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Ighalo v Solicitors Regulation Authority EWHC 661 (Admin)

Sarah Ellson
16/04/2013
The Appellant solicitor, I, appealed to the Divisional Court against the SRA Tribunal's decision that he should be struck off the roll. The Tribunal's decision followed findings of misconduct against The Appellant solicitor, I, appealed to the Divisional Court against the SRA Tribunal's decision that he should be struck off the roll. The Tribunal's decision followed findings of misconduct against I which included findings of dishonesty.

On appeal, I relied on two grounds: firstly, that the Tribunal was not independent or impartial because one of its three members was a solicitor who had previously acted as an Adjudicator for the SRA, and secondly that he had not acted dishonestly, and that the Tribunal had erred in law in finding that he had done so.

The SRA argued that ther was no actual or apparent bias, as the solicitor concerned had never been an employee of the SRA and had never had any involvement with the investigation regarding I's practice.

The Court rejected I's appeal. In relation to the bias ground, the Court applied the Porter v Magill test i.e. whether the fair-minded and informed observer, having considered the facts, would conclude that there was a real possibility that the tribunal was biased. It concluded that the mere fact that the solicitor concerned had previously acted as an adjudicator for the SRA almost two years before he sat on the Tribunal considering I's case did not of itself give rise to bias, actual or apparent.

The Court noted that the solicitor had had no role in I's case, and also considered that, following Davidson v Scottish Ministers (No.2) UKHL 3, an individual sitting in a judicial capacity was not required to disclose every previous activity or association that he might have had – the duty extended only to activities or associations which might provide the basis for a reasonable apprehension of bias.

In conclusion, the Court held that there was no reason to believe that the solicitor member of the Tribunal did not bring objective judgement in relation to I's case.

In respect of the dishonesty findings, the Court concluded that the Tribunal had made clear findings of fact and gavefull reasons for those findings. It had also identified and applied the correct test for dishonesty and made findings on the basis of the criminal standard of proof, as it was required to do. As a result, the Court held that the Tribunal's decision on dishonesty could not be impugned, and therefore dismissed the appeal.

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