Tribunal accepted young lawyer was under huge post-education financial pressure — but fraud is fraud
A young solicitor has been struck off the roll after fiddling train fares in a bid to raise cash to pay off student debts.
Nancy Lee — formerly an associate at London West End law firm Russells Solicitors, who qualified in 2009 — was convicted of fraud at a London magistrates’ court two years ago.
The offences involved the making of five false claims for refunds on tickets from various train companies, with Lee fraudulently stating that she did not use them because a family member had died. The scam was uncovered during a train company audit.
The Nottingham University law graduate avoided jail, but was handed a community order and a bill for £700-plus in compensation. But the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal (SDT) struck her off at a hearing in the middle of June, the report of which has just been published.
Since her conviction, Lee has moved to Australia where the tribunal heard she was in low paid work and unable to afford the fare to return to London. Her parents represented Lee at the SDT.
The tribunal heard that the Lee’s fraud was triggered as a “consequence of being in debt through having to repay money she had borrowed to fund her university and Legal Practice Course fees”.
According to the SDT report:
She said that the long journeys to and from her place of work each day left her ‘exhausted and stressed’, which led to a ‘lack of judgment’. She also indicated that she accepted that her ‘behaviour has fallen below the standards of conduct expected of a solicitor’ and must be ‘subjected to disciplinary procedures’.
The tribunal approved an application for costs against Lee of more than £2,300. But it also accepted that the former solicitor’s financial circumstances were difficult and ruled that the costs order could not be enforced without leave of the tribunal.