SDT rejects misconduct charge against solicitor who recommended surveillance of opponent lawyers
The Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal (SDT) has found that Farrer & Co Solicitor Julian Pike did not commit professional conduct when he advised his client News International to arrange the surveillance of two lawyers acting for victims of phone-hacking (understood to be Mark Lewis and Charlotte Harris). At the time Mr Harris was defending phone-hacking claims for his client.
Mr Pike reportedly believed that the lawyers were having an affair and improperly sharing information about claims. Mr Pike suggested that News International try to prevent the two from acting. Subsequently, his client commissioned the surveillance of Mr Lewis, his former wife, daughter and Ms Harris. No evidence of an affair was uncovered.
The matter came to light during the Leveson Inquiry in 2011, where the carrying out of surveillance was described by Sir Brian Levson as "dubious at best”.
The SDT found that “...the spectre of solicitors carrying out surveillance on each other was repugnant”, however it accepted that Mr Pike was a credible and trustworthy witness, and had “...an unshakeable, but honestly held, belief that [the lawyers] had committed repeated acts of serious misconduct”. In the circumstances, it “...could not be sure to the requisite standard that the decision to advise [his client] to mount surveillance was made without proper justification”.
While clearing Mr Pike, the SDT find that in all the circumstances, that it was appropriate that he make a contribution to the Solicitors Regulation Authority's legal costs in the sum of £20,000.
A full copy of the ruling can be found here
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