rcj

High Court: difficult to see how document could have been created without ‘element of dishonesty’

The High Court has upheld the disbarment of a barrister accused of drafting false grounds of appeal for a client found guilty on drugs charges.

Lord Justice Beatson and Mr Justice Nicol held that the “heart of the case” against Rabi Sukul was that he had prepared grounds of appeal which he knew were false.

At an ex tempore hearing reported by Lawtel, the judges found that where a barrister had drafted a document which he knew to be false in order to “curry favour with his solicitor”, it was “difficult to see how such a document could be created other than with an element of dishonesty”.

The fact that an accusation of dishonesty had not featured in the charges against Mr Sukul did not mean there was procedural irregularity, they said.

Mr Sukul was originally disbarred for dishonesty at a Bar disciplinary tribunal in February 2014.

However, at a High Court hearing in October last year, Lord Justice Laws and Mr Justice Cranston allowed his appeal in part, on the grounds that he should have been allowed to make representations in mitigation.

The disbarment was quashed and a fresh tribunal heard the case in December 2014.

Mr Sukul argued at the High Court this month that there was insufficient evidence to support a dishonesty finding against him and the tribunal had erred in law and fact in finding that there had been a breach of trust, particularly in finding that the misconduct had been committed for the purposes of financial gain.

He argued that the sanction of disbarment was disproportionate, particularly as the tribunal had given inadequate consideration to his previous good character and the fact that the misconduct was an isolated incident.

However, according to the law report, the High Court noted that “two specialist tribunals chaired by experienced, retired circuit judges” had concluded that the appropriate sanction was disbarment.

“That sentence might have been severe, and undoubtedly its effects were severe and it had affected the appellant very seriously. Another tribunal might have come to a different conclusion.”

However, the judges concluded that their role was not to substitute their own view on penalty but to review the decision. Lord Justice Beatson and Mr Justice Nicol dismissed Mr Sukul’s appeal.

At the time of the incident leading to the disciplinary hearings, Mr Sukul practised from Balham Chambers in London. Later, in the summer of 2013, Mr Sukul was appointed a justice of appeal in Guyana, a post from which he resigned as a result of the disbarment, according to local media reports.

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