By Lucy Caulkett-
A solicitor has been fined £2,000 and rebuked from his regulator after wrongly disclosing documents to a journalist. Dino Novicelli, of London firm Bolt Burdon Kemp, was acting for two clients in relation to historical sex abuse cases, when he met with a national newspaper journalist in September 2017 about a potential article.
Novicelli was granted permission from his clients to speak with the reporter to discuss their case. However, he went one step further by showing a copy of a document that had been disclosed to him under-pre-action disclosure protocol.
The client was upset after the newspaper then published an article that referred to this document in general terms. The respondents deduced that information in the article must have come from the document disclosed to Novicelli and contacted the firm to ask for an explanation. The solicitor apologized for showing the document and acknowledged he should not have done so. Solicitors acting on behalf of clients are expected to know that all information disclosed to them in confidence are to remain private, making Novicelli very irresponsible and unprofessional for disclosing the information.
According to a regulatory settlement agreement between the SRA and Mr Nocivelli, at the time he was acting for two clients in claims for damages arising from historical sexual abuse. The solicitor had maintained contact with a journalist from a national newspaper due to the public interest in the case at the time.
In determining the appropriate course of action, the SRA said it took into account the solicitor’s mitigation, namely that there have been “no negative consequences for the respondent or Mr Nocivelli’s client”, he did not benefit from his actions in any way, he mistakenly believed he was able to disclose the document to the journalist, and has “undertaken training to improve his understanding of his responsibilities with regards to disclosure and interacting with journalists”.
The Solicitor Regulation Authority said his conduct had the potential to cause loss or significant inconvenience to another person, adding that his conduct was neither trivial nor inadvertent.The SRA took into account admissions made by the solicitor and his mitigation, namely that there were no negative consequences for any of the parties, he did not benefit from his actions, and he mistakenly believed he was able to disclose the document to the journalist.
Novicelli, a solicitor for almost nine years, has now undertaken training to improve his understanding of his responsibilities with regards to disclosure and interacting with journalists.