Failure to deal swiftly with suspect credentials harms the profession’s reputation.

Like an alarm clock that gets louder till a deep sleeper awakes, the noise around solicitor-advocate ‘Lord Harley’ (Alan Blacker) steadily increased after his colourful behaviour first came to public attention in August 2014. Wearing a ‘medal’ in court in South Wales was, the judge remarked, ‘the height of vulgarity’.

Each new development has been arresting, bordering on surreal – claims of judicial snobbery and bias, a JCIO inquiry, the SDT charge sheet (accounting mis-steps, bogus claims about academic qualifications), legal threats against the SDT and last week’s strike-off. And, of course, the ‘Harry Potter’ barb. 

Tribunal chair Paul Housego congratulated the SRA on a job well done following what was a ‘plainly rather difficult case’. Perhaps £86,000 in costs represents good value for a 19-month soap opera. But consider that a single piece of dishonesty – the false claim of a University of Oxford qualification – could have been established with reference to lists that are in the public domain, and the response looks tardy.

There are echoes here of the pantomime that surrounded efforts to ascertain the credentials of Giovanni di Stefano (remember him? Jailed for fraud in 2013). As with Blacker, the legal system got the right answer in the end, but failure to deal swiftly with suspect lawyer credentials surely harmed the profession’s reputation for longer than it needed to.