High-flying media lawyer acting for ex-MI6 Trump dossier author disbarred for faking High Court order

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By CJ McKinney on


Nicola Cain also submitted witness statement for client Christopher Steele without authorisation

A star media lawyer has been disbarred for sending her ex-MI6 officer client a fake High Court order during high-powered litigation over an infamous Trump-Russia intelligence dossier.

Nicola Cain, 39, then a partner at City firm RPC, also submitted a witness statement on behalf of her client, Christopher Steele, without his authorisation.

A bar disciplinary tribunal heard that Cain was overwhelmed and her mental health had deteriorated.

But the Bar Standards Board (BSB) said “such acts are not compatible with membership of the Bar”.

Cain was called to the bar in 2005 and trained at top media set 5RB. The co-editor of a weighty tome on defamation law and practice, she worked for eight years at the BBC before joining RPC in 2017.

At around the same time, BuzzFeed published a jawdropping story headlined, “These Reports Allege Trump Has Deep Ties to Russia”. It was based on a dossier of allegations against Trump compiled by ex-MI6 man Steele.

The report caused a legal as well as a political sensation. Three businessmen of Russian or Ukrainian origin named in the dossier sued Steele and his consultancy firm, Orbis Intelligence, in separate actions for defamation and data protection breaches.

Cain’s misconduct reportedly came about during these high-stakes proceedings, according to Court News UK (£).

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A Bar Tribunals & Adjudication Service panel found that Cain created a “Fabricated Order with the dishonest intention of deceiving her client” about the fact that a High Court Senior Master had ruled against them for failure to disclose documents.

The doctored order left out or changed information about what the court had told her client to do, including pay extra costs for the claimants having to chase disclosure, and file a witness statement explaining why he hadn’t complied with an earlier disclosure order. It included an “electronic image of a signature which Ms Cain dishonestly intended should indicate that Senior Master Fontaine has signed the Fabricated Order”.

In what seems to have been a further attempt to keep the client in the dark about how the case was going, Cain also wrote Steele’s witness statement without telling him.

Cain admitted failing to act in the best interests of a client, failing to act with honesty and integrity and failing to provide a competent standard of work to a client.

The tribunal heard that the former barrister was overwhelmed to the point where she would sob at her desk. She self-reported the “series of very serious errors of judgment” to the regulator and was “profoundly and sincerely sorry”.

Commenting on the tribunal’s decision, Sara Jagger, the BSB’s director of legal and enforcement, said: “The charges which the tribunal has found proved involved dishonestly and deliberately misleading a client. The tribunal’s decision to disbar Ms Cain reflects the seriousness of her conduct and that such acts are not compatible with membership of the Bar.”

The decision is open to appeal.

Steele ultimately won the defamation trial, with claimant solicitors McDermott Will & Emery on the receiving end of scathing High Court criticism after circulating the link to the live feed in breach of the judge’s express orders.

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