The Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal (SDT) has rejected three further applications to adjourn or dismiss the case of a former City solicitor on the day closing arguments were due.
The tribunal deliberated for just over two hours yesterday after hearing representations from Jonathan Cohen QC, counsel for Alexis Maitland Hudson, that his client had not been granted a fair trial. Applications were also made for an indefinite adjournment of the case - which has now run into its fourth month after being scheduled to run for three weeks - and for a delay to allow for possible judicial review.
Maitland Hudson, admitted in 1975 and former owner of the now dissolved Maitland Hudson & Co, denies charges of acting where there was a conflict of interest and of misleading the regulator.
Earlier this month, a similar plea for adjournment was rejected by the tribunal which said Maitland Hudson had until 16 April to decide whether or not to make a closing speech. The Solicitors Regulation Authority offered to pay Maitland Hudson £7,500 to fund counsel.
The tribunal heard that Cohen, from Littleton Chambers, had been paid for by Maitland Hudson’s wife.
Cohen told the tribunal that the case should be dismissed for ‘abuse of process’, indefinitely adjourned to allow for Maitland Hudson’s health to improve, or suspended to allow Maitland Hudson to judicially review the decision not to dismiss.
Maitland Hudson was admitted to hospital on 31 January and had since been unable to attend proceedings. The tribunal heard that three medical experts had certified that Maitland Hudson was not fit to appear as a litigant in person
Cohen said it would be ‘rare and exceptional’ for a court to continue a case where a litigant is not voluntarily absent but absent by virtue of ill-health. He added that sufficient adjustments had not been made to ensure a fair trial. Referencing the Equal Treatment Bench Book, which aims to increase understanding of the different circumstances of people appearing courts and tribunals, Cohen said: ‘I understand there were signs that my client was struggling – including becoming tearful and emotional. This is not a criticism of the tribunal but there is guidance available about adjustments that can be made.’
‘There is only one solution for lack of fair trial and that is to dismiss,’ he added.
For the SRA, Ed Levey Fountain Court Chambers said the regulator had been ‘ambushed’ with ‘yet another attempt to delay proceedings’. He said he was only aware of two applications to dismiss the case and to allow for a possible judicial review, and not of the ‘third attempt’ to adjourn proceedings which was presented only 10 minutes before yesterday’s hearing took place.
Levey added: 'The applications are the last in a long line of attempts to derail this case. The final torpedo is to try and dismiss these allegtaions yet again.’ Levey added that Maitland Hudson would be entitled to challenge the tribunal’s ruling after it is published.
The tribunal is expected to reconvene on Friday.