Solicitor struck off for perverting the course of justice
A newly-qualified solicitor has been struck off by the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal following his conviction for attempting to pervert the course of justice. Mohammed Riaz (also known as John Washington) was convicted on 1 September 2016 and sentenced to eight months' custody.
Riaz, who was admitted to the roll only a year before he was convicted, owned a hotel in North Wales where the complainant had alleged that she had been sexually assaulted by Mr Riaz’s brother. The prosecution centred on a conversation that Mr Riaz had with the manager of the hotel where he sought (through the manager) to persuade the complainant to withdraw her allegation.
In passing sentence at Mold Crown Court the Judge commented:-
“This is a very serious matter because it strikes at the very root of our system of justice. A very serious criminal offence has been alleged. It was in the early stages of investigation and you sought to influence the main witness, the complainant”
“You sought to do that by utililsing a person over whom you had influence, a person whose job depended on you”.
“… the public interest demands that there must be custodial sentences and that will be one of 8 months in custody”.
Riaz maintained his before the Tribunal innocence and indicated that he intended to appeal his conviction (but accepted that he had yet to do so). In mitigation he said his conduct was a single, brief episode which the sentencing Judge had remarked was ‘entirely out of character’. His brother had not ultimately been prosecuted.
In passing judgment the tribunal’s findings mirrored that of the trial Judge in relation to culpability stating that he sought to influence someone whose job depended on him and that even as a relatively inexperienced solicitor that he must have appreciated that to seek to influence a potential witness in the early stages of an investigation was thoroughly inappropriate. Furthermore the press coverage of the conviction was likely to cause significant reputational damage to the profession. In considering the mitigation the Tribunal noted that Riaz had been compliant in notifying the SRA of his arrest and subsequent conviction and echoed the Judge’s findings that this was out of character in an otherwise ‘hardworking, industrious life’.
Riaz was duly struck off the Roll and ordered to pay £2,368.50 in costs.
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