Media luvvie barristers in cat fight over alleged assault on London bus

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By Jonathan Ames on

Telly talking-head Sophia Cannon squares up against Doughty Street’s Tunde Okewale — with a phone hacking lawyer thrown into mix


Two high-profile barristers are locked in an almighty scrap over whether one of them was assaulted on a London bus — and whether the other has sent a stream of social media abuse.

Sophia Cannon — a non-practising barrister, who regularly crops up on television newspaper reviews and other broadcast gigs — has formally complained to the Bar Standards Board (BSB) over the alleged behaviour of Tunde Okewale.

Cannon has also instructed leading media law solicitor Mark Lewis — of phone hacking fame — in what she has told Legal Cheek are potential harassment and defamation proceedings against the Doughty Street criminal law specialist.

The catfight stems from an incident last April when Cannon alleged a young man punched her in the ribs on a crowded double-decker bus in Brixton, south London. Cannon pursued the man upstairs to challenge and photograph him, and the resulting story received wide press coverage.

Inspector Knacker launched a manhunt after Cannon reported the incident to the police, and the suspect, Karl Palmer, voluntarily came forward.

Late last week, the London Evening Standard reported that the Metropolitan Police had discontinued the investigation into Palmer’s involvement on the grounds of insufficient evidence.

Legal Cheek has subsequently learnt that in the immediate aftermath of the initial press coverage, Palmer was referred by a youth worker and fitness trainer to Okewale. The barrister in turn referred him to London law firm Stokoe Partnership.

Cannon claims that in the wake of last week’s Evening Standard report that the investigation had been dropped, she was subjected to a stream of social media abuse. And she is understood to have pointed the finger at Okewale as allegedly generating some of it.

Cannon — who formerly practised at the now defunct Tooks Court Chambers of Michael Mansfield QC — also maintains that the police mistakenly closed the investigation before interviewing her.

The row pits two flamboyant barristers against each other. Cannon lists a string of talking-head credits, including appearances on ITV’s This Morning, the Alan Titchmarsh Show, the BBC News Channel, Sky News and This Day Live for Arise TV. In addition, the barrister — who gave up legal practice eight years ago — has participated in BBC Television’s consumer rights programme, Don’t get done, get Dom.

In the other corner, Okewale was last November named by style bible GQ magazine as one of the “coolest” men in Britain. The sharp-suited 30-year-old is also one of the most keenly backed lawyers on Instagram, attracting more than 5,200 followers.

In a formal statement, Cannon told Legal Cheek this week:

I confirm that I have instructed solicitors to advise me about legal and regulatory proceedings. It would not be appropriate to comment further.

Meanwhile, her solicitor, Mark Lewis, a partner at London law firm Seddons, said only:

My client is complying with the relevant pre-action protocols

For his part, Okewale adamantly denies harassing or defaming Cannon.

Okewale told Legal Cheek that his only involvement has been to publish on social media the London Evening Standard report that the police had dropped the investigation into the alleged assault. He also said he welcomed any BSB investigation to clear the air.

And for his part, Knacker of The Yard seems clear. In a statement to Legal Cheek, a Metropolitan Police spokeswoman said:

Following an investigation by Roads and Transport Policing Command, the case was discontinued with no further action on Thursday, 14 May. The case has not since been re-opened. No arrests made as part of the investigation. A 17-year-old man was interviewed under caution as part of the initial investigation. The case has since been discontinued with no further action due to insufficient evidence.