Solicitor was rightly struck off, but the nature and weight of the case seems disproportionate.
Alan Blacker is the name that launched a thousand clicks. For newspaper editors searching for online hits, he is the gift that keeps on giving – reaching a public awareness completely out of sync with his status as a sole practitioner from Rochdale.
His notoriety can be traced back to two words: Harry Potter. Once a judge described him in those terms it was open season for the media (national and legal) to write about him at all opportunities.
Everyone seems to have an opinion on Blacker: for some he is an eccentric but harmless character; for others he brings the profession into disrepute.
The moment he was lambasted for his style by a Crown court judge catapulted him to people’s attention, but more importantly it set in motion matters which culminated in him being struck off this week.
He might never have been hauled up before the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal this week if that judge had not taken him to task so publicly.
Suddenly, Blacker was on the SRA’s radar and his remarkable – and as it turns out fanciful – claims on social media were examined.
I have spoken to Blacker on a couple of occasions and found him courteous and switched on.
What worries me is the process by which this process came to pass and the resources expended in prosecuting this case.
For a start, why was the SRA not aware of Blacker and his qualification and accreditation claims before?
The regulator cannot be expected to pick up every white lie about degree marks, but these claims were so incredible as to have raised suspicion.
As it was, the SRA needed the glare of publicity before it seemed to act – something which gave rise to suggestions of a witch-hunt.
I sat in on this week’s hearing and was surprised at the sheer volume of work put into the case. The final costs bill of £86,000 was staggering – especially when you consider the profession may end up footing it.
Blacker’s case was surely easy to prosecute – one finding of dishonesty would have sufficed to secure the same result. Would it really have cost thousands of pounds to make a quick call to Oxford to verify his claim? Was it really necessary to have a two-day hearing and instruct counsel (albeit one who did a very decent job)?
Last week, the regulator managed to agree that a City solicitor could remove himself from the roll after being exposed as lying on his CV. The cost? £1,872.
Blacker was a nuisance, sure, but at its heart this was a simple prosecution around proving dishonesty. It could have been done at a fraction of the price.
It feels like the SRA has been caught up in the Blacker hype and grandstanded. Blacker is rightly removed, but questions remain about how the regulator went after him.