A high-profile solicitor has lost a High Court dispute with the Solicitors Regulation Authority over its request for documents as part of an investigation into her firm. Soophia Khan, sole principal of Leicester firm Sophie Khan & Co, said she had complied with a notice to produce documents, related to two complaints, by dropping the files off in person at SRA headquarters in May 2019.
The SRA said the documents had not been received and pursued a claim against the firm. Following a one-day hearing in November in The Law Society of England and Wales (Solicitors Regulation Authority) v Sophie Khan & Co Ltd, Master Clark said Khan had either refused to answer questions or to engage with the questions asked of her. In some respects, her evidence was ‘not credible’.
The master said that, on the balance of probabilities, the delivery of the documents had not happened as Khan described. It followed that the SRA’s claim was successful.
The court heard that the SRA had received two separate complaints in 2017 about Khan’s professional conduct from former clients. The regulator has not reached any conclusions about the merits of these complaints, but sent a notice asking for certain files to be produced.
Khan said that she delivered the files to the Cube building in Birmingham, and had indicated this in a phone call two months later. She produced copies of train tickets showing she travelled from Leicester to Birmingham on the relevant date. Khan said she had handed over a covering letter addressed to the SRA investigator and four bundles of papers, and was told by the receptionist these would be passed on.
The court heard that Khan did not ask for a receipt and that the SRA's policy for delivery of documents was not observed.
Master Clark said Khan’s performance in the witness box ‘was not such as to give confidence in the reliability of her evidence, and certainly not to require its acceptance’.
She said Khan’s evidence would have required staff at the Cube to have ignored the deliveries policy, taken no steps to contact the SRA investigator, and to have left bulky confidential files sitting on the reception desk in a public area. Corroborating evidence relied on by Khan was described as ‘weak’ and the firm’s case ‘inherently unlikely’.
Khan, a solicitor since 2006, has served as chair of the Law Society’s civil justice committee and is a regular commentator on professional issues in the media and at conferences.