A former solicitor who tried to argue that her striking off was based on an unreliable account from a witness who made racist remarks has failed in her High Court challenge.
Lady Justice Simler and Mr Justice Picken, sitting in Martin v Solicitors Regulation Authority, said there was no reason to overturn the SDT finding that Vidal Martin had procured a cheque for £4,700 and made it payable to herself. It followed that the decision to strike off Martin and order her to pay £47,000 should stand.
Martin, who practised at Essex firm Bright and Sons, had submitted that the tribunal overlooked doubts about the credibility of crucial evidence from Ms X, who was alleged to have been asked by her to write the cheque in January 2011. These doubts included what was described in court as Ms X’s 'racist attitude' towards Martin.
But the court said the tribunal’s decision was 'rationally explained' and formed based on the totality of evidence before it. The appeal, it was found, amounted to an argument that was run and addressed already by the tribunal.
Judges found that Ms X’s 'undoubtedly racist' remarks recorded in telephone conversations had been taken into account by the tribunal. In any case, the court said the statement of Ms X was not the only evidence relied upon by the tribunal.
It was Martin’s case that she had no knowledge of the cheque until confronted with it six years later. To be plausible, the court said, that required the tribunal to accept that it was written, paid into her account, and the money spent soon after without her knowledge.
Judges said: 'It seems to us that the tribunal was entitled to consider it inconceivable that anyone at the firm would invite Ms X to write a cheque payable to Ms Martin and then pay it into her personal account, whether with her knowledge or direction, but even less likely without it.'
The court acknowledged that 'regrettably' little or nothing had been done to advance the investigation over four and a half months, but this did not render the proceedings unfair. The tribunal was found entitled to reject Martin’s evidence as lacking in credibility and to find that her account was 'contrived to obscure her own conduct'.