Solicitors and drink driving

Solicitors and drink driving

In late 2013 Aidan Loy committed three drink driving offences for which he was sentenced in December 2013 and February 2014. The second two offences were dealt with together, and as they were all committed in a very short period of time with high alcohol readings, he was given a 20 week suspended prison sentence and disqualified from driving for five years.

He reported himself to the Law Society within 24 hours of his conviction (not to the SRA) and heard nothing more until SRA started its investigation. Disciplinary proceedings were started against him in December 2017, nearly four years after his sentence and after he had served it. He had even rehabilitated himself sufficiently to successfully apply for a shortening of his disqualification, which you can do after two years. Courts don’t lightly agree to do this.

The SRA based its application on the usual grounds when a criminal conviction is involved, namely a breach of Principles 1, 2 and 6 of the SRA Principles 2011. They are:

Failed to uphold the rule of law and the proper administration of justice;
Failed to act with integrity
Failed to behave in a way that maintains the trust the public places in solicitors and in the provision of legal services.
The SDT found all proved on the particular facts of this case, which on any view were unusual. It is rare that anyone commits three drink driving offences in less than a month, as Loy did. The readings were high ranging from two and a half to three and a half times the limit, and this seriously aggravated the offending. A prison sentence of some sort was inevitable.

He could be forgiven for thinking he would hear no more and that he had been fully punished by the criminal courts.

Not so. SRA heard about the offending in 2017 and started proceedings. It said that solicitors must abstain from criminal behaviour at all times and that Loy had committed three serious drink drive offences, he had failed to uphold the rule of law, failed to act with integrity and generally undermined trust.

Drink drive offences do not always fit neatly into the mantra that solicitors must abstain from criminal behaviour at all times. Very many drink drivers commit the offence in error, misjudging what they have consumed. Morning after offences are common with drivers genuinely shocked a good sleep hasn’t got rid of the alcohol.

I have represented many drivers charged with failing to provide samples of urine as part of a police enquiry into drink driving, who simply haven’t been able to 'go'. Providing urine to order in a police station is not as easy as you might think, and there may be a conviction for failure to provide.

What does the SRA do in circumstances such as these? The behaviour is criminal but it isn’t deliberate.

The SDT in Loy made clear that not every drink drive offence would demonstrate a lack of integrity. In his case it was the frequency and high readings which tipped it over.

Loy's case does not set any precedents and SRA will need to look carefully at the facts of an individual drink or drug drive case. They do not necessarily demonstrate a failure to abstain from criminal behaviour, and magistrates’ courts invariably take account of genuine errors of judgment. The SRA will need to do that as well, and will also want to avoid the disciplinary process from punishing someone twice in circumstances where once is enough. SDT said in Loy that the public would be appalled at his three quick convictions and rightly so. I would not think the public would be appalled at an error.

We are just human after all.

Comments

No comments so far - why not be the first?

@
http://
(HTML markup not supported)
The article below was printed in the Law Society Gazette and prompted quite a discussion! In September 2018 I described how the SRA were dealing with solicitors convicted of drink driving, and the need for a more discerning and informed
A much simpler set of Accounts Rules will come into force in November 2019, and will for the first time give firms, managers and sole practitioners considerable flexibility on how they go about complying and dealing with client money.
The Leigh Day appeal reaffirmed some basic principles for appeals of SRA judgements
The Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal regularly deals with applications brought by the SRA following the conclusion of criminal proceedings against solicitors. The conviction sometimes forms the entire basis of the proceedings, but otherwise
The recently published judgment in Forz Khan v Bar Standards Board provides insight into the professional consequences of careless talk and use of LinkedIn. It comes hot on the heels of an SDT judgment in Deborah Daniels who was prosecuted by
LawCare released striking statistics at the beginning of 2018 which show the number of lawyers calling for help is increasing. Lawyers' mental and emotional health has been slowly creeping up the agenda and even the SRA is recognising
The Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal is now consulting on whether to reduce the standard of proof in disciplinary cases from a criminal to a civil one.
Solicitors have been warned to watch their language and it is highly likely that other regulators will adopt a similar approach.
Solicitors and firms are required to report to the SRA promptly, serious misconduct but what constitutes serious misconduct
The SRA and other regulators frequently bring disciplinary proceedings based on "a lack of integrity." But what is integrity?
In September 2017 Majid Mahmood was fined £25,000 and was the subject of a deferred period of suspension as a result of wholly inappropriate posts on his Facebook Page
On the 21 September 2017 the SRA published a warning notice to solicitors, firms and anyone else it regulates who provide tax planning services
There is a procedure in the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal which allows the parties to apply for disciplinary proceedings to be concluded by a Statement of Agreed Facts and Outcome.
Michael Cremin was a man who presented himself to the outside world as a Lawyer and Advocate. He had a professional profile on the web site of Cotswold Barristers Chambers, along with his photograph. Cremin was neither.
This has long been a guiding principle. Solicitors are guardians and trustees of client money and are expected to exercise proper stewardship over it. Everything that we do with client money has to in accordance with the SRA Accounts Rules
The Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal has confirmed that it will consult on where to set the standard of proof when determining allegations of misconduct against solicitors. The Bar Standards Board is also looking at a new civil standard of
In proceedings before the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal it has for very many years been a requirement that a solicitor should clearly know the case that he or she has to meet. In other words, there is an obligation on the SRA to properly
The need to deal carefully, thoroughly and openly with the SRA during investigations cannot be overstated. There is an explicit professional obligation to cooperate with the Authority and to provide it with whatever information it might need
Web site powered by CommsBox™