High Court throws out ‘named and shamed’ barrister’s disciplinary appeals

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26 May 2016

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High Court: no further appeal possible for disciplinary matters

The High Court has thrown out two appeals against Bar disciplinary tribunal decisions by ‘named and shamed’ barrister Tariq Rehman.

It has also refused permission for Mr Rehman to proceed with two judicial reviews – one focused on the Legal Ombudsman (LeO), the other involving the Bar Standards Board (BSB), but also brought against a host of individuals as part of wider allegations of systemic corruption which the court found totally baseless.

Mr Rehman became the first and so far only lawyer to be ‘named and shamed’ by LeO in December 2014 after it upheld 25 complaints against him in two years.

Mr Justice Hickinbottom said two further appeals launched by the immigration barrister, both against decisions by Bar disciplinary tribunals, would be heard in July.

Of the two appeals before him Hickinbottom J dismissed one as “totally without merit” and refused permission to proceed with both judicial reviews for the same reason.

Delivering judgment in Rehman v Bar Standards Board [2016] EWHC 1199, the judge described Mr Rehman’s first appeal as a “very straightforward” case, in which the barrister accepted that he had received money from the Legal Services Commission (LSC) that did not belong to him.

“He accepted that there came a point when he knew he had it, and knew it belonged to other barristers. In fact, the tribunal found – as, on the evidence, they were quite entitled to find – that he ought to have been aware of those matters earlier than he accepted he was in fact aware of them.

“He did not pay over the money to the other barristers promptly. In those circumstances, the charges were proved. In finding them proved, the tribunal did not arguably err in any way; nor is it arguable that their findings were wrong.”

On sanction, which Mr Rehman argued should have been limited to a financial penalty, Hickinbottom J said although the tribunal could not disbar, otherwise the sanction was open and it “cannot be said that it erred in imposing the suspension that it did”.

Hickinbottom J rejected Mr Rehman’s second appeal, against 11 charges of misconduct imposed by another tribunal over the administration of Kings Court Chambers, Birmingham, of which he was then joint head. Sanction has been delayed pending the appeal.

The judge said there was not a “scintilla of evidential information” that the tribunal was “not an impartial and independent tribunal”, dismissing claims that it was infected by “widespread impropriety and corruption”.

He described challenges made by Mr Rehman in his first judicial review to decisions by LeO as “unarguable”.

The judge went on: “It is difficult not to conclude that these challenges have been made with a view simply to avoiding payment to individuals who have been successful in making a complaint, and who have been awarded the return of their fees and modest compensation for inconvenience in a LeO determination.

“Those determinations are final, and binding on Mr Rehman. They are properly enforceable by the LeO, who has not arguably acted unlawfully in seeking to enforce them.”

The judge described some parts of Mr Rehman’s second claim for judicial review as “legally scurrilous”, including the submission that there had been collusion to ensure that he would lose his cases.

Hickinbottom J added: “I should make clear that I have considered all of the material Mr Rehman lodged prior to the respective hearings. Having done so, I can say with confidence that he raises no other issue of any greater merit than those I have specifically dealt with in this judgment.”

He rejected an application by Mr Rehman to appeal the judicial review decisions – there is no appeal possible on the disciplinary tribunal decisions, for which the High Court is the final arbiter.

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