News & Insights

To ban hate, first you must define it

Juries won’t convict without a clear understanding of when bad behaviour turns criminal, writes David Hardstaff for The Times

In what would be a surreal headline only a few years ago, it was recently announced that JK Rowling – author of the multimillion selling Harry Potter novels – will not be arrested under Scottish hate laws.

The Hate Crime and Public Order (Scotland) Act 2021 came into effect at the beginning of this month and created offences of “stirring up hatred” in an effort to tackle crime against defined groups. The controversial offences sit in a growing category of laws that seek to criminalise behaviours considered contrary to modern progressive standards.

Many of these new offences look sensible at first glance – who would not want to crack down on “hatred”? Of course, behaviour that takes away someone’s independence and dignity should not be tolerated. There should not be a “rough sex” defence to serious violence (and there isn’t).

The problem is that several of these targeted behaviours are extremely difficult to define, and even more difficult to reach a consensus as to when the threshold for criminality is met.

This article was first published in The Times on 11 April 2024; to read the full article please click here.

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Victory in Court: Robert Lawrie successfully obtains Summary Judgment for solicitor client in the High Court

Robert Lawrie, working with Faisal Osman of 33 Chancery Lane, has successfully obtained summary judgment defeating a claim against their client, a respected solicitor. Although the court dismissed the claim in its entirety, we will not be releasing our client’s name, given the sensitive nature of the case.

Our client had been employed by a firm that, following an intervention by the SRA, turned out to have been run by a dishonest solicitor who is now serving a long prison sentence for fraud.

Former clients of the firm pursued a claim against our client, contending that she had been complicit in her employer’s fraud, alleging breach of contract and negligence, and they sought to amend their claim to add allegations against our client of dishonesty and conspiracy. In addition to the potentially career-ending nature of these allegations, the claimants sought damages against our client of over £3m.

We pursued a strategy of applying for summary judgment. These are not easy applications to win. Courts are often understandably reluctant to dismiss claims without hearing the evidence at trial, particularly given the court’s natural sympathy for victims of fraud perpetrated by a dishonest solicitor.

In applying for summary judgment on the basis of a defective claim, our client faced the risk that the claimants would simply amend their case, and her application would be refused. To give our client the best possible prospects in her application, we asked the court to consider all the claimants’ intended amendments simultaneously with our client’s application for summary judgment.

Deputy Master Hansen gave judgment on 7 March 2024, dismissing the claims in their entirety. The Master found that it would be entirely wrong to find our client guilty by association with her former employer, that she had not breached any duty of care to the claimants, that she had no involvement in any fraud committed by her former employer and that any allegations against our client of dishonesty and conspiracy to injure were untenable. The Master concluded that there was no real prospect of the claimants succeeding at trial, and granted summary judgment in favour of our client, ordering the claimants to pay our client’s costs.

The Judge agreed that having suffered a loss from a dishonest wrongdoer without assets, the claimants were “casting around for another defendant they thought might be able to reimburse their losses”. The Judge further accepted our submission: “The Court will expect career-threatening allegations of dishonesty against a practising solicitor to be made with extreme care and never without a cogent and well-founded evidentiary basis.”

The case is a reminder of the need for any claimant alleging fraud to ensure that it identifies the correct defendants, makes the correct claims against them, and has a legal team that can set out the claims accurately and coherently.

The case also reinforces the need to identify the inherent risks in any application for summary judgment and to implement a case-specific strategy to address and minimise them.

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FCA criminal and civil proceedings discontinued against BCL client, Konstantinos (Costis) Papadimitrakopoulos

BCL are pleased to have represented Mr Papadimitrakopoulos in this long-running case brought by the FCA for alleged market abuse in connection with the affairs of Globo PLC. In 2022, following submissions made by BCL on behalf of Mr Papadimitrakopoulos, the High Court found that the conduct of the FCA in the context of its civil claim represented an abuse of process.

Following representations from BCL, the FCA’s criminal investigation was discontinued in February of this year and in March the civil claim was discontinued with no order as to costs.

The team representing Mr Papadimitrakopoulos included Shaul Brazil, Harry Travers and Andrew Watson, instructing Graham Brodie KC of 33 Chancery Lane and Richard Power of Fountain Court Chambers. We also wish to recognise the contribution to this case made by former BCL senior associate, Hannah Raphael, who led Mr Papadimitrakopoulos’ defence for many years.

“Statement on behalf of Mr Konstantinos Papadimitrakopoulos regarding FCA investigation into the affairs of Globo PLC.

Mr Papadimitrakopoulos is pleased that after eight years this matter has finally been resolved with his position vindicated. In 2021, Mr Papadimitrakopoulos was acquitted by the Greek courts on charges substantially similar to the offences the FCA were prosecuting; and in 2022, the High Court found that the conduct of the FCA in the context of a civil claim it had commenced in England represented an abuse of the process of the court. In the circumstances, it was appropriate that the FCA should decide to discontinue both its criminal investigation and its civil claim.

BCL Solicitors LLP, solicitors for Mr Papadimitrakopoulos.”

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New SFO director sets out his most urgent priorities

John Binns comments in The Law Society Gazette.

Nick Ephgrave last week set out an ambitious transformation plan, including speeding up cases and improving disclosure. But solicitors specialising in white-collar crime remain sceptical

‘Under my leadership, SFO cases will be processed more quickly, we will be faster,’ Ephgrave said.

John Binns, white-collar crime partner at BCL Solicitors, said it is ‘crucial’ the SFO uses methods open to it ‘wisely’. He added: ‘The SFO’s toolbox has never been more packed, with compulsory disclosure, deferred prosecution, and “failure to prevent” offences.’

