High-profile media solicitor Mark Lewis was subject to “extreme provocation” on Twitter, but the tweets he sent in response did not live up to the profession’s standards, the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal (SDT) ruled.
The public “would not expect a solicitor to wish death on anybody”, including neo-Nazis, it said.
The full ruling of the tribunal, published today, explains why it decided to fine him £2,500 after it upheld an allegation that, over an 18-month period, “he used his Twitter account which publicly identified him as a solicitor to publicly post offensive and profane communications”.
In his response at the time, Mr Lewis said the verdict would be celebrated by Holocaust revisionists.
The SDT said that – although the tweets to which Mr Lewis responded were not available – “there was no doubt that [he] had been subjected to a barrage of racist, anti-Semitic tweets, and tweets that mocked his disability [he suffers from Multiple Sclerosis]. These tweets were most vile and hideous in nature”.
Whilst Mr Lewis was not expected to be a “paragon of virtue”, the tribunal said, “solicitors have a privileged and trusted role in society. In return they are required to live up to their own professional standards”
Mr Lewis had not done so: “He had taken the law into his own hands when deciding on a small number of occasions to response to the vile tweets he had received in similar terms.
“He had made a choice to respond in this manner in the face of extreme provocation. In doing so, the tribunal found he had not lived up to his own professional standards.
“Whatever threats were received, a solicitor of integrity did not response to such threats by making his own threats of a similar nature.”
Mr Lewis had told the tribunal about the build-up of abuse he suffered from neo-Nazis; one sent him daily tweets with the message “All the Jews will be killed, the Jew Lewis will be first”.
The Solicitors Regulation Authority identified 10 tweets where he expressed hope that the tweeter, as a Nazi, would die.
The tribunal noted: “[Mr Lewis’s] evidence had been that, in sending the most extreme tweets, he had been trying to use a ‘shock tactic’. He said that he was not a ‘timid Jew’ and was not going to go ‘like a lamb to the slaughter’.
“[He] had taken an unapologetic, combative approach to those who abused and threatened him online.”
It found that Mr Lewis had acted with a lack of integrity in sending the tweets. Further: “In reporting the Titter trolls to the police and asking Twitter to disable those accounts, [he] had behaved in an exemplary manner in the face of awful provocation.
“However, on those few occasions when he had decided to retaliate, he had not behaved in a way that maintained the trust that the public placed in him and in the provision of legal services.
“The public would not expect a solicitor to wish death on anybody, however objectionable that person might be.”
The SDT determined that a fine of £7,500 was appropriate, but reduced that to £2,500 on account of Mr Lewis’s lack of means.