Majid Mahmood, a partner at City Law Chambers in Luton and a director at Liberty Law Solicitors, has been fined £25,000 and ordered to pay costs of £9,595 by the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal, in a case instigated by Campaign Against Antisemitism over antisemitic social media posts. Mr Mahmood was also suspended as a solicitor for 12 months but that period of suspension is itself suspended, so he can continue to practice as a solicitor unless he reoffends.
In 2016, a member of the public saw antisemitic Facebook comments posted by Mr Mahmood, which he posted underneath a video about the airlifting of Jewish refugees. Mr Mahmood commented: “The aint gods chosen people they’re Satans love child’s and it’s a shame e the plane carrying them didn’t blow up mid air [all sic].” When another user remonstrated with him, he told them to: “go and f*** yourself.”
The member of the public reported Mr Mahmood to Campaign Against Antisemitism, which submitted a complaint to the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA). The SRA obtained an apology from Mr Mahmood and warned him not to post such comments again, and was minded to leave the matter there. When Campaign Against Antisemitism took the first steps in taking legal action against the SRA, the matter was escalated to the SRA’s senior management, which corrected the decision and instead of closing the matter instead opened a formal regulatory investigation.
Upon reviewing its files, the SRA found that in 2015 Mr Mahmood had posted on Facebook: “Somebody needs to shoot all the Israeli Zionists dead then send their bodies to America as a present for Obama and his Zionist pals.” A member of public had reported the comment to the SRA but it was not reported to Campaign Against Antisemitism at the time, and the SRA took no action on that occasion.
The SRA brought a case against Mr Mahmood at the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal, alleging that: “On 13 October 2015 and 14 February 2016, he publicly communicated antisemitic and/or offensive and wholly inappropriate posts from his Facebook account contrary to Principles 2/1 and 6/2 of the SRA Principles 2011.”
Mr Mahmood, one of whose firm’s website states that “the principal [sic] of equal opportunity and diversity are fundamental to our continuing success”, denied that he was antisemitic, pointing to the fact that he had some Jewish friends. However, the SRA, expertly represented by David Bennett, successfully argued that “The content of both posts was unambiguously antisemitic” and “indicated a preference for lethal violence”. Ironically, one of Mr Mahmood’s firms, Liberty Law Solicitors had produced a pamphlet warning of the dangers of an “employee’s conduct on social media bringing the business into disrepute”.
The Tribunal ruled that: “The intemperate language used, the hatred manifested, including against anti-Zionists as well as Jewish people, and wishing them dead by graphic means were terrible ideas for a solicitor to be promoting” and ordered that Mr Mahmood must “pay a fine of £25,000, such penalty to be forfeit to Her Majesty the Queen” and that he must also “pay costs of and incidental to this application and enquiry in the sum of £9,595.” The Tribunal also ordered that Mr Mahmood “be suspended from practice as a solicitor for the period of 12 months from 2nd August 2017, that period of suspension to be suspended for 12 months from the same date.”
We are particularly pleased that in the Tribunal ruled that there is no such thing as a minor antisemitic act. When the Tribunal decided to apply a fine at the “upper end of the scale”, Mr Mahmood’s barrister, Gregory Treverton-Jones QC, argued that Mr Mahmood’s antisemitism was at the “lowest end”. The Tribunal ruled that “it was not open to a solicitor to behave in a more or less antisemitic way; he either behaved in an antisemitic way or he did not…[Mr Mahmood] advocated violence against Zionists and Jews. He had no way of knowing how a particularly impressionable individual with a propensity for reading the public Facebook pages on which his posts were published would respond. His behaviour was reprehensible and not to be minimised.”
Gideon Falter, Chairman of Campaign Against Antisemitism, was a witness for the Solicitors Regulation Authority and the Tribunal acknowledged the work done by Campaign Against Antisemitism, writing in its 39-page ruling: “It is disappointing that antisemitism continues to exist. In recent years there has been significant work done by organisations such as Mr Falter’s to educate and inform the public so as to reduce the incidences of antisemitism. It was very disappointing that a solicitor in February 2016 was espousing views in social media that the Tribunal had determined on the facts to be antisemitic.”
Whilst we do not agree with the decision to allow Mr Mahmood, who has repeatedly made vile statements calling for death and destruction, to remain in practice as an officer of the court, we nonetheless welcome this decision. We commend the Solicitors Regulation Authority for doing the right thing in bringing this action, and we applaud the Tribunal for sending this strong message that antisemitism within the legal profession will be severely punished.