"Until we meet again, and the case is sol-ved"

The Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal has ordered that the SRA pay interim costs of £40k for "improperly and unreasonably" prosecuting a solicitor. 

The SRA brought an action against Jamil Ahmud, a partner at Bloomsbury Law, alleging that he had dishonestly sought to recover more costs in litigation than he was entitled to. The case was based on the report of a costs draftsman, which has now been found to be inaccurate.

The regulator started its investigation in 2016, but the tribunal noted "no-one had thought to interview" the key client witness until January 2020, some four years later. In July 2020 the SRA withdrew the action conceding there was no case to answer, in light of the client interview.

The tribunal also criticised the SRA for reopening the case three years ago. In October 2016, the SRA informed Ahmud that the investigation was closed. But the regulator decided to revive the matter in February 2017, after the costs draftsman complained, despite there being a lack of any "fresh evidence". The tribunal said it was "lamentable" that the SRA failed to inform Ahmud that they were reopening the case, and waited for a year to tell him. 

The case was "infected from the outset with a regrettable injudicious and peremptory lack of professional assiduousness," said the tribunal. 

It is unusual for a costs order to be made against the SRA for bringing a prosecution. But the tribunal denied that its decision would have a "chilling effect", saying, "on the contrary, it may make it more likely that prosecutions would be undertaken and pursued in a more diligent manner than this one had."

“It is now clear that these baseless allegations should never have been pursued against me," Ahmud told RollOnFriday. "Substantial costs have been incurred in defending these proceedings only for them to be withdrawn at the eleventh hour. The SRA’s ‘lack of diligence and transparency’ in this case has wasted the time of both the SDT and myself, as well as squandering the profession’s money."

The tribunal ordered the SRA to pay £40,000 in interim costs, and directed that Ahmud's total claim of £192,000 be assessed by a costs judge. However, the tribunal said it did not have jurisdiction to award costs on an indemnity basis.

Ahmud will continue the battle, as he has filed an appeal in the High Court for indemnity costs. "I see no reason why a solicitor who incurs substantial costs in the defence of unreasonable and improper proceedings brought by the SRA in the Tribunal should be left out of pocket, which is the practical result where costs are assessed on the standard basis," he told RollOnFriday.

An SRA spokesman said: “We have read the SDT’s judgment and are considering next steps.”

The tribunal's decision can be seen here

Tip Off ROF


Anon 30 October 20 08:32

Had it been a troubled first seat trainee working in a hugely stressful environment with poor supervision making a mistake and then panicking, you can be sure the SRA would have moved swiftly and decisively to destroy him or her and end their career. No four year wait in those circumstances! Heaven and earth would be moved to get them. 

Pete1 30 October 20 08:44

SRA say they are “considering next steps”. So we will know in 2022 what they want to do.

They are extraordinarily slow in dealing with cases brought before them. I was once involved in one of their investigations. I was not the target of it, but had been asked to give evidence about a lawyer who was lucky not to be disbarred (IMHO) but was eventually censured. Because it took so long, some witnesses could not recall the details SRA were asking us. You would send them an email and it would take literally 2 or 3 months to get a reply. Then for the next email after that, another 2 or 3 months. In the meantime, memories fade and people lose interest. You could never access the senior decision makers either, they would get these very junior guys to liaise with us, they seemed to act as go between and had no power or discretion from what I could tell. 

Dearie 30 October 20 09:48

I was subject to a complaint once (a fairly technical transaction which a third party misconstrued). It was awful, spent days over several months responding to enquiries, never actually interviewed and eventually 9 months later they said they were no longer investigating. It made an already stressful job unbearable. If the SRA want to talk about stress at work, they should start looking at their own processes. I wouldn’t wish that stress on anyone. I was lucky to have a supportive partner but that sort of thing scars you.

Wildoats 30 October 20 10:55

There’s quite a bit of extremely low hanging fruit which the SRA could and should be going after. But it won’t because to do so would highlight its own inexplicable failings to regulate flagrant misconduct.
It’s astonishing and depressing that solicitors, whose role is to look after their clients’ best interests, can’t or won’t challenge their own regulator who appears to be intent on bullying the least able of the profession to stand up to them, whilst protecting themselves from scrutiny.  

