Solicitor struck off for lying over legal aid debt fails in appeal

High Court: SDT decision not appealably wrong

A solicitor who lied about not having a bank account or any income other than benefits to avoid repaying a debt to the Legal Aid Agency has failed in his appeal against being struck off.

Mrs Justice Foster recorded that Raj Rajan Mariaddan made “very many and intricate criticisms” of the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal (SDT) but found no substance in any of them.

“In my judgement, the SDT decision plainly is not appealably wrong on any of the technical grounds advanced. I reject each of the criticisms made of the decision, the pleadings, or the SDT’s approach to the evidence…

“No grounds to interfere with the reasoning and conclusions of the SDT, nor the drafts or presentation of the case against Mr Mariaddan have been shown. This appeal must fail.”

Mr Mariaddan, who qualified in 1995, was a sole practitioner in North London until April 2019 under the name of John Street Solicitors. He then took on a partner and started the new practice John Street Solicitors LLP.

The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) shut down the firm in January 2021.

As well as the findings on his legal aid debt, the SDT held that Mr Mariaddan had misled a potential professional indemnity insurer about his regulatory history and then practised without insurance.

Foster J said: “The gist of the challenges made to this court were in many cases a repetition of the complaints as to the adequacy of the pleadings or evidence made to the tribunal itself.

“A thread running through them is that the tribunal were appealably wrong in not accepting Mr Mariaddan’s explanation that he was careless and/or mistaken rather than dishonest.”

But the judge said the tribunal’s conclusion that he was dishonest was “entirely sustainable in the context of the view that the SDT took of Mr Mariaddan’s response to a request for information about his finances”.

It was also suggested that the SDT went appealably wrong in concluding that Mr Mariaddan must either have read the insurance proposal form and deliberately did not amend it, or he did not read the form and knowingly turned a blind eye to answers that he knew would be incorrect.

“These are both deductions from the evidence that was before the tribunal, including Mr Mariaddan’s explanations as to what happened.

“There is nothing improper in the SDT analysing what they read and heard in this manner… it was Mr Mariaddan’s evidence at the hearing that suggested he might not have read the insurance proposal form properly that led to this conclusion by the SDT.”

Among the many other submissions were that there was a “troubling alacrity” on the part of the SDT to find the allegations proven.

“Not only is there no actual evidence to support such a statement, but the care with which the tribunal logically laid out the allegations and expressed its conclusions on the basis of days of detailed evidence gives the lie to such a criticism.

“The transcript also shows the SDT intervened on several occasions to protect Mr Mariaddan from what it saw as unnecessary or repetitive cross-examination.”

There was a preliminary issue as to whether Mr Mariaddan had standing to bring the appeal as he was an undischarged bankrupt.

Foster J said “common sense and fairness” dictated that he should be allowed to appeal.

“It is not natural to regard any action by the SRA or a right of appeal arising from it as vesting in the trustee in bankruptcy and the judgment is clearly not enforceable against his estate, that is to say, such conclusions as are reached other than as to costs.”

    Readers Comments

  • Patrick Oshea says:

    This solicitor did my convening a month later was shut down I’m still trying to put it right and the cost

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