An immigration lawyer who was charged with contempt of court after his evidence was found to be ‘untruthful’ has been struck off by the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal.
Benny Thomas, a former senior partner at London firm Consilium Chambers, which was closed down in September 2013, was found to have lied to the Legal Ombudsman, the High Court and to the disciplinary tribunal.
The case was referred to the Solicitors Regulation Authority in 2013 by then president of the Queen’s Bench Division and now lord chief justice Sir John Thomas, after Benny Thomas was found guilty of contempt.
He had failed to produce evidence to back up his claim that he missed a court hearing due to illness, saying he did not realise he could get a medical examination and report from a private doctor.
At the time Sir John Thomas said: ‘No person who is competent to act as a solicitor, let alone be the senior partner of a firm, let alone supervise others, and let alone to bring proceedings before this court could possibly be as ignorant as he claims to be.’
The SDT ruled that for a solicitor to be found giving untruthful evidence on oath was ‘at the very highest level of offending behaviour’ and reflected ‘extremely badly upon the profession’.
It also said the harm done by his actions was ‘considerable’; meaning the only appropriate penalty ‘to protect the public and maintain confidence in the profession’ was to strike him off the roll.
The tribunal also found Benny Thomas guilty of other breaches, including allowing a non-lawyer to be a member of the law firm when Consilium was not licensed as an alternative business structure and failing to ensure proper protection of client assets.
The same tribunal found another partner at the firm, Syed Tanweer Akhtar, who is currently not practising as a solicitor, was found guilty of four allegations, which included failing to properly maintain books of account and failing to ensure there was a proper system for handling client money.
The tribunal described Akhtar as an ‘honest witness’ and was ‘impressed’ by the fact he had paid intervention costs and had ‘genuine insight into his failings’.
It therefore ruled that the appropriate penalty was for Akhtar to be reprimanded, and pay costs of £6,201. Thomas’ costs were set at £18,600.
Benny Thomas has 21 days from the date of judgment to appeal.