• Application 11687-2017
  • Admitted 2010
  • Hearing 16 January 2018
  • Reasons 12 February 2018

The SDT ordered that the respondent should be suspended from practice for 18 months from 16 January 2018, and that for a period of 18 months from the expiry of that term of suspension she should be subject to the following condition: that she might not practise as a sole practitioner or sole manager or sole owner of an authorised or recognised body, with liberty to either party to apply to vary that condition.

The respondent had been convicted on 7 March 2017 of an offence contrary to sections 44 and 58 of the Serious Crime Act 2007, in that between 28 January 2016 and 12 April 2016 she had repeatedly contacted a client by mobile phone while he was in prison, in breach of principles 1, 2 and 6 of the SRA Principles 2011. She was sentenced to four months’ imprisonment suspended for 24 months.

The respondent had not deliberately planned to break the law. She had responded to numerous text messages that she had received, without giving proper thought to the appropriateness of her conduct. Her level of culpability was therefore low.

Her conduct had caused harm to the public and to the reputation of the profession as her actions had undermined the rules and regulations that applied to inmates.

The contact had been initiated by the client in circumstances where the respondent believed he was in genuine fear of his life while in custody. The respondent had made a grave error of judgement at a vulnerable time in her life. The risk of repetition was very low.

The public interest would be

best served by allowing the respondent to return to practice in due course with the benefit of the experience of going through the criminal proceedings. A period of suspension was a proportionate and sufficient sanction taking into account all the facts of the case.

Her suspended sentence would expire in March 2019. It would very rarely be appropriate for a solicitor to be able to practise while serving a custodial suspended sentence. Accordingly, she would be suspended for 18 months from the date of the hearing. She was ordered to pay costs of £3,230.