Anti-Piracy Lawyers Found Guilty of Professional Misconduct

A pair of lawyers who were responsible for the introduction of so-called Speculative Invoicing into the UK, have both been found guilty of professional misconduct by a tribunal. Among other charges, the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal found that the pair from law firm Davenport Lyons knowingly targeted innocent people. They now face a range of sanctions from monetary penalties through to being disbarred.

Between 2006 and 2009, a pair of solicitors from law firm Davenport Lyons sent letters to thousands of individuals alleged to have carried out unlawful file-sharing, a story first broken here on TorrentFreak.

The letters sent out by David Gore and former partner Brian Miller claimed that evidence showed that the letter recipient was guilty of copyright infringement and demanded around £500 in compensation to make highly expensive legal action go away.

However, the highly controversial scheme was drawn to the attention of the Solicitors Regulatory Authority (SRA) by consumer magazine Which? when it became clear that the letters, which made some baseless and outlandish claims, were targeting innocent people and were “bullying” in nature.

The subsequent SRA 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 also entered into banned contingency fee arrangements.

In March 2010 the pair were referred to the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal (SDT) and last week their hearing began. After a shaky start (as detailed in the excellent report from ‘Speculative Invoicing’ expert Will Gilmour) and a certain amount of pessimism that the tribunal would reach a conclusion which would satisfy victims of Gore and Miller’s scheme, after 7 days it was all over.

As reported by ComputerActive, in summing up Timothy Dutton QC for the SRA said that the scheme was designed to make money and “browbeat people into submission”, whether they were innocent or not.

Mr Dutton added that Miller and Gore’s conduct represented “a wholly inappropriate discharge of professional duties” and described the campaign as “a debt collection scheme but no debt was owed.” IP address evidence, Dutton noted, was the “flimsiest” of all evidence.

The hearing ended with the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal finding both Gore and Miller guilty of professional misconduct on all six counts presented. The fate of the pair, which could range from monetary penalties to being disbarred, will be announced next month.

As reported earlier this week, Andrew Crossley from the now defunct ACS:Law will also face the tribunal later this year.

In advance of that hearing, last week Crossley asked the Solicitors Regulatory Authority to cover his costs in the upcoming tribunal, even though they are the body that sent him there.

He is said to be concerned that without being able to compete with the £85K the SRA has set aside for his prosecution, he’d suffer an “inequality of arms”. On the same cost-cutting grounds (Crossley is now a declared bankrupt) he requested that all expert evidence be excluded from the Tribunal.

Crossley’s demands were denied across the board. His tribunal will be heard in October, see you there.

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