Renowned media lawyer Mark Lewis is to face the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal over allegations that he posted offensive messages on social media, believed to be in response to alleged “neo-Nazi” trolls.
In a sign of the sensitivity of the case, the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) has issued an unprecedented addendum to its notice of prosecution, making it clear that “it does not condone the actions of any individuals involved in exchanges with Mr Lewis on Twitter”.
There are two allegations against Mr Lewis, who is Jewish and shot to prominence through his work over phone hacking at the News of the World.
First, on 26 May 2017, he used his Facebook account “to publicly post offensive and profane communications towards a third party”.
Second, “between 12 July 2015 and 7 December 2016 and on dates unknown, he used his Twitter account which publicly identified him as a solicitor to publicly post offensive and profane communications”.
Legal Futures understands that the Facebook allegation refers to a single post Mr Lewis made when recovering from an anaesthetic and was deleted a few hours later with an apology.
He suffers from multiple sclerosis and has been taking part in a ground-breaking medical trial at a hospital in Israel, which has been the subject of the Channel 4 documentary.
The Twitter exchanges are believed to involve neo-Nazis, one of whom has been imprisoned for threats made to Mr Lewis and others.
His Twitter biography says simply: “My own person – I won’t be bullied by antisemitic trolls.” He is a partner at London firm Seddons.
Mr Lewis has been outspoken in his support of Israel. A former director of UK Lawyers for Israel, in June he halted the pro-Palestinian Al Quds rally in central London for an hour by refusing to move his wheelchair.
He said at the time that he did so to protest against Hezbollah flags and “inflammatory rhetoric”.
In an interview last year with The Times of Israel, he was quoted as saying that “I do like to take people on”, with the paper noting that he could be found tweeting “at all hours of the day, often indulging in hours-long back-and-forths with anti-Semitic trolls”.
He told the paper: “I don’t like to block people, because I believe in a free press, and I also don’t want to give them the satisfaction of putting ‘blocked by Mark Lewis’ on their timeline, as though they had intimidated me.
“There’s a Jewish choice in life. You can either be the Jew that people want to pick on — or they can say, oh, typical Jews, so belligerent. I always think, well, if people don’t like me, at least I’ve hit them.”
The newspaper also said that Mr Lewis took a “ruthless approach, believing that it’s necessary to be aggressive against anti-Semites on social media”.
Mr Lewis told Legal Futures that he could not comment on the case beyond saying that he would “fully defend” himself and that “it will be a very interesting battle”.
There have been an increasing number of disciplinary cases involving social media posts, made more acute where the solicitor identifies as such. Last year, the SRA issued a warning notice to solicitors on how to conduct themselves on social media.