Solicitor who fabricated letter in “panic” avoids strike-off

Baby: Solicitor had newborn at time of misconduct

A solicitor has been suspended from practice despite admitting to dishonestly fabricating a backdated letter to persuade the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) that she had sent it the previous year.

Kate Helen Adamson, an associate solicitor and director at high street firm Powell Davies in Aberystwyth, west Wales, had a newborn baby at the time of the misconduct and said she was under great work pressure.

The Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal accepted she had “momentarily panicked” and that her case was an ‘exceptional’ one which did not merit what would usually be a striking off when dishonesty is found.

She made no attempt technically to conceal the fact the false document was created later than was purported and the deception was easily uncovered by a forensic specialist.

However, when challenged, Ms Adamson refused to accept the document was false until disciplinary proceedings were issued.

The solicitor, who was born in 1982 and qualified in 2007, faced three allegations of misconduct, each of which she admitted.

They were that she had created a false document – a letter dated October 2014 which she had purportedly sent to her lender client; that she gave the fake letter to an SRA investigator in June 2015 in order to mislead her; and that she had told her lender client a property sold for £300,000 when she knew it was in fact £200,000.

In relation to the first two allegations, she was found to have acted dishonestly.

She told the tribunal she was “profoundly remorseful” for the misconduct, but had been under “considerable pressure” and was “extremely stressed” at the time.

She had created the letter “to try to demonstrate that she had done her job properly” at the time, once it became clear there was no record she had told her lender client of the true sale price.

She had been “scared and was not really thinking” and had “put her head in the sand”.

The tribunal found the misconduct to be “extremely serious” and noted she had not accepted the document was false in good time.

However, while the reputation of the profession had been harmed, the lender client had not, it found. The incorrect price was an “inadvertent” error, it said.

The tribunal went on: “The respondent had intended to fabricate the document, but she created the document believing that she had previously created it and was unable to find it. There was no malice in her actions.”

Ms Adamson’s dishonesty was “a momentary lapse caused by panic” and a psychiatric expert opinion had established it was because she “was not thinking clearly due to a pre-existing medical condition”.

A proportionate sanction was an immediate suspension of six months followed by a further one year of suspension, itself suspended for a year, subject to satisfactory half-yearly reports from a consultant psychiatrist as to her mental health and fitness to practice.

The solicitor was ordered to pay £12,372 costs.

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