A barrister who was fined £1,000 after making a misleading statement to Google in an attempt to get a review about himself taken down claims he was subject to 'distressing online trolling'.
Philip Harmer, an unregistered barrister who is regulated by the Bar Standards Board, was found to have made a misleading statement to Google on a ‘review deletion request form’ when asking the search engine to take down a review someone had posted about him.
According to the finding, Harmer said he had had no communication with the reviewer when, in reality, they had previously exchanged letters and telephone calls.
The Bar Tribunals & Adjudication Service found that Harmer had diminished public trust and confidence in the profession and/or had knowingly made a misleading statement.
The tribunal also found that Harmer carried on a reserved legal activity in 2018 when he was not entitled to do so under the Legal Services Act, when he caused or allowed his name and address to be provided as the address for a claimant on a claim form issued in the country court. He subsequently filed and served a witness statement and evidence on the claimant’s behalf.
Harmer was reprimanded and fined £1,000.
In a statement, Harmer said: 'On 24 September 2020, I admitted before a tribunal of the BTAS, that I had breached the BSB handbook. In 2018, I was subjected to distressing online trolling by my client’s litigation adversary. I asked Google to remove this calumnious material, but in doing so, I sent an inaccurate email to Google. It was inaccurate to say that I had not had past communications with the troll. For this inaccuracy on my part, I was reprimanded by the tribunal and fined £1,000. The tribunal accepted counsel’s plea in mitigation that I acted when provoked.
‘I also admitted that I put my name on a claim form as a forwarding address and sent a single email to a court. These two acts in 2018, some five months apart, were regarded as the, “conduct of litigation”. These were treated as technical infringements of the BSB code and I was reprimanded. The BSB accepted that I had not committed any criminal offence under the Legal Services Act 2007. An allegation of dishonesty towards Google was dismissed.
‘I carry on with my popular and successful motor law consultancy. I am most grateful to my barrister, Marc Beaumont, for defending me at the tribunal.’