The Solicitors Regulation Authority has defended its decision to grant an alternative business structure licence to a company owned by Trevor Howarth, the legal director of Stobart Barristers, who faces a possible trial for contempt of court.
The SRA last week licensed One Legal, a company set up in September 2012 and owned equally by Howarth and employment barrister Tim Edge of Deans Court Chambers in Manchester.
An SRA spokesman confirmed that Howarth had passed its suitability test for those working in the profession.
The Stobart Group logistics business already has an insurance brokerage arm and a claims management arm, as well as Stobart Barristers – a company that charges a fee to put members of the public in touch with a public access barrister.
Howarth said One Legal is the ‘final piece in the jigsaw to offer a one-stop shop’. He would not be drawn on his plans for the ABS or on whether he would seek to enter the criminal defence market. But he said: ‘Now, having the positive response from the SRA, we’re looking at developing it very quickly.’
The SRA’s register of ABSs lists Edge as the head of legal practice and Andrew Whaling as the head of finance and administration.
The company is licensed to undertake rights of audience, conduct litigation, and to carry out reserved instrument activities, probate activities and the administration of oaths.
Howarth, together with the chief executive of Stobart Group Andrew Tinkler, face a possible civil trial for contempt of court, arising from allegations, which they deny, that they lied in an attempt to silence claims by Peter Elliott, a former contractor at an aviation company owned by Tinkler.
Elliott was sentenced to three months in prison in June 2009 after breaching an injunction. He has since sought to challenge the conviction.
In April, in the High Court, Mr Justice Pelling ruled that there was a prima facie case to send seven allegations to a civil trial for contempt. Howarth and Tinkler have appealed that decision.