Solicitor rebuked and fined for dealings with journalist

SRA: Several section 43 orders imposed

A solicitor acting in a case of historical sexual abuse has been rebuked for sharing with a journalist a document that then formed the basis of an article, when he should not have done.

Dino Nocivelli, who works at London firm Bolt Burdon Kemp, was also fined £2,000 – the most the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) could impose without referring him to a disciplinary tribunal – and ordered to pay costs of £600.

According to a regulatory settlement agreement between the SRA and Mr Nocivelli, at the time he was acting for two clients in claims for damages arising from historical sexual abuse.

Due to public interest, the solicitor had been in regular contact with a journalist from a national newspaper and met with the journalist in September 2017 to discuss the cases with both clients’ consent.

Mr Nocivelli also showed the journalist a copy of a document that had been disclosed under pre-action disclosure by the respondent, but without the respondent’s consent.

The newspaper then published an article that referred to the document in general terms.

The agreement said: “The respondent’s solicitors deduced that the information in the article must have come from the document disclosed to Mr Nocivelli and contacted the firm to ask for an explanation.

“Mr Nocivelli apologised for showing the journalist this document and acknowledged that he should not have done so.”

In deciding the agreed outcome was appropriate, the SRA said it took into account the solicitor’s mitigation, namely that there have been “no negative consequences for the respondent or Mr Nocivelli’s client”, he did not benefit from his actions in any way, he mistakenly believed he was able to disclose the document to the journalist, and has “undertaken training to improve his understanding of his responsibilities with regards to disclosure and interacting with journalists”.

In other SRA disciplinary decisions, John Helton – formerly a business development manager at Liverpool firm First Stop Legal Services – has been banned from working in the profession without the SRA’s permission under section 43 of the Solicitors Act 1974.

In 2017 he was convicted of concealing, disguising, converting, transferring, removing criminal property and conspiracy to commit an either-way offence outside England and Wales in relation to offences against the person.

He was sentenced to two years’ imprisonment, suspended for two years, and to carry out unpaid work for 300 hours.

Heather Claire Cordeaux has also been made subject to a section 43 order. She was initially a non-solicitor personal injury fee-earner at Heptonstalls in Goole, East Yorkshire, and nearly four years later, in April 2017, began a training contract.

However, she was dismissed three months later after it was found that, in relation to four personal injury matters, she had included false and misleading information in attendance notes and in letters and had provided false and misleading information to her employer between December 2016 and July 2017.

The SRA said this conduct was dishonest.

Along similar lines, the SRA has rebuked and imposed a section 43 order on Paul Sabine, who was a claims handler at Plymouth firm Russell Worth during 2016 and 2017.

The SRA said he wrote misleading letters to clients on several occasions, which too was dishonest.

Finally, Harriet Eade, who was a legal secretary at Raydens Solicitors in St Albans, has been made subject to a section 43 order for stealing jewellery belonging to her employer. She was given a written rebuke and £2,000 fine as well.

The SRA said that in January Ms Eade pleaded guilty to theft but it did not record the sentence.

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