A top QC has been fined £10,000 after he was found to have acted where there was an 'inference that his independence may be compromised’ while in the role of an impartial expert in a property dispute. 

Andrew Thornhill, former head of Pump Court Tax Chambers in London, took a £500,000 payment from one side in the dispute despite being appointed as an independent expert to resolve the matter, according to a finding from the Bar and Tribunals Adjudication Service (BTAS).

The dispute was a family feud over a property portfolio involving Naomi and Barry Ackerman on one side and Joseph Ackerman on the other. The BTAS finding described it as a ‘demerger process’, involving property and corporate assets.

Thornhill, according to the tribunal’s findings, entered into a financial transaction at a time when he was retained by both sides. The £500,000 was paid to Thornhill in December 2008 through a charity called Rally Investments Limited, controlled by Naomi and Barry Ackerman. 

According to the BTAS, the agreement meant that Thornhill’s financial and personal interests were in line with Naomi and Barry Ackerman’s, meaning there was a risk of conflicting with his duty to assist in the demerger process fairly and determine the family dispute impartially.

Fining Thornhill, the BTAS said he should either have not entered into the arrangement in the first place or ceased to act in the demerger process after the £500,000 payment was made. 'Such financial dealings and/or connections meant that Thornhill had acted in circumstances which could lead to an inference that his independence may be compromised,’ the BTAS concluded.