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NEWS - Feb 2007

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

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Shares scam front firm shut down

The High Court has shut down a UK firm which acted as a front for bogus overseas investment companies. The Inertia Partnership was wound up after the Financial Services Authority (FSA) petitioned judges to have the East Sussex-based firm closed. Inertia took more than £1m from people who had been sold shares by firms known as "boiler rooms", the FSA said. The outfits are unauthorised and use cold-calling tactics to sell shares.

BBC

28 Feb

EU starts crackdown on lottery and holiday club scams

The European commission is launching an EU-wide crackdown this week on cross-border scams such as phoney lotteries and bogus holiday clubs and on companies abusing consumer protection rules. The clampdown on fraudsters, who rip off British consumers by an estimated £3.5bn a year and increasingly operate via the internet, will be coordinated by the EU's 27 national enforcement bodies under a new directive.

Guardian

26 Feb

'Clairvoyant' conmen reap millions by preying on weak and vulnerable

Mailshots from bogus psychics sucked 170,000 people into their scams last year. Jon Robins tells the tragic story of one of their elderly victims. Mulvie Wright, a 76-year-old widow from St Agnes, Cornwall, died suddenly from a brain haemorrhage last month. It was a terrible shock for her family, and their grief was compounded when they made a disturbing discovery after going through her effects in the annexe of her daughter's house, where she lived.

Observer

25 Feb

Pensioners to keep houses after court win

John Hutton, the Pensions Secretary, yesterday lifted his threat to pursue four retired workers who have lost their pensions for legal costs of more than £120,000. The High Court's ruling on Wednesday that the government was guilty of maladministration, and that Hutton had acted unlawfully and irrationally in rejecting the findings of the parliamentary ombudsman on lost workplace pensions, was won in the teeth of the financial threat. Losing the judicial review would have cost the four pensioners their homes, and would have left law firm Bindmans with an unpaid bill for 400 hours of work.

The Herald

23 Feb

After 20 years, SFO struggles to live up to its promise

The Serious Fraud Office is due to come of age next year. But such have been the disappointments over failed prosecutions, and over-long and expensive trials its critics wonder how it has lasted so long. Following the failed 131-day trial of the Maxwell brothers and the acquittal of Brent Walker boss George Walker on theft charges, there was talk of the organisation being abolished. Speculation about the SFO's demise has begun again, except this time with real bite because of the furore over the decision to drop the investigation into BAE's arms deals with Saudi Arabia.

Guardian

Rebuttal by Peter Goldsmith, Attorney General 25 Feb

23 Feb

Striking lawyers disrupt magistrates' court

MAGISTRATES were thrown into chaos after lawyers picketed the front steps of their court building over legal aid reforms. Solicitors at Thames Court took part in two days of work-to-rule over Government proposals they say will mean neediest people won't get justice. Protesting solicitor Lindsay Blizard told the Advertiser: "Fewer people will get legal aid, even in serious cases. These proposals are 'cut-price' justice."

East London Advertiser

22 Feb

Shamed cash solicitor struck off

A FORMER Ipswich solicitor who siphoned off nearly £27,400 of a client's money, is in disgrace today after being struck off. The Solicitors' Disciplinary Tribunal found Keith Croft improperly transferred the funds into his firm's account after telling a colleague he might keep the money left over from a French holiday home purchase. Croft, a solicitor since 1983 and sole principal of Riddell Croft and Co in St Helen's Street, was alleged to have breached the Solicitors Accounts Rules 1998, although he did not attend the tribunal.

Evening Star

22 Feb

Pensions victims win high court action

Four pensioners today won their unprecedented high court action over the collapse of their final salary pension schemes in a decision that affects the cases of around 75,000 people. Mr Justice Bean ruled at London's high court that pensions minister John Hutton had acted unlawfully in rejecting totally the report from parliamentary ombudsman, Ann Abraham, that the government was guilty of maladministration and should consider offering victims compensation. Ms Abraham's report said pensioners had been fed misleading information about the safety of their pensions. It said information had been "sometimes inaccurate, often incomplete, largely inconsistent and therefore potentially misleading, and that this constituted maladministration".

