Scots lawyer who tweeted ‘sectarian’ comments about Orange Walks fined £6,000

Scottish Solicitors Discipline Tribunal
Scottish Solicitors Discipline Tribunal

A Scots lawyer who published a series of comments on social media referring to Orange Walks in “discriminatory, sectarian, derogatory, and offensive” terms has been fined £6,000.

Solicitor advocate Simon Brown was found guilty of professional misconduct by the Scottish Solicitors’ Discipline Tribunal (SSDT), which said the posts published on Twitter were capable of bringing the profession into “disrepute” and drew his integrity into question.

‘Sectarian and offensive’

The tribunal heard that the respondent, the principal partner in Mathew Brown Solicitors, posted comments on his personal Twitter account @Broon313 between April 2015 and February 2018, making reference to Orange Walks taking place near his home in Irvine, Ayrshire.

There were a total of 12 posts made which were said to be “inappropriate, discriminatory, sectarian, derogatory, and offensive” in nature.

Among them was a tweet in June 2015 which stated: “Watching the Orange Walk go by. W*nk, w*nk, g…, nope another w*nk, w*nk w*nk, w*nk…”

Another tweet in February 2018 read: “Every time I see those knuckle dragging mutants a little bit of my humanity is chipped away.” He added a hashtag reading: “Orange order f*cking inbred w*nk hankies”.

The tweets attracted national media attention, with several newspapers reporting the content of the posts.

The respondent admitted that his tweets were discriminatory and offensive, and that his behaviour constituted “unsatisfactory professional conduct”.

The tribunal was told that that the respondent was brought up in the Church of Scotland and had no prejudice against Protestants, but said the walks pass by his home and were often accompanied by “drunk hangers-on” who litter and attract the attention of the police.

He “bitterly regretted” his actions and had issued a public apology, but added that the marches have had a “detrimental effect” on him and his family.

‘Serious and reprehensible conduct’

However, the tribunal found that ruled that the respondent’s behaviour did amount to professional misconduct and concluded that the “appropriate sanction” was a fine.

In a written decision, SSDT vice chair Beverley Atkinson said: “In this case, the tweets were offensive, but it was their sectarian nature which brought them into the realm of professional misconduct. Sectarianism brings the profession into disrepute.

“The tweets were made over a three-year period. They were provocative and likely to cause offence.

“There was widespread national media coverage of the tweets. They raised questions about the respondent’s integrity.

“The conduct represented a serious and reprehensible departure from the standards of competent and reputable solicitors.”

She added: “The tribunal accepted that the tweets were published out of frustration at the walks taking place outside the respondent’s home and the effect his had on his family. The tribunal was confident that the respondent would not repeat this conduct.

“The tribunal was of the view that in these circumstances, the appropriate sanction was censure and a fine of £6,000.”

© Scottish Legal News Ltd 2020