A solicitor who was struck off for dishonesty has been reinstated after a tribunal accepted medical evidence that prescription sleeping tablets had rendered him confused, irrational and reckless at the time of the alleged wrongdoing.
Simon Kaberry, 63, from West Yorkshire, was struck off the solicitor’s register in 1995 after a tribunal judged him to have been “clearly dishonest” in matters relating to mortgages and for deceiving clients. The case had largely relied on a written confession Mr Kaberry which stated that he had stolen client’s money in order to gamble at the Grand National. It led to more than £2million from the Law Society’s compensation fund being used to repay creditors.
Mr Kaberry has always insisted that the confession was written under duress from alleged fraudsters, when he was mentally incapacitated by the tranquiliser Dalmane. His behaviour changed radically while taking the drug during the early 1990s, according to witness statements from friends and colleagues.
The three man panel restored him to the rolls because of “exceptional circumstances”, but subject to certain conditions. Kaberry had been unable to challenge the allegations at the original tribunal because of sub judice as criminal proceedings had started against him. In 1997 he was fully exonerated of any criminal wrongdoing by a jury who found him not guilty on all 13 counts of thefts and deception.
Malcolm Lader, emeritus professor of clinical psychopharmacology at King’s College London, told the tribunal that Dalmane impairs a person’s judgement, insight, memory, ability to plan and perceptions, and should be taken off the market.
Professor Lader said that Dalmane and other similar tranquilisers can make people “much more suggestible” and that “Mr Kaberry was vulnerable to be being taken advantage of while taking the drug.” He described cases in which people had shoplifted, crashed cars and behaved violently while under the influence of benzodiazepines which were “comparable to the effects of alcohol”.
He added: “Mr Kaberry’s behaviour during those years was consistent with the adverse and toxic effects of the drug Dalmane that he was taking at the time. Dalmane is a long-acting drug which has a cumulative effect and so while there may have been fluctuations in his level of confusion, there would have been no lucid moments.”
Dalmane, a benzodiazepine, is a licensed sleeping tablet, only available in the UK on private prescription.
The tribunal heard that it causes sedation all night and the next day as it takes a long time to be excreted from the body. Benzos are licensed only to treat severe anxiety and insomnia for short periods, but last year more than 6.6million prescriptions were dispensed in England alone. Prescriptions for Valium, which acts similarly to Dalmane, have increased by 20 per cent in the past decade.
The panel rejected arguments from Inder Johal, counsel for the Solicitor’s Regulatory Authority, that reinstating Kaberry would undermine public confidence in the profession.
Mr Kaberry has been unable to find paid work as a result of the dishonesty charge though has continued to help people pro bono.
He said: “This has taken a long time and I am still disappointed that they [Solicitor’s Regulatory Authority] has not published the full truth about the ruinous, false allegations made about me when I could not speak.
“My civil claim for compensation was thrown out, but I hope this ruling will enable lawyers to see that claims of this nature can successfully be brought and that this ends the mis-prescribing of tranquilisers in general.”
Professor Lader said to the tribunal last week: “The prescribing guidelines [published in 1988] have had no effects whatsoever on prescribing and GPs are now being sued… they are being picked off one by one and the size of damages being paid will force the medical defence unions to issue further warnings. This is an ongoing problem which has not been addressed by the medical profession, but is at last being addressed by the legal profession.”