Former solicitor Sophie Khan is heading to jail for a second time for contempt of court after again failing to hand over documents sought by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA).
Mr Justice Leech sentenced her to a year in prison following his finding last month that Ms Khan had made “a sustained and deliberate attempt to mislead the court”.
He also ordered Ms Khan to make an interim costs payment to the SRA of £100,000.
Both the sentence and costs order were stayed for 42 days to allow Ms Khan to appeal. If she does not, a warrant will be issued and she will have 14 days to make the payment.
The saga began in August 2021, when the regulator intervened in her practice, Leicester-based Sophie Khan & Co, saying there was “reason to suspect dishonesty” on her part.
Ms Khan, also known as Soophia, did not comply with SRA demands to provide the firm’s papers. As a result, she was sentenced to six months in jail for contempt for breaching two court orders. She served three months before being released.
The SRA applied for a further order for documents last April while she was still in prison, which was granted by Mr Justice Miles.
Ms Khan was struck off last summer.
Leech J said he accepted the SRA’s submission that Ms Khan had made “just too many incorrect or inconsistent statements unsupported by documentary evidence that they cannot be mistaken and that the court can be satisfied that Ms Khan has made a sustained and deliberate attempt to mislead the court”.
Her evidence that she only used a particular email address for personal emails and not for work “was exposed as false and the inescapable inference which I draw is that Ms Khan gave that evidence knowing to be untrue”.
Most of the evidence she gave in relation to client files was unsupported by any documentary evidence at all and “is inconsistent with previous statements which she made to the court, the SRA and the [Legal] Ombudsman or with emails from the clients themselves or evidence given by their solicitors”.
Leech J said he also relied on an interview Ms Khan gave to City AM last May, which quoted her as saying that she refused to hand the documents over as her clients had claims against the state – and that her clients saw the SRA as “an extension of the state”.
“Ms Khan sought to distance herself from this interview… by stating that she gave the interview before the Miles order was made, that she was suffering from stress and in an emotional mental state. She also stated that her words had been taken out of context.”
However, she retweeted the article six times and the judge rejected her contentions “entirely”. The article and comments she made in the last tweet represented her “genuinely held views once the Miles order had been made and provide clear and unambiguous evidence that she intended to take a stand against the SRA and to defy the order”.
An expert psychiatrist’s report said Ms Khan had presented with “signs and symptoms that are suggestive of Adjustment Disorder, namely, mixed anxiety and depression and that there is also a possibility that she may be suffering from Autism Spectrum Disorder and dysfunctional personality traits”.
But he also described her as “cognitively alert to understand the court proceedings and can put her views, opinions and wishes in her defence. However, she does not believe that the accusations are morally right…
“She came across as a person, who has over-valued and odd ideas about morality and values.”
Leech J said that, if anything, the report supported his conclusions that Ms Khan understood the terms and effect of the Miles order.
The case law says the court can draw a negative inference from a defendant’s failure to give evidence in contempt proceedings.
Leech J said: “I can only assume that Ms Khan chose not to give evidence because she recognised that she was unable to give evidence which exonerated her and that cross-examination would have further damaged her case.
“This therefore supports and strengthens the conclusions which I have already reached.”