The Solicitors Regulation Authority has offered a solicitor facing charges before the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal £7,500 for counsel to make a closing statement on his behalf, it emerged today. The SDT was hearing an application for an indefinite adjournment of the case against Alexis Philip Maitland Hudson on the 14th day of proceedings, which have now run into their fourth month.
Maitland Hudson, admitted in 1975 and former owner of the now dissolved Maitland Hudson & Co, denies charges of acting where there was a conflict of interest and of misleading the regulator.
Appearing pro bono for Maitland Hudson this morning, Peter Cadman, partner at Russell-Cooke Solicitors, said his client had admitted himself to hospital on 31 January and had since been unable to attend proceedings. He told the tribunal that three medical experts had certified that Maitland Hudson was not fit to appear as a litigant in person but that he was fit to instruct lawyers. However, he had been quoted £20,000 plus daily refreshers of £2,500 by Litttleton Chambers for representation in closing statements. 'The SRA offered £7,500 but there has been no increase in that offer,' the tribunal heard.
For the SRA, Edward Levey of Fountain Court Chambers told the tribunal that the 'extremely generous' £7,500 offer had been made without prejudice in order to conclude proceedings. The latest medical evidence, he said, had been served 'incredibly late', denying the tribunal the opportunity to hear cross examination. Such cross examination would have probed what Levey called a 'stark inconsistency' in Maitland Hudson's claims that he was unfit to appear while at the same time producing witness statements that were 'careful, well written, well argued and coherent'.
Levey also questioned Maitland Hudson's claim to be unable to obtain the 'five, six or seven thousand pounds' between the SRA's offer and the cost of junior counsel. 'This is a man who has access to very, very, large amounts of cash,' he said.
Accusing Maitland Hudson of 'playing games with the tribunal', he argued that an indefinite adjournment would 'effectively leave Mr Maitland Hudson exiting, stage left, and never coming back'.
'If that were allowed to happen it would be very damaging to the profession,' he said. 'We say, though it is not proven yet, that he is a dishonest man.'
The tribunal accepted Levey's proposal to adjourn until 16 April to allow Maitland Hudson to decide whether or not to make a closing speech.
Tribunal chair Alison Banks warned that the hearing would go ahead on 16 April 'with or without the closing speech', saying: 'It is in the interest of justice for this matter to proceed.'
The case continues.