The Solicitors Regulation Authority was in court last week answering a claim that it breached confidence by sending private documents belonging to a City solicitor to a person with whom he was engaged in litigation.
Solicitor Alexis Maitland Hudson accuses the SRA of failing to exercise reasonable care to preserve confidential information and being in breach of its duties. He is claiming £75,000 in damages.
The documents were sent to Peter Dempsey, who was a member of the now dissolved Maitland Hudson firm from 2009 until 2013.
In 2013, Dempsey himself sent the documents to the SRA. They took the form of two hard disk drives and two lever-arch files of hard copy documents that belonged to the firm.
But in 2014, the SRA, at the request of Dempsey and his solicitors, sent the documents back to Dempsey to assist him in private litigation with Maitland Hudson. Dempsey denies Maitland Hudson’s allegations against him, stating that with one exception they had been withdrawn.
In a complaint against the SRA, Maitland Hudson claimed the ‘confidential and privileged nature of much of the confidential information would have been obvious to any reader and particularly so the SRA’.
The regulator applied for summary judgment but judgment was reserved by chief master Matthew Marsh.
During the hearing, Ed Levey, a barrister at Fountain Court Chambers representing the SRA, said the case was ‘not real-world litigation’ and that it had no reasonable prospect of success. Although the SRA handed over the documents, said Levey, it cannot be held responsible for what was done with them.
A separate Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal hearing into Maitland Hudson is ongoing. He denies the charges.