A partner at RPC has left the City firm after she was accused of concealing information and falsifying a court document in order to fool her own client, Christopher Steele, the ex-MI6 agent who compiled the infamous ‘Trump dossier‘.

The stunning allegations about Nicola Cain, who until recently was a partner in RPC's media team, were made by her former colleagues at the High Court, where Steele is being sued for defamation.

Cain began acting for the former spy after a Russian businessman, Aleksej Gubarev, and his company sued Steele for naming them in his 2016 dossier on Russian leverage over Donald Trump. The dossier became public when it was published in 2017 by BuzzFeed.

During the hearing, the claimants accused Steele of failing to properly disclose information to them over the course of the proceedings. But Steele's defence team countered the accusations by stating that Cain was to blame.


cain

The lawyer who outfoxed a superspy, briefly.


In closing submissions in July, Steele's barrister, Gavin Millar QC of Matrix Chambers, said that Steele and his company, Orbis Business Intelligence, were "the blameless victims of serious professional failures by the partner at RPC who had responsibility for this matter until very recently".

Keith Mathieson, one of the UK's top defamation lawyers and the head of RPC's media team, said in a witness statement that the partner, who was not referred to by name, “actively, seriously and repeatedly misled the Defendants about these proceedings”. He said she was pulled from the case in February after her actions came to light.

According to Steele’s defence, Cain failed "for months" to disclose documents which were meant to be provided to the claimants, in breach of a court order and without telling Steele. She then concealed the claimants' repeated complaints about her failure to provide them, and concealed the fact that they had applied for a court order to strike out Steele's defence if he did not hand them over.

When Cain eventually disclosed a list of documents to the claimants, she did not show the list to Steele and instead signed it on his behalf, said Millar QC.

Cain also concealed the fact that the court had made an indemnity costs order against Steele, and the fact that she had given a witness statement which attempted to explain why the court’s earlier disclosure order had been breached, said the barrister. In one of the most serious incidents, Cain gave Steele a falsified court order "in order to conceal the true orders made by the court", he said.

Steele's defence team told the court that it had to bear in mind "this important – indeed quite extraordinary – background" when addressing the claimants' criticisms of Steele's disclosure.


christopher steele

Steele, back when he only had to worry about Russians, Trump and pee tapes.


Steele was "shocked and dismayed" when he was informed for the first time in March 2020 about Cain's "many serious lapses", said the defence, and "remains extremely upset and distressed".

Cain, who was a senior barrister at the BBC before she moved to RPC's highly regarded media practice three years ago, has now left the firm. In a statement provided to RollOnFriday, she apologised for her conduct, but said her time at RPC had caused her to suffer mental health issues, and provided a letter she received from the firm regarding her situation.

"Since January of this year, I have been in receipt of treatment to address mental health issues I sustained during and as a consequence of my time at the firm", she said.

Cain said she had not seen the court submissions, so was not in a position to comment on their content. "In any event", she said, "I am not at liberty to discuss confidential client matters. Nor am I at liberty to discuss with you the treatment I received at RPC, the matters which led to my resignation, or the terms upon which I resigned as a Partner of the firm with effect from 30 April 2020".  

"With respect to my failure to comply with certain of my professional obligations, I apologise profusely for my conduct, which let down my client, colleagues, fellow Partners, the firm and the profession. I can confirm that I am not practising as a provider of reserved legal activities, and that I self-referred to relevant regulators", said Cain.

James Miller, RPC's Managing Partner, said, "We won't comment on the specifics of this individual case. However, it goes without saying that we always insist on the highest levels of professional integrity at RPC. We also place the utmost value on health and wellbeing, and have many programmes in place to support our people at all levels of seniority. We will continue to invest in making sure we build on the resources we already have available".

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Comments

Anon 07 August 20 10:02

Will be interested to see how the SRA treat her in comparison to the junior lawyers they keep coming after...

Lydia 07 August 20 10:23

These are very serious failures. I thought people lost careers over falsifying a court order?

If so many people claim their mental health makes them act criminally (I have noticed a trend of people saying - "not my fault guv, I was mad", in effect) should we be vetting people before admission to check they are going to be able to cope with the job of solicitor or barrister?

anonymous 07 August 20 10:29

As Michael Jordan's coach says... If they do something once, they'll do it twice!

 

Ban her, get her out of here.

Ash 07 August 20 10:39

Having mental health issues doesnt make you a fraud and unprofessional.  What a pathetic way to try and avoid responsibility.

putuponlawyer 07 August 20 11:52

I  worked with her some time ago and she was fantastic. I am Amazed to read this. Maybe she was nobbled by the other side? But she must have known it would come out.

nervoaboutfurlough 07 August 20 12:55

Interested in seeing the response from the SRA and whether they treat her the same way they've treated more junior solicitors who have done similar (although arguably not as much. Not sure I've read of any junior falsifying court documents!

Anon 07 August 20 13:12

If a junior is struck off for not confessing to leaving a briefcase on a train, this woman has to be struck off surely.  

Anonymous 07 August 20 13:17

I work with RPC from time to time. Generally a good bunch. Going to give them the benefit of the doubt here along the lines of one bad apple not affecting the rest. 

 

Not in their HR/marketing team before the accusations start!

Anonymous 07 August 20 13:32

Mental health = acceptable reason for failure to meet standards of service/time.

Mental health is not a reason for dishonesty or professional misconduct.

Anonymous 07 August 20 13:51

Anonymous 07 August 20 13:17 -  I don’t think there’s any suggestion there’s a wider problem. Every so often a firm will have a lawyer who goes rogue, it was just RPC’s turn. 

Clive Booth 07 August 20 14:09

Everybody is so quick to rush to judgment.

The only thing that is clear at the moment is that something has gone horribly wrong.

Anon 07 August 20 14:34

Same trial where McDermott got slammed for letting a bunch of Russians watch proceedings in breach of an order. Doing the industry proud.

Magic Grandad 07 August 20 14:56

There are potential criminal offences here of (1) contempt of court for not following the disclosure order of the court and possibly (2) perverting the course of justice for "redrating" the court order.

In my opinion as a partner in a practice the police need to be called in never mind the SRA / BSB. She cannot be allowed to slink away and practise elsewhere. 

Anonymous 08 August 20 20:07

I hope that this is something that will be investigated properly, as opposed to sticking heads in the sand as this firm has a propensity to do when there’s bad news. Issues like this reflect badly on the partnership and on the firm and I don’t think the Managing Director’s generic comment about placing the “utmost value on health and wellbeing” is going to cut it on this occasion. 

TRUMP 2020 09 August 20 17:35

Just lol at my post triggering @Anonymous 18.38.

Does the anony under-achiever need an ickle safe space? 

 

 

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