A solicitor has been struck off the roll after falsifying information on her on income tax returns, a court report has shown.
Commenting on the Crown Court judgment, the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal said allowing Diana Lee to remain on the roll would have a “significantly detrimental effect on the public confidence in the reputation of the legal profession”.
The Manchester Crown Court found that the solicitor had attempted to defraud the public purse in 2009 and 2010 by over-claiming tax repayments.
Documents show that she did this by inflating expenses for staff costs and refunds relating to clients’ fees. Ms Lee also fraudulently produced supporting evidence to back these claims, including invoices, letters and an employment contract.
The case was presented before the court after HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) found that the figures shown on her business records did not match those declared on her tax returns.
Judge Steiger QC, presiding over the case, said Ms Lee had gone to “great lengths” to defraud HMRC and was “wholly unsuitable” to be a solicitor.
It was later discovered, however, that Ms Lee had been suffering from mental health issues for upwards of 20 years.
“The defendant’s behaviour – shocking, deceitful, dishonest and discreditable as it was – may well have been informed by these longstanding medical issues,” said Judge Steiger.
Ms Lee was handed a 21 month prison sentence, suspended for 18 months, 200 hours unpaid work and was ordered to pay costs of £10,000.
The Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal also ordered Ms Lee to pay costs of £4,000, as well as removing her from the roll of solicitors.