News

Drugs conviction puts student’s legal career in peril

By on

Legal profession regulatory bodies take a dim view of class-A convictions, but cases are assessed individually

MDMA

A 22-year-old law student is ruing a recent night out in a Portsmouth club as it resulted in a drugs conviction that could scupper any aspiration he holds of joining the legal profession.

John Rossetter — a third year law student at Portsmouth University — was convicted within the last few days of possessing the party drug MDMA or ecstasy.

Bouncers at the Astoria nightclub (pictured below) in the city searched him and found seven MDMA “bombs”. Rossetter was originally charged with intent to sell the class-A drug, but his defence team argued that he had separated the drugs so he could monitor his own use.

Astoria

According to a report in the Portsmouth News, police went on to search Roissetter’s digs where they also discovered small amounts of methylone, mephedrone and ketamine.

The paper said that Rossetter’s lawyer told the court that the conviction could have a “catastrophic” effect on his chances of finding a job.

Both the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) and the Bar Standards Board — the regulatory bodies of the two senior branches of the legal profession — take a dim view of drugs convictions. However, Rossetter might not have to kiss good-bye to his career just yet.

The SRA has a “suitability test” that all prospective solicitors must meet. A spokesman told Legal Cheek today:

“Potential entrants to the profession must declare any criminal convictions as part of their submission. These will be assessed for any potential risk they could pose to the public, along with an assessment of principle 6 (behave in a way that maintains the trust the public places in you and in the provision of legal services)”.

However, the spokesman went on to say:

“Having a criminal conviction does not lead to compulsory barring/eviction from the profession, nor are there any convictions that always lead to refusal – we take each case on its merits and decide on the risk. We certainly look at any issues that involve dishonesty. But any student can plead exceptional circumstances when taking the suitability test and these will be taken into consideration when making a decision”.

Meanwhile, the BSB tends to push the matter over to a joint conduct committee that covers all four Inns of Court. And again, it appears as though a conviction will not automatically result in disqualification for call, with each case being assessed individually.

The Portsmouth News quoted Judge Sarah Munro in sentencing Rossetter:

‘You were caught with these drugs trying to get into a club and I know how many of your fellow students take these party drugs. You are a hard-working young man – that is to your credit and this offence was out of character. I am sure this will be the last time you will be before any type of court, let alone a crown court.’

She then sentenced Roissetter to a two-year and one-year conditional discharge to run concurrently, along with £250 in court costs. The student is reported to have been accepted by the university for a master’s degree.

Further reading:

Law student jailed for dealing crack cocaine [Legal Cheek]