It is not often in the career of a criminal lawyer that one finds oneself in the position of having to represent yourself but that is exactly what happened to me when I came to the aid of a good friend who found himself the target of an organisation called The SPSC (The Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign).
My friend was an Israeli businessman selling cosmetic products in various malls in Scotland. Wherever he set up the business the SPSC would intimidate and harass him and his customers. Eventually, my friend was hounded out of Scotland. The SPSC do not believe in the right of Israel to exist and I viewed their actions as targeting and racist. I said so in a discussion on Facebook and a member of the group complained to the Scottish law Society about being labelled as a racist.
Perversely the law society determined that I should complete diversity training and pay compensation to the complainer even although my comments were directed to the SPSC as an organisation and not to this individual. We showed the tribunal material demonstrating the racist nature of the organisation and argued that I had every right to defend my friend.
At my appeal, I was ably represented by Queens Counsel (Adam Solomon QC) and at that hearing, we demonstrated that the complainer’s case did not stand up and that I was in no way in need of diversity training. Her complaints were dismissed and any compensation to the complainer was cancelled too.
I still require to pay a fine for using intemperate language against The SPSC but this is a price worth paying in the circumstances of defending a friend and doing what I thought was right.
I don’t simply defend clients but will stand up for what is right in my personal life too where I perceive injustice.
Matthew Berlow, Criminal Lawyer. Glasgow May 2019