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NEWS - Apr 2007

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Solicitors and other lawyers making the bad news from 2003 to date: News Roundup

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New bar association launched to raise direct access awareness

A new barristers' association is to be launched to promote direct access to the bar. The Public Access Bar Association (PABA) will aim to encourage the Bar Council to improve public awareness of the option to instruct a barrister before using a solicitor. PABA will represent the hundreds of barristers who registered in July 2004 to take on work directly from the public without having to go through a law firm. Marc Beaumont of Windsor Chambers, the acting PABA chairman pending committee appointments, said that there is a high level of public ignorance when it comes to direct access.

The Lawyer

30 Apr

Blair forced to launch inquiry into miners' compensation scandal

The Government has been pressurised into launching an investigation into law firms allegedly exploiting sick miners under the coalminers' compensation scheme. Labour peer Lord Lofthouse of Pontefract's final report on the conduct of firms handling claims under the compensation scheme lambasts them as "greedy lawyers" and has led to a Government inquiry. In his report, which was presented to Tony Blair last Wednesday (25 April), Lofthouse alleges that law firms have been "double-charging" and siphoning money from miners' compensation. As The Lawyer revealed (9 April), the Department of Trade & Industry (DTI) paid out more than £800m to 30 law firms for handling claims for coalminers who have suffered from respiratory diseases and vibration white finger.

The Lawyer

30 Apr


EXCLUSIVE EXPOSED: 'Immoral' charges creamed off struggling pit men's payouts Lawyer who gets millions and can swan around in his private jet.. all thanks to sick miners on a pittance
By Henry Austin
THE People today exposes the incredible luxury lifestyle of a lawyer who has made millions from the misery of desperately ill ex-miners. Jim Beresford, Britain's highest earning solicitor, helped cream off cash from pitmen's compensation - a practice branded "immoral" by a peer last week. The fat-cat legal boss made an astonishing £16.75MILLION in a single year. That works out at £45,890 A DAY- most of it from handling the claims of miners whose health was ruined working underground.

The People

29 Apr

Lies and threats from plot peddlers

B.L. writes: I was telephoned by a Jonathan Evans who greeted me by saying: 'Your name has come up as being eligible for a government-backed initiative.' He added that this was 'operated through Savills, one of the biggest estate agents in the country', and that he would send details. I am now sending you what he sent me, an invitation from Sky Land Consultants plc to invest in plots of land. When Evans rang again, I told him that as far as I was aware the only Government involvement was to investigate land investment firms. Well done. The sales pitch about the Government-backed initiative was a lie to get you to fork out for a slice of a field at Winterton in North Lincolnshire. Who says so? Mark Maguire, boss of Sky Land Consultants, who told me he had sacked Evans for not sticking to his sales script...But there are lots more questions surrounding Maguire's offer of plots of land from £4,000 upwards, with the prospect of a hefty profit if planning consent is granted for housing. For a start, this scheme is not ' operated through Savills'. Maguire insists he has a relationship with the estate agent. Yet Savills said that though its Manchester office has had 'limited dealings' with Sky Land, it had no formal association. Savills said: 'We have asked for the reference to Savills to be removed from their website.'

This is Money

28 Apr

Sick miners lose 'millions' to solicitors

Millions of pounds earmarked to help sick miners has been siphoned off by unscrupulous solicitors, a report has claimed. The £3.4bn compensation scheme was set up to support 760,000 former British Coal workers, many of whom had suffered chronic lung disease and other injuries as a result of working in the pits. Today, Lord Lofthouse, an ex-Labour peer, will show a report to Government which claims solicitors handling the compensation have exploited the scheme.


25 Apr

Miners' compensation 'exploited'

A scheme for sick miners in England and Wales has been exploited by a few unscrupulous solicitors, a report says. The fund was meant to distribute £3.4bn compensation to 760,000 former British Coal workers many who had suffered serious injuries. But Lord Lofthouse, a Labour peer, says at least two law firms have made £100m from the scheme, while miners have had their pay-outs reduced by legal fees. His report on compensation is being handed to the prime minister later..."I've spent a lot of time over this last 30 years, I presented five bills in the House of Commons on this subject. I haven't worked all these years to fill the pockets of greedy solicitors."