Guardian

21 Feb

Judgement looms in pensions case

The High Court is due to deliver a judgement on Wednesday that may affect 85,000 people who lost all or part of their company pensions. The court has heard claims that the government acted unlawfully by rejecting the Parliamentary Ombudsman's report into collapsed pension schemes.

BBC

21 Feb

On the wrong side of the law

The government's plans to open up legal aid to competition will have devastating consequences for vulnerable people and the profession

Guardian

21 Feb

Bar Council steps up fight against Legal Services Bill

The Bar Council has launched a massive offensive against the Legal Services Bill attacking its current form for placing “too much power in the hands of the Government”. The Council, which represents 14,000 barristers in England and Wales, will argue that the current draft Bill will impact the independence of the legal profession. The bill currently proposes that the chair of the Legal Services Board (LSB) and its members should be appointed by a Secretary of State. This, the representative body feels, will in turn jeopardise the Bar’s contribution to the British economy.

The Lawyer

19 Feb

Gang jailed for 150 train robberies

A gang of armed "hoodies" led by notorious murderers Donnel Carty and Delano Brown have been jailed following a terrifying robbery campaign. Thugs repeatedly rampaged through Tube trains, stabbing some victims while pounding others into near insensibility with a mob-handed flurry of punches and kicks. One victim left bleeding profusely branded them a "pack of animals". Their campaign of savagery involved an estimated 150 robberies and lasted eight months, the last of which was confined to the Tube. It peaked with the cold blooded murder of high-flying City lawyer Tom ap Rhys Pryce.

IC Essex

19 Feb

Fraud on the rise

The latest figures from CIFAS, the UK’s Fraud Prevention Service, show that last year, application fraud figures rose by more than 8.5%, compared with 2005. One in ten British people have already been a victim and the UK economy is losing £1.7bn a year because of it, reports CIFAS. Although most victims of ID fraud are reimbursed by their bank, it takes months, sometimes years, for people to clear their names and restore their damaged credit ratings. Many banks have been criticised for offering costly identity protection cover to customers, based on software packages such as Siran from Equifax.

FT Adviser

19 Feb

FSA acts over 'boiler room' scams by freezing assets

The Financial Services Authority has stepped up its actions against 'boiler room' scams by freezing the assets of two companies and an individual believed to be involved in their operation. The City watchdog has obtained interim injunctions against Chesteroak, Bingen Investments and Samuel Nathan Kahn for "assisting overseas boiler room activities in the UK". At least 400 people have made payments to Bingen in sums believed to total more than £1m. The FSA said the figure could rise after further investigation.

Telegraph See also:

Guardian

17 Feb

Law Soc blasts Money Laundering Directive

Law Society president Fiona Woolf has said slammed the draft regulations on the Third Money Laundering Directive as unworkable. Woolf has written to Ed Balls, the lead minister for financial crime, to request an urgent meeting. In a statement, Woolf said: "The Law Society will continue to press government to look again at these regulations. As currently drafted they will heap unnecessary regulatory burdens on solicitors and their corporate clients, significantly damaging competitiveness, particularly for city firms. (Shouldn't that be: Solicitors Regulation Authority blasts...? UJ)

The Lawyer

15 Feb

Government reprieve for Mr Big?

Over the past four years, a team of 200 financial investigators, lawyers and customs officers has been working away quietly tracking down and seizing the proceeds of crime. Now the government has decided to close the Assets Recovery Agency down and transfer its caseload and powers to other parts of the criminal justice system. Some experts fear this could mean that the effort will slowly fizzle out. So what's gone wrong? (A disgraceful end to a promising initiative. UJ)

BBC

13 Feb

Civil courts 'on verge of collapse'

Judge Paul Collins, London's most senior county court judge, told BBC Radio 4's Law in Action programme that serious errors are commonplace. He said low pay and staff shortages mean "we run the risk of bringing about a real collapse in the service", warning that a lack of resources is leading to mistakes. He explained that a common problem is when someone who is being sued files a defence, but the papers are not passed on to the judge by court staff. The judge will automatically award damages to the person who brought the claim, assuming that the person being sued does not want to defend it.

