CA issues general civil restraint order against struck-off solicitor

Court of Appeal: ECROs are not enough

The Court of Appeal has imposed a three-year general civil restraint order (GCRO) on a struck-off solicitor who has been issuing claims against the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) among others.

The court said Farid El Diwany “persists in issuing claims and making applications that are totally without merit”, including three that were the subject of its ruling and a further nine in the past three years.

“Mr El Diwany will not take no for an answer and seeks repeatedly to re-open decisions that have become final,” said the Master of the Rolls, Sir Geoffrey Vos, Lady Justice Macur, and Lady Justice Falk in a joint ruling.

The events date back to 2001, when he was convicted in his absence in Norway, and fined the equivalent of about £900, for harassing a Norwegian woman, Ms H, over a period of years, a decision described by the court at the time as lenient.

Two years later, he was convicted again over faxes sent again to various people and organisations with highly personal information about Ms H and handed an eight-month suspended sentence.

He was struck off in December 2019, both for the criminal conviction and his failure to disclose it to the SRA. The Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal found that, while he had been provoked, his reaction had crossed the line, a decision upheld on appeal by Mr Justice Saini.

Mr El Diwany applied to be restored to the roll in August 2021. The SDT refused this in January last year and Murray J then rejected an appeal against this last November, also making an extended civil restraint order (ECRO) to stop him from bringing further litigation arising out of the disciplinary proceedings.

The latest applications sought to re-open the Court of Appeal’s refusal to grant Mr El Diwany permission to appeal first against a 2011 decision by the then Mrs Justice Sharp dismissing a defamation claim against two Norwegians, and second against Saini J’s decision.

The court dismissed as totally without merit the ex-solicitor’s claims that judges dealing with previous applications have had actual or apparent bias against him.

Though they “entirely” agreed with Saini J’s comments that he had faced racist and anti-Muslim abuse in the Norwegian press and in emails, the judges said “it does not, however, follow that the continued actions of Mr El Diwany in this jurisdiction in connection with them are acceptable. They are not”.

The judges condemned him for subjecting judges, barristers, solicitors, regulators and their respective staff to “completely inappropriate and unfair criticism and abuse”.

They recorded that Mr El Diwany is already subject to three ECROs made by the High Court, relating to complaints about Sharp J and Popplewell LJ as well as the SDT decision.

“While a further ECRO would operate to restrain applications in this court as well as the courts below, we consider that it is necessary to go further and consider the imposition of a general civil restraint order in this case.”

The number of applications made in the last three years showed that an ECRO was not sufficient.

The court said: “Although all the proceedings that we have considered are connected in some way to Mr El Diwany’s actions in respect of Ms H, the articles and the convictions and his reaction to them, so they might in some sense be regarded as reflecting an ‘obsessive approach to a single topic’, they have ranged broadly…

“We are entirely satisfied that Mr El Diwany persists in issuing claims and making applications that are totally without merit.”

Mr El Diwany has the right to challenge the GCRO, which the court imposed for the maximum three years.

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