An inexperienced solicitor who admitted dishonestly amending an email to cover a mistake has been handed a temporary ban from the profession.
Harina Zoey Panesar-Jagdev was suspended for six months after it was accepted by the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal that her case fell into the ‘small residual category’ where striking off would be a disproportionate sanction.
Her suspension was rubber-stamped by the tribunal after the solicitor and Solicitors Regulation Authority agreed on the outcome.
The tribunal heard that Panesar-Jagdev, now 31, had been qualified for two years when she acted for a client in 2018 over the sale of a leasehold flat. At the time she had been working for Bradford firm LCF Residential.
She had twice mistakenly emailed the wrong recipient who had a similar address to the managing agent she wanted to contact. After the client raised concerns about how many times this had happened, she amended one of the emails to change the recipient and took a screen shot.
The SRA accepted that Panesar-Jagdev acted in a ‘moment of panic’ in trying unsuccessfully to conceal the error from her client, and that she did not benefit from her actions. The client was not misled by the amended email and suffered no detriment. The SRA said she was not guilty of a pre-mediated attempt at deception but rather made a momentary wrong decision, which she self-reported a day later.
Paul Parker, representing Panesar-Jagdev, said the solicitor had a ‘classic moment of madness’ and in a split second of panic had tried to conceal her mistake in an act that was doomed to failure. The tribunal heard that when considering the nature, scope and extent of the dishonesty, ‘this was as inept an example as it could be and more akin to the "dog ate my homework" excuse than a calculated plot to conceal dishonesty of a protracted and ongoing nature’.
Parker submitted she was a young solicitor who had learned from her mistake and was not a threat to the public or to the honour of the profession.
As well as a six-month suspension, the parties agreed Panesar-Jagdev would pay the SRA’s £1,680 costs.