A long-running court battle between the Solicitors Regulation Authority and Soophia Khan continued this week after the prominent solicitor made a fresh bid to set aside orders made last September requiring her to deliver up client files.
Khan, a former chair of the Law Society civil justice committee, was automatically suspended in August after the SRA intervened in relation to her Leicester practice Sophie Khan & Co over suspicions of dishonesty. She later announced that the firm had been taken over by a charity called Just For Public Ltd.
The SRA, which obtained an injunction in November to stop Khan ‘unlawfully’ acting as a lawyer through JFP, alleged that Khan was in contempt by failing to comply with two High Court orders requiring her to deliver up client files.
At a committal hearing on 17 December, Mr Justice Leech reserved judgment after being told that Khan had offered to undertake to comply with the orders. Last week he agreed to hear applications by Khan to set aside the September orders.
In a hearing yesterday afternoon, Temple Garden Chambers’ Mark James, for Khan, told the court the orders against Khan and her former practice should not have been made because at the time of the SRA’s intervention, ‘they did not have in their possession or control their practice documents’.
James said the shares and assets of Sophie Khan & Co, including the client portfolio, had been sold to JFP a few days earlier.
He added that there was ‘no real opportunity’ for Khan to advance her case at the 7 September hearing, which she attended by telephone, because she could not access the SRA’s supporting documents through the Mimecast link and she did not have an opportunity to submit a witness statement.
Fountain Court Chambers’ Rupert Allen, for the SRA, told the court that copies of the documents had been delivered to the Leicester office and Khan’s London address. ‘During the course of the 7 September hearing, Ms Khan confirmed she was at the London address to which the documents had been posted through the letterbox,’ he said.
Allen added: ‘My learned friend [is] aligning the concept of possession or control with ownership. We say that’s wrong. It may well be JFP legally has possession or control, but that does not itself exclude Ms Khan’s possession or control of these documents. There is an air of artificiality about what we are talking about. The documents have not gone anywhere in any real sense. They have always been Ms Khan’s documents through the way she carries on her business as a solicitor. It started off through Sophie Khan & Co. She says they moved over a week or so before the intervention. Either way it’s a seamless continuation in which Ms Khan always having these documents in her hands. It’s an extraordinarily technical point being taken.’
Mr Justice Leech said he would deliver judgment in relation to Khan’s applications to set aside the September orders and the SRA's committal application today.