The Solicitors Regulation Authority has been urged to review prosecution procedures after wrongly accusing a solicitor of forging signatures.
The Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal threw out the case against Mohammed Ali Khan without hearing his defence and ordered the SRA to pay his costs of £5,000.
The immigration case worker had been a fee-earner at Yorkshire firm Kher Solicitors and was reported to the SRA by the firm’s principal, Satpal Roth, who alleged her signature had been forged. He was sacked in November 2013 following a meeting in which Roth claimed Khan had admitted forging a signature.
But at the SDT hearing in July, both Roth and a colleague admitted under cross-examination that notes from that meeting were unclear and that they had no hard evidence of wrongdoing.
Matthew Rowley of Yorkshire firm Harrowells Solicitors, who represented Khan, said his client’s reputation had been ‘severely tarnished’ and he was ‘devastated professionally and financially’.
‘This case was ill-conceived with no independent investigation by the SRA, which relied on a prejudiced “investigation” by Mr Khan’s employer,’ said Rowley.
‘From the outset they failed to consider his denials, or the lack of and inconsistency in evidence against him. This is a worrying example of the SRA exercising its regulatory power in a high-handed, draconian and inefficient manner with a complete disregard to the evidence.’
The tribunal said Khan, who is now a law lecturer, had no case to answer and dismissed the SRA application.
The SRA, the tribunal noted, had not reviewed the evidence on receipt of Khan’s defence, which could have prevented matters proceeding to a hearing.
An SRA spokesman told the Gazette that all matters referred to the SDT have to pass an evidential and public interest test.
He added: ‘The SRA’s case against Mr Khan had been certified by the tribunal as showing a case to answer. At the final hearing, having heard oral evidence from witnesses and cross-examination of it, the tribunal concluded the case should not now be allowed to proceed. It was in the public interest to bring the proceedings and have the evidence aired and tested.’