Notes of discussions between a human rights expert and one of international firm Dechert’s former partners about prison conditions in the United Arab Emirates are ‘no longer available’, the High Court heard yesterday.

The firm faces a claim from Jordanian lawyer Karam Al Sadeq – who has been imprisoned in Ras Al Khaimah since 2014 – for alleged responsibility for his arrest and abduction and orchestrating his unlawful detention. The trial is due to be heard in October 2022.

Al Sadeq claims Dechert, the firm’s former head of white-collar crime Neil Gerrard, former partner David Hughes and current partner Caroline Black are responsible for ‘serious wrongs’ against him and pressured him to give ‘false evidence’ by threatening to imprison his wife. The defendants deny ‘in the strongest possible terms’ that they committed any unlawful acts.

Rights expert Dr Alan Mitchell was commissioned in 2015 to ‘produce a report stating that the conditions in the [prison] were adequate and did not breach detainees’ human rights’, Al Sadeq claims. However, when Mitchell visited the prison and concluded that there was a ‘clear breach’ of Al Sadeq’s right to freedom from inhuman and degrading treatment, he ‘refused to write the report which Dechert had commissioned from him’, it is alleged.

The High Court heard that notes from the period when Mitchell was investigating ‘the human rights situation in the prisons of Ras Al Khaimah [have] been torn out of Mr Hughes’ notebook’. John Brisby QC, for Al Sadeq, said one of the pages ‘apparently covering [Hughes’] meeting with Mr Mitchell was no longer available’.

An adviser to Ras Al Khaimah’s ruler may have wanted another note of Hughes’ meeting with Buchanan – which recorded that the expert considered there was a ‘clear breach’ of Article 3 ECHR as Al Sadeq was ‘effectively in solitary confinement’ – to be ‘removed’ from Dechert’s file, the court also heard.

Jamie Buchanan, who was the chief executive officer of Ras Al Khaimah Development LLC, ‘might want such notes, including Mr Hughes’ notes of his discussions with Dr Mitchell, removed from the file’ according to a note by another former Dechert partner, Brisby said.

Dechert and Gerrard have agreed to provide ‘a written explanation of the nature of any communications to which Dr Mitchell was party which have been disclosed, but have been entirely withheld from inspection on grounds of legal professional privilege’.

The High Court yesterday approved a consent order under which Gerrard must provide a witness statement giving details of the theft of a mobile phone he used at the time Al Sadeq was allegedly kidnapped in Dubai and whether the theft was reported to the police.

Mr Justice Murray reserved judgment on whether Al Sadeq can amend his pleaded case to include allegations that Dechert and Gerrard were responsible for attempts to hack his solicitors and unlawfully obtain confidential information.