Kate Adamson isn’t struck off but gets six-month suspension instead
The Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal (SDT) has given its decision in a case where a solicitor, Kate Helen Adamson, admitted that she wrote a false backdated letter to her lender client and had inadvertently misled it about the purchase price of a property that she was dealing with.
In the case, brought by the Solicitors’ Regulation Authority (SRA), allegations of dishonesty against Adamson, who qualified in 2007, were also admitted in respect of giving the fake letter to an SRA investigator in order to mislead her. The SDT found, however, that the dishonesty was a “momentary lapse caused by panic”. It found “the nature, scope and extent of the dishonesty essentially consisted of the fabrication of a single letter.”
As a result, the SDT believed this was an “exceptional” case and concluded that although striking off would be the more expected sanction for dishonesty, it was a “disproportionate” sentence here. The SDT sanction was, instead, that Adamson should be suspended from practising as a solicitor for a period six months followed by a further one-year period of suspension, suspended for a year, and should pay costs of £12,372.50.
One of the allegations concerned Adamson misleading the lender, Abbey National, in a property matter, as to the correct purchase price of the property, stating it was £300,000 not the actual price of £200,000. On day one of the hearing, however, Adamson was able to produce a document which showed that she had given Abbey National the correct purchase price of £200,000 in an updated Title Register on a subsequent occasion which supported the argument that she had not deliberately misrepresented the purchase price to the bank.
In mitigation, the SDT heard that the “moderately” experienced solicitor (who had qualified in 2007) at Welsh high street practice, Powell Davies in Aberystwyth, had been a new mother at the time that she falsified the letter and was under considerable pressure from a combination of work and her personal circumstances. She had felt “obliged to agree” to take the minimal amount of maternity leave, and returned weekly to do the firm’s accounts, because there was no leave cover for her job.
Medical evidence submitted at the hearing was that Adamson had a “continuing psychological condition”. As part of its sanction, the SDT imposed a condition on her practice that “she provide half yearly reports to the SRA from a consultant psychiatrist as to her mental health and fitness to practice”.