An experienced duty solicitor who drove to advise at a police station while over the drink-drive limit has been rebuked and fined £2,000 by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA).
Steven Charles Baggott, an associate solicitor in the Scunthorpe office of Lincolnshire firm Pepperels, received the heaviest sanction the SRA can impose without referring him to a disciplinary tribunal.
According to a regulatory settlement agreement published last week, in November 2017 Mr Baggott – who has been in practice for over 40 years – was the on-call solicitor dealing with out-of-hours cases for clients of his firm.
On that evening he was contacted by the police and asked to represent a client in interview. Mr Baggott agreed to do so.
He drove to the police station, where officers “noted Mr Baggott’s manner and the smell of alcohol on his breath”. He was breathalysed and then arrested for driving with excess alcohol.
The following month, Mr Baggott was convicted of driving with excess alcohol. He was disqualified from driving for 16 months and fined £440.
According to a local newspaper report of his trial, Mr Baggott explained that three solicitors took it in turns to take out-of-hours calls for Grimsby – it was not his week but he had agreed to swap with a colleague for that day.
The paper reported him saying: “I had completely overlooked the fact I had agreed to swap with my colleague. I went out for a pub lunch with my wife. I had two pints of beer.
“In the evening, we were watching TV and drinking wine. My wife had gone to bed. I got the call. I let my sense of duty override my common sense.”
This last comment was also given as mitigation to the SRA, as was the fact that he took steps to minimise the effect of the misconduct on the client by arranging for another solicitor to represent the client, resulting in only a short delay.
The agreement said Mr Baggott admitted that he failed to behave in a way which maintains the trust the public places in him and in the provision of legal services.
The SRA said his conduct was “deliberate or reckless and affected, or had the potential to affect, a vulnerable person”.
It concluded that the rebuke and fine were “a proportionate outcome in the public interest”.