A solicitor who spun a ‘web of lies’ to convince a friend that she would be offered a training contract has been struck off the roll.
The Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal heard that Andrew James Cutland held himself out as a director of his south west firm Bartlett Gooding & Weelen Solicitors (BGW) and offered the woman a job as a fee earner with the promise of a training contract.
The woman, referred to as Person A, had worked alongside Cutland in a previous job and considered him to be a long-standing and close friend. But she grew suspicious when she found out that Cutland was married despite his denial of this. She discovered Cutland was in no position to offer her a job and was left ‘hurt, humiliated and distraught’.
Cutland, 36, had submitted to the tribunal that Person A had fabricated incriminating text messages and he disputed ever offering her a training contract or holding himself out as a director of the firm.
The tribunal found Cutland’s account to be ‘incoherent, implausible and fanciful’. He had held himself out to be a director when he knew this to be a lie.
The tribunal endorsed the witness statement of Dervla Nash, a director at BGW, who said Cutland had engaged in a ‘cruel fictitious exchange’ with Person A, encouraging her to inform her family and her employers about a training contract that did not exist. Nash said Cutland denied the claims in a ‘nonchalant manner’ and he had misled Person A at a time when her work environment was not good and she was feeling very low.
Nash added: ‘She was very clearly struggling, at that point [Cutland] could have stopped with the charade and saved Person A much heartache, but he persisted with his web of lies for his own sense of self-gratification.’
The tribunal heard that legal executive Person A had a meeting with Cutland in 2020 during which he said he had been offered a directorship and asked if she would like to be one of the firm’s first intake of new trainees. He told her that BGW would pay for the LPC, she would get a company car and be on a higher salary than other trainees.
She confided in him about difficulties at her work, while he told her the first names of other trainees who were starting and gave details about their interviews, knowing there were no such interviews being conducted. He was later evasive when she asked for updates and said her start date had been put back due to other potential trainees dropping out.
Person A complained to the firm when she found there was no position and sent screenshots of their messages. Cutland was dismissed in 2021 for gross misconduct. The tribunal also found Cutland had made statements to the firm about his employment history which were untrue.
The tribunal said Cutland’s motivation for lying to Person A appeared to be ‘self-importance and self-aggrandisement’. He was struck off and ordered to pay £17,489 in costs.