A solicitor found guilty of assaulting his elderly mother with a pan has been indefinitely suspended to allow him the chance to address his problems with alcohol.
The Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal (SDT) said this placed the onus on James Michael Gregson “to seek help and apply for the lifting of his suspension in the future if he was able to justify to the tribunal that he no longer posed a threat to the public and the profession”.
Mr Gregson, who qualified in 2004, did not report his August 2018 conviction to the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA).
He had started working as a probate solicitor at an unnamed law firm in June 2019 on a trial basis but the offer was withdrawn, and Mr Gregson excluded from the firm’s premises, as it “considered that [he] was not in a position to undertake his duties due to intoxication”.
The firm then discovered his earlier conviction and reported it to the SRA.
He was convicted at Blackpool Magistrates’ Court of common assault. According to local newspaper reports referenced by the SDT, he had hit his 71-year-old mother with a pan while drunk, injuring her.
Pleading not guilty, his defence was that they had been watching snooker on television and he had flung his hands up in disbelief – while still holding a pan from which he was eating dumplings – after Ronnie O’Sullivan played a bad shot.
He was nonetheless convicted and sentenced to an 18-week custodial sentence, suspended for 12 months. A restraining order was also imposed, preventing him contacting his mother directly or indirectly or entering her home for a year.
Mr Gregson was further ordered to pay £200 compensation, £200 costs and a £115 victim surcharge. His appeal was subsequently rejected by Preston Crown Court.
In July 2019, his mother applied to extend the restraining order and apply it also to her 92-year-old mother, who suffered from Alzheimer’s and lived with her. Magistrates granted the application and extended it by a further two years. Preston Crown Court again rejected Mr Gregson’s appeal.
The SDT found that Mr Gregson had acted without integrity and undermined public trust in the profession. The fact that press coverage stated that he was a solicitor “caused significant and severe harm to the profession”.
His failure to report and to engage at all either with the SRA or the tribunal aggravated his misconduct.
The SDT determined that he had been under the influence of alcohol at the time and so “may not have fully been in control of his actions”, and it was the link of alcohol which meant the tribunal decided not to strike off Mr Gregson.
It said: “The tribunal considered that there appeared to be an underlying issue with regards to alcohol abuse.
“Whether or not that was the case and whether or not the respondent chose to address that apparent issue was a matter for him but the tribunal determined that he should be given the opportunity to do so.
“The tribunal therefore concluded that the overarching public interest, namely the protection of the public from harm, the declaration and upholding of standards within the profession and maintenance of public confidence in the [SRA], could properly be met by the imposition of an indefinite period of suspension.”