Daily Star

13 Feb

Lawful lawyers need not fear website

Dodgy lawyers across Scotland have another electronic bloodhound dogging their trail.
The new kid on the block - hot on the heels of that original e-scourge of the ethically challenged, Scotland Against Crooked Lawyers - is lawfullawyers.co.uk, based in the spare room of business consultant Matthew Campbell's home in Conon Bridge, near Dingwall. Since it opened for business a month ago, it has had almost 300 individuals contacting it, and numerous postings - all without any advertising or trumpet blowing.

The Herald

12 Feb

Former lecturer jailed for defrauding college

A 69-year-old former college lecturer was jailed for 18 months today for his part in a fraud that cost a further education college hundreds of thousands of pounds. A judge was told how Stuart Spacey, a grandfather, was a secondary figure in the fraud at Barnsley College who had been left to "face the music alone" due to the ill health of a former college principal, David Eade.

Guardian

12 Feb

Scams cost victims £3.5bn a year

British consumers are being ripped off to the tune of £3.5bn a year from a series of increasingly sophisticated scams ranging from holiday clubs to premium rate tele-phone prize offers and bogus clairvoyant mailings, according to a report published by the Office of Fair Trading today. The study debunks the myth that only the vulnerable, elderly or naive are taken in by scams, revealing that everyone is vulnerable to cheap methods of mass communication through refined targeting. Almost half the UK adult population - 48% or some 23.5 million people - is likely to have been targeted by a scam, it claims, while some 3.2 million people fall victim every year. The estimated mean loss per scam was £850, with some individuals losing nearly £6,000 in investment scams. But the report also warns of the emotional impact, with lives ruined as victims suffer stress, anxiety and depression. Some kill themselves.

Guardian

09 Feb

Lawyer banned from legal aid work

A law firm which earned more than £400,000 in legal aid last year has been barred from further work in the field, officials have said. The move follows an investigation into the firm, Robert Taylor Solicitors of Bath Street in Glasgow. The Scottish Legal Aid Board said it had removed the firm from its register of criminal legal aid lawyers. "The firm and solicitor cannot provide criminal legal aid or criminal advice and assistance," said the board. Last year the firm's legal aid earnings totalled £409,300. In November last year, the Daily Record reported heroin users were paid in £5 notes to sign legal aid documents.

BBC

07 Feb

SFO chief to leave

Robert Wardle, the director of the Serious Fraud Office, is to stand down in April 2008. The Attorney General, Lord Goldsmith, announced yesterday that he had asked Mr Wardle to remain as director of the SFO for just one more year - rather than the expected five. Lord Goldsmith also revealed plans for an external review of the SFO.

Telegraph

07 Feb

Deserted by a flawed legal system in their darkest hour

ANDREI Peterson thought he had woken up in the middle of a Kafka-esque nightmare. Police turned up at his home in London one fine morning and arrested him for an unspecified crime.
He was taken to St Albans police station and detained overnight, before being flown by security firm Reliance from Luton airport to Glasgow, where he was driven by van to Edinburgh to face a breach of the peace charge...Four days before his trial date, the solicitor backed out of the case. Mr Peterson claims he refused to carry on because the fixed £500 fee due to him for preparing a case destined for the sheriff court would not cover the volume of preparation, including presenting witnesses to support Mr Peterson's alibi...(Astonishing. UJ)

The Scotsman

07 Feb

Britain named as one of Europe's crime hotspots

Britain has the highest rate of burglary in the European Union and is also nearly top of the league for assaults and hate crime, according to a recent survey. The EU crime and safety survey names the UK as a "high crime country" and says the risk of becoming a victim of the 10 most common crimes is, with the exception of Ireland, the highest across the European Union.

Guardian

06 Feb

£1 million in legal aid for Hamza law firm

The law firm which represents Abu Hamza, the Muslim cleric jailed for inciting murder, has been paid more than £1.1 million in legal aid in the last two years and its earnings in the last five years have totalled nearly £2 million. The £1.1 million includes just over £500,000 earned from the public purse in the seven months to October last year. However, it does not include any money earned by Arani & Co in defending Hamza - who was jailed at the Old Bailey last year in a case where the firm is claiming more than £1 million.

