Not Contempt

I know that I said that I would not be around again until August. However, an important judgement has been issued by the High Court on something I have blogged about previously. In April I blogged about Aamer Anwar, a prominent Human Rights solicitor in Scotland, and how he had been charged with contempt of court by Lord Carloway.

On 1 July 2008 the High Court ruled that Mr Anwar is not guilty of contempt of court. However, they did express how the court felt that Mr Anwar’s actions had fallen below what they would expect of an officer of the court. They said:

However we feel both entitled and bound to comment on the conduct of the respondent as an officer of the court, for, as a practitioner in this court, that is what he is. In our opinion, the existence of that duty implies certain obligations upon such solicitors. They have a duty to ensure that their public utterances, whether critical or not, are based upon an accurate appreciation of the facts of those proceedings, and that their comments are not misleading. Regrettably, we do not think that those standards were met in this case and the court is entitled to expect better of those who practice before it.

It was now been left up to the Law Society of Scotland, the body responsible for regulating Solicitors in Scotland, to decide if and what action should be taken against Mr Anwar.

I agree with what the Court has said. Mr Anwar’s Comments outside the High Court in Glasgow following the conviction of his client, Mohammed Atif Siddique, of terrorist offences could not have amounted to contempt of court. However, it was quite clear that Mr Anwar had acted unprofessionally. It is of course important that defence agents are able to speak freely. However, they are also professionals and should ensure that their conduct cannot be seen by the public to be anything other than exemplary.

I suspect that the Law Society of Scotland will take some form of disciplinary action given the view of the High Court.

The full judgement can be found here.

I would also like to wish my Canadian readers and very happy and enjoyable Canada Day.