The former boss of defunct personal injury firm Asons had tried to ‘manage the unmanageable’ and his breaches warranted a lengthy suspension, the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal’s full judgment has revealed.
The SDT has published its full judgment on Kamran Akram, the former principal solicitor at Bolton-based Asons Solicitors. In May, the Gazette reported that Akram had been suspended for 18 months.
Only one of the eight allegations brought by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) was proved in full – that between late 2013 and early 2015 Akram caused or permitted the firm to act in circumstances giving rise to a conflict of interest between the firm and its clients.
On this, the tribunal said Akram had an ethical duty to be completely transparent with clients but failed in that duty.
Although recklessness was proved in regard to the above allegation, the 40-year-old was cleared of dishonesty in all charges where it was alleged.
The tribunal found Akram had failed to manage his practice effectively by allowing bills for costs to be presented that misrepresented the grade of the relevant fee earner. The tribunal accepted that Akram was not aware of the practice but that he had placed ‘far too much trust’ in the relevent head of department.
The tribunal said there was no evidence that Akram was aware that false claims for special damages were being submitted but that it was ‘abundantly obvious’ that claims for special damages arising out of a court case in Nottingham were false. It questioned why no-one had been disciplined when this came to light.
In mitigation, the SDT heard that Akram had been ‘wholly contrite’, was ‘ashamed to be before the tribunal’ and that he had been ‘brought to his knees and was a broken man’. It noted that no client money was lost and that dishonesty had not been proven. However, the tribunal added: ‘Over grading and false claims for special damages put clients at risk. The misconduct generated complaints from other members of profession and a district judge.’
Imposing the suspension the tribunal said it needed to be lengthy enough for Akram to reflect on his conduct. However, the SDT said it should be up to the SRA to determine any future restriction on Akram’s practice once the suspension has been served.
Asons was previously granted £300,000 from Bolton Council to boost local employment opportunities – a move which generated anger due it being passed without council scrutiny. A subsequent audit found that, although the grant was legal, there was ‘no rationale’ for rushing it through under the council’s emergency powers.