“Harry Potter” lawyer receives written apology over lost file fiasco, but independent complaints body clears regulator of discrimination
Officials at the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) have apologised to Alan Blacker — who shot to fame when a Crown Court judge berated him for festooning his gown with Harry Potter-style medals — after the solicitor-advocate complained over the handling of investigations into his practice.
Legal Cheek understands that Blacker — also known as Lord Harley of Counsel — officially complained to the Independent Complaint Resolution Service (ICRS) earlier this year over several issues, including alleged discrimination. The ICRS — a specialist provider of complaint and dispute resolution services — independently oversees complaints regarding the SRA.
Blacker, who is based in Heywood, Lancashire, alluded to the ICRS findings on his extensive LinkedIn page last week, posting a message claiming that the SRA had been “ordered to apologise for not handling complaints of racism and general misconduct properly”.
However, Legal Cheek can reveal that the apology was in relation to a miscommunication regarding a lost file concerning Blacker. The SRA had incorrectly informed the lawyer that a file containing his details had gone missing.
According to the SRA, none of Blacker’s grievances were upheld by the independent complaints body, but the final report did recommend — and not “ordered” as Harley suggests — an apology.
As a result, the SRA wrote to Blacker two months ago apologising for the misunderstanding and any distress caused.
An SRA spokesman told Legal Cheek:
The Independent Complaints Resolution Service has oversight of the way we handle complaints about our service and provides a final independent response to complainants. The ICRS did not uphold Dr Blacker’s complaints. However, it did make a recommendation that we apologise to Dr Blacker for any distress caused when we mistakenly advised we had lost files when we had not. We wrote to Dr Blacker in June to apologise.
The spokesman then addressed issues of alleged discrimination:
We also reminded staff to consider inviting further information from complainants to help us better understand concerns of discrimination that are raised with us, although as we said, Dr Blacker’s concern in this respect was not upheld by the ICRS.
Meanwhile, it has also emerged that the Law Society — which has technical oversight of the otherwise independent SRA — has been told to ask the regulator to release some correspondence between it and Blacker’s charity, the Rochdale-based Joint Armed Forces Legal Advocacy Service (JAFLAS).
A ruling from the society’s freedom of information code adjudicator was handed down at the end of last month, suggesting that the SRA release a series of correspondence and reports regarding the charity. The Law Society does not fall within the scope of freedom of information legislation, but it has adopted its own code of practice, which covers the SRA.
However, the SRA is not obliged to comply with adjudications and it is understood officials are considering the ruling. No detail is known of the substance of that correspondence and reports.
Legal Cheek contacted the charity’s office late on Friday for comment. An unidentified voice simply responded by saying: