"As you may be aware, on Monday evening Sheila Oakes, a paralegal at our Ilkeston office and also Mayor of Heanor posted deeply offensive remarks relating to the Prime Minister’s current state of health on Facebook. These posts were made in a personal capacity, but it was clear from her Facebook biog that she was an employee of this firm, and as a result we became embroiled in understandable and legitimate criticism of what she had said.
We can confirm that as of now Ms Oakes is no longer employed by this firm in any capacity. We have no knowledge of what her intentions are in relation to her political career.
We have previously stressed that her views are not shared by the partners or any other members of staff. To wish illness upon anyone must be abhorrent to all right thinking members of the public. We are acutely aware of the distress that such posts can cause, both to the family and friends of the Prime Minister, but also to all of those affected by this terrible virus.
These are difficult times, and it is perhaps all the more important that people show restraint and most importantly think about what they say and post online before they do so. Our experience shows the hurt and upset that such posts can cause.
The partners are hopeful that we are now able to move on from this incident. Swift and decisive action was taken by the firm, even though at times we could be less than transparent with the steps that we were taking due to issues of confidentiality. We hope that people are in retrospect understanding of these issues.
Although the commentary on this issue has been mixed in tone, although united in condemnation of Ms Oakes’ actions, we have been heartened by a number of those who were able to distinguish her actions from those of this firm. It must have been clear that her actions had the potential to have a detrimental effect on the reputation of the firm and those working within in, and reduce the morale of those staff who continue on a daily basis to provide advice and representation to all those who need it, whether this is in police interview or at court.
As key workers, those staff members are unable to isolate themselves and will continue to attend where necessary at police stations and at courts despite the clear risk to their own health. For example, our solicitors are arguing with the police on a daily basis that there is no need to arrest or interview suspects to reduce our client’s risk of coming into contact with the virus. The partners would hope that their efforts continue to be applauded.
We are realistic and know that lawyers, particularly those who are engaged in criminal defence work, are perhaps not valued for the service that they provide to clients. We also know, however, that once a person has seen the effort that a defence solicitor puts in on their behalf to best present their case and secure a favourable outcome, they immediately see their value. This also, of course, includes our lawyers.
The partners hope that our actions have clearly demonstrated that we will never condone such sentiments or activity on social media or elsewhere and that the activities of an individual no longer employed by the firm will not reflect badly on the remaining staff".
Cllr Oakes remains an independent councillor on Amber Valley Borough Council, having had the party whip withdrawn from Labour on Tuesday.