Drink-driving barrister cannot return to practice until “medically fit”

Police: Barrister arrested twice

A barrister twice convicted of drink driving cannot return to practice for six months and only then with evidence that she is “medically fit”, a Bar disciplinary tribunal has decided.

Carly Sarah Walters, who was called in 2005, said she decided not to attend the tribunal hearing because she was “currently unwell” and “working hard on her recovery and mental wellbeing”, and did not want to jeopardise that.

The tribunal heard that she was first convicted of drink-driving offences at Wigan and Leigh Magistrates’ Court in December 2016, after police found she had been driving at almost three times the legal limit.

Ms Walters was convicted of drink-driving again at Chester Magistrates’ Court in September 2020. This time the amount of alcohol in her breath was much lower, at around one and a half times the legal limit.

The tribunal found she had behaved in a way likely to diminish trust and confidence in the profession and also, in relation to the 2020 conviction, with a lack of integrity as it was a second offence.

It regarded both offences as “serious”, and the second, which resulted in Ms Walters being disqualified from driving for 40 months, was “of particular concern”.

The barrister had not reported the offences promptly, waiting until February 2021. There was no “actual harm to others” but there was an “obvious risk of such harm being caused to others” and “indeed to the respondent herself”.

The tribunal noted that Ms Walters had been suffering from “mental health and alcohol addiction issues and had made efforts to alleviate them”. She had also “expressed remorse and shown insight into her behaviour”.

It accepted Ms Walters’ assertion that no disrespect was intended by her failure to attend the hearing.

The tribunal ordered the BSB not to provide Ms Walters, who is currently non-practising, with a practising certificate for six months and until she provided a letter from her GP to the BSB confirming that she was “medically fit” to return to work.

Until that time, her return would be “contrary to the interests of the public, the profession and indeed the respondent herself”.

On costs, the BSB said it was “aware of Ms Walters’ financial circumstances and that she was impecunious, therefore they did not press the issue”. As a result the tribunal made no order for costs.

A BSB spokesman said the tribunal’s decision reflected “the seriousness of such repeated criminal offending” and “such conduct is likely to diminish the trust and confidence which the public places in her or in the profession.”

Meanwhile, the Bar disciplinary tribunal has disbarred Christopher John Wilkins, who was jailed for 21 months last year after being convicted of lying about his earnings to reduce the amount of tax he paid.

Mr Wilkins, who was called in 1993, stole £98,732 in tax by deliberately understating his income and inflating his expenses over a five-year period. During this time, he earned £740,000. The tribunal found that he also failed to report being charged and the convicted to the BSB.

    Readers Comments

  • patrixk Cassidy says:

    I don’t understand where the case reporting reveals so much of a respondents sensitive medical information why a similar provision to the MPTS is not adopted so as to protect publishing of those details with no detriment to the tribunals decision making

  • Clare says:

    Revealing private sensitive medical information about someone’s addiction issues, who is going through therapy is absolutely appalling and detrimental to their recovery.

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