Well-known media lawyer Mark Lewis, who received a Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal (SDT) fine for responding angrily to online anti-Semitic abuse, has had the bulk of his fine paid by crowdfunding supporters.
Lewis, recognised for his work advising phone-hacking victims against the News of the World, was fined £2,500 and ordered to pay £10,000 in costs after he ‘wished death’ to social media abusers.
Lewis, who is Jewish, said he received more than 5,000 abusive messages, including some of an anti-Semitic nature.
But the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) received two complaints, the first on 6 June 2017 and the second on 27 October that same year, in relation to Twitter and Facebook comments Lewis made responding to the abuse.
On 10 August this year, the SRA decided to prosecute Lewis for acting with a lack of integrity and for failing to uphold the confidence the public places in the profession, and subsequently brought a case to the SDT. The tribunal hearing began on 22 November.
Lewis has received considerable support since being handed the fine, with a crowdfunding campaign on Just Giving raising £2,222 to help him pay the financial penalty. One anonymous benefactor, who gave £100 said: ‘Shame on the SRA. The law is worse off for this racist decision.’
An SRA spokesperson said: ‘We prosecute solicitors and their firms where we believe they have breached our standards. We believed that was the case here and the tribunal agreed with us.’
Lewis has a right to appeal the decision with the High Court. A legal regulation partner told Legal Business: ‘Because it is not a particularly clear area of law, there probably are grounds for bringing an appeal.’
The partner added: ‘Is it the role of the SRA to intervene in Twitter rows? This is a case about boundaries, and it suggests that the SRA’s boundaries are in a different place to that of the public.’
This latest case does not mark Lewis’ first involvement with the SDT. In January 2017, Farrer & Co partner Julian Pike was cleared by the tribunal after he was accused of arranging for Lewis to be spied on as he defended phone-hacking victims.
For more on the SRA’s approach to legal regulation, read Legal Business’ analysis Off the leash here.