Election fraudster Lutfur Rahman, former mayor of the London borough of Tower Hamlets, will face the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal this week after a last-ditch attempt to adjourn a hearing was rejected.
A three-person SDT panel said this morning that family solicitor Rahman’s claim that he was unable to represent himself should not be taken into account. The panel also rejected Rahman’s plea to take note of the fact that he had applied to amend a judicial review of his conviction.
In 2015, an election court found Rahman guilty of illegal and corrupt practices. After the ruling, Election Commissioner Richard Mawrey QC ordered Rahman to vacate his mayoral post immediately and he was banned from holding office for five years. The breaches of election rules related to his campaign for his re-election in 2014.
In August 2015, the Solicitors Regulation Authority 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.
As today’s four-day hearing began it emerged that Rahman had filed his application to adjourn proceedings on Friday, December 15.
Rahman, who is not a practising solicitor, claimed he was not in a position to secure funding for representation and that he could not represent himself as he was ‘not experienced in disciplinary matters’.
Ed Levey, counsel for the SRA and a member of Fountain Court Chambers, told the tribunal that Rahman has ‘eight years’ experience as a practising solicitor and that it was fairly common for respondents to represent themselves before the SDT. ‘It is not right to suggest that he [Rahman] has no experience,’ he added. Levey noted that the application was submitted ‘very late’ and that Rahman had provided ‘no evidence of looking to secure representation’.
Rahman’s application for judicial review was granted in part in June though Levey said there was ‘no evidence of any papers being filed in the court that suggested he wanted to amend his application’.
He added: ‘This is not the first time he has tried to secure an adjournment. This is a matter of public interest that has been reported in the press and it is in the interests of the profession that these allegations go ahead.’
In his application Rahman also asked that, should the allegations be proven, any sanction does not exceed the time limit from which he has been suspended from running for office.
Rahman, who denies the SRA's charges, has until 1.30pm today to respond to the SDT’s decision and decide whether or not to attend the hearing.