R

"Honestly officer, it's legit" 


The Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal has suspended a lawyer for fraudulently displaying a disabled badge for her parked car.

Nina Koushi had recently qualified at McMillan Williams Solicitors (which has since merged with Taylor Rose TTKW) when she dishonestly displayed a disabled badge on the dashboard of her white Mercedes, when parked in a disabled bay near to the firm's Ealing office.

A fraud investigator, who was checking vehicles in the car park, looked up the blue badge's serial number and discovered that it had been cancelled and reported lost by its owner.

The investigator questioned Koushi when she returned to the car. The lawyer claimed the badge belonged to her dad. When pressed on this, she changed her story to say it belonged to her friend's dad. 

When the investigator told Koushi the matter would be reported to the local authorities, the solicitor continued to dig a hole saying she only used the badge because it was left in her car by a mutual friend, adding: "I am a solicitor and an officer of the court and if I knew I couldn't use it, I wouldn't absolutely have used it, as I wouldn't put my legal career in jeopardy." 

Koushi was summoned to the Ealing Magistrates court in February 2020, and pleaded guilty to using a blue disabled badge with the intent to deceive. The court fined her.

The SRA brought the matter before the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal. 

Koushi told the tribunal in mitigation (not agreed by the SRA) that on the day of the incident, in November 2019, she was late for work, and parked in a space allocated to the firm. Koushi said she moved the car later that day, but "in a moment of panic", she used the disabled badge for the parking space, as she couldn't find another empty spot. The lawyer said that she found the badge in her car, as it had been left there by her father, following a clear out of papers from the communal area of his flat. 

Koushi also provided a doctor's report that said she was suffering from mental distress and a panic disorder at the time of the incident which, in the doctor's opinion, "led to a moment of madness" and "poor judgment." 

Colleagues of the lawyer also provided statements saying that she was someone who had always demonstrated honesty and integrity in her work, and that her actions were completely out of character. 

The SDT found that Koushi had acted dishonestly and suspended her from practice for six months, but found that the misconduct did not warrant striking her off the roll. The tribunal also ordered that she pay the SRA's costs of £2,300.

The incident is not the first dishonest parking offence in the legal community involving a white Mercedes.


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Comments

Blue badge Tom 03 September 21 09:16

So what? All done it. Most people don’t even need a badge. 

Doublestandard 03 September 21 09:37

This sounds like naughty behaviour which then became panicked and foolish. But surely not deserving of this level of punishment. Not when there are so many examples of deliberate, pre meditated and immoral behaviour at senior levels in big firms which get swept under the carpet and never investigated. Such as in my own firm in Asia where management were caught red handed doctoring performance reports of lawyers and then using the doctored reports to justify action taken against them or cutting their salary. I kid you not. 

Anonymous 03 September 21 09:56

"Koushi also provided a doctor's report that said she was suffering from mental distress and panic disorder at the time"

A clear winner of Excuse Of The Year is emerging. 

Tennis players, olympic athletes, solicitors, every other person and their dog... if something hasn't gone your way then just blame 'mental health'. It's the 2021 way!

Anonymous 03 September 21 10:13

SDT still living in the fantasyland of the British Empire I see. 

White, male and senior - expect a slap on the wrist even for stealing client funds.

Brown, female and actually doing legal work - strike off for parking your car in the wrong space.

 

Pink gins for everyone, and three cheers for the institutional colonialism woven through every strand of the English state.

Wallaby 03 September 21 11:10

There is still a big difference between doing something wrong and fraud and the punishment probably does fit the crime in this case, just.

Is there any need 03 September 21 11:12

 Couldn't this have been resolved in a more sensible fashion? 

 

I am all for maintaining integrity in the profession, but come on. It really feels like Mary Whitehouse-itis has taken over at SDT/SRA.

 

Why is our money being spent on this nonsense. Give her a flea in her ear and move along, nothing to see. 

 

Anonymous 03 September 21 11:23

If you're negging the post on institutional colonialism then you're a racist and part of the problem.

Check your unconscious bias.

 

White silence is violence!

Anon 03 September 21 12:22

Why do the lefties make everything about race ? The rest of us didn’t even notice the skin color. Race baiters have no place on this forum, please go elsewhere with your false racism shrieking I 

Badged 03 September 21 12:24

My view is we should do away with the badge and bring back the little cars in their place. Easier to verify. 

Historian 03 September 21 12:43

[email protected], Colonialism is not a white creation. The Han in China, the Ottoman Turks, the Mongols, the Javanese state of Mataram, the Ashanti in Africa, the Demak in South Asia, the Persians, the Zulu, the ancient Egyptians, the Akkadians, the Indus, the Umayad Caliphate, the Qing dynasty, the Yuan dynasty, the Kassites, the Assyrians, the Mitanni, the Inca, the Aztecs, the Songhai, the Mali, the Sokoto Caliphate, the Oyo, the Benin, the Nri, the Dagbon and the Hurrians are just some of the non-white peoples who practiced a form of colonialism before white Europeans (although some of them were themselves later conquered - and I promise I never made any of these up). Okay, in more recent history the Europeans were the most prevalent (along with the Japanese), but it is hardly a white only issue in world history. This “only whites are ever evil” mentality is very immature. 

anon 03 September 21 13:02

Another junior lawyer persecuted.