Telegraph

06 Feb

Hamza lawyer paid £500,000 in just 7 months

The lawyer who represented hate preacher Abu Hamza and key terrorist suspects is being paid nearly £17,000 a week in legal aid. Muddassar Arani's law firm reportedly netted £506,466 in the first seven months of the current financial year. The figure does not include the estimated £1million the firm claimed for representing Hamza. The firm's figures have gone up steadily as the war on terror has progressed. Politicians and public spending watchdogs have condemned the huge sum, which met by the taxpayer. Matthew Elliott, the director of the Taxpayers' Alliance, said: "Ordinary people are sick of legal aid being wasted on those who openly hate Britain. When the concept of human rights is twisted by highly paid lawyers to protect such people, it undermines trust in our justice system." The firm Arani & Co, run by Ms Arani, 42, became synonymous with Hamza as he fought extradition to America, and then prosecution for racehate crime.

This is London

06 Feb

"Name and shame" website to reveal solicitors' failings

Solicitors face being "named and shamed" under plans to publish details of their complaints history on a website for the public. Every one of 100,000 solicitors in England and Wales has been issued with a warning card, reminding them that they risk disciplinary action if they do not disclose any "kickbacks" paid to insurance companies, estate agents or others for work to be referred...(Update - shaming web site moves closer - Jan 2008)

Cached (text version)

Cached (scanned page)

Differs considerably from online text!

Times Online now live

05 Feb

OFT launches Scams Awareness Month 2007

Consumers warned to 'Stop, think and think again' if they receive an 'unbelievable' offer!

The OFT today launches its 2007 Scams Awareness Month to warn consumers about the increasingly sophisticated techniques used by scammers. These techniques include spam e-mails, texts and internet pop-ups and according to recent research carried out by the OFT, cost UK consumers around £3.5billion each year.
Download Research on impact of mass marketed scams (pdf 299 kb).

Office of Fair Trading

03 Feb

Lifting the lid on 'boiler room' scams

Robert Clarke wanted a career in financial services. He also fancied a chance to live and work in Barcelona. But when his dream job combining both came up, he found himself in a "boiler room", selling worthless investments to people in Britain and all over the world who were sucked dry of their savings. Now, as the Office of Fair Trading launches Scams Awareness Month, he wants to warn others not to trust those beguiling phone calls. This is his story.

Guardian

03 Feb

FSA urged to introduce tighter regulations

Insurance Times has learned that the regulator is holding talks with leading trade bodies in an effort to establish the extent of this activity, known as third party capture. Representatives from the Law Society, the Motor Accident Solicitors’ Society (Mass), the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers (Apil), the Claims Standards Council (CSC), Amicus and the Department for Constitutional Affairs (DCA) have met the FSA. Collectively the organisations are urging the FSA to close a regulatory loophole which allows insurers to contact third party claimants directly and offer compensation.

Legal & Medical

02 Feb

Referrals crackdown

The last-chance crackdown on solicitors who are breaking the rules on referrals of business began this week. The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) is sending a strongly worded warning card to every solicitor in England and Wales, reminding them that they risk facing disciplinary action if they do not follow the rules.

Legal & Medical

02 Feb

Law Society to become school for scoundrels. So what's new?

You'd think that the last thing the City needs is an influx of (more) crooks but next month Martin Gill, a professor of criminology at the University of Leicester, will ship a gang of budding Frank Abagnale Jrs into the Square Mile. The bunch of reformed fraudsters will be appearing at the Law Society to show delegates how to perpetrate (and therefore, in theory, prevent) fraud with seats at the conference going for £395 (plus VAT). (Oh, the irony. UJ)

Telegraph

02 Feb

Ruthless greed of the scammers

The ruthless greed of the people who operate scams on a massive scale was exposed today in a report by consumer watchdogs. Every year criminals rake in £3.5bn from UK consumers who respond to false promises of easy money. This is equivalent to £70 stolen from every man and woman in Britain. But behind this statistic lie many tragic stories of vulnerable and confused people ruined by heartless scammers who, once they have found a victim, prey on them time and time again until they have been bled dry.

This is Money

01 Feb

FSA deals blow to landbankers

The chief City regulator has forced another landbanking company to shut its doors, leaving hundreds of investors with land worth a fraction of the price they paid. Guildford-based Rubicon Estates, which bought fields at farmland prices and then sold small plots to investors at higher prices in the expectation of valuable planning permission being granted within "five to 20 years", has ceased trading following a Financial Services Authority enquiry. See also: Alerts section

Guardian

29 Jan

 

 

 

 

 

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