A solicitor caught in a police sting while using gay dating app Grindr and convicted of attempted sexual communication with a child has been struck off.
The Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal (SDT) rejected Daniel David Pipe’s argument that he should not be struck off on the basis that his actions amounted to “a moment of madness lasting a relatively short time” and that it had been completely out of character.
It heard that, when an undercover police officer posing on a Grindr as a teenager told him he was 13, the tax specialist – who was a consultant at virtual firm Jurit – responded by sending him explicit messages and photos of his penis.
The SDT said Mr Pipe went on to tell Josh that he was a lawyer and talked about his work. Saying he was married but alone in his house, he offered oral sex and sent a Google map with a pin on his street, as well as his mobile phone number.
There was further communication, which was not sexual and did not form part of the offence, before the solicitor was arrested the following month.
He told police he believed he was “talking to an adult who was role-playing as a child”, an argument which he advanced unsuccessfully at his trial before being convicted by majority in September 2021.
Though the judge found that the offence met the custody threshold, he decided to sentence Mr Pipe to a two-year community order, with rehabilitation.
The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) argued that the fact Josh was actually a police officer did not mitigate his culpability.
“As far as he was concerned, he was communicating with a 13-year-old child and it was luck, not judgement, that the child did not in fact exist.
“Mr Pipe did not admit his conduct but was convicted after a trial and continued to seek to justify the conviction on the basis that it was by way of a majority.”
In his evidence, Mr Pipe stood by his argument from the trial and said the references he made to his profession when talking to Josh were “very limited”.
He said he was now more careful when online and that, on the few occasions he had visited a dating site since his conviction, he would not discuss sexual matters.
He told the tribunal that that he had “not been careful enough” when he communicated with Josh, and should have made sure he was not talking to a child.
Mr Pipe explained that the rehabilitation courses he had taken as part of the community order had helped him to understand the impact of his behaviour; it was “a one-off incident” and there would be no repetition.
He added that he did not work directly with the public and most of his clients were other solicitors.
The SDT recounted: “Mr Pipe said that working as a solicitor meant a lot to him and it was the only thing which gave his life purpose as he now lived a very constrained life. There was a lot of good he still could do in his work.”
The tribunal concluded that he had acted with a lack of integrity and failed to maintain public trust in the profession.
It said that “any adult should know that it is wrong to engage in sexualised conversation with a 13-year-old child”, and this applied “where the adult could not be certain of their belief or suspicion that the other party was in fact an adult masquerading as a child.”
Mr Pipe’s counsel urged the SDT to impose a sanction short of strike-off, citing character references, the fact it was only an attempt, its one-off nature – the police found no other compromising material on his devices – and the lack of repetition.
Given the unusual nature of the case, the SRA was allowed to make submissions on sanction, in which it called for a strike-off.
The SDT agreed, saying Mr Pipe’s misconduct “could not be described a moment of madness given that in the hour and a half the online conversation took place, Mr Pipe had initiated the sexualised chat, sent sexual images and then sent his address to ‘Josh’”.
There was significant damage to the profession’s reputation. Further, the SDT was concerned that “Mr Pipe had not fully accepted the seriousness of his conduct and instead, he had cast himself as somewhat the victim”.
In a case like this, the qualities highlighted by his references “could not be sufficient to outweigh the level of the misconduct”.
He was struck off and ordered to pay costs of £7,350.