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R (on the application of Hollis) v Association of Chartered Certified Accountants [2014] EWHC 2572 (Admin)

A disciplinary committee was correct to conclude that severe criticisms of an administrator by a judge in separate proceedings amounted to 'findings of fact' for the committee's own purposes and were A disciplinary committee was correct to conclude that severe criticisms of an administrator by a judge in separate proceedings amounted to 'findings of fact' for the committee's own purposes and were admissible as prima facie evidence of the administrator's conduct. However, a narrow approach was appropriate in respect of a finding of fact akin to a finding of guilt in a criminal context or dishonesty/fraud in civil proceedings. Such a finding requires caution due to the inherent extreme consequences of being found to be guilty and/or dishonest or fraudulent.

The Claimant (H) was licensed insolvency practitioner and faced disciplinary charges arising from a judgement of Henderson J in the High Court case of Mourant & Co Trustees Limited v Sixty UK Limited (In Administration) [2010] EWHC 1890. Henderson J had severely criticised H's conduct. Under the regulation 11 of ACCA's disciplinary rules the Disciplinary Committee is entitled to rely on findings of fact in any civil proceedings' as prima facie evidence in the proceedings. H sought judicial review on the basis that since Henderson J's comments were not matters necessary to support or material to the ultimate conclusion or judgment to which he came(and were observations or comments made in a context where standards of natural justice had not been applied), they did not amount to 'findings of fact'.

The Administrative Court held that the meaning of "finding of fact" "covers any matter in a judgment in civil proceedings which, as a matter of ordinary language, is properly described as a finding of fact made by the court in the course of giving its judgment. The notion of a “finding of fact”, when used in reference to a judgment, is one which is very familiar, and there is no indication that the drafter of regulation 11 intended the phrase to bear any strained or unusual meaning when used in that provision".

The case provides useful guidance for regulatory regimes whose disciplinary rules allow for the admission of findings of fact from related proceedings. In addition, while there may be circumstances in which it would not be far to admit findings of fact made by other tribunals, the judgment will assist tribunals in ensuring that large amounts of time are not spent asking disciplinary committees to adjudicate on which facts could be said to be 'material' for the purpose of the earlier tribunal's findings.

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