An experienced police station representative who communicated with a jailed client via a mobile phone he should not have had has been banned from the profession.
Suzanne Hughes pleaded guilty last year to intentionally encouraging or assisting a prisoner communicating using an unauthorised mobile phone.
She received a six-month prison sentence, suspended for 12 months, and was ordered to carry out 150 hours of community service.
She had worked at Harringtons Legal in Birmingham from 2006 to November 2019, when she was dismissed after being arrested.
In a notice published yesterday by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA), the subsequent police investigation established that her client had been arrested on 13 June 2019 and requested Harringtons Legal represent him at the police station. Ms Hughes attended his interview.
The client was remanded in prison and between 19 June and 22 October 2019, Ms Hughes sent two text messages to the client’s mobile phone and received and answered 18 calls made from his phone.
Ms Hughes accepted that her conviction meant it was “undesirable” for her to be involved in a legal practice, as she had “encouraged and assisted her client committing further offences, contrary to that client’s best interests”.
“As a police station accredited representative, she ought to have known that for her to do either of these things was against the law. Her behaviour questions the high standards of professional judgment which someone delivering legal services should demonstrate.
“It is also undesirable for her to be involved in a legal practice because the repeated and serious nature of her conduct, resulting in a conviction, lacked integrity and undermined public trust and confidence in the safe delivery of legal services.
“There is a risk that she would repeat this behaviour if she works in the delivery of legal services uncontrolled.”
In mitigation, the SRA acknowledged that Ms Hughes made “a full and frank admission of wrongdoing in her letter to the judge and apologised for her conduct”.
The order under section 43 of the Solicitors Act 1974 means no law firm can employ her without the SRA’s permission. She also agreed to pay costs of £300.