Court document reveals SRA was left over £17,700 out of pocket after Lord Harley redaction blunder

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By Thomas Connelly on

Exclusive: Regulator was unable to recover costs after ex-solicitor advocate’s unsuccessful injunction bid


A court document has revealed the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) was left more than £17,700 out of pocket after it published improperly redacted material relating to Lord Harley.

The ruling — handed down by Mr Justice Fraser — relates to Lord Harley’s unsuccessful legal attempt to prevent files containing information about him being made public.

Back in April, Fraser — sitting in the High Court’s Queen’s Bench Division in Manchester — booted out Harley’s claim against the SRA, ruling that there was “no serious issue to be tried”.

Now, thanks to a freedom of information (FOI) request, Legal Cheek can reveal the SRA — despite winning the case — incurred costs of £17,781 defending the injunction and was unable to recover a penny. The judge noted that this was a departure from the normal rule, but then went on to explain why he’d taken this unusual step.

According to the ruling — in which the defendant is named as the Law Society due to the SRA not being a legal entity — Fraser claims Harley could have been “provoked” into taking legal action after an embarrassing redaction blunder by the regulator.

First pointed out by Legal Cheek last summer, redacted documents relating to Harley could be viewed in full if downloaded and highlighted.

According Fraser, the relationship between Harley — whose real name is Alan Blacker — and the regulator was “further inflamed” when he was given just 48 hours to comment on certain documents prior to publication. As a result Fraser made “no order as to costs”, leaving the SRA to pick up a tab of over £17,700.

A spokesperson for the SRA said:

As we said at the time, we were sorry that information was published without being properly redacted. We have already reviewed our processes for responding to freedom of information requests and we are keeping them under review. We welcomed the original judgment, which agreed to strike out the claim as we requested. Mr Justice Fraser also recognised that the files requested by Dr Blacker belong to us and he had no claim to them.

Back in July, Blacker was removed from the solicitors’ roll after the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal (SDT) found that he had, among other things, made “inaccurate and misleading” statements about his academic qualifications and professional memberships. On this occasion Blacker was hit with an eye-watering costs order of £86,000.

Read the ruling in full below: