Dishonourable Ex-Lawyer Called to give Evidence over a Will
Anal Sheikh, a struck-off solicitor, is called to give evidence at the High Court over a Will she had written.
Ultimately the court accepted that her evidence corroborates with other evidence in the case, however, The High Court found that Sheikh often said “the first thing that came into her head without reflecting on whether it was correct”.
Recently, Mr Justice Jay asked the Attorney General to impose a permanent civil restraint order on Anal Sheikh due to her becoming notorious for her irritating litigation.
Following extreme allegations arising from a property dispute, she contacted judges, lawyers, journalists and countless others – last year she told the High Court that her case involved “the most important question ever asked in the history of civilisation since the birth of time”.
Anal Sheikh’s behaviour has resulted in her firm, Ashley & Co, being shut down in 2005 by the Solicitors Regulation Authority and Ms Sheikh herself was struck off in 2009 for dishonesty. In the same year a civil restraint order was issued against her to prevent vexatious litigation, which has remained in place since.
Deputy High Court judge Charles Hollander QC heard a recent challenge to a Will in which Ms Sheikh, while practicing in North London, had drafted the said Will.
Ms Sheikh had a “deep grievance against the English justice system”, and the judge advised everyone that when she was asked to assist in the case, “she responded with an enormously long tirade in writing against the justice system, peppered with individual accusations of corruption and dishonesty against most of the senior judiciary”.
In cross-examining Ms Sheikh, the Judge described that she refused to acknowledge that numerous judges were actually judges and refused to accept the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal’s control over her activities as a solicitor.
“Other parts of her evidence were equally eccentric,” said Mr Hollander QC. “She claimed to have acted on 100,000 conveyancing transactions, which seems unlikely for a sole practitioner: this requires about 15 new instructions 365 days a year throughout her career.”
The challenge was based on a lack of knowledge and approval on the part of the testatrix.
Ms Sheikh’s witness statement advised that she would had made sure an interpreter was present if her client could not speak and/or understand English when drafting a Will.
The judge replied by saying he could not “safely” rely on Ms Sheikh’s evidence unless there was substantial material which supported or validated it.
“I formed the view that she would often say the first thing that came into her head without reflecting on whether it was correct.”
After extensive discussion and consideration of all the evidence, the judge finally decided that there were no suspicious circumstances and disallowed the challenge to the Will.
Mr Hollander QC revealed that Ashley & Co’s receptionist, who witnessed the execution, would not have agreed to do so if she thought the client did not approve or understand it, “and whatever may be said about Ms Sheikh, I do not think in 1998 she would have done so either”.
Hollander QC further added: “Indeed, the correspondence we have from Ms Sheikh suggests she was anxious that her clients should understand the contents of the will.
“So, notwithstanding my misgivings about Ms Sheikh, I think her evidence in this regard is consistent with the other evidence I heard.”
Hardwicke barrister Charlotte John, in a commentary on the case on her blog, wrote: “Just pause for one moment to digest the prospect of having to call as a witness in support of your case a former solicitor who has not only been struck off for dishonesty but who has repeatedly plagued the courts with fantastical and vexatious applications, to the extent that she has been restrained from issuing any application or claim. Add to your woes the loss of the original will file.
“That was the position that the defendants faced in Gupta v Gupta & Ors and the claimant seeking to challenge the Will was no doubt emboldened by Ms Sheikh’s extraordinary reputation.”