Anonymous 30 October 20 11:19

The SRA is an absolute disgrace. Nothing seems to have happened about the nepotism and corruption reported by RoF last year either. 

Pearly Queen 30 October 20 11:21

Next step is to have an internal review and do some appraisals with those dealing with this case. Oh and appraise your own processes. You did aferall accept the case should be withdrawn. Do that and hopefully we and the public will see some improvement in your performance. Any improvement will be met with gratitude. We are keeping our fingers crossed.

Andy Pandy 30 October 20 11:29

Wildoats, I thought that low hanging fruit was exactly their remit. Or maybe you mean a different kind of fruit- the ones that should actually be their remit. Meanwhile tbe reputation of the profession plummets under their watch. Total waste of space.

Pearly Queen 30 October 20 11:51

Oh and well done SDT for holding them to account for once. Unaccountability has brought us to this junction. You see SRA whilst on the face of it absolute power may seem sublime in the long term a bit of proper scrutiny would have done you the world of good. And now you are reaping what you sowed. Absolute power more than corrupts. Cant wait for the revolution. 

Wildoats 30 October 20 13:36

Andy P, the fruit to which I was referring is the widespread, conflicted and maladministered practices going on throughout the profession for the benefit of those practitioners taking part but to the detriment of their clients and the reputation of the profession. I wasn’t referring to some poor put upon junior taking the flak for their supervisor’s pi$$ poor management skills and slopey shoulders. 

Anonymous 30 October 20 15:50

Yes, but can anyone tell me whether Lord Lester was or was not cleared of wrongdoing by the BSB*?

I overheard a few people talking about it, but couldn't make out the conclusion. Can anyone assist?

RonProbo 30 October 20 16:52

The fact that the SDT seems unsure whether it can award indemnity costs is less than impressive.  Its rules give it the express power to much such costs order as it thinks fit.  It's impossible to interpret such an unqualified power as meaning that it cannot award indemnity costs.

Newsrap 30 October 20 21:14

This was a case handled by Capsticks- until this external exclusive one- panel corrupt arrangement is exposed for failure and incompetence it has caused this will continue 

Anon 31 October 20 10:23

Anonymous 30 October 20 15:50: 

The BSB did not clear Lord Lester QC. They rather found that, despite harassing Ms Sanghera, he should not be sanctioned. The relevant part of the ruling, which is publicly available, is at paragraph 16 and provides: 

“The question which therefore falls to be determined is whether, in light of the findings against Lord Lester, he should be allowed to continue to practise. This has given us very anxious cause for consideration. After all, Lord Lester was found to have harassed Ms Sanghera and abused his position. Those findings stand, notwithstanding Ms Sanghera’s non-participation in the instant proceedings. We have no jurisdiction to revisit those findings or to interfere with them. We are driven to conclude, however, that notwithstanding Lord Lester’s conduct, he should not be subject to sanction. This is because he intends imminently to retire and does not intend to renew his Practising Certificate upon its expiry.”

This is confirmed by the Times article on the subject:

“The headline to our article “Lord Lester cleared of peerage-for-sex claims” (News, last week) incorrectly suggested, when read alone, that Ms Jasvinder Sanghera’s complaint to the House of Lords about Lord Lester’s conduct may have been dismissed. The article reported on the outcome of an investigation into Lord Lester by the Bar Standards Board. The findings of an earlier House of Lords committee are unaffected by this ruling. We apologise for any distress caused.”


Anonymous 03 November 20 08:52

The SRA needs to move against those firms which act as enablers for international gangsters and money launderers - I'm looking at you West End firms acting for dodgy family trusts and moving murky money to and from tax havens. They need to be turned upside down and shaken to see what falls out. And when they are, it will be a sh!t-load worse than leaving a briefcase on a train.

Toby Greenlord 03 November 20 13:38

If you're a Free Man on the Land you don't have to pay as long as you buy a television licence.

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