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England and Wales High Court (Chancery Division) Decisions
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Cite as:  EWHC 1736 (Ch)
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BIRMINGHAM DISTRICT REGISTRY
33 Bull Street
B e f o r e :
(sitting as a judge of the High Court)
|IN THE MATTER OF THE CONTEMPT OF COURT ACT 1981|
|IN THE MATTER OF RAVINDER BALLI (also known as RAVINDER SINGH)|
MR INDERJIT JOHAL in-house counsel for the Solicitors Regulation Authority
(CORRECTED 15 JULY 2011 AS FOOTNOTED)
Crown Copyright ©
HH JUDGE SIMON BARKER QC:
Ravinder Balli / Singh
Proceeding for Contempt of Court
(1) completing and filing an application notice dated 26.1.11 in action 0BM30530 which was completed in the name R&S as solicitors representing the second and third defendants;
(2) on 26.1.11, making a witness statement as a solicitor at R&S and signing a statement of truth as the applicant's solicitor;
(3) writing a letter dated 26.1.11 from R&S to the court, which letter (a) included a statement that that firm is regulated by the SRA, (b) sought to re-open action 0BM30530 urgently, and (c) enclosed the application notice and witness statement referred to above;
these 3 particulars stand together as a single incident;
(4) on 28.3.11, completing a notice of acting for R&S to act as solicitor on the record for the defendants in these proceedings and filing or causing the notice of acting to be filed at court;
(5) on 28.3.11 at 10.58 am, issuing or causing R&S to issue an application as solicitor on the record for the defendants which application sought an order setting aside a charging order made in connection with these proceedings;
(6) on 28.3.11, making a witness statement in support of such application with a statement of truth signed by S as manager of R&S on behalf of the defendants;
(7) on 28.3.11 at 3pm, appearing, on behalf of R&S, as solicitor for the defendants before District Judge Sheldrake at Birmingham CJC on the defendants' application to set aside the charging order;
(8) on 29.3.11, writing, in the name of R&S as solicitor for the defendants, to the Wolverhampton County Court in action 8ZA04017 stating:"We confirm we are instructed to act for Mrs Athwal, the defendant in the above matter. We require an urgent hearing in relation to setting aside an order. We enclose herewith form N244 times four, and supporting documentation. We will telephone you shortly to pay the £75 fee."The documents on the court file record that a fee was paid;
(9) preparing and issuing, or authorising the preparation and issue of, an application notice dated 29.3.11 in the name of S of R&S as a solicitor for the defendants;
(10) making a witness statement, incorporated in such application notice, in support of the said application with a statement of truth as manager of R&S on behalf of the defendants;
(11) as instructing solicitor on behalf of R&S, instructing Mr Simon Clegg of counsel to appear on behalf of the 2nd, 3rd and 4th defendants in these proceedings at a hearing before me on 5.4.11;
(12) attending at the hearing on 5.4.11 as the defendants' solicitor and, in the course of that hearing, giving instructions to Mr Clegg on the basis that he, S, was the instructing solicitor and was duly authorised to give such instructions; and
(13) between 28.3.11 and 6.4.11, or possibly later, communicating in the name of R&S with the claimant's solicitors, Messrs Bower & Bailey, on the basis that R&S were solicitors instructed to act and on the record for the defendants in these proceedings.
(1) on or about 31.1.11, holding himself out as the solicitor for the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th defendants in a telephone conversation with a member of the court staff concerning the issue fee for an application notice and further copies of that application notice needed for issue; and
(2) on 28.3.11, telephoning the court and writing a letter to the court bearing the reference 'RS/RB' requesting an urgent application for a stay of possession proceedings on behalf of the defendants.
However, S did not admit either of these matters. In the light of the admissions made, they are to be disregarded for the purpose of committal proceedings.
