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I have a lot of sympathy for the lady who was working in difficult circumstances. And there are other such rare cases from time to time where one feels more sympathetic than one can ever feel when someone plunders client account. But, without expressing a view on this particular case, the question is not just about penalising the individual but also, applying the oft-cited decision of Bolton v The Law Society (cited with other authority in this case), about maintaining trust in the profession. The public and other solicitors have to have confidence that they can rely on communications from solicitors. The extraordinary number of recent cases involving fabricated documents may start to erode that trust. Despite having represented solicitors in a few thousand cases over 35 years (including professional indemnity claims as well as conduct matters), I can only recall a very small handful of cases where the integrity of documents was in issue until the recent spate. I don't think that is because technology and forensics have made it easier to be caught, so perhaps we are paying the price for pressure and stress, with the constant drive in almost all areas of practice to do more for less, sometimes at wholly uneconomic levels with targets to fulfil. This in turn suggests that more needs to be done in the profession to prevent it, identify it and treat it. Some support is there, e.g. Lawcare, but people who are under stress may not even realise they need help, or be willing to accept that they do, or know how to find it. I for one would not mind if the SRA spent a small amount of our money on sponsoring some research into this.
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