The SRA has called off its case against the Allen & Overy partner involved in drawing up a gagging order on behalf of Harvey Weinstein, due to the solicitor's ill health.
Mark Mansell drafted the controversial clauses in 1998 after Zelda Perkins, one of the disgraced Hollywood mogul's personal assistants, accused Weinstein of sexually harassing her and attempting to rape a colleague.
The NDA was onerous. It required Perkins to obtain a confidentiality agreement from any doctor she visited in connection with the incident. She was also forbidden from speaking about the incident even when required to do so by law or "where reasonably practicable in the case of any criminal legal process" without first giving Mansell at least 48 hours written notice.
Perkins said she was "broken" after several "incredibly distressing" and "intense" negotiation sessions at the firm's London office. 24 at the time, she said her grilling culminated in a 12-hour marathon which finished at 5am. “I was made to feel ashamed for disclosing his behaviour and assault", she said.
The SRA referred Mansell for prosecution in April 2019 after a parliamentary committee criticised the regulator in 2018 for its slow progress in the matter, although the SDT rejected Mansell’s suggestion that the prosecution was politically motivated.
But his hearing was delayed three times. Once in June 2019, then in December 2019 and again in March 2020.
Now the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal has decided to stay the proceedings due to Mansell's ill health.
The former A&O partner made an application to dismiss the proceedings because there was no case to answer, but the SDT determined that there was a "real and legitimate public interest" in the case.
However, it did accept his application to stay the proceedings due to ill health, after medical experts instructed by both parties "substantially agreed" that a trial represented a "significant risk to Mr Mansell's life".
The tribunal said it was “of concern” that Mansell was too ill to undergo the rigours of a hearing or provide instructions, but continued to practise. However, as the risk to his life was "immediate and continuing", it decided it would not be proportionate to continue with the case.
Mansell's solicitors, Russell-Cooke, said in a statement on his behalf that the principles of Weinstein’s settlement deal with Perkins and another woman were agreed before Mansell was involved, and "he was brought in simply to document it, on the basis that the allegations were untrue".
According to Mansell, he "did not propose the now-controversial wording” and “his position is that it came from [their] lawyers".
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