Solicitor jailed for helping drug-dealer clients appeals conviction
A former solicitor convicted of colluding with his drug-dealer clients has attempted to appeal the verdict on the basis of legal professional privilege.
Basharat Ali Ditta (pictured), then a salaried partner at Blackburn firm Forbes Solicitors, was convicted in November 2013 of two counts of doing acts tending and intended to pervert the course of justice.
It was alleged that Ditta had sought information from the police about an ongoing investigation, which he had then passed onto three former or current clients, each of whom would subsequently be convicted of conspiring to supply class-A drugs.
The solicitor, who was struck off last year, was linked to the investigation after officers observed one of the men, Neil Scarborough, hiding wraps of cocaine under a bin outside his home.
Ditta, who was sentenced to three years’ imprisonment, applied for leave to appeal both the conviction and sentence.
The grounds for appeal included: wrongful admission of Ditta’s previous convictions for cocaine use, wrongful admission of his clients’ previous convictions, and that there was too much disclosure about the other people subject to the investigation.
Sir Brian Leveson ruled that each was important to Ditta’s case and did not amount to arguable grounds for appeal.
Leveson also ruled that Justice Holroyde, the judge at trial, had not erred in admitting evidence from police interviews in 2011 that showed Ditta had a propensity for untruthfulness. The appeal judge also ruled out insufficient disclosure by the prosecution as a ground for appeal.
Just one new ground for appeal was not rejected out of hand: Ditta’s plea that the conviction was unsafe as he had declined to give details of phone conversations with the clients due to legal professional privilege.
Ditta had relied on privilege in his police interview and in his defence case statement, and refused to give details of what was said.
Leveson said this defence relied on further evidence from Ditta and his trial legal team, and he adjourned the ground with directions for a further hearing.
On all other grounds, the renewed application for leave to appeal against conviction failed, as did the appeal against sentence.
Leveson added: ‘This was a serious case of offending by a practising solicitor; Holroyde J correctly identified the mitigating and aggravating features. The sentence was entirely appropriate.’