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SDT abuse decision overturned | SRA lawyer

SDT abuse decision overturned | SRA lawyer

In a High Court Decision published today, the SRA were roundly criticised in the manner of the presentation of their case before the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal. However, the decision to stay the case was overturned by Mrs Justice Thirwall DBE, who remitted part of the case back to be heard by a new tribunal.

In Solitiors Regulation Authority v Kulwant Singh Manak and Rajbinder Kaur Dhillon, an appeal by the SRA was allowed against the decision of the SDT to dismiss as an abuse of process cases brought against five solicitors. The tribunal was not satisfied that any of the Respondents were able to understand the case that had been brought. The pleadings were difficult to follow, attempts at clarification were unsuccessful and as a result the case was incoherant. A fair trial was not possible and to continue with it would be an abuse of process.

The SRA appealed against the decision in two of the cases, but decided that it was not in the public interest to continue the proceedings against R3, R4 and R5, so those cases remain struck out on the grounds that there was an abuse of process.

It was clear from the decision of the tribunal, that the panel was concerned about more than just the pleadings, but also 'extended back into the approach to collecting evidence and apparently missing crucial evidence which was in the hands of the CPS and which cast doubt on the safety of relying on evidence in the case generally.'

The Judge had a great deal of sympathy with the Tribunal, saying that 

'Having read all the pleadings, transcripts, the submissions, evidence and exhibits, I understand the tribunal's exasperation which of the poor presentation of the case'

and considered the decision in Thaker v Solicitors Regulation Authority [2011]EWHC 660 (Admin)  where Jackson LJ set out the rules for service of a Rule 4 statement that does not require the reader to burrow through hundreds of pages of annexes to piece together what acts are being alleged.

However, the decision made it clear that the case was possible to follow from a close examination of the pleadings, and so the finding of abuse of process was set aside. It does however, represent a warning shot across the bows of the SRA, that this complex type of case has to be prepared in a professional and comprehensible manner.

For any advice and assistance for issues like these please do call Jeremy on 0844 2722322 or submit a comment below. Jeremy will come back to you at the earliest convenience.

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