Why it’s not a good idea for lawyers to peruse work documents over fast-food
That man looking over your shoulder could be a tabloid hack — and, worse still, the legal document could be about him
BCL Burton Copeland partner Jane Glass may be regretting her decision to peruse important legal documents over a quick Chinese — after a tabloid journalist sitting at the same communal table spotted his name and phone number on the solicitor’s spreadsheet.
Over the weekend, the journo’s newspaper, the Mail on Sunday, would go on to publish an article about the embarrassing encounter.
The piece was part of a series of articles about how police hacked one of the Mail On Sunday‘s phone lines and used anti-terror laws to track down a judge-protected source who exposed Chris Huhne’s speeding points fraud.
The encounter between Glass — who was acting for Chris Huhne — and Mail on Sunday news editor David Dillon was the first time that the journalist realised his phonecalls were being monitored by police.
Events unfolded when Dillon was having a snack in a noodle bar called the Stick and Bowl — which is just round the corner from the Mail‘s offices in Kensington, West London. According to the newspaper, around 9.30pm a “well-dressed blonde woman in her 40s sat down next to him at one of the communal tables in the tiny diner”.
After ordering food, the woman apparently opened a file of spreadsheets. Glancing across, an astonished Dillon “saw his own name jumping out at him, alongside his mobile phone number” alongside the names of Huhne’s wife Vicky Pryce, her barrister friend Constance Briscoe and the Mail‘s original source, freelance journalist Andrew Alderson.
Noting that the spreadsheet was entitled, ‘Kent Police. Operation Solar Chronological telephone data’, and that one column gave the duration of calls and other columns the numbers and the names, Dillon challenged the woman as to how she had such information, asking if she was a journalist.
The woman — subsequently identified as Glass — said that she wasn’t. Then, in the words of Dillon:
“She then asked me why I was asking and I told her that I had seen my name on the paperwork.
“She became very flustered and prepared to leave even though her meal had only just arrived. As she stood I asked her if she was a lawyer and she said, ‘I am Chris Huhne’s lawyer,’ adding, ‘You must be David Dillon’ then she hurried out. She seemed embarrassed.”
When contacted by Legal Cheek yesterday, BCL Burton Copeland senior partner Ian Burton said that the documents Glass viewed in the restaurant were “no longer confidential” and emphasised that the encounter “took place 19 months ago”.
The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) declined to comment on whether a potential breach of the Code of Conduct had taken place.