Barrister disbarred for not disclosing previous run-in with SRA when applying to be called

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18 July 2017

Intervention: law firm was shut down several months before call application

A barrister who made failed to disclose that he had previously run a law firm shut down by the Solicitors Regulation Authority before he applied to be called to the Bar, has been disbarred.

When Chukwuma Emele applied to Lincoln’s Inn in February 2010, he made a declaration that he was not aware of any matter which might reasonably be thought to call into question his fitness to become a practising barrister.

However, his firm, Credo Law Office, had been shut down in July 2009. In 2012, the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal (SDT) found Mr Emele guilty of a range of charges, including operating a firm of solicitors when not authorised to do so and dishonestly appropriating client funds.

The SDT prohibited Mr Emele from re-registering as a registered foreign lawyer and from working at SRA-regulated firms. His appeal was dismissed by the High Court last year.

Mr Emele, an unregistered (ie, non-practising) barrister, was found by a Bar disciplinary tribunal last Friday to have engaged in conduct before call which was “dishonest or otherwise discreditable to a barrister” on the basis that he had not disclosed his previous conduct and had made the false declaration.

A Bar Standards Board spokesman said: “The tribunal’s decision to disbar Mr Emele acts as a reminder for anyone hoping to be called to the Bar of England and Wales to be open and honest at all times and in the declarations they make when applying for entry to one of the Inns. Honesty and integrity are core attributes for all barristers.”

The tribunal’s decision is open to appeal.

Meanwhile, the SDT has approved an agreement between the SRA and a former partner at London firm Hamlins that he should be struck off for forging and backdating six letters and placing them in his client’s file to conceal his failure over more than a year to issue an application for title based on adverse possession.

His client chased him for updates 14 times during the period.

Neil Ian Benson, who is 47 and was admitted in 1995, resigned shortly after his misconduct came to light in late 2014. He reported himself to the SRA and admitted that he acted dishonestly in trying to cover up his “oversight”.

In mitigation, Mr Benson said he was dealing with “extremely challenging” personal circumstances at the time, and that he was suffering from stress and depression.

He said they affected his decision making, but not to the extent that he did not appreciate that his actions were dishonest. He accepted that he should be struck off.

The SDT agreed that this was a “proportionate and appropriate” outcome.

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