A top lawyer has been slammed by legal watchdogs for a bizarre plot to discredit a Palestinian pressure group.
Matthew Berlow played a key part in faking a graffiti attack at his home then used the bogus incident to smear the Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign.
He now faces a £500 fine for his part in the conspiracy after an initial probe by the reporter of the Law Society of Scotland.
Berlow knew his associate Ed Sutherland, a teacher at Belmont Academy, Ayr, had created a fake Facebook identity under the name Stevie Harrison to infiltrate the SPSC in January last year.
Berlow and Sutherland are linked to Friends of Israel, which aims to promote the interests of the country in the UK.
The fake Palestinian supporting activist “Stevie Harrison” wrote a social media post highlighting vandalism daubed on Berlow’s home in Glasgow.
The post said: “A certain Jewish lawyer woke up this morning to find ‘Free Palestine’ spray-painted rather prominently – no idea who was responsible.”
Berlow fuelled the story of the fantasy attack by playing the victim and commenting on the post: “Idiocy. Typical SPSC behaviour criminal.”
He later admitted to the LSS that he knew the scenario to be faked. But he claimed he went along with it because the Harrison character was being used “to monitor various disruptive activities of the SPSC”.
A preliminary ruling found Berlow failed to maintain the standards of behaviour expected for a solicitor.
“The reporter has been provided with no evidence to find that Harrison was recognised as a member of the SPSC.
“Conversely, as the reporter is satisfied that Harrison is an alias and the social media profile fake, Harrison would naturally be unable to attend any demonstrations or meetings organised by the SPSC.
“Furthermore, following the words ‘no idea who was responsible’, there are a number of emojis portraying a wink.
“The reporter is satisfied that the choice of the words and emoji were intended for readers of the post to draw the inference that the act of vandalism had been committed by Harrison.
“The reporter is therefore satisfied that the comment made by the solicitor associating the act of vandalism with the SPSC was unfounded.”
The LSS reporter also makes it clear it was part of a plot by Berlow and a “Mr Y” – who can be identified as Ed Sutherland and who faces his own probe by the General Teaching Council for Scotland.
The reporter states: “Mr Y, like the solicitor, is a supporter of the state of Israel.
“The reporter is satisfied that Mr Y impersonates an anti-Israeli activist and in order to convince other anti-Israeli activists, Mr Y targets Israeli supporters, including the solicitor.
“The reporter is satisfied that when commenting on the post, the solicitor would have known that the post was false and no vandalism had taken place.
“The reporter is satisfied that the purpose of the comment was to associate the ostensibly criminal act with members of the SPSC despite the solicitor being aware at the material time that no criminal act had taken place.”
Berlow claimed last night he had launched a sting to catch out a person who was stalking him.
He said: “Unfortunately I made it too real and named an organisation I shouldn’t have. It wasn’t my intention to blame the SPSC for a fictitious event.”
But victims are demanding the Society’s professional conduct sub committee forces the lawyer to pay compensation to those smeared by the plot.
Mick Napier, chair of SPSC’s Glasgow branch, said: “We welcome the finding against Berlow but the gravity of the offence clearly merits more than a £500 rap on the knuckles.
“I believe those who have been defamed, including myself, should be awarded exemplary damages. We have been smeared as anti-Semitic and that is serious and quite unacceptable.
“The LSS decided no damage had been done to myself or the SPSC but I would urge it to reconsider this because the damage to our reputation, in accusing us of such criminal acts, is impossible to deny.”