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A former Middle Temple barrister has been struck off by the Bar Standards Board (BSB) for concocting a web of “tortuous deceit” over a “phantom” £1m payout to his client.
Alexander Mercouris broke down in tears at the BSB disciplinary tribunal as he admitted bringing the profession into disrepute by forging Supreme Court Justice Baroness Hale’s signature and claiming that Supreme Court president Lord Phillips had tried to blackmail him.
The ex-Citizens Advice Bureau employee had worked in the Royal Courts of Justice for 12 years before being called to the bar in 2006.
In October 2009 he offered to represent Lorna Jamous in a damages claim against Westminster Council over a care hearing involving her son Tariq.
Today the BSB’s counsel, Stephen Mooney of Bristol’s Albion Chambers, told the tribunal that the barrister-client relationship went from “supportive and helpful” to “bizarre, unhelpful and profoundly dishonest”.
The tribunal heard that Jamous had been offered a without prejudice £5,000 settlement by the local authority, but Mercouris told her he could take further action to get her hundreds of thousands of pounds. She accrued debts based on the promise of a future windfall.
Mooney told the hearing that there was never any litigation and that Mercouris “embarked on ever more bizarre assertions to hide the truth”.
These included fabricated meetings with barristers and then a forged letter alleging to be from Baroness Hale expressing concern that the £983,000 payment from Westminster Council had not been forthcoming.
But there was no such settlement and Mercouris then talked Jamous out of attending a hearing where she would have discovered the truth, claiming her presence would “derail sensitive negotiations”.
Next he told her he had applied for an interim £50,000 payment, then tried to say that his brother had stolen the whole £983,000 payout, before coming up with what Mooney described as “the most peculiar allegation” of them all.
Mercouris claimed that after he made a phone call to try to recover the money, bogus police officers kidnapped him and took him to a meeting with Phillips SCJ. He alleged that Phillips SCJ told him to drop the claim in return for a £50,000 bribe, plus his debts and mortgage paid off.
Mercouris admitted making up the allegations that the senior law lord threatened to take away his 102-year-old grandmother and put her into care.
Mooney summarised the “extremely convoluted story” as a “tortuous deceit”. He said: “In my opinion, Mr Mercouris is not fully in control of his faculties.”
The panel then heard from Mercouris, who was diagnosed with depression after a nervous breakdown in the autumn of 2007 due to caring for his sick grandmother.
Representing himself, Mercouris broke down as he said: “Mr Mooney has referred to some of my actions as bizarre, I cannot dispute that. I’m very sorry. I worked very hard to become a barrister and disbarment is a bitter thought.”
He told the panel he was out of work, living alone with two cats.
He admitted five counts of bringing his profession into disrepute through misconduct and panel chairman Crawford Lindsay QC struck him off.
Lindsay called the “fantasy scheme” a “sad case”, adding: “These are extremely serious allegations where you deceived the client, involving two distinguished members of the judiciary.
“Mr Mercouris has worked for a number of years at the Citizens Advice Bureau in the Royal Courts of Justice and no doubt helped and gave advice to a number of people.
“He went completely off the rails.”
In a break in proceedings a member of the public who was attending the hearing began berating Mercouris about another case. She had been in contact with Jamous through the ’Solicitors From Hell’ website.