By Chris Williamson And Nikki Greener-
A former solicitor guilty of benefit fraud has been struck off from the legal profession and fined £3,300The Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal last month struck off Abosede Akinleye following the 59-year-old’s conviction for fraud by false representation.
Akinleye was found guilty of honestly and deliberately concealing a post office account of hers which had a balance of nearly £3,000. Her offence adds to the long list of solicitors who have brought shame to the legal profession in the last month alone. The Solicitor Regulations Authority told The Eye Of Media.Com they could not reveal her age to positively identify her, nor did they have access to her photograph. This is the third time this publication has been denied fuller details of an offending solicitor or barrister, citing data protection.
The defense is worrying because criminals who commit offences are fully exposed in the media, but here we see the legal profession appearing to cover their own. Akinleye’s offence is not the worst of offences we have seen committed by solicitors, but members of the legal profession need to be held to a higher standard than the average Joe Bloggs, because of their level of education, and their standing in society.
Akinleye was a member of the employment tribunal, though not practising at the time of her conviction. She made a false representation in an application for a discretionary housing payment to the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea. On top of a fine of £3,300, he was sentenced at Isleworth Crown Court to a 12-month community order and 200 hours’ unpaid work for the community.
In sentencing, the judge said Akinleye signed a declaration which was purported to be a true record of her financial and personal situation, but a jury found she dishonestly and deliberately concealed a post office account in which there was a balance of nearly £3,000.
The judge made clear there was ‘no question’ of her having carelessly omitted this information. Akinleye admitted breaching SRA rules, but she continued to deny having acted dishonestly. She admitted making a serious error of judgement but said the post office account was a benefit account which largely paid for family members: she deliberately left this section blank on her application form because she did not want to guess what was in the account. She maintained she was eligible for housing benefit.
Akinleye said she was ashamed and profusely apologized to the SRA and members of her profession. Since her conviction, she had not been able to take up employment and was now claiming universal credit.