The power to rebuke

A paralegal who sent abusive text messages to a client has been rebuked by the Solicitors Regulation Authority. The SRA has the power to rebuke non-lawyers where they have acted with a lack of integrity.

Ms Niemczyk was a paralegal at Amelans when she was dismissed for gross misconduct after an incident in November 2014. A friend of Ms Niemczyk’s, known as Miss P, had referred her seven-year-old niece to Amelans to be represented in a personal injury claim following a road accident. At the hearing which took place on 14 November 2014 Ms Niemczyk formed the view that Miss P had lied to the court. Later that day Ms Niemczyk sent text messages to Miss P in connection with the case, which were deemed to be abusive in nature. On 17 November 2014, Miss P made a formal complaint to Amelans about the text messages from Ms Niemczyk. The matter was referred to the SRA who wrote to Ms Niemczyk raising allegations of professional misconduct.
Ms Niemczyk admitted, and the SRA accepted, that by sending the text messages she had;
a) Failed to act with integrity contrary to Principle 2 of the SRA Handbook 2011.
b) Behaved in a way that does not maintain the trust the public places in her and in the provision of legal services contrary to Principle 6 of the SRA Handbook 2011.
c) Failed to achieve Outcome 2.1 of the SRA Code of Conduct, which states that you do not discriminate unlawfully, or victimise or harass anyone, in the course of your professional dealings.
The SRA concluded that a written rebuke was a proportionate outcome in the public interest because Ms Niemczyk’s conduct was deliberate, and was neither trivial nor justifiably inadvertent.

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