SRA allows convicted and struck off ex-solicitor to work for law firm

SRA: Employment under conditions will not put public confidence at risk

A solicitor jailed for perverting the course of justice after sharing information about police activities with drug dealers, and then struck off, has been allowed to return to work at a law firm.

The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) has given Basharat Ali Ditta permission to work as a legal clerk for Bradford firm Drummond Solicitors under strict conditions of supervision.

The firm argued that he has the right to rehabilitation.

Mr Ditta was jailed for three years by Liverpool Crown Court in 2013. He was convicted of seeking information about a drugs investigation being carried out by the police and passing on the information to three clients, who were then themselves convicted of conspiring to supply Class A drugs.

After his conviction, Detective Superintendent Lee Halstead said Mr Ditta’s own cocaine addiction had left him “hopelessly compromised and vulnerable” and had turned him from “criminal solicitor to a criminal himself”.

In 2011, Mr Ditta had pleaded guilty to three charges of possessing cocaine at South Sefton Magistrates. At the time he was working for Forbes Solicitors in Blackburn.

He was struck off in 2015, with the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal saying: “It was difficult to imagine misconduct more serious than a solicitor using his position to pass information between arrested/detained co-conspirators to as-yet un-arrested third parties. This was a gross abuse of the respondent’s trusted and privileged position.”

The conditions require Mr Ditta’s work to be “directly” supervised at all times by Drummond owner Arshad Mahmood, including when interviewing or taking instructions from clients – and his status as a non-solicitor must be made clear to clients.

He cannot even be in the office if Mr Mahmood is not there and his files must be reviewed on a fortnightly basis for the first six months and monthly thereafter. He cannot have a role in training or supervising any other employee.

An SRA notice said: “We are satisfied that the above employment will not put public confidence in the administration of justice and the provision of legal services or the interests of clients at risk.”

In a statement, Drummond Solicitors said that, although the seriousness of the offence for which Mr Ditta was “not questionable”, the offending behaviour arose from events 12 years ago.

“The SRA were invited to consider the age of the offending behaviour, the rehabilitation of Mr Ditta, including returning to university to obtain further qualifications, employment for many years for a PLC company and his genuine remorse into the events that occurred.

“The SRA thoroughly examined the application, including a personal statement submitted by Mr Ditta and a number of references from persons within the profession and outside who supported his return.”

The statement added: “We believe every individual has the right to rehabilitation. It is our view that Mr Ditta can contribute positively to the profession and we look forward to working with him.”

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