John’s comments were first published in The Law Society Gazette on 19 February 2024, and can be seen here.

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A New SFO Director, and the SFO’s toolbox has never been more packed.

John Binns comments in Edward Fennell’s Legal Diary.

Giving his first public speech as the new Director of the Serious Fraud Office (SFO), Nick Ephgrave, addressed fresh measures to tackle fraud including swifter action and more dawn raids.

“The SFO’s name has not always been synonymous with good prosecuting. We’ve seen a hard few years of high-profile errors and worse, and all of us hope that this trajectory can be turned around.

Good prosecuting needs expertise, fairness, and resourcing, as well as legal powers. The SFO’s toolbox has never been more packed, with compulsory disclosure, deferred prosecution, and ‘failure to prevent’ offences. But it’s crucial that they use these wisely.

The public are increasingly aware of how criminal cases can go badly wrong. Failures to disclose material to the defence, fixed mindsets, and stitch-ups between companies and prosecutors, are common risks in cases of bribery and fraud.

Will Nick Ephgrave be the man to turn the SFO’s fortunes around? Strange as it seems, defence lawyers are among those keenest to see that come about. A prosecutor that is both efficient and fair, pursuing the right cases and achieving safe convictions, is a result in all our interests.”

John’s comments were first published in Edward Fennell’s Legal Diary on 16 February 2024, and can be seen here.

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BVL named BCL’s Charity of the Year 2024

We are delighted to announce that Big Voice London (BVL) has been selected as our Charity of the Year for 2024.
About BVL: In 2011 a group of law students worked together to design an outreach project called ‘Big Voice London’. The project helped students from non-fee-paying schools in and around London to explore the UK legal system. Since then, BVL has worked with over 2000 young people and grown into a social mobility charity operating across England and Wales.
BVL aims to:
  • Engage our students in law and legal policy
  • Inspire them to pursue legal careers
  • Improve diversity in the legal profession
They believe that a person’s background should not be a barrier to entering the legal profession and that the legal system can only benefit from the profession better reflecting the society we live in.
Each year at BCL, we ask our members of staff to nominate a charity that they would like us to support. Our Charity of the Year aims to support a cause that could be local to our firm or one with a personal connection to our members of staff, and as our Charity of the Year, BCL will give a financial donation and hold fundraising events to raise further funds and awareness throughout the year.
To find out more about the fantastic work this charity does please visit their website here.

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Crisis in the Courts: Barristers shun rape cases – David Hardstaff comments for Solicitors Journal

“Devastating” report reveals 64% of prosecutors and 66% of defense barristers refuse serious sexual assault cases, exacerbating backlog crisis


In a concerning revelation, a recent report from the Criminal Bar Association (CBA) has unveiled a deepening crisis in the legal system, as the majority of barristers express their reluctance to take on rape and serious sexual assault cases. 

David emphasised that the chronic underfunding and neglect spanning decades lie at the core of this issue. This crisis not only contradicts the standards upheld by a progressive society but also undermines the government’s struggling Rape Review. An increase in miscarriages of justice is likely to follow.

This article was first published in Solicitors Journal on 14 February 2024; to read the full article please click here.

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BCL Partners named Thought Leaders in Who’s Who Legal: Global Elite 2024

We are delighted to announce that BCL Partners Shula de Jersey and Richard Sallybanks have been recognised as Thought Leaders in the field of Business Crime Defence in Who’s Who Legal Global Elite 2024.

WWL Thought Leaders: Global Elite brings together the insight, expertise, and wisdom of some of the world’s foremost lawyers and experts in a single report which can be seen here.

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It’s not just Taylor Swift; all women are at risk from the rise of deepfakes – Michael Drury comments in Glamour

Last week, saw pornographic deepfake images of mega-star, Taylor Swift, circulated on various social media platforms, including X and Meta. Not only were the images themselves made without the singer’s consent, but they also reportedly depicted her being assaulted in non-consensual sexual acts.

According to NBC News, the deepfakes of Swift on X amassed over 27 million views and more than 260,000 likes in 19 hours before the account that initially posted the images was suspended. X has since blocked searches for ‘Taylor Swift’ on the site. Joe Benarroch, head of business operations at X, described the measure as “temporary”, adding that it was done with “an abundance of caution as we prioritise safety on this issue.”

What is the law on deepfakes in the UK?

According to Michael Drury, Of Counsel at BCL Solicitors, “There is no direct law prohibiting the sharing of ‘deep fakes’ unless those images are pornographic. In that case, the recently created offences under the Online Safety Act 2023 will mean that a crime has been committed as long as the person whose image is shared (real or fake) has not consented and the person sharing does not believe they have consented.

“There is no direct civil wrong allowing the person said to be shown in the image to sue. For those in the same position as Taylor Swift, the obvious solution is to rely upon the copyright of one’s image (if copyrighted), a breach of privacy or data protection laws; harassment (as a civil wrong), perhaps defamation, or criminal law more generally.”

This article was first published by Glamour on 31 January 2024 and can be seen here.

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BCL’s Oliver Schneider-Sikorsky ranked in the Private Client Global Elite

We are delighted to announce that BCL’s Oliver Schneider-Sikorsky has been ranked Tier 1 in’s Private Client Global Elite.

Launched in 2017, the Private Client Global Elite serves as a highly respected global directory of the world’s top private client and trust and estates litigation talent, as well as rising stars within the industry.

The rankings are used by the legal community when looking for referrals, family offices and professional advisers.

Oliver is ranked Tier 1 for ‘Reputation and Crisis Management’ and ‘Criminal Litigation’, and his full profile can be seen here.

With a full list of the rankings here.

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