A legal cashier's hand in the cookie jar
The SRA has prohibited a legal cashier from working in the legal profession, after she was caught taking a light-fingered approach to the accounts.
Jenny Spink worked at a Yorkshire family law firm, Pudsey Legal Services, as a legal cashier from 2020, where she oversaw financial payments. But over an 11-month period, she fraudulently made five transfers into her own bank account, totalling £4,650.
In 2022, Spink handed in her notice. After she left, staff at the firm spotted a hole in the accounts, and reported the matter to the police and the SRA. When questioned by the police, Spink said that she had a secret gambling addiction and was "struggling to pay for everyday things."
At a trial at the Leeds crown court, Spink's defence lawyer said in mitigation that her client, as a gambling addict, "thought she would be able to repay the money".
Spink was "horrified" when she discovered that she had spent over £24,000 on gambling, said her barrister, adding: "She was of previous good character and the remorse and shame is all consuming.”
The judge said that Spink had "lost" her good character "in a significant way," as the firm had put its trust in her. "You were liked and popular but you ended up putting your needs above everybody else," said the judge, "it’s had a knock-on effect and caused reputational damage.”
Spink pleaded guilty to fraud and was given a 12-month jail sentence, suspended for 18 months. The court ordered that she repay the money she stole, at £150 a month. She was also ordered to undertake unpaid work and rehabilitation activities.
According to a report in the Yorkshire Post, at the court hearing, Pudsey Legal said of its former employee: "Her actions in taking the money and covering up her crime have left our accounts in a poor state. We have had to unravel her deception ourselves."
The firm added: "We have had to personally replace the money taken by Jenny. We have all suffered stress and sleepless nights due to Jenny’s actions. She abused a position of trust. She was well aware of what she was doing."
The matter has now been brought before the SRA which has made a Section 43 Order against Spink. The order bars her from working in the profession, unless a firm applies to the regulator for permission to employ her, with various conditions.
The regulator said it had taken into account mitigation which included Spink's "personal problems at the time of the conduct which caused her to act out of character” and noted that she had offered to pay the money back at an early stage.
However, the SRA said that her role as a legal cashier “relied on honesty and integrity” and there was a risk that she "may act in a similar way in the future" and there was therefore "a strong public interest in controlling" her employment.