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Newly qualified solicitor disciplined by SDT for lying

A solicitor who had been qualified for less than a year has been banned from practising as a consequence of lying about leaving a briefcase on a train.

It was 6 days before Claire Louise Mathews told a colleague about the missing briefcase suggesting that she had left it at home. Even then though it was not the correct version of events. The next day she emailed her supervisor to say that she had left it on a train that morning. Again, this was not the truth.

The briefcase contained client information which was both confidential and sensitive in its nature.

The tribunal found that Mathews had been aware the briefcase had been lost for over a week. She failed to act with honesty and integrity by failing to report that it was missing and by further seeking to conceal the loss.

As well as being struck off the roll Mathews was ordered to pay £10,000 in costs to the SRA, reduced from an initial claim of £55,000 cause by a conflict of interests between the SRA and the firm that Mathews worked for.

When training the next generation of lawyers SHU Law seeks to train them about aspects of confidentiality, data protection, the requirements of the code of conduct and sensitivity such that we hope that they never find themselves in a situation whereby they lose documents. However, mistakes sometimes will happen and the message from this is that there is a lot to be said about how you handle a mistake and the need to tell the truth so that you don’t pay the ultimate price after undertaking years of training.

The reporting of the loss sooner would have allowed the firm in question to minimise the risks to all concerned a lot earlier and probably would not have led to the striking off. Although Mathews found herself in what must have been a very daunting and scary position, the dishonesty and lack of integrity displayed thereafter undoubtedly led to the life changing sanction. Mathews has been reported as now working in a call centre for £9 an hour.

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