The SRA should take a look at the time padding (caused by firms' pressure on hours) and the shocking instances of acting in conflict situations (where lawyers are so frightened by the consequences of possible client loss).

All commonplace in the law. All caused by senior management.

Deal with how law firms are run and the SRA might have some credibility.

Lydia 03 September 21 13:52

Never drive a white car.

 

Also who is going to believe that the only time she ever used that badge was just that time and she just happened to be caught that time?

Dearie 03 September 21 13:55

I think the punishment is deserved and she got off lightly on costs. If she had fessed up that it wasn't her blue card then a fine or stern warning would have been appropriate. But she deliberately doubled down and lied. Then lied again. And then even used her position as a solicitor to claim she would not lie. Misuse of disabled spaces is not a victimless crime, it's a mean thing to do as it deprives those who really need it. 

Hackaforte 03 September 21 14:27

Anonymous @10.13

Point me to an instance where a solicitor, any solicitor, has been found to have stolen client money and been given a slap on the wrist.

Paul 03 September 21 15:08

What are the chances?  She just 'happened' to have a stolen blue badge in her car and she used it this one time and got caught?

Habitually abusing the blue badge scheme to get free parking is of a similar gravity to persistent fare dodging imo.  Adam Kemeny got struck off for that in 2019:

Solicitor struck off the roll for fare dodging | RollOnFriday

If we are making comparisons, it would appear white males don't get especially lenient treatment compared to others?

Anonymous 03 September 21 15:40

What make is the car? Been looking for a karen car, but didn't like the mini in beige.

Anonymous Anonymous 03 September 21 16:14

Anyone working in the legal profession needs to be honest in all aspects of life. Displaying a Blue Badge when the person is not disabled is not being honest. I also believe that the firm employing this person will lose business.

Dan 03 September 21 20:22

This is serious misconduct. It wasn't  a mistake, she used a badge which she knew did not belong to her to park in a space reserved for genuine disabled blue badge holders. Sanction was spot on in my view though I for one would be wary of employing her when her suspension is up. 

Anonymous 04 September 21 07:32

I am actually extremely surprised that she wasn’t struck off.  As someone said above, this is akin to fare dodging.  It is blatant dishonesty for personal financial gain, and when questioned by the investigator, she not only continued to lie, but attempted to use her status as a solicitor to get away with it.

Even having later pleaded guilty, her explanation to the tribunal that this badge just happened to have been left in her car on this day only, and that she then decided to use it on this occasion only, and just happened to have been caught on that isolated day, seems far fetched.

Anonymous 04 September 21 09:12

Always baffles me when people try down play a dishonesty offence. 

We are solicitors and hold a position of trust. 

Anon 04 September 21 13:10

Anon@ 912, I agree with you that it should it not be played  down. But I also agree with other posters who have pointed out that far more serious and culpable dishonesty at senior levels in the profession does not get dealt with eg rampant time sheet padding, which is widespread and tacitly encouraged in my firm (“if we are below the fee cap, there is space for some more hours” - this is what a senior partner told me when the time costs on a file of mine were below the cap, meaning we could not bill the cap). 

Anonymous 06 September 21 10:22

13:10 - then you are part of the problem for not reporting that.

Anonymous 08 September 21 06:50

This lady clearly messed up conduct wise but in my career, I have known so many male lawyers in partnerial positions to have cheated, deceived and lied to their wives and children whilst shagging junior colleagues - but the SRA/SDT seems to think that dishonesty on such a fundamental level is less worthy of prosecution.  

Anon 08 September 21 14:24

Anon@1022. You make a fair point that I should report. But the problem is that the whole system is stacked against someone like me (junior lawyer). I was encouraged to pad the bill verbally, it is not in writing . The management boys club would all close ranks against me, as would HR and the firms internal GC and compliance. They would all insist I had misunderstood what I had been told and how could I possibly have thought otherwise . I have no doubt at all about that. And the SRA would take forever to deal with it and require a burden of proof I could not meet, because they would be wary of taking on management in a firm like mine (big city, well connected powerful partners). I would lose my job or be forced out ultimately and they would say it was “performance” related. That’s the way it is. If you are a junior, trainee or paralegal who under pressure, make an innocent mistake but then panics and lies to cover it up, but with no malice, the system will get you. If you are a senior partner involved in systematic fraud through time sheet padding (it is very common!), you will most likely get away with it. 

Anonymous 09 September 21 10:19

@14:24 There's a partner who is a massive time recording fraudster at [redacted].  She gets away with it every time to the detriment of the realisation rates of the junior lawyers she supervises. Senior management turn a blind eye to it. I feel your pain! 

Lydia123456 09 September 21 14:52

People who have stated it is a serious offence are clearly ignoring the corruption that occurs to lawyers in senior positions in which get off lightly with a slap of the wrist. LEAVE THIS GIRL ALONE. You are also clearly also ignoring the doctor who has given her professional and experienced view that she was experience extreme mental health issues. You don’t know what was going on in her life. I agree with @doublestandard who stated it sounds like a panicked and foolish moment of madness. Her firm also kept her on whilst the trial was going on which shows her as value member of the firm and a good character, reiterating the notion of it being a moment of madness. 

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