24 Apr

'Shame lawyers into repaying miners'

Law firms, who made millions from compensation funds set up to look after sick miners, must be shamed into returning it, according to Labour peer Lord Lofthouse. Lawyers took money from miners’ pay-outs despite having their fees paid directly by the Government. Lord Lofthouse will hand a report on the double-charging to Downing Street today and call for the guilty solicitors to be named and shamed. The peer says at least two firms have made £100 million from sick miners' cases and yet he told the Today programme on BBC Radio 4: “They haven’t been satisfied with that, they’ve been taking money out of miners’compensation.” “I think it is appalling,” he said, suggesting each solicitor involved should be named “so we can take it up with the Law Society or the individual solicitors and hope they will be so shamed that they pay the money back”.

Times Online

25 Apr

Legal complaints scheme ‘will lead to higher fees’

The cost of seeing a lawyer is expected to rise with the disclosure that estimates for setting up a new legal complaints scheme have soared to nearly £50 million. The Lord Chancellor is proposing new machinery to regulate the legal profession and handle thousands of complaints from the public a year. But the estimated cost of creating the new system for policing lawyers has nearly doubled, The Times has learnt. On top of this, it could cost another £25 million a year to run the proposed new office for legal complaints. The increased cost, which would be passed to consumers in higher legal fees, is likely to fuel a revolt against the reforms in the Legal Services Bill when they come before the House of Lords today.

Times Online

16 Apr

Lawyers who made a fortune from miners’ claims must repay millions

Solicitors have been ordered to pay back tens of millions of pounds from the profits they made by handling compensation claims for sick miners. The clawback, which will save the Government an estimated £100 million, comes after a High Court ruling that lawyers have been paid too much for processing claims. Some law firms that grew rich on the proceeds of the £7.5 billion scheme, set up to compensate miners with chronic chest disease, face a loss of several million pounds. The judgment by Mrs Justice Swift represents a significant victory for the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), which has responsibility for the liabilities of the former British Coal.

Times Online

16 Apr

NHS fraudsters paid £600k to ghosts

A money launderer who took part in Britain's biggest ever NHS wages scam was jailed for nine months this week. Pitan Osunkoya, 30, of Greenhaven Drive, Thamesmead, admitted letting his bank account to be used to collect part of almost £600,000 in salaries to "ghost" hospital employees. Joseph Oduguwa, the mastermind behind the scheme was jailed for three years on Thursday. The 44-year-old Nigerian and his lover Joy Henry, 47, a hospital manager, wired the money to non-existent employees.

This is Hertfordshire

14 Apr

Judge's £58,000 for staying at home

An immigration judge involved in an alleged blackmail love triangle has been paid more than £58,000 for staying at home since a formal investigation began into his behaviour, it emerged yesterday.

Judge Mohammed Ilyas Khan has been picking up a salary of about £9,000 a month since last September, when he was asked not to sit in court. A woman immigration judge, known only as Judge J, is also being investigated but has retired on a medical pension.


14 Apr

The law explored: undue influence

Let's say someone twisted your arm into voting a particular way, entering a contract against your will or giving them a substantial gift. Fortunately, there are protections in the law against "undue influence" to stop people from being improperly pressured into making legally significant decisions.
The principle comes under a branch of law called “constructive fraud”. It covers trickiness that the courts construe as being fraud even if the culprit was not engaged in outright deception. It is enough that someone is pressured to do something with a legal consequence while not exercising free and independent judgment.

Times Online

12 Apr

Some background data and reporting

Miners' Claims News


Laywers pocket £250m

Six Tyneside law firms have pocketed more than £250m from taxpayers' cash pursuing miners' compensation claims, the Chronicle can reveal. One firm, Thompsons, received more than £100m, while an average payout for miners in the North East is less than £5,000. North Durham MP Kevan Jones described it as "an appalling feeding frenzy for lawyers". And the family of one victim branded the size of legal costs "disgusting".

IC Newcastle

12 Apr

Firms net more than £1bn from sick miners' claims

The British Coal compensation saga has seen lawyers scoop more than £800m of taxpayers’ money in legal costs by handling the claims of the sick coalminers, The Lawyer can reveal. Figures released by the Department of Trade & Industry (DTI) show that just 30 firms shared a pot of £797.9m for litigation over respiratory disease and vibration white finger alone. One DTI insider said the amount paid out to lawyers in legal fees had “in reality surpassed the billion-pound mark” if all the fees from “the scores of law firms” are totalled and other claims by miners, such as hearing loss, are taken into account. The suffering of the coalminers has been a goldmine for Doncaster-based three-partner personal injury (PI) boutique Beresfords Solicitors in particular. Beresfords was paid £97.8m from the world’s largest-ever PI compensation scheme, which started at the turn of the century, putting it second in the table to Thompsons, which made £106.4m. It has helped Beresfords senior partner Jim Beresford and his daughter Esta, who is also a partner, become multimillionaires.

