A solicitor who forged a qualified colleague’s signature on conveyancing documents while still a trainee has been struck off.
The Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal (SDT) rejected Henna Zeb Khan’s claim that she had been expressly authorised by licensed conveyancer Janet Butterfield to do so.
During the hearing, she objected to the word ‘forged’ and said instead that she had “imitated” Ms Butterfield’s signature on replies to requisitions on title, a TR1 Land Registry form and two certificates of title.
At the time she was coming towards the end of her training contract at Bradford firm Stachiw Bashir Green. She qualified in February 2019 and was sacked by the firm that June when it discovered what she had done.
Ms Khan said she had been acting on the instruction and direction of Ms Butterfield and/or her secretary.
She claimed Ms Butterfield had said “to inform her of the documents so that she was aware of the position”. She argued that this amounted to a “general authority”.
The tribunal rejected this and found she had not been expressly or implicitly authorised to sign any of the documents in Ms Butterfield’s name.
“The tribunal found Ms Butterfield and [her secretary] to be credible witnesses and preferred their evidence to that of the respondent. The respondent had often deflected difficult questions rather than giving clear answers.”
Signing the documents demonstrated a clear lack of integrity and was dishonest, the SDT ruled.
It did not accept that Ms Khan “could possibly have believed that she was authorised to replicate a signature on documents of such importance”.
It went on: “The documents contained solicitors’ undertakings and the tribunal found it implausible that the respondent could have thought that she would be permitted to bind Ms Butterfield and the firm to those undertakings.
“The respondent was on the verge of being admitted to the roll and so would have known and understood the importance of the documents that she was signing.”
Though the character evidence submitted on Ms Khan’s behalf showed she would have had “a successful career ahead of her”, this “could not displace the weight of the evidence” as to her state of knowledge at the material time.
“The tribunal found that in respect of each document, the public would be incredulous that the respondent had acted in the way that she had.”
In deciding she had to be struck off, the SDT said Ms Khan’s motivation for the misconduct was unclear, “but that she had appeared to want to take a short-cut and possibly wanted to prove herself, having completed her training contract”.
She was also ordered to pay costs of £15,700.
Ms Khan is appealing the decision to the High Court.