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Struck-off solicitor’s comparison with George Floyd “a disgrace”

Black Lives Matter: Attempt to link case to movement condemned

A struck-off solicitor’s comparison of his treatment at the hands of the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) with that of George Floyd by US police has been branded a “disgrace” by a tribunal.

It dismissed Michael Azuka Otobo’s bid for a rehearing of the case which saw him struck off in 2009.

The Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal (SDT) said that, without evidence, he had made a number of “serious allegations” of fraud, deception, conspiracy to pervert the course of justice and contempt of court against a range of individuals and organisations.

The tribunal said it rejected all of them “in their entirety”.

It recorded that, at one point in his submissions, Mr Otobo sought to compare his complaints about the SRA and others to the circumstances of the recent death of George Floyd.

The tribunal chairman, Bellamy Forde, intervened “to require the applicant to show some reticence and demonstrate some respect for the fact that an individual had died”.

The ruling added: “[Mr Otobo’s] gratuitous reference to the death of George Floyd was grossly offensive and disrespectful and his attempt to link that incident and Black Lives Matter with issues of the applicant’s regulatory history was a disgrace.”

Mr Otobo was struck off in 2009 on multiple grounds, including acting as a solicitor prior to admission and later without holding a practising certificate, breaching the rules on supervision, and misleading or attempting to mislead the Asylum and Immigration Tribunal.

Solicitors have 14 days to apply for a rehearing, but Mr Otobo first tried to apply for one in 2016, which the SDT rejected. The High Court dismissed his appeal.

Last December, he lodged a further application for leave to apply for a re-hearing out of time, on the basis that the Supreme Court decision in last year in Takhar v Gracefield Developments Ltd & Ors meant that, where there was evidence of fraud, there had to be a re-hearing.

He submitted that the 2009 decision was obtained by fraud, deception and perversion of the course of justice on the part of ‘NL’, his former business partner, “with the connivance” of the SRA.

He argued that the SRA had not brought proceedings against NL “due to their wish to rely on him as a witness against the applicant and because NL was white and the applicant was not”.

The ruling said: “In response to a query from the tribunal, the applicant confirmed that his claims for race discrimination had been unsuccessful. The applicant told the tribunal that these judgments had also been obtained by fraud and the tribunal should disregard them.”

The SRA submitted that NL’s role was irrelevant as Mr Otobo had been properly struck off in 2009 and nothing had changed since the 2016 application.

The tribunal said there was no evidence to explain the delay or why the application should now be granted.

“The applicant had placed much reliance on the case of Thakar. However, he had failed to demonstrate that there had been any fraud by anyone involved in the 2009 proceedings or that, even if there had been misconduct by NL, that the tribunal’s decision in 2009 was undermined by that or that it had any relevance to the allegations that had been proved. Thakar therefore had no applicability to this case.”

The tribunal concluded that the application was “entirely without merit, based as it was on nothing more than outlandish allegations and assertions which were not supported by any evidence whatsoever”.

It ordered Mr Otobo to pay costs of £13,200.

The ruling noted that he has appealed the decision to the High Court.