Between 2006 and 2009 a pair of solicitors from law firm Davenport Lyons sent letters to around 6,000 individuals alleged to have carried out unlawful file-sharing.
Partner David Gore and former partner Brian Miller claimed that their evidence showed that letter recipients were guilty of copyright infringement. The pair demanded around £500 in compensation to make highly expensive legal action go away, demands which left many of those targeted bewildered and distressed.
The highly controversial scheme was later brought to the attention of the Solicitors Regulatory Authority (SRA) by consumer magazine Which?, a move which in hindsight signalled the beginning of the end.
The subsequent investigation found that Gore and Miller – who has since left Davenport Lyons – knowingly targeted innocent people, failed to act in the best interests of clients, acted in a way likely to diminish trust in the legal profession and had entered into banned contingency fee arrangements.
Between 31st May and 8th June this year the pair faced the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal and were found guilty of professional misconduct on all six counts presented.
Yesterday Gore and Miller received news of their punishments. Each lawyer will have to pay a £20,000 fine and will be suspended from practising for 3 months.
“The SDT found that Miller and Gore became too concerned about making the scheme profitable for themselves and their firm, and their judgment became distorted, so that they pursued the scheme regardless of the impact on the people receiving the letters, and their own clients,” reports the Law Society Gazette.
Payment of interim costs totalling £150,000 was also ordered.
“Some of those affected were vulnerable members of the public. There was significant distress,” said an SRA spokesman welcoming the SDT’s decision.
“We are pleased that this matter has been brought to a conclusion and hope that it serves as a warning to others.”
The warning will come too late for ACS:Law’s Andrew Crossley. When Davenport Lyons grew tired of the so-called Speculative Invoicing controversy it was he who picked up the baton and took the project to a whole new level. The resulting failure bankrupted his company.
Crossley himself will face the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal later this year.