Mary O’Rourke QC, Rosalind Scott Bell, and two other Counsel (Mark Harries QC and Marianne Butler), instructed by Gideon Habel and Emma Walker of Leigh Day Solicitors, represented Claire Matthews, a Junior Solicitor who was struck off the Solicitor’s Roll in March 2020, in her successful appeal. The case concluded on 11 April 2022 without a second Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal (SDT) hearing being called for.
Claire had originally represented herself before the SDT who found that Claire had delayed in informing her employer that she had left a locked suitcase containing client documents on a train. At the time of the events in May 2018 Claire, aged 29, had been working for Capsticks LLP for just four weeks, following her qualification as a solicitor in September 2017.
It had also found that on two occasions Claire misinformed colleagues about the whereabouts of the suitcase, and that the interactions with her colleagues were dishonest. Claire accepted she had delayed in reporting the loss of the suitcase, but denied this constituted a breach of the Solicitors Regulation Authority’s (SRA’s) Principles and denied the allegations that she had deliberately sought to mislead her colleagues.
All Counsel and Solicitors acted pro bono, and assisted her in her appeal. During the appeal, Claire received expert medical evidence that diagnosed conditions relevant to her mental health. On the basis of the medical evidence, the SRA agreed the case should be remitted to the SDT for redetermination. Claire’s appeal was allowed by consent, the SDT’s findings and orders against her were quashed and she was restored to the Roll of Solicitors.
The SRA then obtained its own expert medical evidence and, having reviewed all of the evidence in the matter including the new medical evidence, concluded that a re-hearing of the allegations would not be in the public interest, providing Claire agreed to conditions being placed on her practising certificate.
Having agreed the conditions, the SRA applied to the SDT to withdraw the allegations that had been remitted and obtained the consent of the SDT to withdraw the allegations, with no order as to costs. This means the proceedings are now concluded.
When lodging her appeal, Claire launched a GoFundMe page to help cover the costs of appealing the SDT’s decision. Claire committed to donate any surplus funds to LawCare, the mental wellbeing charity for the legal community and looks forward to being able to donate almost £7,000 (around half the funds raised) to her chosen charity.