Non-practising barrister fined for calling herself “barrister-at-law”

Barrister: Guilty of holding herself out as practising

A non-practising barrister has been reprimanded and for describing herself as a “barrister-at-law” on emails, telling a client she could represent her and taking money to submit an immigration application.

The Bar disciplinary tribunal said it had “increasing doubt” about the reliability of evidence given by Sibel Gumus, who was called in 2012 and denied all the charges against her.

The tribunal found her guilty of holding herself out as a barrister, dismissing as “intrinsically unlikely” her claim to have twice been told by the Bar Council that she could call herself a barrister because she was being supervised. This advice would have been inaccurate.

It also doubted her claim to have told the client involved in the example instance before the tribunal that she was not able to act as a barrister.

“If one is really concerned about making such a thing clear, the obvious thing to do is to keep a clear papertrail.” Ms Gumus did not have one.

“We had increasing doubt about the reliability of Ms Gumus’s testimony as her oral evidence proceeded,” the tribunal went on.

“To give an example, she was asked by the tribunal what her role was in London Solicitors, and she described it as ‘legal assistant’ or paralegal. She gave no convincing explanation why she should therefore have sent an email with the footer ‘barrister-at-law’… on the letterhead of the firm.

“The natural implication of that is a status much higher than a paralegal. Whatever her status in the internal hierarchy, she knowingly held herself out to the outside world as a barrister, and in focusing purely on her internal role, she was trying to distract from that.”

The tribunal said it formed the view that the unregistered barrister was “inclined to embellish or overplay aspects of her evidence in order to reinforce her case”.

Ms Gumus was also found to have “orally represented” to a client in 2015 that she could, acting as a barrister, complete and submit an immigration application to the Home Office, which she was not entitled to do without a practicing certificate.

The tribunal said the “many examples” of Ms Gumus holding herself out to be a barrister – including on the law firm’s website and her Twitter account – were “impossible to reconcile” with her assertion that she was not permitted to act as a barrister.

It ruled that the client was misled and was not persuaded that there was “any basis” on which the evidence of the client and her family might have been “fabricated because of some sort of hostility towards Ms Gumus”.

Ms Gumus was further found to have received a payment, probably of at least £750, to draft and submit an immigration application that was never submitted.

Having behaved in a way likely to diminish the trust and confidence which the public placed in a barrister, she was reprimanded, fined £2,000 and ordered to pay costs of £3,240.

    Readers Comments

  • Nityanand Ragnuth says:

    I had a similar experience. Since it was a private ancillary divorce matter, the court and judges failed to take any sanctions….

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