The Solicitors Regulation Authority has confirmed it will prosecute a lawyer at the centre of the press phone hacking investigation over claims he directed surveillance of rival parties.

The authority said Julian Charles Pike, a partner and head of reputation management at London firm Farrer & Co, has a case to answer.

Pike advised News of the World publisher News International on libel and privacy cases until October 2011 and acted for his client while the company was accused of phone hacking. He was subsequently a witness at the Leveson Inquiry into the conduct of the press.

Mark Lewis, a lawyer acting for phone hacking victims, said in 2011 he planned to report Pike, to the SRA for allegedly suggesting that he and a woman lawyer should be put under surveillance to try to demonstrate that they were an ‘item’.

The SRA notice, published earlier this month, states that in the course of advising his client on the defence of civil proceedings around March 2010, Pike allegedly ‘gave advice to the effect that his client should undertake or commission surveillance of a solicitor and employed barrister acting for the claimants to civil proceedings brought or anticipated against his client’. This was done ‘without proper justification’, the SRA alleged.

The charge continues that in May 2010 Pike commissioned a private investigator to probe the activities of a solicitor and employed barrister acting in proceedings expected against his client.

The SRA states that the allegations are subject to a hearing before the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal and are as yet unproven. The Gazette has approached Farrer & Co for comment.