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Fabrication of back-dated documents leads to 9-month suspension

3 July 2019

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A criminal defence solicitor who instructed a number of secretaries to alter documents and correspondence on a substantial scale has been suspended from practice for nine months. Charges of dishonesty were withdrawn in the interests of justice.

Dean Russell Easthope, a former associate at Midlands firm Lanyon Bowdler, admitted instructing his secretaries to fabricate and backdate letters, attendance notes and other documents in breach of the SRA Principles.

His motivation was to satisfy the audit practice and his senior partners; and there was no financial advantage to anyone.  

The activity included the creation of 41 different types of documents, all back-dated, in a single case over a period of nearly 16 months.

In another instance, 11 back-dated documents were created because the particular client’s file had been selected for an audit by the Legal Aid Agency; but there was no paper file at the time.

The tribunal found that Easthope’s culpability was high because this was a planned course of action which was repeated a number of times; he had direct control over the circumstances; and he had 15 years’ experiences as solicitor at the time.

The tribunal noted that no harm was caused to any client but the reputation of the profession was damaged.

Furthermore, the misconduct was aggravated because his actions were “deliberate, calculated, repeated and took place over a period of more than a year” and amounted to serious professional misconduct.

He had not been dishonest but he had displayed a lack of integrity.

At the hearing on 9 May, Easthope was suspended for nine months and agreed to pay costs of almost £7,000 under the agreed outcome procedure.

He told the tribunal that he had stopped working as a solicitor and had no intention of ever returning to practice.

He is now working as a self-employed barrister at Cornwall Street Barristers in Shrewsbury.

 

 

Categorised in:

Regulation Ethics, professionalism and judgement