(1) on 10.5.11, following service of the transcript setting out the particulars of contempt under consideration and outlining the procedures and safeguards, there was an initial directions hearing. S was represented by counsel, Mr Balbir Singh, and at my request the SRA attended by Mr Brown and Miss Gelder of the SRA's Fraud Bureau. Mr Singh had only recently been instructed and he wished to have a conference with S and a dialogue with the SRA. The SRA was asked to inform the court, after due consideration, whether it intended to take action itself against S. A further procedural hearing was fixed for 20.5.11;
(2) on 20.5.11, S was represented by his solicitor and the SRA was represented by Mr Inderjit Johal. A final procedural hearing was then fixed for 6.6.11; and,
(3) on 6.6.11, Mr Singh again appeared for S and Mr Johal for the SRA. Mr Singh formally informed the court that, following a dialogue with the SRA, S would admit 13 of the 15 particulars identified in the transcript of 14.4.11 and the substantive hearing was fixed for 2pm on 1.7.11. At the 6.6.11 hearing, the SRA was invited to submit a short written submission in advance of the substantive hearing so that S would have advance notice of what it might wish to say; and, S was reminded that he was under no obligation either to submit evidence before the hearing or give evidence at the substantive hearing.
(1)No unqualified person is to act as a solicitor.
(2)Any person who contravenes subsection (1) is guilty of an offence and liable on conviction on indictment to imprisonment for not more than 2 years or to a fine, or to both.
(1)It is an offence for a person to carry on an activity ("the relevant activity") which is a reserved legal activity unless that person is entitled to carry on the relevant activity.
(2)In proceedings for an offence under subsection (1), it is a defence for the accused to show that the accused did not know, and could not reasonably have been expected to know, that the offence was being committed.
(3)A person who is guilty of an offence under subsection (1) is liable—
(a)on summary conviction, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 12 months or a fine not exceeding the statutory maximum (or both), and(b)on conviction on indictment, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 2 years or a fine (or both).
(4)A person who is guilty of an offence under subsection (1) by reason of an act done in the purported exercise of a right of audience, or a right to conduct litigation, in relation to any proceedings or contemplated proceedings is also guilty of contempt of the court concerned and may be punished accordingly.
Contempt of court ~ the position of a solicitor
Contempt in the face of the court ~ principles
Sanctions for contempt of court
- whether another party to proceedings is prejudiced, by virtue of the contempt and whether that prejudice is capable of remedy;
- the extent to which the contemnor has acted under pressure;
- whether the breach of the order or the contempt in the face of the court was deliberate or unintentional;
- the degree of culpability;
- whether the contemnor was placed in breach by reason of the conduct of others;
- whether the contemnor appreciated the seriousness of the breach;
- whether the contemnor has cooperated, and if so, at what stage and to what extent;
- whether the contemnor has admitted his contempt and has entered the equivalent of a guilty plea, and if so what, if any, reduction should be applied to the appropriate sentence;
- whether the contemnor has made a sincere apology for his contempt;
- the contemnor's previous character and antecedents;
- any personal mitigation advanced on the contemnor's behalf.
The application of the principles to the circumstances of the case and to S
Note 1 Corrected to delete reference to release being on licence, see footnote 2 under paragraph 43. [Back] Note 2 Corrected by judge, when giving judgment on 15.7.11 in respect of contemnor’s application to purge contempt (  EWHC 1865 (Ch)), by deleting the erroneous statement that release would be on licence and that good behaviour while in prison was relevant to release, and inserting instead the reference to s.258(2) which provides that “As soon as a [contemnor] has served one-half of the term for which he was committed, it is the duty of the Secretary of State to release him unconditionally”. [Back]
Note 1 Corrected to delete reference to release being on licence, see footnote 2 under paragraph 43. [Back]
Note 2 Corrected by judge, when giving judgment on 15.7.11 in respect of contemnor’s application to purge contempt (  EWHC 1865 (Ch)), by deleting the erroneous statement that release would be on licence and that good behaviour while in prison was relevant to release, and inserting instead the reference to s.258(2) which provides that “As soon as a [contemnor] has served one-half of the term for which he was committed, it is the duty of the Secretary of State to release him unconditionally”. [Back]