A solicitor jailed for the attempted murder of his wife while suffering from severe depression has been handed an indefinite suspension by the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal (SDT) due to the “wholly exceptional” circumstances of his case.
Though normally such an offence would lead to a strike-off, it said there was “a realistic prospect” that Iain Farrimond could recover from his ill health, “respond to retraining” and eventually return to practice.
Mr Farrimond, born in 1962 and admitted in 1987, was at the time a senior Crown prosecutor. He was sent to prison for six years last September after the attack on his wife with a kitchen knife while she slept.
He intended to kill another family member and then commit suicide, having already written a suicide note.
His wife was able to wrestle the knife from him, although he continued the attack using a wooden ornamental cat. He eventually called the emergency services and went to the garden to try and impale himself on a knife.
The solicitor’s wife suffered five stab wounds and a fractured eye socket but was said to have made a “remarkably successful” recovery. She, as well as other family and friends, have stood by him since the attack, which took place on the eve of their 28th wedding anniversary.
According to press reports of the trial, the court heard that Mr Farrimond had a growing feeling that he could not cope at work and was worried he would have to leave his job.
It was said that his increased workload and the introduction of the digital case system, which he was struggling to cope with, led him to “desperation”.
He had rationalised to himself the consequences of losing his job, and feared his wife would not be able to cope.
Sentencing, Judge Gregory Dickinson said Mr Farrimond would not have committed the offence had it not been for his illness.
“You have no innate criminality in you – put it another way, but for the effect of your illness, you do not have a violent bone in your body.”
Mr Farrimond asked the tribunal not to impose a “double punishment” by striking him off, in light of the mitigating circumstances.
He said he would not be practising as a solicitor in any capacity “in the immediate and medium-term, and certainly not for the next three years”.
The SDT found his culpability was low due to the medical condition: “He had been receiving medical treatment at the time but notwithstanding this, he did not have control over his actions.”
It said the harm caused to the reputation of the profession was high given the substantial coverage of the case in the media, but noted that it was “a single episode in an otherwise long, unblemished career of almost 30 years”.
The SDT said: “The tribunal had considerable sympathy for the respondent’s situation, as had the sentencing judge, who had sentenced the respondent leniently and well below the relevant category range due to his ill health at the material time.
“The tribunal concluded that a member of the public, with full knowledge of the facts and background to this case, would also have sympathy for the respondent and understand the medical issues involved.”
Given the potential that Mr Farrimond could return to practice, the tribunal decided that “it would not be proportionate, in light of the medical evidence provided, the excellent references and the fact that this was a single incident that occurred due to the respondent’s ill health to permanently remove his ability to practise, thereby also depriving the public of a good solicitor.”