The principal solicitor of controversial Bolton personal injury firm Asons is to appear before the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal over multiple allegations, including the payment of illegal referral fees and false costs claims, the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) has confirmed.
Kamran Akmal was actually referred to the tribunal late last March – the day before the SRA closed down Asons – but the decision was only published yesterday.
Many of the allegations appear to refer to the revelation a year ago that Asons had agreed to repay more than £100,000 to AXA after admitting to falsely and systematically inflating its legal costs.
The dispute involved 65 personal injury cases, settled between September 2013 and December 2014, where “Asons overstated the qualifications and experience of its legal staff to falsely inflate the bills sent to AXA”.
According to the decision, the tribunal has certified that there is a case to answer in respect of at least six allegations, namely that Mr Kamal:
- Caused or permitted the presentation of applications for costs in personal injury claims which systematically misrepresented the grade of relevant fee-earners so as to increase the level of recoverable costs;
- Caused or permitted the presentation of claims for special damages which contained particulars that were false in that the event, loss or treatment alleged to have given rise to the special damages claim had not occurred or did not exist;
- Caused or permitted Asons to act in circumstances giving rise to a conflict of interest with its clients, specifically in relation to the resolution of personal injury claims;
- Provided misleading information to the court and/or the SRA in relation to the false and inflated claims for costs and special damages;
- Caused or permitted payments of prohibited referral fees between 1 April 2013 and at least 18 April 2016; and
- Failed to run his practice or carry out his role as sole principal, COLP and COFA of Asons effectively and in accordance with proper governance and sound financial and risk management principles.
The allegations are, of course, unproven at this stage.
Asons was also in the news last year for a £300,000 grant from Bolton Council, which Mr Akram had to repay because the firm had closed.
Asons’ successor practice, alternative business structure Coops Law, was itself shut down in July, less than three months since it took on the business.
The SRA said there was reason to suspect dishonesty on the part of Irfan Khan Akram, a non-solicitor and the firm’s head of finance and administration.