SRA to pay Â£40,000 costs following failed prosecution
Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal described the regulator’s handling of the case as ‘lamentable’
The Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal (SDT) has made a costs order against the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) after the regulator was forced to withdraw a badly handled prosecution against a solicitor.
The interim payment of £40,000 is to be made prior to a full costs assessment. Jamil Ahmud, the solicitor at the heart of the prosecution and a partner at Bloomsbury Law, has claimed a total of £215,000 in costs.
The SRA accused Ahmud of dishonestly seeking to recover costs in a litigation but took three years to interview the effected client, and consequently failing to prove the allegations.
The case was originally opened after the regulator received a report from a costs draftsman about the litigation in questions. In October 2016 the SRA closed the case, informing Ahmud no further action was to be taken.
The SRA received a report from a costs draftsman about the costs Mr Ahmud had sought to recover on behalf of ‘client A’, on the basis that he may have been in breach of the indemnity principle; he had been criticised by a costs judge.
In February 2017 the regulator reopened the case but did not tell Ahmud for a year, referring the case to SDT in July 2018. Throughout this the SRA was relying on documentary evidence and had still not contacted the client.
Ahmud was unsuccessful in an attempt to have the case thrown out in September 2019. When the SRA did contact the client for an interview in January 2020, it found the clients evidence did not support the allegations and the SRA applied to have them withdrawn.
The SDT said the regulator had made “grave errors” in its handling of the case, and said it was “incumbent” on the SRA to take “reasonable investigatory actions” before submitting a case for prosecution.
Disputing the SRA’s claim that the costs order against would have a “chilling effect”, the SDT said: “All matters were infected from the outset with a regrettable injudicious and peremptory lack of professional assiduousness.
“Each of the failings identified was a serious matter and taken together the Tribunal was entirely satisfied that applicant had not acted reasonably in the way in which it had brought and pursued the proceedings.”