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TV barrister disbarred for failing to pay school fees

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Sophia Cannon also accused of ‘misleading the court’ by disciplinary tribunal

A former barrister and TV talking head has been disbarred for a series of indiscretions that included failing to follow a court order to pay school fees.

Sophia Cannon was also found in breach of bar disciplinary rules for “misleading the court” on two occasions in 2014 and 2015, and for repeatedly making court applications that were totally without merit.

A Bar Tribunals and Adjudication Service (BTAS) panel found that Cannon’s actions were “likely to diminish the trust and confidence which the public places in the profession”, and some “could reasonably be seen by the public to undermine her honesty and integrity”.

Cannon, who practised at the now defunct Tooks Chambers, is now a writer and broadcaster. According to a LinkedIn profile, she has appeared on various ITV and BBC programmes and in various national newspapers to share her “self assured opinions on political and social justice issues”.

She will now be unable to return to the profession unless she can appeal the tribunal’s decision.

A summary of the case posted on the BTAS website says that Cannon failed to comply with several court orders made by a district judge in late 2014 and early 2015. Among the charges was that she “failed to pay the balance of the fund for school fees to the respondent’s solicitors by the 12 September 2014 pursuant to the agreement recited in the order dated 2 September 2014”. The tribunal listed seven other breaches of court orders connected to this litigation over school fees, including failing to pay the other side’s costs by a given date.

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The tribunal also referred to Cannon “misleading the court” on 16 August 2014, and separately on 16 June 2015. The first time, she told the court that the other side had been served with a certain document “when she knew that they had not been so served”. The second time, she said that a High Court hearing was coming up on a given date “which statement she knew or ought to have known was untrue”.

Finally, the panel listed a variety of infractions during family law proceedings in which Cannon was acting as a litigant in person (i.e. representing herself). These included several court applications deemed totally without merit, one of which was “incoherent and made no sense”. In December 2016, she was placed under a limited civil restraint order stopping her from making any further applications without permission from a judge.

It is not clear from the summary whether the various incidents all relate to the same litigation. Cannon has been approached for comment.

Commenting on the order to disbar, a Bar Standards Board (BSB) spokesperson said:

“The tribunal’s decision acts as a reminder to all barristers that their actions in personal legal proceedings can impact on the public’s confidence in all barristers and amount to professional misconduct. The serious impact of Ms Cannon’s actions is reflected in the decision to order her disbarment”.

Cannon’s profile at her literary agency says that “having qualified and practised as a barrister, working mostly in the area of family law, more recently Sophia has chosen to focus on writing and broadcast work”.

The disbarment decision is open to appeal.

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