Jersey lawyer suspended after misleading Court of Appeal
A HIGH-profile Jersey lawyer has been suspended from practising for four months after misleading the Court of Appeal on a number of occasions.
Advocate Philip Sinel failed on Wednesday in his bid to overturn the ban. Another advocate at his Sinel's Law Firm – Steven Chiddicks – has been publicly rebuked for his involvement in the matter.
The ban, which will begin in two months, follows the revelation that while representing Leeds United football club in a long-running civil action, the lawyers did not disclose the fact that their client had lodged a protective writ – an intention to sue before the time limit for doing so expired – with the English courts while continuing to press the Jersey courts for a quick decision.
In pressing the Jersey courts, Sinels argued that they needed to explore whether there was still time for their client in the UK to issue proceedings there, despite the fact the protective writ had already been issued. Follow-up correspondence and written submissions also failed to alert the court to the protective writ.
In February this year, the Royal Court upheld a complaint from the Law Society for professional misconduct against the two advocates and suspended both of them. However, an appeal was lodged and this week the Royal Court of Appeal has published its findings. In doing so it upheld the decision of the Royal Court but reduced Advocate Chiddicks' penalty from two months' suspension to a 'public rebuke' for his actions.
It conceded that Advocate Chiddicks had only been qualified for a year when the offence took place and that he had 'reasonably and properly deferred to those with more expertise and experience'.
In its judgment, the Royal Court of Appeal describes the advocates' actions as 'one of the most serious offences that an advocate or litigator can commit'. It added: 'It is not simply a breach of a rule of a game, but a fundamental affront to a rule designed to safeguard the fairness and justice of proceedings.'
In part of the original judgment of the Royal Court in February, the court stated: 'This Court has no doubt at all that the Court of Appeal was misled...The Court notes further that the misleading of the Court of Appeal did not consist of a single occurrence on 24th January 2012, but of a course of conduct embracing subsequent submissions and correspondence from the Respondents.'
In a statement Advocate Sinel said he 'strongly disagrees' with the 'bizarre' response of the court.
'We did no more and no less than honour our professional obligations to client and Court by asking for an indication as to when the judgment would be available. Such requests, for an indication of timing, are routine.'
He further claimed that the judgments of the Court of Appeal and the Royal Court were 'slanted' and 'factually incorrect' and that the case was a 'worrying development for lawyers, investors and litigants alike'.
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