The SRA has prohibited a paralegal from working in a legal practice, after she misled the court with a fabricated email.
Sana Patel was employed as a litigation paralegal at Lowells Solicitors in Leeds. She had to pay a court fee by 17 July 2019 to ensure a debt recovery claim was not struck out.
Patel mistakenly thought that she had paid the fee in time, but the court told her a week later that she'd missed the deadline and the claim was struck out.
To dupe the court, Patel altered an email on another matter where she had made a timely payment to the court, pretending that it related to the struck out case. The court was fooled by Patel's forged email and reinstated the case.
But the paralegal was rumbled when Lovells discovered that no fee had actually been paid. The firm questioned Patel, who confessed that she had deceived the court. The firm subsequently alerted the court, and the case was struck out. Lowells dismissed Patel and reported her to the SRA in October 2019.
It's the cover up that gets you
Patel admitted to the regulator that she had been dishonest, and expressed regret and remorse for her actions.
The SRA held that Patel's conduct made it "undesirable for her to be involved in a legal practice because it demonstrates that she has a propensity to mislead others". The regulator prohibited her from being employed by a solicitor or firm without the SRA's prior permission. Patel agreed to pay the SRA's costs of £300.
Under the SRA's decision (a Section 43 Order), a firm could apply to the regulator for permission to employ Patel. The guidance says the SRA can approve such an application if various conditions are met such as the firm closely supervising and monitoring the employee.
The SRA also opted for a Section 43 Order in another recent case involving a dishonest paralegal.
Lowells Solicitors did not respond to a request for comment.