The Lawyer

See also:

The Lawyer - "Greedy firms slammed..."

10 Apr

Miners’ lawyer made £45,000 a day

A solicitor whose firm specialises in compensation claims for sick miners made a personal profit of £16.8 million in one year. Jim Beresford is the senior partner in Beresfords, a firm in Doncaster which registered more than 90,000 claims under the Government-run scheme. He is named today as Britain’s highest-earning solicitor. Tens of thousands of former miners whose health was damaged by their years of work underground have received awards of less than £1,000. More than 15,000 claimants died before they received any money, yet in 2005, when the scheme was running at its peak, 56-year-old Mr Beresford grew richer at a rate of £45,892 every day.

Times Online You may have your say about this issue on The Times article page.

See also:



10 Apr

Parking bailiffs may win right to enter homes

More than a million motorists a year face having bailiffs force their way into their homes to collect unpaid parking fines under legislation before MPs. Action could be taken even when the motorist is unaware that a ticket has been issued or that the debt has been pursued through the civil courts. In such cases car owners have faced spiralling costs - including bailiffs' fees - of hundreds of pounds.


10 Apr

Unlocking the door to the Bar

The long-awaited report by Lord Neuberger’s working party on widening access to the Bar was officially unveiled today (5 April). The report sets out a number of proposals for boosting access and diversity within the Bar. Neuberger tells Legal Week: “Without a doubt the situation needs to be improved — we have the opportunity to coordinate a whole set of proposals which, together, may make a difference.” A key feature of the report is an emphasis on improving the quality and distribution of information available to students, ranging from schoolchildren to those on the Bar Vocational Course (BVC).

Legal Week

05 Apr

Poor are victims of legal aid dispute

THOUSANDS of people could find themselves unable to access justice because of a dispute over legal aid. People facing issues such as domestic violence or home eviction could struggle to find solicitors to represent them. The Legal Services Commission (LSC) has changed the way lawyers are to be paid for legal aid work. It has asked lawyers to sign a new contract that brings in a fixed-payment system to replace the hourly-rate structure. The LSC wanted firms to sign the contract by last night or face a block on new legal aid work. But yesterday afternoon as the South London Press went to print, some lawyers had vowed to refuse to sign. The stand-off means poor people could be left without access to justice.

IC South London

See also:

What Price Justice?

Intelligent, sensitive commentary by Ole Hansen

03 Apr

We need to care more, says top City lawyer

City law firms will have to play a leading role in promoting corporate responsibility if they are to attract and retain the best staff, the senior partner at Allen & Overy said today. Guy Beringer, in the second of a planned three essays on the future of the UK legal profession, said the sector had witnessed an "inexorable" change in the past 10 years and firms could no longer focus solely on their bottom line.

Times Online


Organised crime link in TK Maxx scam

CREDIT-CARD numbers stolen from TK Maxx, the retailer, have been offered for sale on websites used by organised crime, it was alleged this weekend, writes Paul Durman. Rob Cotton, chief executive of NCC Group, an information-security specialist, said: “A lot of TK Maxx card records have been sold on these sites.”  He named four sites that act as “an eBay for hackers”, allowing criminals to buy and sell stolen card details.

Times Online

01 Apr

Concern over new fraud reporting

Security experts have criticised new rules which mean bank fraud victims no longer report the crime to the police. Under the new Fraud Act, from 1 April consumers will have to notify their bank directly of any suspicious transactions. The bank will then decide whether to pass the details onto law enforcement agencies. Experts fear this gives too much discretion to the banks over what types of fraud are reported and investigated.


01 Apr

Law rides to aid of victims of extortionate lenders

From next Friday, consumers will finally have the help of user-friendly laws to deal with aggressive lenders, unscrupulous debt collectors and borrowing terms that are just plain unfair. The Consumer Credit Act 2006 extends the notoriously narrow Consumer Credit Act 1974, under which people could take lenders to court for 'grossly' extortionate lending. Only half a dozen consumers are thought to have won cases since 1974. The new legislation introduces the concept of an 'unfair credit relationship'. 'You won't have to be subject to extortionate lending,' says Peter Tutton of Citizens Advice. 'It will just be about unfairness. Lenders will have to pay more attention to how they lend.'


01 Apr



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