Mark Lewis acted with a lack of integrity and failed to uphold the confidence the public places in the profession when he ‘wished death’ to his abusers on social media, the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal found today. The high-profile media lawyer, who represented phone-hacking victims against the News of the World, was fined £2,500 and ordered to pay £10,000 costs.
Lewis was charged by the Solicitors Regulation Authority with sending offensive and profane messages to users on Twitter and Facebook. The only charge found unproven was that Lewis acted without integrity when he sent an offensive message to the son of an acquaintance on Facebook. The tribunal accepted in that case that Lewis, who suffers from multiple sclerosis, was on a course of strong medication at the time, had entered into a ‘dream-like state’ and could not remember what he had posted.
He subsequently made repeated efforts to apologise to the person he messaged.
Both allegations related to Lewis’s conduct on Twitter were found proven. The tribunal did not hear all the messages Lewis sent in reply but one of his responses was: ‘Happy to celebrate your death too. I have not got time for your hideous evil.’
In mitigation Timothy Kendal, representing Lewis, said the lawyer- who is Jewish - had been subjected to a three-year bombardment on Twitter consisting of ‘thousands’ of disgusting and abusive antisemitic messages from neo-nazis. He had been forced to live with enhanced security as a result.
Among those messages were tweets mocking his illness and others that showed his face superimposed on photographs of the crematorium at Auschwitz. Some of his abusers have been convicted for their conduct towards him, Kendal noted. Lewis had responded to a tiny proportion of the messages he received, his counsel added.
Gideon Falter, chair of the Campaign Against Antisemitism, appeared as a witness. Falter said known antisemites had been watching proceedings closely and had tried to use the SRA as a tool with which to punish Lewis. They would be ‘rejoicing’ at any severe outcome, he warned.
Kendal submitted that the case was ‘wholly unprecedented and unique’ and that his client had a huge amount of integrity. Lewis has spent his life fighting and tackling antisemitism and other forms of racism, Kendal said. In his professional capacity, he had consistently represented the underdog.
Kendall added: ’It is my submission that there are serious and compelling mitigating factors for each charge.’
Today’s decision promptied cries of ‘disgrace’ from the public seats, with some observers claiming it would hand a victory to antisemites. The proceedings had been heated at times and at one point the hearing was moved to accommodate the large number of people who had chosen to attend.