The High Court has overturned a tribunal decision to fine a solicitor who overcharged for costs, ruling that he should immediately be struck off.
In Solicitors Regulation Authority v Good, Lord Justice Flaux said the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal should have found that solicitor Andrew Good acted dishonestly. Instead it had imposed a ‘clearly inappropriate’ fine of £30,000.
The tribunal found that Good, founder of Hull firm Rapid Response, had set a £400 hourly rate for clinical negligence cases as a matter of policy, producing bills that were ‘unreasonable and disproportionate’. On one detailed assessment, the tribunal heard, a district judge had reduced a bill of costs by 91% to £3,330.
Good was found to have acted without integrity, but the tribunal dismissed an allegation of dishonesty, determining that Good believed he was entitled to ‘test the rate’ and that bills would be subject to the scrutiny of costs experts.
Flaux LJ said the tribunal’s analysis was ‘fundamentally flawed’ and was satisfied there were ‘clear and obvious’ errors of principle in its decision.