017. Mr Tim Foster has been appointed director and principal. The practice will continue to operate with the full approval of the Solicitors Regulation Authority.'