High Court refuses new medical evidence for ex-solicitor’s strike-off appeal

Saini: Nothing of relevance has changed

The High Court has rejected a former solicitor’s bid to introduce new expert evidence about his mental state as part of his appeal against being struck off earlier this year.

Mr Justice Saini said Ramachandren Narayanasamy chose not to put the evidence before the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal (SDT), despite having ample opportunity to do so, and in any case it would not have changed the outcome.

The tribunal found in January that Mr Narayanasamy, who was principal of Dotcom Solicitors in North London, lied to the High Court during the 2015 trial of a dispute with a former partner in the firm.

His appeal to the Administrative Court, which he has of right, is due to be heard in 2022 and ahead of that he sought permission to adduce new expert medical evidence about his psychiatric and mental state which was not before the SDT.

The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) opposed the application.

Saini J explained that the evidence of Dr Christine Tizzard, a chartered consultant psychologist, was said to show that Mr Narayanasamy was “at various material times suffering from a number of recognised mental health and cognitive disorders which compromised his psychological function in all areas including his ability to give evidence”.

He argued that, had the medical evidence been before the SDT, that tribunal would not have found him dishonest and it would have “reflected differently” upon the answers he had given in evidence before the court in 2015 and before the SDT.

Mr Narayanasamy separately submits that the tribunal made various errors.

The SDT noted that, though he had set out “a number of personal difficulties he had faced”, there was no medical evidence and indeed his QC acknowledged that he was not suggesting there was a clinically diagnosed problem with Mr Narayanasamy’s mental health.

Saini J held that the application failed to meet two of the three conditions for adducing fresh evidence as laid down by the Court of Appeal in Ladd v Marshall.

First it must be shown that the evidence could not have been obtained with reasonable diligence for use at the trial.

The judge said Mr Narayanasamy had plenty of time to obtain the evidence and was advised initially by Kingsley Napley, a firm “pre-eminent in the field of solicitors’ discipline”, and through to the SDT hearing by Michael McLaren QC.

This was also not a case in which his cognitive shortcomings “were hidden or their significance for the dispute was overlooked” – Mr Narayanasamy and Mr McLaren “placed extensive reliance upon those putative shortcomings” but decided not to obtain the evidence the former solicitor now sought to rely on.

“It appears that nothing of relevance had changed between the trial and the appellant’s application, save for the instruction of new lawyers [Leigh Day and Ijeoma Omambala QC] and disappointment at having lost the case,” Saini J said.

“This is, therefore, a textbook example of new representatives bringing with them different ideas and second-guessing the judgments of those who came before them.”

The second condition is that the evidence must be such that, if given, it would probably have an important influence on the result of the case.

The judge said the problem was that Dr Tizzard’s evidence related only to Mr Narayanasamy’s current state of mind and not when he gave evidence more than six years ago.

This “renders it, at most, of marginal relevance”, and he was critical of Mr Narayanasamy saying Dr Tizzard could provide a further report addressing the historic position, but not until next year: “This is inadequate. The appellant has had ample time to prepare for this application.”

In any case, the judge said it would not matter. The SDT’s central findings were made “conclusively on the contemporaneous documents” rather than Mr Narayanasamy’s oral evidence.

Saini J also rejected the fallback position that the interests of justice demanded the report be admitted as evidence.

“The premise of the appellant’s argument was that the SRA and SDT were both under a duty to obtain the evidence which the appellant now seeks to introduce. That premise is wrong in law.”

In any case, he noted that “in evidence and through his leading counsel, the appellant specifically and repeatedly confirmed that he did not claim to be suffering from a psychiatric condition and was not seeking to adduce medical evidence”.

The judge also stressed that there had “rightly” been no criticism made of Mr McLaren’s conduct of the defence before the SDT. “Having considered the record, it is clear to me that the appellant had legal representation of the very highest quality.”

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