Solicitor's Discriminatory Tweets Leads To Suspension By Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal
A partner at a Yorkshire law firm has received an 18-month suspension for making a series of offensive online messages about different religions. Deborah Elizabeth Daniels, took to Twitter to post what the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal (SDT) held as offensive tweets about Islam, Judaism and Catholicism over a 14 month period. She was also charged with using offensive or discriminatory words in response to a photograph of a drag artist. Daniels, who has been a solicitor for 32 years and is a partner and compliance officer at West Yorkshire firm “Bird and Daniels”, publically identified herself as a solicitor on her Twitter page. The tweets were flagged to The Solicitors’ Regulation Authority by several users tweeting replies to her messages with the SRA’s twitter handle included.
In messages that dated as early as January 2016 Daniels tweeted that all women ‘must carry staining pepper spray, learn self-defence and do everything necessary to rid the world of Islam’. Daniels responded to individual commenters to her tweet that Islam was a “sexist cult” and that Muslims should be put in a work camp and ‘educate them or get rid’. She also tweeted offensive messages relating to Judaism although she denied being anti-Semitic and justified her tweets on the basis that they were prompted by reports of killings of Palestinian children. Daniels also made messages referring to sexual crimes committed by members of the Catholic Church and retweeted another user’s message talking about a global conspiracy to rule the world.
The Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal described Daniels behaviour as lacking integrity and causing reputational damage to the profession by publically identifying herself as a solicitor on her page. Daniels, who claims that she has undertaken ‘extensive and painful soul searching’ admitted to posting the messages ‘in the heat of the moment’ and accepted they were offensive. Daniels also stated that she had read about ‘frightening events in the Middle East’ and that she had not reflected on what she way saying. She has since removed herself from social media.
The SDT accepted that Daniels showed ‘genuine remorse’ and was unlikely to repeat her misconduct. They also considered that without her presence, Bird and Daniels would cease to exist and this would put five jobs at risk. In light of these factors, Daniels was handed an 18 month suspension which was deemed to strike a balance between appropriate punishment, harm caused to the profession, mitigating factors and the need to provide public protections. As well as the suspension, she was also ordered to pay £11,000 in costs.
Expert Opinion“The action taken by the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal serves as a cautionary tale to regulated professionals about the dangers of using social media in the heat of the moment. This is an extreme case where the comments made were not only offensive but also discriminatory. They were made in breach of the Solicitors Code of Conduct and arguably the Equality Act. It is important that professionals think twice before posting on social media even in a private capacity.” Shah Qureshi - Partner