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Solicitor struck off over Norwegian harassment convictions

A solicitor who practised for more than a decade without flagging up two harassment convictions has been struck off the roll.

Farid El Diwany had been convicted in 2001 and 2003 in a Norwegian court but continued to practise in England until his practising certificate was revoked by the Solicitors Regulation Authority in 2017.

The Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal heard that El Diwany had been fined and then given a suspended prison sentence after sending 200 letters and cards to a former friend in Norway and setting up a website on which he wrote disparaging comments about her. The correspondence contained repeated themes about her sex life, abortions, suicide attempts and partner’s drug abuse. He also sent a ‘report’ about her life story to neighbours, friends and relations. The harassment was said to have forced the victim to move to a secret address, obtain an unlisted number and reportedly feeling scared to go out.

Details of El Diwany’s convictions appeared in a High Court judgment from 2011 when he brought unsuccessful libel actions against a Norwegian journalist, police officer, the Ministry of Justice and the police of Norway. His record was flagged up to the SRA in 2017 after a report from a colleague.

The SRA told the tribunal it should not look behind a conviction unless there were exceptional circumstances.

El Diwany, who represented himself, submitted that the convictions were unsound and claimed it was ‘plainly untrue’ the woman felt harassed. His second conviction was the result of duress and he considered that had he not been a Muslim the prosecution would never have been brought. He warned that the tribunal risked ‘subtle Islamophobia tainting the proceedings’ if it did not go behind the convictions, but the panel found no basis for claiming exceptional circumstances.

It was heard El Diwany made repeated applications for practising certificates without telling the SRA about his convictions. He claimed not to know at the time he was under a duty to report this. He considered there was no obligation to disclose ‘something so flawed’.

The tribunal ruled it was not open to a solicitor to unilaterally determine under which circumstances it was unnecessary to report a conviction. In the event, he was ‘effectively usurping the role of the regulator’ to form his own conclusion.

The tribunal rejected El Diwany’s suggestion that a one-month suspension would suffice, and opted to strike him off. He was also ordered to pay £5,700 costs.

Business Fast | 24 January 2020 |