SRA places controls on head of department who misued blue badge


Blue badge: Rawlinson wanted to avoid high parking changes

A senior law firm staff member who used her late mother’s disabled badge to park in a disabled bay close to its offices has been placed under controls imposed by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA).

However, the regulator has given Tracey Rowlinson permission to keep working at Manchester firm Exclusive Law, where she heads the criminal injury department.

The SRA has made her subject to an order under section 43 of the Solicitors Act 1974, meaning she cannot work for a regulated firm without its permission – and then promptly granted her permission.

A traffic warden at Manchester City Council impounded her car in June 2023 after checking the blue badge it was displaying and discovering that it had been cancelled more than a year earlier after Ms Rowlinson’s mother died.

According to a regulatory settlement agreement published yesterday, Ms Rawlinson said she only used the badge over a three-month period to park near the firm’s offices as she wanted to avoid the high parking charges. It has since been confiscated.

She admitted that her actions were improper. The agreement recorded that, in mitigation, she said she was “encountering difficult personal circumstances at the time. The stress caused by this impaired her judgement and decision-making”.

Further, she was in difficult financial circumstances at, which would have been “exacerbated” by parking near the office.

The agreement said it was “undesirable for her to be involved in a legal practice”, as per section 43, because “her continued use of the blue badge demonstrates her intention to mislead the public and deprive disabled persons of parking concessions properly afforded to them under the Disabled Persons’s Parking Act 2013”.

“Furthermore, Ms Rowlinson financially benefitted from the use of the blue badge. She evaded local parking charges through using the blue badge and afforded herself more time which would not ordinarily be afforded to individuals properly using other methods of transport to attend the firm’s office.

“We hold non-authorised persons working in the legal profession to the same higher standards expected of solicitors. Ms Rowlinson’s lapse in judgement when improperly using the blue badge indicates that she may exercise a similar lack of judgement in her legal practice…

“There is a realistic chance, if placed under significant stress again, that she may act dishonestly in her legal practice.”

In a separate notice, the SRA imposed a series of conditions on Ms Rowlinson’s continued employment by Exclusive Law, including that her work is supervised by the firm’s managing partner and that she is not responsible for supervising other staff.

She is also not allowed to meet clients in person – all contact must be via telephone, post or email – and that her telephone calls are recorded and reviewed.

In 2021, a solicitor was suspended for six months after being convicted of using a disabled parking badge with intent to deceive shortly after she qualified; the SRA argued that she should not be struck off because she was suffering from mental health problems at the time.

Later in the same year, another solicitor convicted of the same offence, after using a blue badge that did not belong to him nine times to park near his law firm, was struck off, a decision upheld by the High Court.




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