A former senior partner and her solicitor colleague have been banned after dozens of claims were struck out and lies told to cover mistakes.
Safina Bibi Shah and Shamilla Hanif, from Lancashire firm Isaac Abrahams Solicitors, were struck off after the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal found dozens of noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL) claims had been mishandled and discontinued.
The tribunal found Shah, the senior partner, oversaw ‘systematic failures’ in a ‘chaotic regime’ which resulted in claims being struck out, and in attempting a cover-up made false and/or misleading statements to the court.
The 44-year-old’s firm was instructed on more than 60 claims transferred to Bolton County Court to be case-managed by district judge Swindley because of procedural issues. DJ Swindley struck them out, finding claims were posted after the last day of service and noting it was ‘clear that the fee earners were not being supervised and monitored’. He stated that three years after opening 35 NIHL claims, the firm had still not obtained medical evidence, adding that such practices were ‘completely unacceptable’.
The tribunal heard Shah made a misleading statement to defendant firm DAC Beachcroft saying a client had not been served a document, although she was cleared of dishonesty or recklessness on this matter.
On another occasion, she told the court a delayed report was down to experts providing documents late. This time she was found to have acted dishonestly, as she had knowingly written a letter that was misleading and false to create a false impression to the court.
Shah was also found to have failed to prevent Hanif from contradicting a client’s factual instructions in a typed statement of truth, in a matter in which Hanif was acting for the client.
The tribunal heard the client had handwritten that she was provided with protection but could not wear it. Her typed response ended up as ‘the claimant cannot recall being provided with hearing protection’. Various other responses were altered, and Shah was found to have failed in her management of the matter.
Hanif, 35, admitted in full an allegation, including dishonesty, of misleading her opponent in litigation by signing the statement of truth. In mitigation, Hanif said she was working in a stressful office environment where it was difficult to maintain high standards.
The tribunal struck off both solicitors and ordered costs from Shah and Hanif of £50,000 and £25,000 respectively.