In the Media

Law Society investigates terror suspects' lawyers

PUBLISHED July 18, 2006

THE Law Society is investigating the behaviour of lawyers who represent terrorist suspects, after a committee of MPs recently castigated them for what they called their ?disgraceful conduct?.

MPs highlighted ?reprehensible? conduct by one firm, Arani & Co, which has defended the advice of the Muslim cleric Abu Hamza al-Masri to people not to co-operate with the police.

They also backed concerns expressed by the police that investigations are being hampered and ?justice is not being done? because of the practice of at least one firm of solicitors acting for multiple defendants.

The MPs, whose comments were expressed in the strongest terms, were particularly angered by the issuing of leaflets by Arani & Co urging members of the public not to co-operate with the police. They say: ?It is disgraceful that any lawyer should encourage the public not to co-operate with the police as a matter of course.?

It was for the Law Society to decide if the firm had breached professional standards, they said. ?But, given the terrorist threat, we find that conduct particularly reprehensible.? The Law Society Regulation Board has confirmed that it will look into the comments of the MPs and ?assess whether an investigation is justified?.

The professional body for solicitors is also expected to examine allegations that a law firm not named in the report took on multiple defendants, in potential breach of professional standards, when it had only a small number of solicitors.

They question whether the suspects were ?represented to the highest possible legal standards?, adding: ?This, of course, raises questions of whether justice has been properly served.?

Deputy Police Assistant Commissioner Peter Clarke told the committee in evidence: ?I do find it strange when, say, we have nine people in custody, eight of whom are represented by the same firm, and they all receive identical advice even though their circumstances are radically different, as I am not sure that each suspect is getting the best advice.?

Police provided for MPs an analysis of ten terrorist investigations on the issue of legal representation for suspects.

This showed that on more than one occasion a single firm with a small number of solicitors had represented more than double that number of suspects, the MPs said.

Arani & Co was not available for comment.