A solicitor has been struck off for pinching a pair of sunglasses.

The DAC Beachcroft lawyer was caught stealing a pair of Prada sunglasses worth £154 from the duty-free shop at Stansted Airport in 2012. The then-26-year-old received a caution for theft, but said she "decided to keep it to myself" after police reassured her that the crime was so minor they wouldn't disclose it and her solicitor advised her that it was unlikely anyone would find out.

She kept her mouth shut until DAC sent round a compliance questionnaire later that year which she had to complete to renew her practising certificate. When she realised that it asked for details of prior cautions as well as convictions, the NQ fessed up to the firm, which reported her to the SRA.

    At least it wasn't over a Toblerone

At the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal her representative argued that the crime was committed in a "moment of madness". He said it was brought about by depression caused by pressure to work long hours and the departure of colleagues from DAC when it merged with Beachcroft. Several DAC partners testified on her behalf.

The tribunal conceded that it was "a very sad case", but ordered her removal from the roll after deciding theft was too serious to warrant a lighter punishment. The momentarily light-fingered lawyer had already left her job in anticipation of the verdict, and is now a legal recruiter.
Tip Off ROF

Comments

Anonymous 05 September 14 11:24

How can that be a correct decision? There are more serious cases than this where people get a reprimand or suspension. Totally disproportionate and I hope she appeals to the Admin Court.

Anonymous 05 September 14 12:06

"dans ce pays-ci, il est bon de tuer de temps en temps un amiral pour encourager les autres" It's harsh on her, but there are policy reasons why it was right.

Anonymous 05 September 14 12:15

Just for the holier-than-thou brigade, and knowing the person in question, this really is a very very sad story. Ok, what she did was wrong and very silly, no one will deny that, but it was a spur of the moment stupid thing to do that has very likely cost her a hard fought career as a solicitor. There was no attempt to conceal what she did, having sought advice and believing it was unnecessary to disclose. I also I understand from the judgment that, having regard to the circumstances, the Tribunal did everything possible to find a way to avoid the decision it gave but unfortunately couldn't do so. Just very sad.

I would also add it is pretty harsh to attach a link to the judgment with the individual's name, and point out her new career. I'm sure she wants to put this as far behind her as possible and this sort of thing clearly doesn't help.

Anonymous 05 September 14 12:54

Seems harsh if this was genuinely a moment of madness for an otherwise honest individual (and at least she did not lie by failing to disclose the caution in her DAC form). In relative terms, is stealing a pair of a £155 sunglasses from (presumably) a large retailer worse than, say, stealing a bottle of vodka from an independent corner shop? A friend once lied in relation to a motor accident claim and the police found out (he was a complete idiot for doing so). The Law Society (then the regulator) said that it did not consider it serious enough to take action. Is this situation so different? The fact so many DAC Beachcroft partners testified on her behalf would indicate this was out of character for this person.

Still, it looks like she has been able to move on.

Anonymous 05 September 14 13:41

If correctly reported, the advice she had "that it was unlikely anyone would find out" was bonkers.

Anonymous 05 September 14 14:26

Correct decision I'm afraid. If her depression is work related, who's to say she won't suffer again and go after client money?

Anonymous 05 September 14 14:27

Very unfair as she was only cautioned for the offence. She shouldn't have declared it on the compliance form.

Anonymous 05 September 14 14:31

Horribly sad story. I would have thought that this could have been dealt with appropriately without striking off. She would probably have been the very most scrupulously honest solicitor in practice after this. Disproportionate reaction, despite the dishonesty involved.

Roll On Friday 05 September 14 14:35

The rule is an offence of dishonesty will normally lead to strike off save in exceptional circumstances.

But the circumstances do indeed seem to be exceptional. This was foolish but near to the extreme low end of dishonest offending - and the offer (and acceptance) of a caution supports this. She appears to have received incorrect advice from the Police and - quite honestly and properly - declared the matter on a compliance questionnaire having carefully read its terms.

If the SDT aren't prepared to use the "exceptional case" exception in these circumstances, it's hard to see when it would - and it sends a clear message to people less honest people precisely to keep this sort of very minor caution to themselves.

It all seems to me to be classic disproportionality.

Anonymous 05 September 14 14:53

Going back a few years there was a magic circle partner who got a fine from the SDT for having forged court documents in the course of a personal dispute with a neighbour. That seems like a much more serious case than this one.

Anonymous 05 September 14 16:01

Bit harsh but understandable.
However had she just said no convictions on the compliance qu. would they have found out?
I have never understood why people steal when under pressure. It sounds a ridiculous idea. You might be crying in your bed but if you're upset about life you don't go off and steal.

Anonymous 05 September 14 16:35

"I have never understood why people steal when under pressure. It sounds a ridiculous idea. You might be crying in your bed but if you're upset about life you don't go off and steal."

