The former legal director of Stobart Barristers – who once described traditional legal aid firms as ‘wounded animals waiting to die’ – has confirmed his new firm will tender for legal aid contracts with backing from external investors.
Trevor Howarth (pictured) revealed to the Gazette that he left Stobart in April to concentrate on One Legal, which he jointly founded last year with employment barrister Tim Edge.
The firm, which has an alternative business structure licence from the Solicitors Regulation Authority and is entirely separate from Stobart Barristers, employs 10 people from its base in Manchester.
Howarth said a recruitment drive will continue throughout the coming months as his firm grows. The firm will practise in several sectors and intends to apply for a legal aid contract.
‘It’s a unique situation in terms of an ABS out there without legacy debt, and it’s certainly my focus now to drive capital investment into the business and accelerate quickly,’ he said. He plans to ‘focus on IT and an infrastructure to properly deal with video hearings at courts and police stations’. This will ‘move the supply of criminal legal aid into the next generation’, he said.
Howarth said he is confident he can create a profitable business that will attract potential investors.
He was speaking after a threat of contempt proceedings against him was lifted by the Court of Appeal, rulling in Tinkler & Howarth v Elliott.
Howarth and Stobart Group chief executive Andrew Tinkler had appealed against the decision of HHJ Pelling in the High Court last April to allow litigant in person Peter Elliott to bring seven proposed contempt allegations against them.
Pelling had ruled there was a prima facie case for a civil trial over witness statements that persuaded a judge to grant a previous injunction against Elliott.
Lady Justice Gloster, sitting in the Court of Appeal last Wednesday, said Pelling had ‘failed to apply the test for bringing contempt proceedings to the facts of the case’.
She added it was ‘hard to see how Mr Elliott could possibly be regarded as an appropriate person to bring public interest proceedings’ and upheld Tinkler’s appeal.
In his submission, Elliott argued Pelling’s decision should be upheld as he had a ‘comprehensive grasp’ of the entirety of proceedings. Elliott cited that on many occasions the judge had found against him, giving this decision greater credibility.