Former partner convicted of sex and drug offences struck off
Following a raid at the solicitor's home, police found indecent videos on a work tablet
A former partner, convicted of three counts of making indecent images of a child and producing Cannabis at his home, has been struck off by the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal and ordered to pay £1,290 costs.
Following a police raid at his home in February 2019, Andrew McNeill was found to be in possession of 23 indecent images of children. He had also cultivated five Cannabis plants, stored in his garage, for personal use.
During the raid, police seized McNeill’s work tablet, which was found to contain ‘suspicious’ file names. The police’s digital forensics unit analysed the contents of the tablet and a MicroSD card installed in it. They found 19 password-protected compressed files, which contained 23 indecent videos of children. There was also evidence of the use of privacy cleaners and virtual private networks to disguise online activity.
In June 2020, Leicester Magistrates Court convicted McNeill of three counts of making indecent images of a child. He was sentenced to eight months in prison suspended for 18 months, was made subject to a Sexual Harm Prevention Order and placed on the Register of Sex Offenders, each for ten years, and ordered to complete 80 hours of unpaid work.
In respect of the drug offences, he was fined £150 by Leicester Crown Court in September 2020.
At the time of the offences, McNeill was a partner in Frisby and Small LLP; however, his employment ceased in May 2019. McNeill remains on the roll of solicitors after the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) denied his application to be removed. He no longer holds a practicing certificate.
In mitigation put forward by McNeill and not endorsed by the SRA, McNeill said his family, including his stepchildren, had been supportive of him and there had be no report of abuse in the home. He had self-referred to a charitable project which offers counselling for those having trouble with their sexual thoughts and activities.
He added there was no evidence of “any long-standing interest in indecent images of children”, no extensive collection or sharing of images. All files were downloaded in a four-week period in January and February 2019, “consistent with it being an uncharacteristic aberration”.