An unregistered barrister who lied about her status to extract information about an investigation by North Yorkshire Police has been disbarred.
A Bar disciplinary tribunal said Kayleigh Swain, who was called to the Bar but never did a pupillage, told police she had “undertaken numerous criminal cases” in what may have been “an ill-advised attempt to help a close friend”.
The tribunal said Ms Swain’s disciplinary hearing took place in the normal way in early March this year, but the sanction was decided at the end of the month via a video conference on Zoom because of the coronavirus crisis.
Ms Swain was found to have “held herself out as a barrister” while unauthorised in a series of emails to North Yorkshire Police from August to October 2018.
The tribunal said Ms Swain signed an email to North Yorkshire Police in August 2018 with her name and the words “Barrister Park Court Square” in a “deliberate attempt to imply that she was a practising barrister working from a chambers with that address”, when she knew it was untrue and misleading.
Park Court Square does not exist as a set of chambers, but Park Square Barristers is a large and well-known chambers based in Leeds, as is New Park Court in Leeds and Newcastle.
In a later email, in October, Ms Swain told police she had not renewed her practising certificate “this year”, in a “deliberate attempt to imply” that she had previously held one.
In the same email Ms Swain said that “family commitments had prevented her returning to work on a full-time basis” and “she had in the past undertaken numerous criminal cases”.
The tribunal said she knew that all these statements were untrue and misleading.
After her emails to the police, in November 2018, Ms Swain gave an “incorrect” account to the Bar Standards Board and Bar Tribunals and Adjudication Service (BTAS) “to the effect that” there had been other correspondence with North Yorkshire Police, including telephone conversations.
In these, Ms Swain claimed to have “clarified her standing and stated that she was acting as a McKenzie Friend”.
The tribunal said it accepted the evidence of a police constable that there had not been any further correspondence or telephone calls from Ms Swain.
The tribunal, chaired by Peter Rook QC, found that Ms Swain had failed to act with honesty or integrity, and instead had behaved in a way likely to diminish public trust and confidence in the profession and which could reasonably be seen by the public to undermine her honesty or integrity.
Among the aggravating factors identified in Ms Swain’s misconduct were premeditation, persistence and attempts to “lay the blame on North Yorkshire Police” by suggesting that the disciplinary action against her was “an attempt by that force to cover up police failings”.
The tribunal described Ms Swian’s emails to it as “unprofessional and sometimes aggressive in tone”, repeatedly referring to the disciplinary action as “being illegitimate and amounting to harassment of her”.
Although there was no “actual harm” caused by Ms Swain’s actions there was “significant risk of substantial harm” because a “less experienced police officer might well have been persuaded by her false representations to divulge confidential information”.
Turning to mitigating factors, the tribunal said Ms Swain’s misconduct was not motivated by financial gain and it “accepted that the conduct may have been an ill-advised attempt to assist a close friend”.
The tribunal concluded that the seriousness of Ms Swain’s misconduct meant there was no alternative to disbarment.
However, the tribunal did not make a costs order against her, as she was a single mother with five children.