Solicitor struck off for misleading court and opponent solicitors in freezing order litigation

An ex-city partner has been struck off after allowing the court to grant a freezing order based on incorrect information. The freezing order was set aside and the city partner and has been ordered by the SDT to pay costs of £42,525.

Peter Gray, a former partner from Gibson Dunn & Crutcher LLP was investigated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) and the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal (SDT) who held that he had “deliberately deployed a misleading strategy” in the High Court to obtain a global freezing injunction.

Mr Gray acted on behalf of the Republic of Dijbouti and produced three witness statements in support of an application for an injunction and it was later revealed, after the injunction was obtained, that the transcripts used to convict the individual on previous terrorism charges were misdated and unreliable.

Mr Gray argued he had long working hours and was travelling extensively at the time and that the drafting of documents had been “a team effort” but accepted that as the partner he was ultimately responsible. He argued that he was not aware of the error in the transcripts at the time.

It was discovered that Mr Gray had been made aware of the errors with the dates in the transcripts before the hearing of the application for a freezing injunction. It was revealed that this was not an unintentional error but Mr Gray in fact advised the client that they would “fudge” the dating issue, anticipating that they would get away with the error.

The Court in a 2015 ruling, set aside the freezing order and found that Mr Gray had misled the court through his response to the opponent’s solicitors when they queried the errors in the dates.

My solicitor has been negligent

A solicitor must hold a greater professional standard of care in servicing their client’s affairs however solicitors on occasion fail to act in their client’s best interest.  As a matter of conduct, solicitors are highly regulated and owe their clients a contractual, statutory and tortious duty of care. The last thing you expect when you hire a professional is for them to be negligent.

Professional negligence claims against members of the legal profession tend to be complex in nature and argument. Professional indemnity insurers will often instruct a specialist City of London law firm to defend claims vigorously, thus it is essential to take legal advice at the outset from our expert professional negligence team.

We understand as lawyers where solicitors go wrong and where solicitors have failed to act upon their client’s instructions.

Common Examples of Solicitor Negligence

Examples of common claims against solicitors, barristers, patent attorneys and licenced conveyancers include:

  • Failing to provide correct legal advice: a claim can be brought if a lawyer has provided a negligent legal opinion, relied upon by a claimant, which has led to personal or financial loss.
  • Failing to fully investigate or properly evidence the claim: solicitors and direct access barristers may be negligent in not gathering all pertinent information to ensure a claimant’s case is successful e.g. by not obtaining witness statements which supports the version of events.
  • Failing to fully warn the client on the risks: for example a solicitor will be negligent if a specific risk warning that a tax avoidance scheme might fail.
  • Missing a limitation date leading to a claim becoming time-barred: if the original claim had merit, then a claimant is entitled to pursue the errant solicitor or law firm for their loss of chance of success in the claim.
  • Failing to comply with a court order or deadline: if your claim has been struck out by the court after your solicitor or barrister breached an order of the Court (e.g. an unless order), then you may have a claim against the legal professional for poor performance of the litigation.
  • Poor performance of instructions: failing to adequately investigate title to property when acting for the buyer of a property; failing to advise on burdens affecting a property e.g. restrictive covenants, adverse rights burdening the property, failing to register a mortgage/debenture at Companies House if acting for a buyer client company.

Can I challenge my solicitor’s bill and start professional negligence proceedings?

This is a relatively contentious area. Challenging a bill is commenced in the Senior Courts Costs Office (SCCO), whereas commencing professional negligence proceedings (if the claim is for more than £100,000) is in the High Court.

One of the Court’s overriding objectives in the Civil Procedural Rules is to save time and expense. The Court generally do not condone claimants commencing parallel proceedings and if costs proceedings are commenced in the SCCO, and the pre-action protocol for professional negligence is ongoing, the SCCO will likely order a stay of the costs proceedings in order to enable the parties to comply with the pre-action protocol for professional negligence. However, this varies depending on the individual facts of a case.

What is the Solicitors Displinary Tribunal?

The Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal (SDT) investigates and adjudicates complaints of solicitor misconduct including breaches of the SRA rules, principles and Solicitors’ Code of Conduct. The SDT can impose a range of sanctions such as suspension, strike off or issue fines.

How did the SDT treat the solicitors’ negligence?

The Tribunal concurred with the Court and ruled that Gray had deliberately misled the court by failing to mention that the conviction was based on incorrect and unreliable transcripts. He was ordered to pay £42,525 in costs. The full decision will be available on the SRA website here.

Instruct Specialist Professional Negligence Solicitors

We are a specialist City of London law firm made up of Solicitors & Barristers operating from the only law firm based in the Middle Temple Inn of Court adjacent to the Royal Courts of Justice. The firm is made up of exceptional lawyers who are practising solicitors and barristers supported by high quality paralegals, legal apprentices and other legal support staff. We regularly work in conjunction with leading Queen’s Counsel and junior barristers from chambers predominantly in London near to our own chambers in Middle Temple.

Our team can provide the best expertise in advising on claims for compensation against professionals that have fallen below the standard expected, which causes clients financial or personal losses. We are experienced in bringing you successful claims against negligent solicitors, barristers, financial advisors, surveyors, valuers, architects, tax advisors and IFAs.

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