Criminal defence specialist also watched pornography with her in his office
A veteran male solicitor, who discussed the possibility of a “topless photo shoot” as a way in which a young female client could settle a legal bill, has been booted out of the profession.
In 2013, Anthony Robert Dart — who ran a law firm called Tony Dart Solicitors and Advocates in Barnstaple, Devon — represented a “vulnerable” female client, referred to only as ‘Miss BC’.
Described as being no more “no more than 22″, Miss BC had instructed Dart, 65, in relation to a “threatening communication”, which she later accepted a caution for. Dart’s fee for representing Miss BC came to £250 plus VAT.
According to the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal (SDT) judgment, the pair met again to discuss a complaint she had regarding his advice, which was eventually settled amicably. Recalling the encounter, Dart — in a statement to the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) — said:
Miss BC was quite chatty and said she was hoped to become a model or actress and made a few poses as if being photographed.
Continuing, Dart recalled how he told Miss BC “that she seemed very photogenic” before — somewhat bizarrely — taking a “few digital photographs of her”. Having examined his handiwork “briefly”, Dart told the SRA that he then deleted them. Miss BC “remained seated in her chair and fully clothed throughout”, he stressed.
The following Saturday the pair met again. At a meeting that took place at Dart’s office, Miss BC explained that she wasn’t in a position to settle the outstanding bill. Again in his statement, the solicitor said:
She then suggested that perhaps I might care to do a photo-shoot with her modelling the various outfits she had collected. I said I would prefer the cash but she could not pay me at present.
It was at this point — according to Dart — that Miss BC used his office computer to access a website containing “adult porn”. Explaining how she could earn “lots of money” participating in adult films, Dart claimed that Miss BC had shown him “a couple of clips”, before eventually leaving the office.
It was at this point that Dart states that a “topless photo shoot” was first suggested, stating:
She did send me a text asking me when we would be doing a topless photo shoot, which came as a surprise as that had never been discussed.
Miss BC — using an app on her phone — then recorded two conversations between the pair, after the police became involved. According to the report, the experienced solicitor told her that she should come back to his office on a Saturday — when it would be quiet — to arrange a “more suitable venue” for the photo shoot. In the recording he said:
It could be fun and… it could lead onto, you know, bigger and better things as well.
Mr Dart’s statement — which states that no photo shoot took place — reveals that he then decided to chuck his mobile phone into a river. Claiming that he “wanted to terminate all further contact with Miss BC”, he denied that it was an attempt to conceal evidence.
Mitigating, Dart’s barrister told the tribunal that no criminal charges were ever brought against his client, and that a striking off would severely prohibit the provision of legal aid work in his local area.
The tribunal — opting to boot Dart out of the profession anyway — said that by “participating in conversations with a vulnerable female client in relation to an inappropriate and improper arrangement for the settlement of an outstanding bill of costs” he had breached his obligations as a solicitor.
While accepting that Dart had a “long unblemished career”, the tribunal said that at no point did he try and stop the idea of a topless shoot, and that he then — by disposing of his mobile phone — attempted to “cover his tracks”. Striking Dart off the roll of solicitors, the tribunal also ordered him to pay £12,000 in costs.