“Ground-breaking” permanent injunction granted against struck off solicitor

Laura Coogan

If a solicitor, without the permission of the Law Society, employs another solicitor in the knowledge that he has been struck off the roll, section 41(4) of the Solicitors Act 1974 provides that the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal or the High Court can make an order for the striking off of the employing solicitor. It also provides, amongst other things, the High Court can make an “order in the matter as it thinks fit”.

Until recently, this provision had never been relied upon as grounds upon which to obtain a permanent injunction to prevent a struck off solicitor from being involved with a law firm without the Law Society’s approval. However, this month, the High Court held in Law Society v Shah that the Law Society (operating through the Solicitors Regulation Authority) had the power to seek such an injunction, and indeed granted one.

The case in question related to an individual named Dixit Shah, whose career since qualifying as a solicitor has been somewhat more unusual than most.  Mr Shah ran the “BJ Brandon Group” of law firms between 1998 and 2000, during which it is alleged that he misappropriated somewhere between £8 million and £12.5 million in client funds (which, the Law Society has been quoted as calling “the legal equivalent of the Great Train Robbery”). Mr Shah denied the allegations.

Following this, in 2002, whilst in India and trying to carve out a Bollywood career, Mr Shah was struck off the roll by the Law Society because he had employed a solicitor who he knew had been suspended from practice.

After avoiding the police for a number of years, Mr Shah was sent to prison in England in 2010 after pleading guilty to conspiracy to defraud. He was released in 2012.

Following concerns about Mr Shah (who remains struck off) and his connection with at least one other law firm after his release from prison, the Law Society obtained an interim injunction against him in May 2014. This prevented Mr Shah from holding himself out as a solicitor or undertaking legal activities.

In January 2015, the High Court issued a final court order providing the following:

Mr Shah must not hold himself out , or act as a solicitor or undertake any reserved legal activity, and must not undertake legal activities…through any body authorised by the SRA or be employed by, or remunerated by, manage, control the practice of a solicitor or any body regulated by the SRA, without the prior written permission of the SRA being given to such solicitor or body”.

It also features a penal notice which states that any other person who knows of the order and does anything to help or permit Mr Shah to breach it may be in contempt of court, be imprisoned or have their assets seized.

This is the first final injunction, referred to as “ground-breaking” by the legal press, to have been granted by the High Court in such circumstances.

Law Society v Shah [2014] EWHC 4382 (Ch)

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