The pandemic did allow for the most basic of disguises to slip through the net

A solicitor has been struck off for impersonating a friend to obtain NHS prescriptions for painkillers.

Janine Wilkinson was an associate at RedKite Solicitors in Wales when, from April to September 2020, she falsely used the identity of her friend, Catherine Harries, to obtain GP appointments and request prescriptions on multiple occasions.

The scam came to light when Wilkinson's husband noticed a pack of pills at their house in Harries' name, and casually mentioned it to Harries, according to a report. In September 2020, Wilkinson fessed up to her friend in a WhatsApp message: "I'm sorry for taking tablets out in your name, I was desperate and in pain, I promise I will never do it again."

Harries contacted her GP and discovered that 12 prescriptions of Co Codamol and 3 prescriptions of Zopiclone had been issued in her name, without her knowledge. 

Wilkinson was charged with fraud by false representation following an investigation by the NHS counter fraud team. In September 2021, the matter was brought before the Swansea Crown Court.

The court heard that the fraud took place during the summer of 2020 when health services were "stretched to the limit" due to the pandemic,

Wilkinson was suffering pain for injuries received in a car crash a number of years ago, said her barrister, and she was a "workaholic" holding down a good job while home-schooling children during the lockdown. 

Her barrister added said it was a "somewhat unusual" case, as had Wilkinson simply gone to the GP herself, it is likely she would have been prescribed the medication. However, going to the doctors and asking for the medication in her name, may have been "seen as some sort of weakness" suggested the barrister, and so she embarked on her "foolish" course of action.

The solicitor pleaded guilty to the offence and was sentenced her to a 12 month community order. The court ordered her to pay a £200 fine, £200 in prosecution costs, and £72 in compensation to the NHS.

The SRA brought the matter to the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal and said in a statement, "These were serious acts of dishonesty committed over an extended period", and proposed that the "fair and proportionate penalty" would be to strike Wilkinson off the roll. 

Wilkinson put forward in mitigation that her conduct did not affect her work as a solicitor, and she had resigned from her position before the court proceedings commenced. 

The Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal said that it had "considerable sympathy" for Wilkinson's position, and noted that her misconduct resulted "in little, if any, financial gain" and "had been unrelated to her practice as a solicitor."  However, the panel said that she had been convicted in court of "a serious offence" which "involved dishonesty".

The tribunal therefore ordered that Wilkinson be struck off the roll and that she pay costs of £1,038.

A spokesperson for Redkite Solicitors said that the firm “regularly reviews the quality of work undertaken by all of our solicitors and legal advisors." 

"We are satisfied that Janine’s work was not affected by the matters that were dealt with by the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal," the spokesperson added. "Janine had resigned from her post at Redkite Solicitors before the court proceedings commenced and before the firm had any knowledge of her offence.”


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Anonymous 10 February 23 10:04

Striking off feels bonecrunchingly hard here.

Sure there's dishonesty, but not of a kind that had any impact on a client, or which suggested any likelihood of there being any impact on a client in the future. There's no greed, no financial gain, no swindling of money. It's just a lawyer going a bit mad during lockdown and getting meds for chronic pain.

Conditions on practice, even a temporary restriction on it, sure. It's clearly something that deserves punishment.

But a full striking off? Seems like madness.

Anonymous 10 February 23 12:14

Incredibly harsh. Poor woman was obviously under a considerable amount of pressure at a very difficult time. On a human level it disgusts me that the SRA have showed no compassion whatsoever. 

Djed 10 February 23 13:21

Absolutely disgusting and heavy-handed from the SRA. They’re willing to put the hammer down on trainees and associates for the most minor offences but they’ll overlook major offences committed by partners. What kind of message is that sending?

Lydia 10 February 23 15:05

I cannot understand what was the reason for this. Clearly not money as she could have gone to the GP and surely that is entirely confidential so her excuse of it being weakness doesn't seem to make any sense at all. She could probably have ordered them lawfully online too. I know how hard it is to work whilst having small children btu I don't think that is an excuse to do this. t. I still don't feel we really know the answer as to why she did it.  it was a pretty serious thing to pretend to be someone else etc. If someone went to my GP pretended to be me and got tablets in my name I would be very unhappy and want not only substantial damages but perhaps to see them jailed for fraud.

Thoughts and prayers 10 February 23 16:39

I hope she can get the help she needs to reflect on how things got this bad.

There but for the ... etc etc #worklifebalance

Anonymous 11 February 23 11:06

Real question here. Was it a case of her seeking more than just pills? I say this because she might have been also receiving treatment for mental health issues and many people remain scared to have mental health on their own records due to perceived stigma.

Anonymous Anonymous 11 February 23 15:02

This person broke the law. The legal profession should take action to protect its credibility. This legal expert does have a right of appeal.

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