In recent months, it has been reported that several solicitors and a barrister have received sanctions from their regulatory bodies as a result of a drink driving conviction. This highlights the impact and potential consequences a criminal conviction can have on a professional person. Regulators consider such a conviction to be a serious matter as it undermines the public confidence in the profession as a whole and brings the profession into disrepute.
Our motoring team deal with a wide range of offences ranging from speeding to drink driving cases. We have acted for a range of professionals who have been at risk of a criminal conviction, which could have an impact on their professional registration. Whilst professionals may not be required to report minor offences to their regulating body, they may be obliged to disclose a criminal conviction such as drink driving. Failing to disclose such a conviction can lead to serious sanctions being imposed by their regulator, which often arise out of an allegation of dishonesty.
It is crucial that any professional seeks legal advice and representation from the outset if they are arrested and charged with a criminal offence, even if they are looking to plead guilty. Depending on the nature and severity of the offence, the court has the discretion to impose a sentence ranging from a fine up to a custodial sentence, as well as a potential driving disqualification. The sentence imposed for the criminal offence will likely impact the outcome of a fitness to practise investigation and/or any sanction imposed by a regulating body.
We were recently instructed by a doctor who had been charged with drink driving. Due to the breath reading and the circumstances surrounding the offence, they were at risk of a receiving a fine or community order, as well as a driving disqualification. We successfully mitigated on our client’s behalf and they were sentenced to a fine and a disqualification, avoiding the community order.
We also assisted this client with making a self-referral to their regulating body, the General Medical Council (GMC). We provided them with advice on the likely outcome of the GMC investigation and provided assistance throughout this process. Our client attended a health assessment and fully co-operated with the GMC. The GMC offered our client a warning and the case was therefore concluded without the matter being referred to a fitness to practise panel hearing.
Based on GMC guidance, the GMC will sometimes issue a formal warning if there are no underlying health conditions or aggravating factors. However, there have been cases where the matter has been referred to a fitness to practise hearing and the registrant has been subject to a suspension order. Whilst there were some aggravating factors present in this matter, namely a minor collision with a parked vehicle, our client fully engaged with the GMC and showed insight into the incident throughout the investigation. This is likely to have contributed to why the matter was concluded with a warning instead of being referred to a hearing.
At Stephensons, we have a team of specialist motoring and professional discipline lawyers who have extensive experience in representing and advising professionals who have been charged with motoring offences and as a result, are facing an investigation and potential fitness to practise proceedings by their regulator. Our professional discipline solicitors also have experience of representing professionals at fitness to practise hearings as a result of receiving criminal convictions. If you find yourself in a similar situation, we have a dedicated team who will be able to assist you. For more information, call our specialist lawyers now on 01616 966 229 to discuss your options in confidence.