A solicitor who was convicted of fraudulently submitting false invoices for police station work to fund his cocaine habit has been struck off.
Dominic John Peter Ingle had been working as a self-employed police station representative on behalf of firms in the Manchester/Lancashire area.
He accepted that a verdict of striking off was fair but told the tribunal he was “disgusted” with his “disgraceful behaviour”, was trying to piece his life back together without cocaine, and asked that he be allowed to continue to practise.
When work dropped off in 2016, the solicitor – who was born in 1974 and admitted in 2001 – could not afford what had been a 15-year cocaine habit.
As a result, he submitted 40 fake invoices of £100 each to two different solicitors’ firms over three months, totalling £4,100 – stealing some £2,400 from one and £1,700 from the other.
At the beginning of 2017, he was convicted by North Cheshire magistrates of two counts of dishonestly making false representations.
He was sentenced by the Crown Court to seven months’ imprisonment suspended for 24 months. Among other things, he was also required to undertake 200 hours of unpaid work.
In mitigation before the tribunal, he pointed to 15 years of unblemished conduct, and said he had complied with the various conditions imposed by the court.
Since his fraud had come to light he had been “open and honest” and begged for a chance to repair the damage he had caused to his life and the profession.
The tribunal recorded that at Mr Ingle’s criminal sentencing, the judge had presaged his later striking off, saying: “You… can go about [the] task [of] helping others again in the future. You will not be able to do it as a lawyer, but you may be able to… still make a very useful and valuable addition to society.”
The judge had also recorded that his actions had had “a significant impact” on one of the firms he had defrauded to run its practice, as well as Mr Ingle himself, who found himself homeless for a period.
The tribunal said it had no information as to his having kicked his drug habit. The case involved “very serious misconduct” and a suspension would not satisfy public confidence in the profession.
In the absence of exceptional circumstances, and despite a number of character references “which spoke very highly of him and his ability as a solicitor”, only striking off was an appropriate sanction.
Mr Ingle was ordered to pay £1,000 costs, almost two-thirds lower than originally claimed by the prosecution, due to some time claimed the tribunal considered excessive and also considering Mr Ingle’s limited ability to pay.