A newly-qualified solicitor who tried to persuade a witness to drop a sexual assault complaint against his brother has been banned by a tribunal.
In the same month as he was admitted, the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal heard Mohammed Riaz (also known as John Washington) tried through a colleague to get the complainant to withdraw her statement.
Riaz had owned a hotel in North Wales and was charged on the basis of conversations he had with a manager of his hotel shortly after allegations were made against his brother.
Riaz was sentenced to eight months’ imprisonment after he was convicted at Mold Crown Court in September 2016 of intent to pervert the course of justice. In his sentencing remarks, His Honour Judge Parry said the matter ‘struck at the very root of our system of justice’.
It has been reported that Riaz came from Afghanistan as a refugee, was granted asylum and is now a British citizen who had lived in the UK for 20 years. He worked as a taxi driver while studying for a law degree, and also owned a Subway franchise before buying the hotel.
In June 2017, Riaz had told the SRA he planned to challenge his conviction, but some eight months later the Court of Appeal confirmed to the regulator there was no record of any appeal. Riaz had requested that the SRA suspend or delay its disciplinary proceedings pending the outcome of his appeal against his conviction.
In an email to the tribunal sent a year ago, Riaz maintained his innocence, stating that the conduct in question was a single, brief episode, and pointing out his brother was not ultimately prosecuted for any of the acts which gave rise to his own conviction.
The tribunal noted in its judgment that the case had been reported in the press, with reports making reference to his status as a lawyer. It added that as a qualified solicitor - albeit an inexperienced one – Riaz ‘must have known that seeking to influence a potential witness in the early stages of the investigation into allegations of serious criminal conduct was thoroughly inappropriate’.
He was struck off and ordered to pay £2,368 costs.