Law Society vindicated by Court of Appeal

The Law Society has won a Court of Appeal victory vindicating its decision to intervene into the practice of a sole practitioner.

Lord Justices Chadwick, Tuckey and Moore-Bick this morning (23 November) handed down judgment in favour of the society, overturning the August 2005 decision of Mr Justice Park.

The decision means that a Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal hearing into allegations of breaches of the Solicitors Account Rules and suspected dishonesty by sole practitioner Anal Sheikh can now go ahead.

Last year Park J found that the society should not have intervened into Sheikh’s firm and ordered that it should pay £135,000 in costs.

However, at appeal the Law Society Regulation Board argued that Park J’s decision was wrong on the facts and on points of principle. It said that if the appeal was successful it would not ask for Sheikh to pay costs, and also agreed that it would not re-intervene into the practice.

The court ruled on points of principle including whether a solicitor’s conduct after an intervention can be relevant to a decision whether or not to overturn it, and the judge’s ability to take into account the wider circumstances, such as the solicitor’s complaints history, in making a risk-based judgment as to whether the solicitor can safely be re-instated in practice.

Law Society Regulation Board chief executive Antony Townsend said: “Intervention is an important power for the protection of clients and the public in knowing that decisive regulatory action can be taken urgently. It is a power that must be, and clearly has been, exercised carefully and fairly. Regular contested cases in the courts provide an important check on the power, which we welcome.”

The Law Society instructed Russell-Cooke, instructing Timothy Dutton QC of Fountain Court Chambers for the appeal.