Two support staff at leading City practices have been banned from the profession after being convicted of possessing indecent photographs of children.
The orders issued by the Solicitors Regulation Authority under section 43 of the Solicitors Act 1974 mean that they can only return to work for a law firm in future with its permission.
Howard Ellis was a ‘workplace experience specialist’ in the London office of top US firm Latham & Watkins for a decade to July 2022.
Last year, he pleaded guilty to three counts of making indecent photographs or pseudo-photographs of a child, one count of possessing a prohibited image of a child, and one count of possessing extreme pornographic images.
In July 2022 at Woolwich Crown Court, Mr Ellis was jailed for 10 months and handed a 10-year sexual harm prevention order. He was fired two days later when the firm discovered what had happened.
As well as the seriousness of the offences justifying the order, the SRA said Mr Ellis’ role, which was within the facilities department, meant he had contact with and liaised with other employees at all levels of seniority.
“He would also have had potential contact with clients and other persons who had reason to visit the premises. Additionally, Mr Ellis had access to the firm’s IT systems.
“Therefore the nature and seriousness of the convictions presents a risk of future damage or harm towards clients of any firm Mr Ellis may go on to work for, employees of any such firm, and the firm itself.”
Separately, Rafikul Ashrafi worked for Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer as an e-billing administrator. A police investigation found that, in the months before he joined the firm in December 2019, he was in possession of 109 videos and 17 photographs.
These led to his conviction in 2021 on one count of voyeurism and two counts of making indecent photographs/pseudo photographs of a child.
Mr Ashrafi was sentenced to a three-year community order to be served on each count concurrently, 150 hours of compulsory unpaid work, and a 25-day rehabilitation requirement.
He was also ordered to sign the sex offender register for five years and was made subject of a sexual harm prevention order for five years.
Freshfields sacked him the next day when it became aware of the conviction.
The SRA said being convicted of such serious criminal offences was “likely to damage public confidence in the safe delivery of legal services”.