Mary O’Rourke QC and Ros Scott Bell today secured a successful appeal for a Junior Solicitor struck off after leaving suitcase of papers on a train. Instructed by Leigh Day Solicitors, and along with Mark Harries QC, the legal team all acted pro bono, upon hearing that Claire Matthews had represented herself at her original hearing before the Solicitors Regulation Authority.
Claire Matthews was struck off the Roll in March 2020, after she left confidential documents in a locked suitcase on a train. The SDT found she had been dishonest when telling her employer, Capsticks LLP, about the loss. She had been working there for just four weeks at the time of the events in May 2018.
The successful outcome of her appeal means the case case will now be re-tried by a new panel after the SRA agreed that her appeal should be allowed, following the obtaining of, and service of, expert medical evidence relevant to the allegations against her.
After lodging her appeal, Claire Matthews launched a GoFundMe page to help cover the SRA’s costs that might be awarded against her if she lost the appeal, as well as to help cover the original £10,000 costs award made against her by the SDT.
Whilst the SDT’s original order on costs has been quashed and the parties have agreed to bear their own costs of the appeal, funds are still being raised to cover the costs associated with her case, including medical expert fees and any possible costs order that might be made against her if the SDT find her guilty of misconduct at the new hearing.
Ms Matthews has committed to donate any surplus funds to LawCare, the charity for all branches and members of the legal profession, which promotes and supports good mental health and wellbeing throughout the legal community.
The case raises interesting questions of how poor mental health is treated by regulators considering allegations of dishonesty in their disciplinary procedures.