"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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