The Solicitors Regulation Authority’s decision to intervene in solicitor Soophia Khan’s Leicester practice was ‘fundamentally flawed’, the High Court heard today.
Khan is currently in prison after being found liable for contempt earlier this month for breaching two High Court orders requiring her to deliver up client files to the regulator. Marc Livingston of Janes Solicitors, who represented Khan in the committal proceedings, confirmed to the Gazette yesterday that an appeal has been filed at the Court of Appeal against the sentence of immediate imprisonment and is asking the court for the appeal to be heard as soon as possible.
Today, Sir Gerald Barling, sitting in the Rolls Building, began hearing an application by Khan for an order requiring the SRA to withdraw its intervention into Khan herself and her Leicester practice Sophie Khan & Co last August over suspicions of dishonesty and alleged rule breaches.
Barrister Mark James, for Khan, told the court that the decision to intervene was ‘fundamentally flawed and also disproportionate’, and that the intervention should be withdrawn.
James said Khan strongly objected to the regulator’s grounds for suspecting dishonesty. James told the court that the SRA’s grounds for suspecting dishonesty included a shortage on client account and the payment of a settlement cheque into the office account rather than the client account.
He said: ‘You’re left in the dark on aspects of the narrative not set out that give rise to suspecting dishonesty. You’re not even told what the shortage on client account is. What you would expect as a minimum from them in their reasoning is to identify that’s the figure, what’s happened to it. You have to dig around in the paperwork to find out what it is they're saying about this.’
He added: ‘What inference are they seeking to draw from the fact the settlement cheque was paid straight into the office account rather than the client account?… It’s very difficult to make head and tail of what is being said here.’
Khan was not present for today’s hearing. James told the court that his client had to spend the first 14 days of her prison sentence in isolation due to Covid rules.
The hearing continues.