At the start of this year, human rights lawyer Sophie Khan was jailed, after refusing to hand over documents to the independent watchdog that regulates solicitors.
A High Court judge sentenced the solicitor to six months in prison, for refusing to comply with two separate court orders calling on her to give over clients’ files.
The outspoken campaigner has now been released from prison, after serving three months in jail, following her conviction for Contempt of Court.
Now, in her first media interview since being released, Khan told City A.M. of her battle with the SRA and her time in custody, as she continues to fight the regulator.
City A.M.’s interview with Khan came as the SRA once again demanded Khan hand over the files, as lawyers for the regulator told a court the justification for calling on Khan to cooperate remains in place.
The investigation comes on the back of a cost claim dispute, on which the SRA has made six separate allegations. Two further allegations link to dealings with the Legal Ombudsmen, while a further three sit in relation to Khan’s cooperation with the SRA.
Speaking to City A.M. Khan claims she was stuck between a “rock and a hard place,” as she explains the choice put to her was simple – either “I abandon the wishes of my clients, or go to prison.”
In her own words, Khan said she refused to hand the documents over as her clients “have cases against the police and the Ministry of Defence (MoD).”
The campaigner, who describes herself as an expert on the law around tasers, said the fact she deals with “high profile claims against the state” made her reluctant to cooperate with the SRA, as she said her clients see the independent regulator as “an extension of the state”
“I made the decision that I would face prison. It was a horrible choice that I needed to make”Sophie Khan
The law firm founder says she felt she had been put in a “ludicrous” position, after she “took a stand” in refusing to hand over the documents in a bid to protect her clients’ confidentiality.
In her view, the court, in demanding she hand over documents, were seeking to send a message that her clients “are not more important than the court.”
She explains that she initially sought to “challenge the SRA’s powers through the court system.” However, she soon found she had become “the subject matter in a battle against the state.”
The lawyer said she quickly began to feel the courts had become “hostile” towards her, as she began to feel persecuted for her refusal to work with the SRA.
“I made the decision that I would face prison,” Khan told City A.M. “It was a horrible choice that I needed to make.”
In comments made exclusively to City A.M. Khan said she felt the judge’s decision to hand down a prison sentence had been disproportionate, as she suggested a “fine would have been better.”
However, the lawyer said she “was not counting the days” during her three-months inside, as she said the time gave her a chance to read.
“I wouldn’t say someone taking your liberty is enjoyment, but I was taking a stand”Sophie Khan
“I would spend a lot of time reading, and to tell you the truth, I love reading,” Khan said. “I generally do a lot of reading anyway, because as a lawyer you love reading.”
Whilst serving her time, Khan read a number of books including Natives by British rapper Akala and Nelson Mandela’s Long Walk to Freedom.
However, on being asked whether she enjoyed her time locked away Khan said: “I wouldn’t say someone taking your liberty is enjoyment, but I was taking a stand.”
Anyone could do it
In her own words, the lawyer said prison is “not what you think it is” as she suggested that anyone “could do it”.
However, she notes that her experiences had been “very different to everyone else’s” due to having made the decision to go to prison.
The lawyer also noted that unlike many others locked away, her time in jail ended up being a “very, very short term of imprisonment.”
“If you can go to prison, you can face anything”Sophie Khan
As for her interactions with other inmates, Khan said she “got on with everybody,” as she explains she began helping some of the other girls in the prison on their cases.
The solicitor notes that she also spent a lot of time working out in the gym with the help of a fellow prisoner, who had previously worked as a personal trainer.
Whilst serving her time, Khan became particularly interested in the inmates being held on controversial Imprisonment for Public Protection (IPP) sentences, which allows prisoners to be held indefinitely.
All in all, Khan is now looking forwards to continuing with her work. “If you can go to prison, you can face anything!” the lawyer said.