A solicitor who impersonated a friend to obtain prescriptions for painkillers and sleeping pills has agreed to leave the profession.
Janine Wilkinson, convicted of fraud by false representation at Swansea Crown Court, said her misconduct “in no way affected her work as a solicitor” or her law firm.
The Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal (SDT) heard that the drugs Ms Wilkinson obtained by making false representations to the NHS were Co-codamol, a painkiller, and Zopiclone, a sleeping pill. She obtained 12 prescriptions of the former and three of the latter, with the total loss to the NHS put at £77.42.
Approving an agreed outcome between Ms Wilkinson and the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA), the SDT said she was convicted of “a serious offence which involved falsely assuming the identity of a third party to obtain prescription medication for herself”.
The tribunal “noted the very difficult circumstances faced by Ms Wilkinson at the time of the conduct giving rise to the conviction and since”.
The SDT had “considerable sympathy” with the position in which Ms Wilkinson had found herself and noted that the misconduct resulted in little, if any, financial gain and “had been unrelated to her practice as a solicitor”.
However, it could not “go behind” her conviction or question her agreement to the terms of the approved outcome.
Ms Wilkinson admitted acting dishonestly by “impersonating another person to obtain NHS prescriptions for her personal consumption” between April and September 2020.
The SRA said Ms Wilkinson, admitted as a solicitor in 2009, sent the friend a WhatsApp message in September 2020, which said: “I’m sorry for taking tablets out in your name. I was desperate and in pain.” She promised not to do it again.
The friend mentioned this to her GP, who contacted the NHS counter-fraud team. The solicitor admitted using her friend’s name in a police interview in February 2021.
She was charged with one offence of fraud by false representation contrary to section 1(2) of the Fraud Act 2006.
Ms Wilkinson pleaded guilty to the offence and left her law firm in August 2021.
She was sentenced the following month, receiving a 12-month community order and £200 fine, and was ordered to pay £200 in prosecution costs and £72.42 in compensation to the NHS.
In non-agreed mitigation, Ms Wilkinson told the SRA that her misconduct “in no way affected her work as a solicitor and did not affect her client base or her firm in any way”. She resigned before any court proceedings commenced.
“This decision was a personal one in line with Ms Wilkinson’s health and would have been made regardless of the court proceedings which followed.”
She did not contend that her mitigation amounted to exceptional circumstances which would justify a decision not to strike her off.
The SRA said the solicitor had potentially prevented her friend from obtaining legitimate prescriptions for herself “as well as causing unnecessary expense to the NHS”.
The SDT ordered that Ms Wilkinson be struck off and pay costs of just over £1,000.