High Court backs SRA intervention over struck-off ‘partner’
Topics: Regulation and compliance
The Solicitors Regulation Authority was right to intervene into a practice which allowed a struck-off solicitor to undertake a management role, the High Court has ruled.
His Honour Judge Behrens said it was no longer in the public interest for east London sole practitioner Rajeswary Ramasamy to continue in practice.
The court heard Ramasamy was subject to SRA intervention in June 2015 after the regulator found reason to suspect dishonesty.
She applied to have the intervention set aside on the grounds that allegations were either dropped or based on unclear evidence, or were not sufficiently serious to justify such disciplinary action.
But in Rajeswary Ramasamy v The Law Society, the court ruled Ramasamy had been dishonest over the involvement of Rajesh Singh Pathania, who had been struck off in September 2010 but who became a client of the firm in March 2011.
The court heard the SRA alleged Pathania was allowed to participate in the management of Ramasamy’s firm, was given access to the email account of the firm’s administrative assistant, and was aided and abetted by Ramasamy to conduct litigation.
She was also alleged to have sought to claim VAT when there was no entitlement to do so.
Ramasamy was investigated three times by the SRA between 2012 and 2015, with the third inquiry resulting in intervention.
The SRA (acting under the formal banner of the Law Society) said Pathania had acted in court under a different name for claimants he had introduced to the firm. Ramasamy later emailed a bill for £600 for attendance in court.
Ramasamy denied instructing anyone from her firm to attend the hearing and said that even if Pathania had attended, it was without her knowledge.
Behrens said the more likely explanation was that Pathania did attend the hearing on behalf of the firm, that Ramasamy was aware of this and that this gave good reason to suspect dishonesty on her part. Even if no one had been instructed, the sending of the email was ‘manifestly dishonest’ as there was no basis to charge.
Ramasamy repeatedly denied giving Pathania access to an email account, although in court her lawyers said that stance had changed.
The SRA said the evidence showed ‘extensive use’ of the employee account which continued up to May 2015. Behrens said Ramasamy’s emphatic denials were dishonest.
The court also found good evidence to believe Pathania was involved in management roles and had been performing prohibited services on the firm’s behalf since 2011.
Behrens ruled that the intervention should stand, or else there was a risk that Ramasamy would ‘resume her quasi-partnership/professional relationship with [Mr Pathania], such that the latter would once again have a front through which to service his friends/putative clients’.