A solicitor advocate who misled a judge into thinking she was appearing in court as instructed counsel rather than acting for a client has been struck off the roll.
Bina Maistry, then a partner at London firm ABM Solicitors, was found to have done nothing to dispel the judge’s idea that she appeared at a hearing in August 2015 as counsel.
The Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal heard that Maistry, representing a defendant in a family matter, arrived late for the hearing and the court had to be persuaded to reopen proceedings after initially threatening her client with a wasted costs order.
Maistry, 45 this year, stated she had been instructed in the case, implied that someone had prepared a bundle for her, and failed to correct the judge when she was referred to as counsel.
The judge even appeared to apologise to Maistry for the position in which she found herself, saying it was ‘one of the functions of counsel’.
In his ruling on the case the judge stated that Maistry had put herself forward as an independent advocate. Maistry herself wrote to the Solicitors Regulation Authority in April 2017 accepting that she had allowed her concerns about the costs order to ‘cloud my sensible judgement’.
Maistry told the tribunal that she was very nervous when she entered court and knew it was unprofessional for her to have arrived late. She thought the judge would have read a slip that she handed to the usher and would have known she was a solicitor advocate.
Maistry denied perpetuating the judge’s misapprehension and stated she had been given little time to speak. Maistry accepted she should have done things differently, but her error had been an omission and there was no evidence that the judge had complained to the SRA.
The tribunal found she had acted dishonestly during the course of the hearing.
The tribunal further heard that Maistry gave the impression in an email to her opponent that she did not know about the case until the day before the hearing: it later transpired she had supervised a colleague on the case earlier in the month.
The SRA also alleged that Maistry attempted to mislead it until February 2017, sending a set of attendance notes that she had drafted but which, on the face of them, a junior fee earner had drafted. These notes recorded supervision by another member of staff which had not taken place.
Maistry denied dishonesty with regard to the attendance notes, but the tribunal found they were evidence of her blaming someone else for her own shortcomings, and were an attempt to mislead the SRA.
The tribunal concluded that Maistry was ‘not credible, that she had a pre-disposition to not tell the truth, she would seek to blame others for errors and she would try to put a gloss on situations that caused her difficulty’.
It was concluded she could not be trusted and she should be struck off the roll. She was also ordered to pay £4,500 costs.