A former partner at an international firm who was struck off after he was found to have deliberately misled a High Court judge has lost his attempt to return to the profession.
Peter Gray, who worked from Gibson Dunn & Crutcher’s Dubai office, obtained a freezing order in 2013 on behalf of the Republic of Djibouti in a claim against businessman Abdourahman Boreh, who had been sentenced in his absence to 15 years over a grenade attack on a supermarket.
Gray was later found to have deliberately misled the High Court on the basis that he knew a transcript of a phone call involving Boreh – on which his conviction was based – was wrongly dated, so that the conversation occurred before the attack in Djibouti rather than afterwards.
After the discrepancy was discovered, Gray said in a meeting attended by Djibouti’s attorney general that they could ‘fudge the error of the date’ – which he argued on appeal was ‘not inevitably an indication of a dishonest strategy’. However, Mr Justice Flaux (as he then was) set aside the freezing order in 2015, saying: ‘Fudging the error of the date was not the conduct of a solicitor of integrity.’
Gray, 46, was found to have acted dishonestly and was last year struck off by the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal, which largely concurred with Flaux’s decision.
Simon Davenport QC, for Gray, told the High Court last month that the SDT was wrong to have relied on Flaux’s findings, many of which he said were ‘no longer supportable before the tribunal’.
‘By the time of the tribunal hearing, it could be absolutely demonstrated … that Mr Gray acted collaboratively and above all sought and took leading counsel’s informed approval and strategic direction at each and every stage,’ Davenport argued.
Gray also argued that the SDT had a ‘blanket reliance’ on Flaux’s findings despite the fact that ‘the factual picture was much changed’ by the time of the hearing before the tribunal.
But his appeal was dismissed by the High Court, with Mr Justice Linden ruling that ‘it plainly was not the case that the mind of the SDT was “poisoned” by the judgment of Flaux J or that it simply adopted his views without thinking’.
Gray’s reliance on evidence about the alleged involvement of Khawar Qureshi QC, who was instructed in relation to the freezing order application and was said to have ‘reached the same, honest, decisions’ as Gray, was also rejected by the court.
The judge said that Flaux’s findings ‘were not materially affected by the additional evidence’, adding: ‘Whatever leading counsel may or may not have known, understood, said or approved this did not absolve [Gray] of his personal responsibility not to mislead the court or to allow it to be misled.’
Linden also noted that Qureshi was ‘cleared of any misconduct or impropriety by the Bar Standards Board, which made a public apology to him for its handling of his case’.
Gray’s challenge to the £42,525 costs order made against him was also refused.