The Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal said it thought ‘very carefully’ about whether only to reprimand media lawyer Mark Lewis after he repeatedly used his Twitter account to wish death on people who subjected him to a torrent of antisemitic abuse.
In its full decision published this week the SDT said it eventually came to the conclusion that a reprimand would not be a strong enough punishment and that a fine would be the most appropriate outcome. However, it reduced the fine from an initial estimate of £7,500 to £2,500 on account of Lewis’s financial struggles.
Last month Lewis, who represented phone-hacking victims against the News of the World, was found to have 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 Twitter. On top of the £2,500 fine he was also ordered to pay £10,000 in costs.
Many of his abusers hurled antisemitic abuse at him and during tribunal proceedings Lewis’s counsel said tweets directed at the lawyer included death threats and images of his face superimposed on the crematorium at Auschwitz.
Earlier in the proceedings it emerged that the investigating officers of the Solicitors Regulation Authority had not researched the context of the Twitter messages to which Lewis was replying, nor the background of the people who had sent him abuse. Two of the abusers had previous convictions for their actions, which include Holocaust denial, the decision noted.
But the SDT’s published decision says the SRA did not ‘behave badly by failing to obtain contextual tweets’. The regulator accepted that the content was 'horrendous', the judgment notes, adding that the case was simply that Lewis had failed to comply SRA principles to act with integrity and in a way that upholds the trust that the public places in the profession.
The published judgment also reveals for the first time the full extent of the messages Lewis sent. Among them was one that read: ‘Whatever. Just hurry up and die. I’m going to bed,’ and another which said: ‘Yes you are a Nazi scum and yes I’d be delighted if you die.’
The only SRA charge found unproven by the tribunal was that Lewis acted without integrity when he sent an offensive message to the son of an acquaintance on Facebook. The tribunal accepted that Lewis, who has multiple sclerosis, was on a course of strong medication at the time and could not remember what he had posted. He also made repeated attempts to apologise.
In the exchange, which the judgment publshes in full, Lewis wrote to the person in question: ‘f**k off you stupid c**t’ and later said: ‘I hope your dad sits Shiva [mourning] for you soon. He should have worn a condom.’
In mitigation, the tribunal accepted Lewis’ submission that he had limited means. He did not own his own house and monthly expenses exceeded his liabilities. Although his former firm Seddons is paying him £10,000 per month before tax this was due to end in March.
After the fine was handed down Lewis’s supporters raised funds on crowdfunding websites.