A young solicitor jailed for grievous bodily harm (GBH) has escaped being struck off because of his genuine remorse and low likelihood of reoffending.
The Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal (SDT) said it would have been justified in removing Adeel Saghir from the roll but in “a finely balanced decision” decided to suspend him for two and a half years instead.
Mr Saghir, 31, qualified in 2017 and at the time of the offence was a personal injury solicitor at Aman Solicitors Advocates in North London.
A family dispute erupted into violence when ‘Person A’, his 47-year-old uncle, deliberately damaged Mr Saghir’s car in the early hours of 4 May 2019.
Mr Saghir pursued him barefoot and, according to CCTV, arrived at an altercation involving Person A and four other people a minute and a half after it began.
Person A was struck over 80 times, three times by Mr Saghir. The CCTV showed him leaving the scene when the police arrived, although it was accepted that he later returned.
Person A was in hospital for two weeks after suffering bleeding to the brain and has had lasting side-effects.
Mr Saghir pleaded guilty to GBH without intent and was jailed for two years and eight months. Her Honour Judge Herbert at Luton Crown Court said it would have been three years but for the guilty plea – which was the top end of the sentencing range for the category of offence.
The judge described the incident as “appalling” and “a brutal and sustained attack by five men. [Person A] was punched; he was slapped; he was kicked and shoved repeatedly into a fence. He fell to the ground. The attack upon him continued; it lasted in total for 10 minutes.”
She said to Mr Saghir: “Your involvement that evening was, as accepted by the prosecution, lesser than those who’ve pleaded guilty to section 18 (causing GBH with intent) but nevertheless you too played a part in an extremely serious group attack at night time, which left your victim grievously injured.”
Mr Saghir told the SDT that Person A initially hit him in a bid to run away. At this point, he said, a fight broke out and “in order to defend himself” he struck Person A three times. The solicitor said he called the police whilst holding Person A.
He “accepted that his actions on the night of the incident fell far below the high standards to which he held himself and that the impact the events of that night upon him and his family were significant”.
But he argued that remaining on the roll would not cause the public to lose faith in the profession and maintained “that it was too simplistic to say that what happened in the space of 10 minutes on the night of the incident was symptomatic of a deeper issue”.
The SDT found that Mr Saghir’s actions had been “impulsive and spontaneous”, but there had been “sufficient time” for him to assess the situation and walk away from it.
His conduct was “a marked departure from the complete integrity and probity expected of a solicitor”.
But the incident had been a single episode in a previously unblemished career and the SDT accepted that Mr Saghir had shown contrition and genuine insight.
“He had handed voluntarily to the regulator CCTV evidence which had assisted the regulator in making its case and he had been open and frank with the regulator.”
Further, the judge had found him “genuinely remorseful” and the pre-sentence report assessed him as presenting a low risk of reoffending.
The SDT said that, though it would be justified in striking off the solicitor, “this had to be weighed in the balance against the complicated family circumstances which had been at the heart of the offence and the mitigation put forward”.
It continued: “The respondent had had only two years’ post-qualification experience when he committed the offence and he was still a young man with many years of his working life ahead of him.
“In these circumstances the tribunal considered that neither the protection of the public nor the protection of the reputation of the legal profession justified striking off the roll.
“However, having made findings of lack of integrity and the inherent gravity of the criminal conviction, the reputation of the profession demanded no less than the imposition of a fixed term of suspension of 2.5 years, which would still meet the requirements of the guidance on sanctions which the panel applied whilst being proportionate to the seriousness of the misconduct.”
The length of the suspension would also prevent Mr Saghir from practising whilst still on licence.
It concluded: “This had been a finely balanced decision and the tribunal considered that the respondent would use the time wisely to reflect upon his impulsive conduct and improve upon the skills of discernment and judgment which the public expected of a solicitor.
“This was a disgraceful incident which should never be repeated.”