A struck-off solicitor’s comparison of his regulatory run-ins with the death of George Floyd has been described as “grossly offensive and disrespectful” by a disciplinary tribunal.
Michael Azuka Otobo was struck off in 2009 for, among other things, practising without holding a current practising certificate, breaching the rules on supervision and misleading or attempting to mislead an asylum and immigration tribunal.
The former solicitor sought leave to apply for a re-hearing in 2016, which was rejected by the tribunal, and later the High Court. Undeterred, Otobo lodged a further application for leave to apply for a re-hearing out of time last December.
The day before before the re-hearing, however, Otobo emailed the tribunal seeking an adjournment. He said he felt unwell, his solicitors need more time to prepare, he required funding from his insurers, and “this is an example of Black Lives Matter”. The tribunal rejected Otobo’s request, noting the “case had nothing to do with Black Lives Matter”.
Otobo argued that the 2009 ruling was “obtained by fraud, deception and perversion”, and submitted that the fraud in his case was “perpetrated by NL, a former business partner”.
The ruling, published by the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal (SDT), then notes the following:
“At one point in his submissions the applicant sought to compare his complaints about the SRA and others to the circumstances of the recent death of George Floyd in the United States of America.”
The chairman stepped in at this point, “to require the applicant to show some reticence and demonstrate some respect for the fact that an individual had died,” according to the ruling.
Refusing the application, the tribunal said Otobo had provided no evidence of any health condition that could explain a delay of 10 years in lodging an application for a re-hearing. He also provided no evidence to support the “number of serious allegations of fraud, deception, conspiracy to pervert the course justice”.
It continued: “The applicant’s gratuitous reference to the death of George Floyd was grossly offensive and disrespectful and his attempt to link that incident and Black Lives Matter with issues of the applicant’s regulatory history was a disgrace.”
Otobo was ordered to pay £13,196 in costs. The ruling states the tribunal’s decision is subject to a High Court appeal.