A solicitor who alleges he was harassed by the Solicitors Regulation Authority is bringing unprecedented proceedings against the regulator through the employment tribunal.
Naim Lone, from south-west London, has issued proceedings against the SRA and five of its members – including chief executive Paul Philip – alleging discrimination, victimisation and harassment over almost four years. This followed an SRA investigation of allegations by another solicitor.
Lone went to the employment tribunal following the Supreme Court’s 2017 decision in Michalak v General Medical Council, which ruled that discrimination claims by professionals against their regulators can be brought in the ET. The SRA intervened as an interested party in Michalak and this is believed to be the first Michalak-style claim it has faced.
In particulars of claim seen by the Gazette, Lone, who is of Pakistani origin, alleges that the SRA has demonstrated ‘deep, entrenched racism’ in the way he has been treated, particularly in comparison with white individuals involved in the investigation whose accounts have been ‘taken at face value’. Lone claims the SRA has been ‘grossly negligent’ in its duty to investigate others who he alleges have committed misconduct. He also says the SRA has made ‘bogus’ visits to his premises and harassed him by threatening referral to the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal over late payment of a practising certificate fee.
At a preliminary hearing in December, Lone resisted attempts by the SRA to strike out his claims and to remove five defendants from the proceedings.
Lone says he has been a solicitor since 1996 and every year has been granted an unconditional practising certificate. He adds that the SRA has not dropped its investigation into him but is now misappropriating members’ funds defending its own wrongdoing.
Lone claims to have acted throughout with the ‘utmost integrity’, while the SRA’s conduct ‘has fallen well short of the standard of behaviour expected’.
The SRA said it will not comment on an ongoing case. The next hearing is this month at the Employment Tribunal Midlands West.