Solicitor wins appeal against striking-off


RCJ

Laing J: “dishonesty had not been pleaded and was not being alleged”

A solicitor struck off by the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal (SDT) has won the right to a new hearing in front of a different tribunal after the High Court ruled that the tribunal was wrong to suggest she had been dishonest.

The tribunal had said that among the “very serious” allegations against Rukhsana Jabeen Kiani, based in Leyton, east London, was that she had “failed to act with integrity” in two different matters.

Ms Kiani was found to have failed to discharge a mortgage on assignment of a lease for a period of over 18 months, which the SDT said had involved a “deliberate deceit” on the buyer’s solicitors.

She was also found to be responsible for a “deliberate delay in discharging an undertaking given to another firm of solicitors”, caused by the fact she had leant the seller’s mortgage redemption money to her clients.

The SDT said that while the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) had not made an allegation of dishonesty against Ms Kiani, the allegations which had been proved were “extremely serious”.

As a result, and having considered and rejected suspending her, the SDT imposed an immediate order that she should be struck off.

However, hearing Ms Kiani’s challenge in the High Court earlier this month, Mrs Justice Laing ruled that the SDT was wrong to have used any wording suggesting that she had been dishonest.

According to a Lawtel report of the ruling, which is yet to be published, Laing J ruled that although Ms Kiani “knew what allegations she had to face” in terms of failure to act with integrity, a “reasonable reader of the SDT’s judgment” would consider that dishonesty had been considered.

“However, dishonesty had not been pleaded and was not being alleged. The SDT should have been careful to avoid that suggestion.”

Laing J allowed Ms Kiani’s appeal on the sanction, and ordered the case to be remitted to a differently constituted tribunal.

The SRA was ordered to pay the costs of the appeal hearing, summarily assessed at £42,000, though this was to be set off against the £43,970 the solicitor had been ordered to pay in costs by the SDT.

In its revised prosecution notice, the SRA said that Ms Kiani had provided an undertaking that she would not apply for a practising certificate until the conclusion of the fresh SDT hearing.

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