A Bungle, yesterday

The Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal has ordered that the SRA pay record legal costs of £228,000 for "improperly and unreasonably" prosecuting a solicitor.

The SRA had brought an action against Jamil Ahmud, a partner at Bloomsbury Law, alleging that he had dishonestly sought to recover inflated costs for his work. The case was based on the report of a costs draftsman, which was later found to be inaccurate.

The SRA commenced its investigation against Ahmud in 2016, without first speaking to the key client witness. The regulator only interviewed that witness in January 2020; some four years later. In July 2020 the SRA abandoned its prosecution, conceding there was no case to answer, in light of information gathered in the interview with the key client. The trial was due to start a month later.

At a hearing in September last year, the SDT said the SRA had made a "series of grave errors", and that the case was "infected from the outset with a regrettable injudicious and peremptory lack of professional assiduousness". The tribunal concluded that the proceedings "should not have been brought in the first place," and ordered the SRA to make an interim payment of £40,000.

Ahmud subsequently sought to have his defence costs paid by the SRA, on an indemnity basis. The regulator initially resisted, arguing that the SDT did not have jurisdiction to make such a costs order; but eventually conceded after Ahmud launched an appeal to the High Court.

The SRA has now agreed to pay a total of £228,000 in legal costs to Ahmud, which is understood to be the highest sum paid in costs by the regulator, for a failed prosecution. 

"By bringing improper proceedings, the SRA caused me significant distress and wasted a great deal of the profession’s money," Ahmud told RollOnFriday. "Its lack of judgment was shown not just by its decision to launch baseless proceedings, but also by its offensive attempt to avoid paying any of my costs when it was forced to withdraw those proceedings." 

"At no stage has the SRA shown any insight into the distress and expense which it has caused or offered any apology for bringing an improper prosecution," said Ahmud. He added that he has filed a formal complaint against the SRA and its lawyers, Capsticks.

It is unusual for the SRA to have to pay costs for bringing a prosecution. At the hearing in September 2020, the SDT denied that its costs order against the regulator 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."

An SRA spokesman told RollOnFriday: “We always reflect on the cases we take forward so that we can learn from each one.”

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So slow 17 December 21 09:58

SRA are extraordinarily slow in dealing with cases. It becomes so much more difficult to investigate fairly and thoroughly years after the event. People’s memories fade. Evidence and data is lost or destroyed or more difficult to gather. Relevant witnesses move on or are reluctant to bring up history. The subjects of investigations can have their careers blighted while SRA plod on taking months on end to reply to emails like the very worse type of civil servants and bureaucrats. SRA really need a shake up.

Oh, but if a junior lawyer (or even better, trainee, or best of all, paralegal) working in a stressful and toxic environment makes a mistake and panics are tries to cover it up but with no real malice or victim, here come the SRA cavalry. Demanding swift justice and career ending action….

Buzzkill2 17 December 21 11:26

How is the SRA leadership surviving these daily reports of botched cases that should have never been brought?

The SRA leadership should resign, and hand over to someone who knows what they are doing and will protect public trust and confidence.

Touker 17 December 21 15:36

Further proof that the SRA should be defunded. The SRA are nothing more than a cadre of overpaid and underworked pencil pushers that enjoy frivolous lawsuits, especially against junior lawyers. Probably to compensate for their deficiencies.  

RonProbo 17 December 21 18:32

It's not just a bungle, it's professional misconduct.  Solicitors cannot make allegations of dishonesty without adequate supporting material.  Here, the SRA and its solicitors were alleging dishonesty when they had no evidence and had not even approached the key witness.  Any other solicitor who did that would be on the wrong end of a wasted costs order, a referral to the SRA and (probably) a prosecution in the SDT.

Do different rules when it is the SRA and its own solicitors which are making the allegation?  No.

Ranty Lawyer 17 December 21 21:00

I challenge you to manage your cases like the SRA or Capticks on this one....good luck!

Its a money making gravy train for Capticks, hopefully they will get removed from panel and instead a proper panel of firms. There is no real transparency on their costs or time spent in cases.

The SRA needs emergency reform, its bringing the profession into very serious disrepute, with numerous appalling cases in last few years. 

They couldn't even manage to conjure up a sorry 😐 !

SRA 18 December 21 07:34

Solicitor Ruination Association - “we will properly f&@@ you up”

An inept twisted group of failed lawyers with no grasp of the law or their own rules vindictively persecuting solicitors without good reason.  

Any advance on my proposed Wikipedia entry?  

Curtsey Ambrose 18 December 21 12:49

The SRA seem to have a thing for Asian Lawyers

They should get their house in order. Embarrassing

Paul 20 December 21 08:51

Most people don't have access to £228,000 to defend themselves (seems like an awful lot by the way?!).  What would happen to them?

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