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Solicitor hit with £500k POCA fine for using house as office

Malik Law Chambers: Office was terraced house

A West London solicitor has hit with a £500,000 confiscation order for repeatedly disregarding warnings from his local council to stop using a home as an office for his firm.

Ealing Council said that immigration law specialist Dr Akbar Ali Malik made two planning applications in 2011 to use the terraced house in Southall as his office.

Despite the applications and subsequent appeals being rejected, he continued to practise from the premises, leading to the council issuing an enforcement notice in October 2013 to stop him.

Dr Malik appealed the notice and also applied for a certificate of lawfulness to use the property as a solicitor’s office. When this application was refused, he appealed that as well.

Both appeals were dismissed, with October 2015 set as the new deadline for compliance with the enforcement notice. Dr Malik ignored the deadline and continued practising from the premises.

In August 2017 Dr Malik was served with a summons, charging him with failing to comply with the enforcement notice. Dr Malik eventually pleaded guilty to the planning enforcement offence at Ealing Magistrates’ Court in November 2017.

After seven further hearings, the case finally concluded last week with the confiscation order under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002.

Unless he pays the £500,000 within three months, Dr Malik will receive an automatic five-year prison sentence.

He was also fined a further £10,000 and ordered to pay the council’s costs of £13,747.

Separately, Dr Malik’s practice, Malik Law Chambers, was shut down by the Solicitors Regulation Authority in April 2018.

The notice on the regulator’s website said its head office was in East London, with branches in Southall (at a different address) and Birmingham, and the intervention was because there was “reason to suspect dishonesty” on the part of Dr Malik and Imtiaz Ali, the firm’s managers, and that the firm and Dr Malik have failed to comply with the SRA Principles.

Councillor Joanna Camadoo-Rothwell, Ealing Council’s lead member for community safety and inclusion, said: “Using a home for business purposes in this way may not sound particularly concerning, but it’s a big problem.

“In this case, the use of a terraced home as an office detracted from the character of the surrounding area and made living conditions in neighbouring properties miserable, which led to complaints from local people.

“This has been a very long-running case, with Dr Malik using every route available to him to continue to misuse the building for as long as possible despite the misery it caused his neighbours. Our planning enforcement team worked tirelessly to get this result for residents. We will not stand for this sort of flagrant abuse of the planning system.”