Ex-Gibson Dunn partner fails to overturn disbarment for misleading court

Appeal by Peter Gray in high-profile Djibouti case founders after judge rules case against him was ‘very strong’

An appeal by a former Gibson Dunn partner struck off for deliberately misleading London’s High Court has been dismissed.

In a judgment handed down in the Administrative Court, Mr Justice Linden said there was ‘no reason at all to doubt’ the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal’s (SDT’s) ruling in May last year that Peter Gray had dishonestly failed to draw attention to an error in evidence during an application for a freezing order.

In his appeal, Gray maintained that in reaching its decision the SDT had relied too heavily on a High Court ruling he had misled the court and had also failed to take sufficient account of new evidence of his honesty and integrity.

But Linden backed the SDT saying it ‘did reach its own decision on the basis of the evidence and arguments which it received’, concluding: ‘It seems to me that the case against the appellant was very strong and it is unsurprising that the SDT upheld it’. 

The controversy first arose in March 2015 when (then) Mr Justice Flaux found that Gray had deliberately misled him when applying for an order on behalf of his client, the Republic of Djibouti, to freeze the assets of a prominent citizen. 

In granting the order, the judge had relied on telephone transcripts that had helped convict Abdourahman Boreh of terrorism in his absence, leading to an extradition request from Dubai that formed a key part of the application.

And yet a member of Gray’s team had alerted the Dubai-based partner shortly before the London hearing that the transcripts were wrongly dated, thereby throwing Boreh’s conviction into doubt.

Despite Gray having congratulated his team member for averting what he described as an almost certain ‘disaster’, the tribunal said minutes of a subsequent meeting ‘recorded the respondent as having said that they were going to “fudge” the dating issue’ in the freezing injunction application.

The SDT found that Gray had acted dishonestly by swearing an affidavit in support of the application which he knew to be misleading; allowing misleading submissions to be made to the court; and misleading the solicitors acting for the opposing side.

In his judgment, Linden said the '"new" evidence’ relied on by Gray in his appeal fell into four categories: that the leading counsel he instructed in the Djibouti case, Khawar Qureshi QC, ‘had been consulted throughout and had agreed with or, at least, had not questioned the positions taken by the appellant’, that nobody in the wider team representing Djibouti had found his approach to be problematic; character evidence from 23 referees; and ‘evidence about the under resourcing of the Djibouti team at the material times’.

But Linden said he believed it ‘highly unlikely that Flaux J would have taken a different view of the appellant's conduct had he seen the additional materials’. 

He noted: ‘Flaux J also emphatically found that there was no suggestion that Mr Qureshi had deliberately misled him, nor any other evidence of misconduct or impropriety on his part, and Mr Qureshi was also cleared of any misconduct or impropriety by the Bar Standards Board, which made a public apology to him for its handling of his case.’

Simon Davenport QC and Emily Moore, of 3 Hare Court, and Lewis MacDonald, of 2 Hare Court, instructed by Howard Kennedy, appeared for Gray, while the SRA was represented by Rory Dunlop QC, of 39 Essex Chambers, instructed by Capsticks.

Gray’s challenge to the £42,525 costs order made against him in the appeal also failed.

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