A cocaine-addicted solicitor who was struck off for leaking police information to drug dealers is appealing – on the grounds that his conversations with the dealers should have remained secret.
In 2011, solicitor Basharat Ditta fed information about a potential police sting to three of his clients at Blackburn firm Forbes. He was being blackmailed by the trio because he was addicted to cocaine.
Ditta was later convicted of seeking information about a drugs investigation being carried out by Lancashire police and was jailed for three years in 2013. He had already pleaded guilty to three charges of cocaine possession in 2011.
Ditta’s clients, Neil Scarborough, Tahier Chand and Suhail Vohra, were eventually convicted of conspiring to supply class A drugs.
The Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal (SDT) struck Diita off last year, barring him from working as a solicitor on his release from prison.
However, Ditta is appealing against the SDT’s ruling, saying that his conversations with his clients should have been protected by Legal Professional Privilege (LPP). Ditta claims that the way he gave evidence during his trial hearing was invalid, because he believed LPP should have prevented him from properly explaining his conversations with dealers Scarborough, Chand and Vohra.
The Court Of Appeal has given Ditta grounds to appeal his disbarring on that basis. Overseeing the appeal, chairman Sir Brian Leveson said: “The evidence Ditta gave at his trial has given rise to a ground of appeal, to the effect that his trial was unfair and the convictions are unsafe.”
Leveson said he wants to hear from Ditta himself at the further appeal hearing.
During Ditta’s trial at Liverpool Crown Court in 2013, it emerged that Ditta “regularly took cocaine”. After his sentence, police prosecution witness DS Lee Halstead said: “Addiction left Ditta hopelessly compromised and vulnerable” to being blackmailed by Scarborough, Chand and Vohra. “He turned from a criminal solicitor to a criminal himself.”
In its original hearing which barred Ditta from resuming work as a solicitor, the SDT said he was “guilty of the most serious misconduct at the highest level”.
Loaded’s deputy editor John Earls has covered entertainment and sport across a range of national newspapers, plus several football and music magazines, since 1990. Follow him on Twitter at @EarlsJohn