Veteran solicitor who headbutted Eastenders star's father inside Royal Courts of Justice is spared jail

Tristan Kirk
Philip Saunders, 69, headbutts Iranian businessman Mohammad Reza Ghadami, the father of an EastEnders actor

A veteran solicitor who headbutted an EastEnders star’s father at the High Court in a "moment of madness" as they faced off over a bitter £100 million legal battle has been spared jail.

Philip Saunders, 69, lunged forward at businessman Mohammad Reza Ghadami during an angry confrontation on the first floor landing of the Rolls Building at the Royal Courts of Justice.

Shocking CCTV footage shows the two men, who had been on opposite sides in court that day, exchange words before Mr Ghadami, 62, swung his briefcase in between Saunders legs in a bid to move him out of the way.

Saunders, a leading property conveyance solicitor who has worked on multi-million pound property deals during his 43-year career, took a step back before striking Mr Ghadami in the face with his forehead.

A shocked Mr Ghadami, whose son Davood plays Kush on BBC soap EastEnders, is then seen stumbling away from the scene with blood streaming from his broken nose as he went to alert security.

Saunders was found guilty of assault occasioning actual bodily harm by a jury in January

At Inner London crown court this afternoon, Recorder Steven Gasztowicz QC sentenced Saunders to 18 months in prison suspended for two years.

"You completely lost your self-control, you leant backwards and deliberately headbutted him", he said.

"You could have left his presence without doing anything like that - a deliberate and serious assault albeit on the spur of the moment and under a heavy degree of provocation."

The pair faced off against each other amid a £100 million legal battle

He said Saunders has led a "decent life", but told him: "The offence was committed in the High Court building on a litigant entitled to feel safe however annoying he may be and whatever is going on between you.

"It was committed by someone, a solicitor, trusted to act purposely in such a building."

He ordered Saunders to do 200 hours of community service, observe a four month curfew between 8pm and 6am, and pay £5000 prosecution costs.

There was an exchange of words and then Saunders headbutted Mr Ghadami

The court heard the veteran solicitor's career is now in jeopardy as a result of his conviction, and the father-of-three is now taking anti depressants because of the stress of the case.

Mr Ghadami, who suffered a fractured nose in the attack, wrote to the judge urging him to jail Saunders, saying: "Nothing less than serving prison time will surfice".

However David Nathan QC, defending, said Saunders had been the victim of "enormous" provocation from Ghadami, saying the businessman had called him a "piece of sh*t" during the confrontation, adding: "Don't be so Jewish."

Victim: Mohammad Reza Ghadami after the attack

"Some Jewish people might not be the angry at effectively being called a Jewish sh*t, but some people might take that very badly", he said.

"Mr Saunders plainly did, it was that that broke the camel's back, a moment of madness when Mr Saunders over reacted and headbutted Mr Ghadami."

Mr Ghadami told a trial in January that he had been heading to the toilet at the end of court proceedings on April 7 last year when Saunders approached him “out of the blue”.

The property developer, from Harlow, has been locked in a long-running and acrimonious legal battle with businessman Paul Bloomfield and 18 others - including Saunders - over a disputed land deal, claiming £100 million in damages.

He said on the day of the attack, Saunders said to him: “You better f***ing find the money to pay me and others”, and when he replied that he did not owe him anything, Saunders said: “We are f***ing in charge, you just got lucky”.

There was an exchange of words and then Saunders headbutted Mr Ghadami

“He said you don’t know what we are capable of, you will never succeed in the case”, Mr Ghadami said in evidence. “He kept on at me about money and winning and power.”

The businessman said he was desperate for the toilet and swung his briefcase at the solicitor in a bid to get past, calling him a “piece of s**t”.

“He went backwards and all his body lifted his head, which he put on the back of my nose”, Mr Ghadami said. “I couldn’t believe it, it was bleeding from my nose and mouth.

“I went straight downstairs to tell someone what had happened.

“He just told me to remember it and I do remember it, I will never forget it. He wanted me to remember what I was getting.”

Prosecutor Andrew Dowden told jurors Saunders carried out the attack “in a rage” following a string of acrimonious court hearings involving the two men.

Mohammed Reza Ghadami, posing in Albert Square

“Mr Ghadami told him to f*** off and move out of his way, then describes using his briefcase to push Mr Saunders away”, he said.

“Mr Ghadami went to go to the toilet, at that stage Mr Saunders put his head back and headbutted Mr Ghadami in the nose.”

He said Saunders, a registered solicitor since 1974 who was a partner in Marylebone-based law firm Saunders Bearman between 1996 and 2013, told police he acted in self-defence.

However Saunders was found guilty of assault occasioning actual bodily harm by a jury in January.

The Standard was blocked from reporting the trial at the time as Mr Ghadami faced criminal proceedings over the same incident.

Saunders claimed he had been on the receiving end of an anti-Semitic slur from Mr Ghadami, but prosecutors dropped the case last week before it could come to trial.

In mitigation, Mr Nathan said it was clear from the video that Ghadami was not letting him leave and was being abusive towards him.

"The degree of provocation in this case was enormous", he said.

"It is fairly obvious up to the moment Mr Saunders headbutted Mr Ghadami he tried very hard not to react, he tried to get past him."

He added that Saunders and Mr Ghadami had been locked in the acrimonious High Court battle for four years, and said the solicitor had been on the receiving end of a campaign aimed at him and his family.

The court also heard Saunders had to give up his legal practice as a result of Ghadami's law suit, because it caused his insurance premiums to rocket.

"He's a good and decent man, he's made just one huge error, one huge mistake in a moment of madness when faced with very serious provocation", said Mr Nathan.

Saunders, of Maida Vale, denied the offence but was found guilty by a jury of assault occasioning actual bodily harm following a week-long trial.