A NEWLY qualified solicitor “blinded by panic” lied about sending an email containing personal data to the wrong person.

Exceptional circumstances meant Victoria Ellouise Whelan was spared being struck-off by the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal (SDT), who said it would have been “disproportionate” to do so.

Whelan, who at the time was employed by Dutton Gregory LLP, prepared an email including attachments made up of a client’s medical records, however sent the email to a person unconnected to the client’s matter on January 30, 2019.

The following morning, when the client queried the whereabouts of the email, Whelan, who had been qualified for four months, replied: “It would appear that an email sent yesterday at 4pm was blocked by firewall due to the size of the attachment.”

An hour later, Whelan reported the breach to her firm, and on February 1, 2019, wrote an email to the firm which said: “I would like to apologise again if, the course of action I took when discovering my own error was incorrect- as previously explained, I was blinded by panic.”

In mitigation, the SDT heard how Whelan was “juggling an extremely heavy workload at the time” and was “the subject of a number of matters of a deeply personal distressing nature”.

These included “aggressive communication from a family member the day prior and the recent anniversary of the death of a close friend”.

The misleading email sent to the client was Whelan “hysterical and in a state of shock at having realised her error”.

“In sending the misleading email, the respondent’s objective in a fleeting moment of blind panic and madness at realising her error the previous day, had only ever been to buy a short amount of time in order to discuss with her superiors how best to inform claimant A that his records had accidentally been sent to a third party,” the tribunal heard.

“The respondent is utterly devastated at her serious error, for which she takes full responsibility and apologises sincerely and unreservedly.”

The tribunal suspended Whelan’s practicing licence for six months and ordered her to pay costs of £5,000 to the Solicitors Regulation Authority.

“Her actions were a ‘moment of madness’ from an inexperienced lawyer who had almost immediately realised the gravity of her error, and taken full responsibility for it,” the tribunal said.

“[She] had not benefitted from her actions and the tribunal noted the personal difficulties within which she was struggling, which clearly significantly contributed to this serious error of judgment.

“The tribunal was satisfied that the circumstances, taken together, were exceptional and related directly to the dishonesty. The Tribunal was therefore satisfied that it would be disproportionate to strike [Ms Whelan] from the roll in this case.”