A paralegal who sent abusive text messages to a client has been rebuked by the Solicitors Regulation Authority.
Ewelina Niemczyk agreed to the sanction after admitting her conduct was unacceptable.
Ms Niemczyk was a paralegal at Manchester personal injury firm Amelans for nearly seven years when she was dismissed for gross misconduct after the incident in November 2014.
A year earlier, a friend of hers, known as Miss P, referred her seven-year-old niece to Amelans to be represented in a personal injury claim following a road accident. Miss P acted as her niece’s litigation friend. Ms Niemczyk had some dealings on the matter, but she was not the main fee-earner with conduct of it.
A hearing took place on 14 November 2014. According to the SRA decision published yesterday, “Ms Niemczyk formed the view that Miss P had lied to the court. After finishing work on the same day, [she] sent text messages to Miss P which were abusive in nature. On 17 November 2014, Miss P made a formal complaint to Amelans about the text messages from Ms Niemczyk. Amelans reported the matter to the SRA on the same date.”
It took nearly a year before the SRA wrote to Ms Niemczyk raising allegations of professional misconduct.
She admitted that, in sending the texts, she failed to act with integrity, behaved in a way that did not maintain the trust the public placed in her and in the provision of legal services, and failed to achieve outcome 2.1 in the SRA Code of Conduct, which states that “you do not discriminate unlawfully, or victimise or harass anyone, in the course of your professional dealings”.
In mitigation, the SRA said, “Ms Niemczyk accepted that her behaviour was unacceptable and she should not have acted that way. Ms Niemczyk states that it was a lapse of judgement on her part. She was unclear as to appropriate communication with Miss P as she was her best friend as well as a client of the firm”.
Further, she pointed out that before this incident, she had not been the subject of any informal or formal disciplinary proceedings, and that it occurred shortly after a close family bereavement “which she found very difficult to deal with”.
The SRA concluded that a written rebuke was a “proportionate outcome in the public interest because Ms Niemczyk’s conduct was deliberate and was neither trivial nor justifiably inadvertent”.
Ms Niemczyk – who now works for Simpson Millar – also agreed to pay £200 towards the SRA’s costs.