‘Case closed’ says regulator

In December, 2020 it was reported elsewhere on this website that a serving police officer had made a conduct complaint about a well-known Leeds barrister (read here).

Umer Saeed, a sergeant with the West Yorkshire force, had sent in the prescribed Bar Standards Board form in April, 2020 setting out allegations against Olivia Checa-Dover, whom frequently acts as counsel for the same police force in both civil and employment claims – and also represents WYP, and other forces, in misconduct hearings.

She also sits as a deputy district judge and as a Recorder (part time circuit judge).

The BSB complaint arose from a hotly disputed conversation between Sgt Saeed’s barrister, Adam Willoughby, and Miss Checa-Dover at Leeds Employment Tribunal in January, 2020. The officer is claiming racial and religious discrimination against his chief constable.

The extraordinary background, and the ultimate ramifications of that pre-hearing exchange between counsel, is dealt with in another lengthy, highly forensic piece on this website, published yesterday (click here). It makes for quite astonishing reading.

In summary, both barristers had to recuse themselves from the case in March, 2020 and faced searching witness box cross-examination, and questions from the judge, at a full day Tribunal hearing in December, 2020.

The matter in issue was an allegation that Miss Checa-Dover was intending to seek an adverse credibility finding against Sgt Saeed whom, she said to Mr Willoughby, ‘had lied in his witness evidence’. Such a judicial finding would have a serious impact on his police career and make him ‘non-operational’ by way of removal from the ‘evidential chain’.

Dijen Basu QC who now represents Sgt Saeed told the Tribunal, in written submissions: ‘This was not the sort of case in which it could credibly be said that there was a serious chance of Sgt Saeed (or anyone else) being found [by the Tribunal] to be a liar – especially given that Miss Checa-Dover now accepts that she, actually, had no intention of making any such suggestion’.

At the December hearing, the existence of Sgt Saeed’s BSB complaint was revealed, publicly, for the first time. But there was scant detail until the publication of the judgment arising from those proceedings on 16th March, 2021 (it was handed down to the parties to the claim around two weeks earlier).

It transpires that the regulator had actually closed the complaint before the hearing. The BSB had written to Miss Checa-Dover in October, 2020 to inform her. She said in her evidence that the same letter was the first she knew of the complaint.

The vital part of Sgt Saeed’s report to the BSB was also set out in that same judgment and it, regrettably, revealed its futility. It was doomed from the outset.

Whilst in discussion around resolutions to avoid the commencement of full proceedings, some “without prejudice” discussions took place between counsels (sic). During these discussions Olivia Checa-Dover…

Without prejudice discussions between counsel are legally privileged and, as such, not actionable. It is a point upon which Sgt Saeed might well have been wise to seek appropriate advice before lodging the complaint.

The fact that what he reported to the BSB ran counter to what Mr Willoughby says he told Sgt Saeed about those same discussions was an embarrassing moment for the barrister at the December, 2020 Tribunal hearing. Mr Willoughby’s account was that, in his view, the without prejudice element of his discussion with fellow counsel had ended.

Sgt Saeed, surprisingly, did not give evidence in his own cause at that same hearing. He, also, did not respond to enquiries about the status of the complaint shortly after the December, 2020 hearing.

Having heard all the oral evidence from the virtual press seats, the suspicion is that it was the police officer who was mistaken: Ardent in his belief that Miss Checa-Dover was setting out to damage his police career, and very probably angry at what he must have perceived to be a serious slur against him, his complaint has the appearance of not having sufficient care taken over it.

Even more surprisingly, Miss Checa-Dover did not exercise her right to reply when sent a draft of the article ‘Part-time judge faces Bar Standards complaint‘. At that point she knew the case had been closed by her professional regulator almost two months earlier.

Nevertheless, the record has now been put straight in what, on any independent view, a most unfortunate farrago, in which none of the protagonists emerge with credit. The fact that it was allowed to run all the way to a public hearing, with all the attendant waste of taxpayer funds and ‘airing of dirty washing’, simply beggars belief.

Page last updated on Saturday 20th March, 2021 at 0635hrs

Corrections: Please let me know if there is a mistake in this article. I will endeavour to correct it as soon as possible.

Right of reply: If you are mentioned in this article and disagree with it, please let me have your comments. Provided your response is not defamatory it will be added to the article.

Picture credit: KBW Chambers

© Neil Wilby 2015-2021. Unauthorised use, or reproduction, of the material contained in this article, without permission from the author, is strictly prohibited. Extracts from, and links to, the article (or blog) may be used, provided that credit is given to Neil Wilby, with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Published by Neil Wilby

Former Johnston Press area managing director. Justice campaigner. Freelance investigative journalist.

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