Richard Barnett, former chair of the Law Society’s land law and conveyancing committee, has called for an independent QC to investigate disciplinary allegations against him before his case reaches the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal (SDT).
Mr Barnett told Legal Futures that he blamed the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) for the collapse of his law firm, Barnetts.
Mr Barnett, a Law Society council member, said: “They’ve ruined me… The SRA must be accountable. The one thing I’ve always had is integrity and honesty. I’ve got nothing to hide. I am 100% convinced that I have done nothing wrong.”
Mr Barnett described how his firm, which specialised in volume conveyancing and litigation, went into administration in December last year, after what he claimed was a threat from the SRA to make it the subject of an intervention.
The firm was subsequently broken up and sold off in January this year. Anthony Swift, a former equity partner at Barnetts with a minority shareholding, is also due to appear before the SDT.
In a letter last month to the SRA, seen by Legal Futures, Mr Barnett said the allegations against him arose primarily from “money borrowed by Barnetts Solicitors from the Axiom Legal Financing Fund in 2012”.
Mr Barnett went on: “Despite my providing the SRA with copious extraneous evidence supporting my stated position, the SRA has, in the main, ignored compelling documents and, instead, has preferred to proceed with allegations which are (on the SRA’s own admission) based on evidence which I supplied myself.
“Letters of complaint as to the SRA’s approach and conduct have been plentiful, but have been met with plain rebuttal or inertia on each occasion.”
In the letter, Mr Barnett gave details of what he said were “some of the most obvious errors or misleading statements” which in “in themselves should be enough for the SRA to withdraw all allegations”.
Mr Barnett said the SRA’s alleged wrongdoing had caused him “immense financial loss, an unwarranted attack on my reputation and integrity, and clearly substantial emotional distress”.
He added that he had agreed with the Law Society that his council seat should be “held in abeyance” until the SDT hearing was over, and he would not take part in any Law Society duties until that time.
A spokesman for the SRA said the regulator never commented on cases due to be heard by the SDT and all the allegations against Mr Barnett were as yet unproven.