The lawyer, who also made allegations of voyeurism, claimed he had used the company’s notepaper ‘by mistake’ but this was rejected by the Law Society’s Disciplinary Committee, which claimed the correspondence was intended to have the ‘full weight and effect of a legal letter’.
He also contacted his neighbour’s respective employers with a ‘data subject request’ and recited the claims.
In a separate issue, the lawyer also warned his neighbours he would ‘not tolerate any sort of intimidation of my workmen or any form of racism towards them’.
In a Royal Court judgment, which did not name the advocate, it said the Law Society’s Disciplinary Committee issued the advocate with a ‘private rebuke’. However, the society later applied to the court to withdraw the sanction and instead impose a ‘public reprimand’, saying the original penalty was ‘not appropriate’.
Within the judgment it said: ‘Conversations between the advocate’s wife and the complainants [neighbours] led her to believe that photographs of her children had been taken. These were relayed to the advocate and he believed them to be true.
‘The letters conveyed serious allegations against the complainants including accusing them of “breach of privacy/data protection”. The allegations included “your actions cannot be seen as anything other than an utter breach of privacy and they also give rise for some very serious data protection issues, as well as child protection issues. As you are aware, I have adolescent daughters and a young son and I am disgusted by your admitted voyeurism. My wife and I do not give you consent to take photos of our property, garden, children, our guests/workmen”.’
The Disciplinary Committee found by using the term ‘voyeurism’ the advocate was alleging that the pictures had been taken for ‘sexual gratification’.
In the judgment, the Royal Court said it had ‘no doubt’ that if it had been considering the matter it would have issued a public reprimand and not a private rebuke. It added: ‘We informed the advocate of this fact at the end of the oral hearing and he apologised to us for his conduct.’
However, it said that it would only ‘interfere’ with judgments made by the Disciplinary Committee if it was deemed that a sanction was outside the range of appropriate penalties. The court found that this was not the case in this instance.