Alleged Islamophobia in misconduct proceedings: El Diwany

Mr Farid El Diwany was twice convicted in Norway of harassment [16] and, in consequence, was struck off the Roll of Solicitors [16(ix)]. In El Diwany v Solicitors Regulation Authority Ltd [2022] EWHC 2882 (Admin), he appealed against an order of the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal (“the SDT”) dated 18 November 2021 refusing his application to be restored to the Roll [1].

The hearing before the SDT at which the Order was made refusing his application took place on 18 November 2021; before that, he had applied for the SDT panel to recuse itself from hearing his application on the basis that it was not properly qualified to adjudicate on the Restoration Application,

“given the Norwegian state-endorsed Islamophobic abuse of Mr El Diwany that formed an important part of the background to the 2019 SDT Decision and which needed to be taken into account as part of the SDT’s consideration of the Restoration Application” [4].

He made his Recusal Application on the basis that none of the SDT panel members was a Muslim and that only an all-Muslim panel could determine his application fairly, given the background of what he claimed to be Norwegian state-endorsed Islamophobic abuse. It was also an important part of his case that his convictions in Norway were unsound. He submitted that if a non-Muslim panel of the SDT were to hear the Restoration Application it would demonstrate actual and apparent bias against him. He complained that the original SDT panel in 2019 that had struck him off demonstrated bias against him and, further, he argued that the fact that the original panel had contained no Muslim members was evidence of Islamophobia by the SDT and that he could not, therefore, expect a fair hearing [23].

The SDT dismissed the Recusal Application: it was satisfied that Mr El Diwany had presented no evidence to show that a fair-minded and informed observer would conclude that there was a real possibility that the SDT was biased. It also noted the passage in Locabail (UK) Ltd v Bayfield Properties Ltd [2000] QB 451 (CA) at [25] in which the Court of Appeal had specifically rejected the possibility that an objection that there was a real danger of bias could be soundly based on “the religion, ethnic or national origin, gender, age, class, means or sexual orientation of the judge” [25].

The Administrative Court was unpersuaded. The only task for the 2021 SDT panel had been to assess whether Mr El Diwany satisfied the necessary criteria for restoration to the Roll of Solicitors. The question of any alleged or potential bias of the SDT panel needed to be considered in that light [39]. Nor had he provided any evidence or made any submission that showed that there had been any error in the SDT’s reasons for rejecting the Recusal Application: he had not put forward

“any legitimate reason why an impartial and fair-minded observer would find that there was a real risk of bias. The SDT panel identified the correct principles and gave reasons that were open to it for refusing the Recusal Application” [40].

Appeal dismissed [70].

Cite this article as: Frank Cranmer, "Alleged Islamophobia in misconduct proceedings: El Diwany" in Law & Religion UK, 16 November 2022,

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