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£1,000 fine for barrister who misled Google in review take down request

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Blames ‘online trolling’

A barrister has been reprimanded and fined for making a “misleading statement” in a bid to have a negative review about himself removed from the internet.

Philip Harmer, an unregistered barrister, “knowingly made a misleading statement” to Google on a review deletion request form, according to a decision published by the Bar Tribunals & Adjudication Service (BTAS).

Harmer claimed he had no communication with the reviewer despite having previously exchanged letters and telephone calls.

The tribunal found that Harmer had behaved in a way which was likely to diminish the trust and confidence which the public places in barristers.

According to the disciplinary panel, the barrister also conducted litigation, a reserved legal activity, when he was not entitled to do so under the Legal Services Act. Harmer caused or allowed his name and address to be provided as the address for a claimant on a claim form issued in the county court, and filed and served a witness statement with the county court on behalf of the claimant.

Harmer was reprimanded and fined £1,000.

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In a statement, Harmer said: “On 24 September 2020, I admitted before a tribunal of the BTAS, that I had breached the BSB handbook. In 2018, I was subjected to distressing online trolling by my client’s litigation adversary. I asked Google to remove this calumnious material, but in doing so, I sent an inaccurate email to Google. It was inaccurate to say that I had not had past communications with the troll. For this inaccuracy on my part, I was reprimanded by the tribunal and fined £1,000. The tribunal accepted counsel’s plea in mitigation that I acted when provoked.”

He continued: “I also admitted that I put my name on a claim form as a forwarding address and sent a single email to a court. These two acts in 2018, some five months apart, were regarded as the, “conduct of litigation”. These were treated as technical infringements of the BSB code and I was reprimanded. The BSB accepted that I had not committed any criminal offence under the Legal Services Act 2007. An allegation of dishonesty towards Google was dismissed.”

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10 Comments

What about the creeps?

This seems so trivial compared to barristers and pupils who have stalked and harassed others with little more than a wrist-slap from chambers.

(22)(2)

Anonymous

Go take it up with the authorities if it was so bad. Better than that festering chip on your shoulder.

(4)(13)

How Dare You Complain

What ‘authorities’?

Charities/chambers quietly settle with complainants in mediation, do absolutely nothing to enact any mediation agreement, then the harasser goes on his merry way to grope again.

You think complaining really stops crappy behaviour at the Bar?

(11)(4)

Anonymous

Please explain fully what the complaint is.

(2)(1)

Fantastic Repurposed Unicorns

Recipients of racism and sexual harassment at the Bar don’t owe you a bullet-point outline of which barristers attacked them and where.

Anonymous

They do if they want people to be able to decide whether they are recipients or not.

Alan

I’m a bit puzzled by the assertion that the BSB accepted there no criminal offence had been committed.

Conducting litigation when not authorised to do so is an offence under the LSA.

The finding of fact by the BSB is incompatible with the assertion.

The assertion may be incautious as the the BSB could find that that in itself is “knowingly making a misleading statement”.

(8)(0)

Hmmmm

Philip’s ‘About’ section on his website is almost equal to Ayesha’s for memorable prose, but there’s other interesting parts too –

‘Although Philp qualified as a barrister, he is not entitled to practise as a barrister. He does not have a practising certificate and is not on the register of practising barristers. Therefore, in providing any legal services he is not acting as a barrister and is not subject to many of the rules which regulate practising barristers. He can provide you with legal advice and represent you before certain Tribunals but cannot represent you in Court.’

(2)(0)

Alan

The rules on conducting litigation make interesting reading.

So you can conduct litigation on your own behalf as an LIP; but a third party, whether paid or not, can’t conduct litigation on behalf of another person.

But there are some anomalies.

If you file something at the court office for someone then that’s litigating. If however you just happen to be at court anyway and you drop off papers at the court office for someone, then that’s just doing an errand and probably OK.

I got the litigation extension to my practice certificate primarily so I could sign costs schedules, and file notices of acting so the court office could send orders directly to me and I could ring up and ask questions about the progress of the case.

(0)(0)

Anonymous

This is absurd. I dont see why this diminishes this guy in anyone’s estimation. There but for the grace of God!

(1)(0)

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