A solicitor with a previous conviction for drink-driving has been fined £8,000 by the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal (SDT) after she committed a second offence.
The SDT said Jill Elizabeth Benbow’s previous period of disqualification as a driver had ended five months before she was stopped again by police and found to be almost three times over the legal alcohol limit.
The tribunal said it rejected the first version of an agreed outcome between Ms Benbow and the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) because the proposed fine of £4,000 was “unduly lenient”.
The SDT assessed the solicitor’s conduct as “more serious” given that it was a second conviction, and Ms Benbow “did not appear to have learnt from her previous conviction or indeed the regulatory settlement agreement (RSA) reached in that regard”.
The tribunal did not give details of the agreed sanction set out in the RSA, but said Ms Benbow “did not appear to have taken note of the warning” within it that if any disciplinary finding was made against her in the future, the first finding could be taken into account.
The tribunal heard that the solicitor was admitted in 1991 and currently held a practising certificate. She is also known as Jill Elizabeth Tye. According to LinkedIn, she is a self-employed consultant solicitor, having spent 11 years as part of Keystone Law until 2018.
She was originally convicted of drink-driving in June 2016, banned from driving for 18 months and fined £800.
The second conviction, following a guilty plea, was in February 2018. She was disqualified from driving for three years and ordered to carry out 65 hours of unpaid work.
In an agreed outcome with the SRA, approved by the SDT, she said in mitigation that she was going through an “extremely difficult time in her personal life”, as her marriage broke down in May 2016 and her father was ill and subsequently died.
She said the marriage breakdown “contributed to the difficulties she faced with alcohol” and at the time of the second offence she was “going to a local store about a quarter of a mile from her home to get medication for her son who was ill”.
Ms Benbow said there were no passengers in the car at the time of the incident and the disqualification had not impacted on her work as a solicitor.
The tribunal said Ms Benbow had self-reported her second conviction, “in contrast” to the first one.
She submitted through her counsel that a fine of £6,000 “would be appropriate in all the circumstances”. However, the tribunal replied that it was “not minded to negotiate on the level of fine”.
The solicitor was also ordered to pay costs of £1,632.