QUEEN'S BENCH DIVISION
B e f o r e :
|THE QUEEN ON THE APPLICATION OF CAROL ANN HALEY||Claimant|
|SOLICITORS' DISCIPLINARY TRIBUNAL||Defendant|
|(1) THE LAW SOCIETY|
|(2) THE OFFICE OF THE LEGAL SERVICES OMBUDSMAN|
|FOR ENGLAND AND WALES||Interested Parties|
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Mr Andrew Hopper QC (instructed by Solicitors' Disciplinary Tribunal) appeared on behalf of the Defendant
Mr George Marriott (instructed by Messrs Gorvins Solicitors, Milton Keynes MK5 8NL) appeared on behalf of the First Interested Party
Mr Jason Coppel (instructed by Messrs Mace & Jones, Manchester M2 4PD) appeared on behalf of the Second Interested Party
Crown Copyright ©
"... the complainant may ask the Legal Services Ombudsman to review the case. It is open to the Ombudsman to recommend that the matter, including this decision, be reconsidered."
"I recommend, therefore, in accordance with section 23(2)(a) of the Courts and Legal Services Act 1990 that the OSS reconsider their decision to close their file in order to provide you with an explanation as to why they chose not to refer Mrs Haley's conduct, together with the criticism from the Master of the Court of Protection, to the SDT. I would remind you, however, of my earlier comment, namely that even if the SDT became involved, they are unable to award compensation for a complainant, whatever their findings."
"I turn now to the substantive decisions made by the OSS. I assume, from your letter to me, that you are in agreement with the findings of the Adjudication Panel but believe the penalty imposed to be too lenient. For the avoidance of doubt, I should make it clear that I take the view that it was reasonable for the Adjudication Panel to conclude that Mrs Haley had acted in breach of Principle 15.04 and had also breached Practice Rule 1 and Principle 17.04.
I should make it clear that any finding by the OSS of misconduct on the part of a solicitor will not result in compensation for the complainant but in a disciplinary finding against the solicitor in question. The Adjudication Panel imposed the most severe penalty they had available to them, which was that Mrs Haley received a severe reprimand. Whilst you clearly disagree that this penalty was appropriate, you should bear in mind that this is a significant finding, and would be viewed as such by any solicitor. It will remain on Mrs Haley's record, which would be available to (and considered by) any panel considering any further complaint about her behaviour.
That said, the Adjudication Panel is able to refer matters of misconduct to the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal (SDT) if they consider the matter to be sufficiently serious to warrant such a course of action. I am concerned that, given the circumstances, they did not provide you with an explanation as to why they did not consider this course of action appropriate in the circumstances. [Mrs X] was an elderly and vulnerable client and was entitled to the highest level of professionalism her solicitor could provide. Whilst neither I, nor the OSS, expect a solicitor to offer a perfect service, it is clear that the level of service Mrs Haley provided for her client gave cause for serious concern and attracted criticism from a Master of the Court of Protection. The Adjudication Panel may well have considered referral to the SDT, but I am concerned that they failed to explain to you why this option was deemed not to be appropriate."
"I would remind you, however, of my earlier comment, namely that even if the SDT became involved, they are unable to award compensation for a complainant, whatever their findings."
"It might assist if I explain at the outset that my primary role is to oversee the manner in which the various professional bodies deal with complaints about lawyers, with a view to ensuring that they follow proper procedures and that they reach decisions that fall within the bounds of reasonableness. It is only in exceptional circumstances that I consider it appropriate to investigate the original complaint about the lawyer. Such circumstances are not present in your case and I have therefore confined my review of the matter to a consideration of the OSS's handling of the complaint."
"Subject to the provisions of this Act, the Legal Services Ombudsman may investigate any allegation which is properly made to him and which relates to the manner in which a complaint made to a professional body with respect to —
(a) a person who is or was an authorised advocate, authorised litigator, licensed conveyancer, registered foreign lawyer, recognised body or duly certificated notary public and a member of that professional body; or
(b) any employee of such a person,
has been dealt with by that professional body.
(2) If the Ombudsman investigates an allegation he may investigate the matter to which the complaint relates."
I will not refer to the other subsections. They have no particular bearing on the arguments in this case.
"(1) Where the Legal Services Ombudsman has completed an investigation under this Act he shall send a written report of his conclusions to —
(a) the person making the allegation;
(b) the person with respect to whom the complaint was made;
(c) any other person ...
(d) the professional body concerned.
(2) In reporting his conclusions, the Ombudsman may recommend —
(a) that the complaint be reconsidered by the professional body concerned;
(b) that the professional body concerned or any other relevant disciplinary body consider exercising its powers in relation to —
[then various persons are stipulated];
(c) that —
(i) the person with respect to whom the complaint was made;
(b) any person who, at the material time, was connected with him,
pay compensation ...
(d) that the professional body concerned pay compensation of an amount specified by the Ombudsman ...
(e) that the person or professional body to which a recommendation under paragraph (c) or (d) applies make a separate payment to the person ..."
"If after completing any investigation under this Act the Ombudsman considers that, rather than recommending the taking of any action by any person or professional body under paragraph (c), (d) or (e) of subsection (2), he should make an order requiring the taking of that action ..."
"... in order to provide you with an explanation as to why they chose not to refer Mrs Haley's conduct, together with the criticism from the Master of the Court of Protection, to the SDT."
"The courts do not, generally, order an unsuccessful claimant to pay two sets of costs, i.e. the defendant's costs and any interested party ... The courts may award two sets of costs...."
"... may order two sets of costs where the interested party deals with a separate issue not dealt with by the defendant or where the defendant and the interested party have separate and distinct interests which require separate representation ..."
"It does have a separate interest but it was not at the time a conflicting interest. But the entitlement to separate representation, and an interest separately to protect, does not of itself warrant the grant of a second set of costs. It is, if I might say so, almost inevitable that the interested party ... will be able to make a significant contribution to the argument and that the interested party will be able to make significant contribution to the evidence."
So that is R (Bedford) v London Borough of Islington  EWHC 2044 (Admin).