A solicitor who repeatedly made “inappropriate and puerile comments” on social media about his clients’ matters, and revealed confidential information, has been rebuked for his conduct.
Harmal Singh Paul also accepted a £1,500 fine from the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) and has deleted all of his posts.
According to a sanction published yesterday by the SRA, the sole practitioner at Dudley-based Paul & Co made over 130 posts on social media between November 2015 and September 2016 when he attended a police station, prison or court, often stating where he was and the criminal charge he was there to advise on.
In 21 of these posts, Mr Paul added “inappropriate comments or emoji icons”. The SRA gave four examples:
- “From Attempted Murder at Smethwick” followed by two emojis to depict crying with laughter;
- “DV [Domestic Violence]…Christmas Coming Up…What you Expect”;
- “Drugs”. When another person commented “What kind? Lol x”, Mr Paul responded “Not From the Pharmacy That’s For Sure pmsl [piss myself laughing]” followed by various emojis depicting crying with laughter; and
- “Sexual Assault” followed by two emojis with a sad face and a tear.
In two other posts, Mr Paul disclosed specific, confidential information about a client matter.
Mr Paul admitted that “by posting inappropriate and puerile comments on social media about his clients”, some of which trivialised serious criminal charges, he breached principle 6 of the SRA Principles – “You must behave in a way that maintains the trust the public places in you and in the provision of legal services”.
Disclosing confidential details about client matters also breached principle 6 and failed to achieve outcome 4.1 of the code of conduct, dealing with confidentiality.
The SRA said the sanction “marks the seriousness of Mr Paul’s conduct which was connected with his legal practice, but recognises that there was no lack of integrity”.
In mitigation, Mr Paul said he cooperated with the SRA’s investigation, and has deleted all of the relevant social media posts.