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Sunday Telegraph
May 4, 1997
by Victoria Macdonald,
Health Correspondent

The solicitor son of the late Lord Kaberry has been cleared of stealing hundreds of thousands of pounds from his clients after claiming that his mind was affected by an addiction to sleeping pills.

In the first case of its kind, Simon Kaberry, 48, of Leeds, used the defence that his reliance on the drug had led to severe memory loss, mental confusion and a changed perception of reality. Mr Kaberry, who was arrested in February 1994, denied 10 charges of theft, three charges of false accounting and one of deception between September 1992 and January 1994.

The West Yorkshire Fraud Squad is uncertain how much money disappeared from Mr Kaberry's client accounts. The charges involved £630,174 but estimates have put it as high as £3 million. Mr Kaberry believes that it was about £1.3 million. During the three-week trial at Newcastle Crown Court, he claimed that he had spent five years "in oblivion" after becoming addicted to Dalmane, a benzodiazepine in the same group as Valium.

Mr Kaberry is one of three sons of the late Lord Kaberry, the former vice-chairman of the Conservative Party who died nine months after being injured in the IRA bombing of the Carlton Club in London in 1990. Pam Armstrong and Peter Ritson, founders of the Council for Involuntary Tranquilliser Addiction, appearing as defence witnesses for Mr Kaberry, told the court that a build-up of benzodiazepines in the body can lead to people becoming frightened.

They can be persuaded to carry out uncharacteristic actions without having a grip on reality. Mr Kaberry said: "All the money went and where it went I just do not know. I was told by two men at one stage that they had bought a racehorse and that I had paid for it. I was easy meat for anyone who came into the office."

Prof Ian Hindmarch, the head of the human psychopharmacology research unit at Surrey University, appeared as an expert witness during the trial. He said the combined effect of the drug and the wine Mr Kaberry was drinking every evening meant that he would have been in a "constant state of drug-induced intoxication".

Prof Hindmarch said in a statement: "Such a treatment regimen would also cause a disinhibition of Simon Kaberry's usual emotional and mental stability."

During the period the money vanished, Mr Kaberry, who has been struck off by the Law Society, was taking up to 45mg of the drug every day. The recommended dose is 15mg and doctors are no longer allowed to prescribe it for more than two weeks because of concerns over addiction. Yet Mr Kaberry was given repeat prescriptions without question.

"I was one of the innocents and that is why I pleaded not guilty," he said. "I was not criminally dishonest, I was not myself."

Speaking to The Telegraph last week, Mr Kaberry said that he was contemplating how to put his life back together. He has lost his home, his job and his fiancée. But he added: "I am a strong-willed person, I will fight back."

Mr Kaberry was first prescribed the drug in 1975 but he believes that, combined with an anti-depressant he was taking, it led to him being unable to sleep. For the next five years, he said, he had difficulty in coping. As a newly-qualified solicitor he was able to work but "I had no social life".

When he set up practice in Leeds, he stopped taking the benzodiazepine during the week and only occasionally took it at the weekend. "My whole life flourished, socially, professionally. I started taking holidays for the first time in five years," he said.

His fiancée moved into his home. But during a holiday to the Far East he returned to the drug and by 1989 again developed serious insomnia. He also began to drink wine. Mr Kaberry does not know exactly when the deterioration in his life began, but by the early Nineties he had stopped going out, become anti-social and was no longer taking holidays.

"I treated my fiancée abysmally. I would come home and she was no longer the person I loved and took flowers to, she was someone living in my house," he said. "She left in December 1990."

Between 1991 and 1993, Mr Kaberry said, he lived in chaos and confusion. "I did not know why I could not function, although I tried." He had not had any negligence claims before this time, but then his problems "windmilled", he said. "I would say I will do that tomorrow and then the problem was worse."

UPDATE Solicitor reinstated after tribunal accepts sleeping tablets appeal, The Independent, January 16, 2012 · Solicitors Tribunal

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