A barrister who made 10 meritless applications, including damages claims worth £4m against his local council, and as a result was made subject to an extended civil restraint order (ECRO), has been reprimanded by a Bar disciplinary tribunal.
The tribunal said Oladipo Adelaja, who walked out of his disciplinary hearing, had “flouted” costs orders totalling over £61,000 and “showed a level of contempt for the legal process” incompatible with the standards expected of professionals.
The tribunal heard that Mr Adelaja was called to the Bar in 1980 and practised until 1993, since when he has been unregistered. His wife had mental health problems and “there clearly were proceedings in the Court of Protection” before her husband embarked on litigation against the London Borough of Islington.
Mr Adelaja and his wife claimed £1m in damages from the council in September 2018 for alleged fraud and conspiracy to cause economic loss. Eight days later, they claimed £3m in damages from council for alleged breach of duty under the Mental Health Act 1983.
Master Cook struck out the second claim in December 2018, finding that it was totally without merit.
The first claim was struck out in February 2019, followed by three judicial review applications in March and five leave to appeal applications in May. All nine applications were found to have been totally without merit.
Mr Justice Jeremy Baker imposed the ECRO on Mr Adelaja, also in May 2019, ordering him to pay costs of £31,800 in addition to costs he had incurred through the previous applications. The ECRO was for two years, after which it was renewed for a further two years.
The judge said the barrister displayed a “persistent and irrational refusal to take ‘no’ for an answer”.
The Bar tribunal said that, during the disciplinary hearing, Mr Adelaja was initially “fixated with who was the complainant in the proceedings”, despite being told that there was not one – Islington council had simply informed the Bar Standards Board of the ECRO.
He cross-examined the BSB’s only witness, an official from the regulator, for one and a half hours, insisting he had to know who the complainant was and calling her “a liar” at least twice.
Later in the afternoon, having made another failed attempt to secure an adjournment, Mr Adelaja “said he had nothing further to say and said he would be leaving the proceeding, which he then did”. The hearing continued in his absence.
The tribunal said it missed the point that no member of the public had complained. “In our view there does not have to be an actual member of the public affected by this conduct but rather an evaluation of the conduct.
“In our view any member of the public hearing this litigant was a barrister would be likely to have little confidence in his judgement or the profession.”
Mr Adelaja had “flouted” six costs orders made against him by Islington council, and it was a “serious matter” for anyone, “particularly a barrister registered or unregistered”, to fail to comply with court judgments because it “shows a level of contempt for the legal process which is not compatible with the standards expected of professionals”.
He was found to have harmed public trust but mitigating factors included that the conduct had not recurred, whether or not that was because of the ECRO, and that he was “only trying to get what you considered the best outcome for your family”.
Regarding the costs orders, tribunal took into account that the barrister had “no money” but took the view that it was his responsibility to face up to his obligations.
The guidelines suggested a fine for each of the two charges found proven, but the tribunal substituted a reprimand in each case. Mr Adelaja was not ordered to pay costs, on the grounds of impecuniosity.