It may not match your intuition, but that doesn't mean that it isn't a real thing. The evidence is that it is one of a number of obsessive behaviours which correlates with other, more common, symptoms of depressive conditions. It doesn't mean every depressed person will steal or that all thefts are by depressed people - but that there is a link is a statistically pretty robust finding in the academic literature.

Anonymous 05 September 14 18:35

The message this decision sends is that if in the same position, honesty will get you nowhere. Best keep it to yourself and run the risk!

Anonymous 06 September 14 00:14

Don't really get this 'moment of madness' malarkey. I've never had a 'moment of madness'. It's never entered my mind to nick something. She's a thief - she got caught, this time. What else has she nicked in her life? Would you want her handling hundreds of thousands of your cash on a transaction?

Anonymous 06 September 14 00:50

I agree that this is a harsh penalty in the circumstances. I have read the SDT judgment. When someone with an exemplary record gets caught shoplifting it is often a cry for help. The link with cumulative stress and depression seems clear. The error was to simply play it down as a "moment of madness". A short period of suspension with a recommendation for counselling would have been a more just outcome.

Anonymous 06 September 14 09:46

And no one thinks it strange that a pair of sunglasses (duty free, mind) cost £154?

Roll On Friday 08 September 14 11:09

The trouble is that pretty much anyone caught out in bad behaviour nowadays plays the “stressed” or “moment of madness” card. It’s a boy-who-cried-wolf situation, and people are rightly distrustful of this claim. Lots of people in city law are stressed or depressed at any given time – very few of them manifest it by acting like this. To my mind it is a pretty long way from an exceptional circumstance. It’s the kind of story any lawyer caught out like this would probably try to run. Right decision from the SDT.

Anonymous 08 September 14 13:11

It isn't just a story she tried to run though, Brother Mouzone, in the sense that the Police appear to have broadly accepted it and offered a caution which was accepted.

Saying she shouldn't be struck off isn't condoning the behaviour. Indeed, her own defence said a period of suspension and a fine were appropriate. But this was a caution at the extreme low end of offending by a very young person, which was disclosed on the form. Worthy of penalty, certainly, but was it really proportionate to prevent practice for ever more in order to protect the reputation of the profession? Frankly, worse things happen in City offices every day, and most of us here know that.

Anonymous 08 September 14 23:23

This story is only here because the judgment mentions Prada sunglasses and provides an opportunity for a sad story to be posted with a silly photograph. Worse still, the article mentions the new job of the person concerned. There are plenty of serious problems in the profession at the moment which benefit from ROF's sarcastic approach. You have let yourselves down with this one though. As Frank Underwood might say, no class. Also, the fact that DAC partners were happy to testify in her defence despite the fact that part of the case was the stress caused by the firm, which does not look good for the partners involved, would appear to demonstrate just how out of character this was. Most definitely a case of a punishment at the very hard end of the scale with very inhuman and insensitive reporting from ROF. Is this what we call a good laugh now?

Anonymous 09 September 14 00:03

If Beachcrofts are going to insist on playing it by the book she should follow the same logic and sue them for loss of earnings caused by their inability to comply with their duty of care to her as an employee. This is systematic of what is going on in plenty of firms with partners pushing junior fee earners too far for too little money with too few career prospects, not supporting them in dealing with increasingly unreasonable clients and taking no responsibility for the consequences whilst they concentrate equity into the hands of fewer and fewer partners. The current model is for gloried call centres with partners drawing plenty whilst burying their heads firmly in the sand and taking no responsibility whatsoever for their actions.

Anonymous 09 September 14 09:06

Anon at 22:23 - how is this an insensitive story? It looks like completely straight reporting to me, and RoF didn't name her. Is she a late of yours or something?

Ultimately very sad, wasted career etc etc. But if you want to be a lawyer don't go round nicking things.

Harsh judgment but fair enough that the rest of the profession is informed of it.

Anonymous 09 September 14 10:22

There is a link to the judgment with her name on the front, yes I know that it is a public document but read the transcript and then see if this is "just a laugh"

Anonymous 09 September 14 10:38

@Anon 8.06 Why does the rest of the profession need to be informed of it? She is named and it mentions b
her new career, is it not bad enough she has lost one career?!

Anonymous 09 September 14 19:27

The rest of the profession should know about this, because there'll be a load of young lawyers out there who won't realise that a single instance of five finger discounting can destroy their entire careers.

Anonymous 09 September 14 22:03

Am I going mad? She was a lawyer. And she stole. It's very sad that she stole just a little, and that there may have been extenuating circumstances (aren't there always though?), but lawyers know that the profession and stealing are incompatible. You steal, you run the risk.

Anonymous 24 September 14 16:55

Irrespective of how I feel about the judgment: ROF, do take down the photo and remove the link to the judgment. Other European countries' data protection laws would have rightly prevented you from including the link in the first place.

And yes, I am a ROF fan otherwise.