SIF under fire for failing to settle claim for £1,000

THE SOLICITORS Indemnity Fund (SIF) has been attacked for dragging its heels over a £1,000 claim against a criminally convicted solicitor which was filed two years ago.

Graham Balchin, head of professional negligence at Bolt Burdon, the Islington firm representing Nigerian immigrant Henry Adelana, said Adelana's costs already “significantly exceeded” the value of his claim and said it “must be likely” that the same could be said for SIF.

Adelana's claim dates back to 1995 when he began attempts to retrieve £1,000, allegedly given to solicitor Hemamali Graham in 1991 as a bail surety while he was awaiting an immigration hearing.

Balchin said SIF was first notified about the claim in October 1995 when Adelana was instructing another firm. Bolt Burdon took over the case in February this year and continued to correspond with SIF in search of a settlement.

“Notwithstanding the clear-cut nature of this claim, it wasn't settled and we were instructed to issue a writ by an extremely frustrated Mr Adelana,” said Balchin. He expressed surprise at SIF's decision to challenge his client's claim against Graham, who faces being struck off the Solicitors' Roll following her conviction in 1994 for obtaining property by deception.

According to Balchin, a large number of similar claims have already been successfully made against Graham's firm, the now defunct Graham Peries & Co of Dalston, north London.

He said Bolt Burdon had received more than £300,000 in damages and substantial costs on behalf of a number of former clients of the firm.

The case was symptomatic of SIF's unwillingness to settle any claim, said Balchin. His firm recommended clients issue proceedings immediately.

George Raubenheimer, deputy head of SIF's claims settlement unit, said: “While it is not our policy to comment on current claims, this case is unusual and far from clear cut. We are aware of Mr Adelana's complaint and currently negotiating a settlement through our panel.

See Opinion, p22