A solicitor who launched a ‘deliberate and serious’ headbutt attack on a litigant in person inside a High Court building has been spared jail.
Philip Saunders was handed an 18-month sentence, suspended for two years, for the attack on Mohammad Reza Ghadami inside the Rolls Building.
CCTV footage shows Saunders lean back before striking Ghadami, whose son plays Kush in BBC drama EastEnders, with his forehead.
Inner London Crown Court heard that the force of the blow gave Ghadami a fractured nose requiring surgery. Saunders, 69, a partner at London firm Saunders Bearman, had been embroiled in a bitter multi-million-pound property dispute with Ghadami and others.
Saunders was not acting in his capacity as a solicitor in the case while Ghadami was a litigant in person.
On the CCTV footage, taken following a day in court, 62-year-old Ghadami can be seen swinging a pilot bag in-between Saunders’ legs after a vocal confrontation.
Saunders was found guilty in January of occasioning actual bodily harm. However, details of the case have been reported for the first time only today because of reporting restrictions imposed by recorder Steven Gasztowicz QC.
Ghadami had been due to stand trial accused of a racially aggravated public order offence but the case was dropped due to lack of evidence, the court heard. The court heard today that it was likely that Ghadami had used a derogatory term referencing Saunders’ Jewish religion before the incident.
Representing Saunders, David Nathan QC said Ghadami had been ‘provoking’ Saunders causing the solicitor to ‘snap’ in a manner that was ‘totally out of his character’.
Nathan said Saunders had told a police officer that Ghadami had referred to him as a ‘piece of shit’ and had added words to the effect of ‘don’t be so Jewish’.
‘You can see from the video that Mr Saunders is attempting to walk away from Ghadami. Unfortunately it was this slur that acted as the straw that broke the camel’s back,’ Nathan said.
The court heard that Saunders had no previous convictions and had been forced to take anti-depressants since the incident. He was also forced to cease practice of his firm after the court case.
Sentencing Saunders, Gasztowicz said community service instead of a custodial sentence would not be appropriate because of the nature of the assault.
‘You are a solicitor who are expected to act with the trust that is placed in them, particularly in court where litigants have a right to feel safe,’ he said. ‘This was a deliberate and serious attack that left the victim with a fractured nose and bruising to the face.’
However Gasztowicz said Saunders’s previous good record, his exemplary references and the fact that he had been subjected to ‘significant publicity’ already should be taken into account.
As well as the suspended sentence Saunders was handed a curfew running from 8pm to 6am for four months and ordered to pay £5,000 in costs. He was also told to contact Ghadami only through solicitors.
Saunders, who specialised in conveyancing, has worked as a solicitor for 43 years.
A spokesperson for the Solicitors Regulation Authority said: ‘We are aware of the situation and will review the available information before deciding on next steps.’
Video footage: from City of London Police