Ex-Simmons & Simmons lawyer failed to report earlier conviction to regulator
A former Simmons & Simmons partner has been fined £15,000 for a drink driving conviction she failed to disclose to the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) and which only came to light when she refused to take a breath test five years later.
Helen Mathias Hancock, an experienced solicitor admitted to the roll in 1988, pleaded guilty to failing to provide a specimen of breath for analysis and failing to stop after a road accident in November 2019.
Hancock was seen by a witness to be “driving all over the road including on the wrong side, narrowly missing curbs and stopping in the middle of the road” before she crashed into a parked car, Cardiff Magistrates’ Court heard.
Officers said Hancock appeared “intoxicated, unsteady on her feet and smelt of alcohol”, according to a ruling by the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal (SDT). She was asked to provide a specimen of breath but “refused on several occasions”, resulting in her arrest.
Hancock was later handed an eight-week sentence suspended for 12 months, disqualified from driving for four years, ordered to undergo rehabilitation and carry out 60 hours of unpaid work.
After the SRA was notified of her arrest, Hancock told the regulator that “my first conviction for driving with excess alcohol was in 2014” — a conviction she had not disclosed previously.
For this earlier offence, she had been fined £2,000 and disqualified from driving for 12 months.
Hancock, now director of legal affairs at water utility company Bristol Water, admitted to failing to notify the regulator of both convictions but said that she had been “unaware” of the need to report her 2014 conviction, and had “intended” to report her 2019 conviction before the police notified the SRA, but her mental ill-health “prevented her from doing so in a timely fashion”.
The ruling states her “immediate concern was to address her chronic anxiety and depression and ‘get through Christmas without resorting to alcohol'”.
The SDT found that a £15,000 fine was “proportionate, reflecting the seriousness of the respondent’s misconduct”, and ordered Hancock to pay £1,286 in costs.
In light of Hancock’s admission that she had failed to report her convictions, the SRA considered it was “not proportionate and in the public interest” to pursue further allegations of breaches of the SRA principles.