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Solicitor suspended for texting prisoner 102 times cites legal aid cuts in tribunal judgment

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She was ambitious to succeed in competitive legal market

A solicitor who qualified in 2010 has been suspended from the profession for sending 102 texts to a client in prison over a two-and-a-half-month period. Angela Hudson’s inexperience, her fear of losing clients and her desire to succeed in the competitive, post-legal aid cuts legal market were all cited by her barrister at the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal (SDT).

Hudson, 34, studied criminology at Nottingham Trent University before becoming a criminal lawyer not long before the government’s swingeing 2012 legal aid cuts. In the words of the SDT judgment, “as criminal legal aid contracts altered, many firms closed down their criminal law departments or made their criminal lawyers redundant”. Mark Ruffell of 3 Pump Court, representing Hudson, “stated that the firm where [Hudson] had worked after qualifying as a solicitor, which was one of the largest criminal practices in the area, no longer existed”.

The junior solicitor moved up through the ranks quickly thanks to a swathe of lawyers jumping ship, though “her salary did not change to reflect the extra stresses she had taken on”.

In 2015, she decided to set up her own practice, A Hudson Law. After opening in 2016, she “immediately faced an air of hostility from established local practices”, and found herself “extremely busy and under immense pressure not to lose clients to other firms”. Her barrister said she became more and more reclusive, worked constantly and became socially isolated. “With hindsight, she realised that it had not been the right decision at that time”, the judgment read.

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During this “vulnerable time in her life”, Hudson found that sending text messages to clients was an effective way of reminding them of court dates, meetings and other appointments. Within five months of opening her practice in Kettering, Northamptonshire, Hudson was arrested after sending ‘Client X’ 102 texts while he was in prison.

Hudson pleaded guilty and was handed a four-month sentence, suspended for two years. She accepted that communicating with a prisoner was wrong, and “had ended the contact a few days before the police contacted her”. The tribunal continued:

“[Hudson] had found herself in this situation due to her inexperience, her fear of losing clients and her own ambition to succeed. These factors enabled her to justify what she was doing to herself.”

The tribunal concluded that “in light of [Hudson’s] conviction, she had failed to uphold the rule of law and the proper administration of justice. She had communicated by telephone with an inmate on multiple occasions, amounting to criminal conduct”.

While there were some aggravating factors — that the action was sustained over a period more than two months, for example — there were mitigating factors too. Ruffell told the three-person tribunal Hudson felt “a tremendous amount of shame over these incidents” and had suffered “some medical issues due to her exhaustion”, too.

Hudson was suspended from practice for a period of 18 months and ordered to pay costs of £3,230.

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16 Comments

John

Just for information there’s now an “email a prisoner” system for sending quick messages officially. I do feel for the solicitors as I’ve read the judgement and there is mention of an Osman Warning given to the client so I can understand the pressure.

It’s a regular problem. All staff including the juniors have to be trained if they receive any call on a mobile from a client purporting to be in prison or who they know is in prison they simply hang up.

(6)(1)

Sleepy lawyer

John,

Email a prisoner isn’t secure. You can’t write rule 39 on it, as it will simply be read, so you can’t use that either (after much discussion with my boss on the subject). Yet another dead end.

I do feel for her, but I suppose she chose to set up her own practise? Seems like a fair decision all in all.

(6)(0)

Trigger Finger

Please ignore the fact that this comment was reported as inappropriate – entirely accidental!

(0)(0)

Anonymous

Angela used to brief me and I’m so sorry to read this. She was excellent and dedicated but also incredibly overstretched because she was so in demand. I really hope she can move on from this and have a successful career in the future. We’re all under stupid pressures in this system.

(18)(2)

ANONYMOUS

The level of costs claimed and ordered is outrageous. To be fair they should be taxed and chargeable at most at the charging rate of the solicitor for the type of work provided. Legal aid crime £45 per hour.

(5)(0)

Anonymous

As it was a plea, it would actually be a fixed fee of £202 (plus VAT) for all preparation and hearings at Legal Aid Rates. The CPS would ask for £85 costs. So SRA rates are 1,600% higher than legal aid rates and 3,800% higher than standard CPS contribution towards costs rate.

(9)(0)

Scep Tick

Interesting idea. So if the respondent is a City partner the costs should be £1,400 per hour?

But of course there are investigation costs as well. Solicitors don’t get paid for those.

(2)(0)

Anonymous

My point was more SRA costs should not be more than CPS costs (which do include the costs of the investigation. It’s not like its a murder or massive money laundering the SRA are prosecuting (at least most of the time). In this case she had pleaded to the offence already in the criminal courts and admitted the professional mis-conduct. In your local Mags Court that’s an £85 job. We should the profession pay SRA officials thousands of times more than the Cops & CPS?

(2)(0)

Anonymous

So can a trainee Paralegal solicitor represent client never met for friend solicitor at family court as a baristir and not realy speak up for you. That is inpersinating a barister with same name realy barister.? That is wrong and detramental to case. In divorce due to domestic voilence, finanacial settlement.

(0)(11)

Anonymous

Murder of the English language should be a crime.

(28)(0)

Anonymous

Who can you trust, when you already been through tramuantic years of voilence.?

(1)(0)

Bruno

We all know the rules. Don’t take calls from clients in prison using smuggled mobiles. Write letters or make a prison visit. It’s nothing at all to do with reducing legal aid fees. It’s just breaking the rules to hang onto every last client, it’s not worth the risk

(4)(0)

Anonymous

To be fair, she didn’t actually say that in mitigation (despite the headline). Her mitigation was she was junior as a solicitor and had under-estimated the difficulties in running her own firm and whilst she knew she shouldn’t be sending texts had become swamped with all the work. Sad case, but right decsion in the circumstances.

(3)(2)

Cynical Cynthia

Again, another dog-tier university graduate doing something illegal.

(1)(7)

Pantman

We can all see the Oxbridge grads doing the same class of work…

(2)(0)

Anonymous

Pardon my ignorance, I’m not familiar with UK practise Rules. Was it wrong because phones are banned in prisons and to use one to make contact is abetting such misdemeanour, or is it an ethics issue because the person at the other end cannot be verified? Is there just a rule/authority that all client contact must be only ever be in person?

(0)(0)

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