Failure to act with integrity - improper or abusive litigation

Examples below should be read in conjunction with the Risk Outlook 2016/17

Example 1

Solicitor attempts to mislead the court and a third party

The following case illustrates the serious nature of misleading, and the importance of solicitors behaving in a way that maintains the trust the public places in them.

Mr A was an experienced solicitor in a small, regional firm, acting for the claimant in a personal injury case.

He failed to provide medical evidence to the court when due. The court ordered that the claimant would be barred from using medical evidence in the claim if it was not provided within a set period. As the deadline approached, Mr A was reminded by the opposing firm that the medical evidence was still outstanding.

Mr A prepared letters to the opposing firm and the court, claiming to enclose copies of the medical evidence. He dated the letters with a date one day before the deadline. He retained these copies on his file and, when chased by the opposing firm, sent these copy letters to them claiming to have sent them on time.

Mr A's supervisor saw the opposing firm's letter. She checked the firm's case management system, which records the dates on which documents are created and modified. She found that the two letters had both been created three days after the day Mr A said they were. In light of the evidence, Mr A admitted backdating the letters.

The firm dismissed Mr A for gross misconduct and reported the incident to us. When the case went before the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal, Mr A was struck off the Roll for dishonest conduct and ordered to pay costs.

Example 2

Solicitor fabricates case to have client acquitted

The following case illustrates how single-minded pursuit of what is perceived as clients’ best interests can lead to serious failures to uphold professional standards.

An undercover reporter posed as a prospective client facing criminal proceedings. He approached a solicitor for representation.

The solicitor and client arranged a first interview. During the interview, the client confessed to being guilty of all charges, but stated he wanted to plead ‘not guilty’. He asked the solicitor what he should say and do to ensure he is found innocent of all charges.

The solicitor crafted a knowingly false explanation of events for the client to use in the criminal case. He even offered to arrange a false witness if the client paid him the sum of £25,000.

Unknown to the solicitor, the undercover reporter had recorded the entire interview.

In the following criminal charges, the solicitor received a custodial sentence for attempting to pervert the course of justice. When the case went before the SDT, he was struck off the roll of solicitors and ordered to pay a fine.