Lawyer fined over video tape slip up
A SOLICITOR has been reprimanded for giving video tapes of police interviews with young sex attack victims to a vulnerable family friend. Paul Mason, 53, believed the tapes were blank and also handed over more than 130 confidential audio files of interv
A SOLICITOR has been reprimanded for giving video tapes of police interviews with young sex attack victims to a 'vulnerable' family friend.
Paul Mason, 53, believed the tapes were blank and also handed over more than 130 confidential audio files of interviews with clients of his firm.
He was shocked to find the highly confidential details had not been erased when he represented the friend on another matter.
Police told Mason the friend was to be charged with theft of the tapes unless the lawyer admitted giving them to him.
Mason has an unblemished 29 year career and was working for TV Edwards in Whitechapel's Mile End Road.
The firm had an archive of audio tapes which should have been wiped, the Solicitors' Disciplinary Tribunal heard last Thursday.
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Stephen Battersby, for the Solicitors' Regulatory Authority, said: "The potential breach on the audio tape was material which could have identified the client and the offence the client was said to have committed."
Mason also gave the friend around 30 videos so he could use them for home taping.
Mr Battersby said: "Only four of the video tapes contained information of a sexual nature.
"These tapes ought to have returned to the prosecution at the end of the case."
Mason had not been personally involved with the cases but his firm had accidentally wrongly categorised the tapes as 'non sensitive'.
Mason admitted acting in a manner which was likely to breach confidentiality with regard to the audio tapes and not dealing with the videos in accordance with solicitor's guidelines.
Ian Ryan, defending, said the tribunal was used to dealing with solicitors who were 'scoundrels and cheats'.
He said: "In Mr Mason you have an example of man who is contrary to all that, a man who is a shining example to his profession."
Tribunal chairman William Hartley reprimanded Mason and ordered him to pay costs of �5,087.
Speaking outside the hearing Mason said: "For 30 years I have been representing clients, for some of whom the effects of the cases are devastating.
"You can see the effects that rumble on long after the court case has concluded.
"No-one can ever understand what it is like until you actually go through it. I have learned things that will be with me long after this case has finished.