The Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal has called into question the cost of the Solicitors Regulation Authority’s (SRA) case against disgraced former Tower Hamlets mayor Lutfur Rahman.
The ex-mayor was struck off last month and costs of £86,400 imposed. However, the full judgment, published yesterday, shows the SRA had initially proposed costs of £110,906.
At the end of the two and-a-half day hearing the regulator reduced its costs to £99,420 to take account of the fact that the case did not last for the full four days for which it was scheduled.
The SRA’s case was prepared by Edward Levey, of Fountain Court Chambers, and solicitor advocate Jonathan Goodwin. According to the judgment, Levey claimed two briefing fees, one for a hearing in March 2017 which was adjourned, and one for last month’s substantive hearing.
Levey said the brief fee for the substantive hearing had in fact decreased from the March fee as his level of preparation had been less. Had Levey not been instructed for the December hearing, Goodwin’s fee would have increased as he would have needed to prepare for the hearing. The fact there had been an adjournment also added to the costs, the SRA said.
However, according to the SDT, the fees should be reduced as ‘the level of preparation [for the December 2017 hearing] would have been considerably less, given previous preparation and the fact that it was a document heavy case’. The tribunal added that it was not convinced that Goodwin, who had conducted case management hearings, needed to be present throughout the final hearing.
The tribunal subsequently reduced Levey’s fees from £29,255 plus VAT to £22,000 plus VAT. Goodwin’s fees were cut from £53,597 plus VAT to £50,000 plus VAT.
Rahman, who had claimed bankruptcy, was ordered to pay total costs of £86,4000 (£72,000 plus VAT).
Rahman, a family law specialist and solicitor of 20 years, was ordered to vacate his position of mayor in 2015 after an election court found him guilty of illegal and corrupt practices. The SRA subsequently charged Rahman with failing to uphold the rule of law and administration of justice, failing to act with integrity and failing to behave in a way that maintains the trust the public places in him and in the provision of legal services.
The tribunal found Rahman liable on all counts. In judgment the SDT added that it was well known that Rahman was a solicitor and that his actions would have had a ’significant detrimental impact on the reputation of the profession’.