The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) can enforce a £15,000 costs order against a struck-off solicitor more than 12 years after it was made, the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal (SDT) has ruled.
Back in 2010, the tribunal said the SRA could not enforce the costs order against Barjinder Sharma, struck off for dishonesty, without leave because of his “poor financial situation”.
A subsequent investigation by the regulator revealed that the former solicitor owned a property in Ilford, Essex, valued at between £632,000 and £698,000.
On its application for leave, the SDT heard that, after paying prior charges under a divorce settlement, Mr Sharma would be entitled to 40% of the remaining value of the property.
However, without an order from the SDT, the SRA was unable to seek to protect itself by way of a charge or charging order and any subsequent creditors would be able to obtain priority.
The SDT said Mr Sharma’s disciplinary hearing in 2010 centred upon three conveyancing transactions.
In respect of the first one, a remortgage, “false office copy entries were produced which did not show the existence of a charge in favour of a third party”. On completion, the remortgage funds were sent to a third party and the mortgage was not redeemed.
In the second, important information about a lease was withheld from a lender client, while in the third Mr Sharma failed to send important information to a lender.
In each, he failed to comply with undertakings by providing false certificates of title to lenders.
Mr Sharma had already appeared before the tribunal, in October 2009. No details of the offences were given, but he was ordered to pay £52,000 in respect of costs.
No restriction was imposed that time and the SRA later obtained security for those costs by way of a charging order.
The SRA said it was not clear whether Mr Sharma’s ownership of the property was disclosed to the tribunal in 2010.
The SDT said it was “of concern” that, despite being directed to, Mr Sharma had failed to provide details of his financial circumstances and it was satisfied that he had “deliberately chosen not to co-operate”.
The SRA “should be placed on the same footing as other creditors” and should not be precluded from attempting to recover the monies in the same way.
“The reputation of the profession required costs against solicitors against whom findings had been made to be recovered if possible.”
The SRA’s application for enforcement of the costs order was granted and Mr Sharma ordered to pay a further £1,995 in costs.