SRA Right to Intervene | SRA Lawyer

Jeremy Barnett recently appeared in a rare High Court appeal against an intervention order that had been imposed by an SRA Adjudication Panel.

Jeremy Barnett recently appeared in a rare High Court appeal against an intervention order that had been imposed by an SRA Adjudication Panel.

The Law Society Gazette 13th May 2015 reported that the SRA were right to intervene in a case where it was said that the Solicitor had ‘lost his ethical compass’.

A full report of the decision of Newey J available on the LSG page. The Judge reveiwed the main authorities – Bryant v Law Society v Bultitude and Sheikh v Law Society.

The Judge accepted that the test was that the court should look for clear and cogent evidence of dishonesty if the intervention was to be upheld.

Chosing his ground wisely, Mr Jeremy Barnett, who appeared for Mr Elsdon and Sai Donne, did not maintain that there was no scope for criticism of Mr Elsdon. He argued however that the evidence did not justify intervention. At most the evidence could warrant disciplinary proceedings. There is, submitted Mr Barnett, no clear and cogent evidence of dishonesty.’

The Judge concluded however that the allegations were so serious that intervention was necessary to protect clients and the public interest, justifying what was described in the case of Sheikh as ‘the potentially catastrophic consequences of intervention to the solicitor ( and the inconvenience and perhaps real harm, to his or her existing clients) if the intervention continues’.

This decision demonstrates the difficulties that practitioners face following intervention proceedings by the SRA. Proceedings tend to undertaken with great speed, leaving the solicitor with little time to present a reasoned and persuasive argument against action. Once the intervention is approved by the adjudication panel, an intervening firm is appointed immediately, freezing the firm’s bank accounts and depriving the solicitor of his or her income.

What is also seen as being unfair in many quarters, is the rule that permits the SRA to continue its investigation after the intervention has been approved, thus presenting new evidence before the High Court that was not present at the initial hearing. The costs of intervention and of course, the continued preparation of the High Court Appeal can prove prohibitive, thus explaining why there are so few reported decisions where interventions have been contested.

Jeremy, acting with Ian Coupland of Lewis Nedas solicitors, has experience of successfully persuading the SRA not to intervene in a case where there were concerns surrounding protection of investors’ funds. Steps were taken to ensure that monies were ring fenced, allowing the firm to continue to practise where there were no concerns around the bulk of the firm’s undertaking.

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Jeremy Barnett

Jeremy Barnett

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