welsh miners THE compensation scheme has been described as a "sausage factory" for personal injury lawyers who received as much in fees as they won in compensation for clients.

More than 760,000 claims have been made by law firms across Britain. It is estimated that £4.1 billion will be paid in compensation and that claimants' solicitors will £1.3bn this year. Several solicitors firms have been embroiled in scandals that saw them claiming excessive fees. In Yorkshire, James Beresford and Douglas Smith were struck off last year for claiming too much in fees. They raked in £23 million in costs from the scheme, deducting up to 30 per cent from the compensation paid to miners. Altogether the Doncaster firm was paid more than £140m from the public purse for its work on coal miner health claims.

Figures revealed that between 2004 and 2006, Beresford's share of the firm's annual profits was £27.5m - a period during which he grew richer by more than £37,000 a day, financing a champagne lifestyle of fast cars and private planes. The pair were found guilty at a tribunal on eight out of 11 counts of misconduct.

The firm's defence was that "fees payable to Beresfords for handling these cases were fixed by the Department of Trade and Industry following negotiations with the Claimant Solicitors Group, a national representative body. Exactly the same fee per case, dependent on the category, is paid to every participating solicitor in the UK. It therefore follows that solicitors handling large numbers of claims would make larger sums of money." Beresford's was not alone. Last year, three solicitors from another Yorkshire practice, Raley's, were suspended for deliberately breaking their code of practice over miners' compensation and making £32m. A disciplinary tribunal said the partners took a deliberate and calculated risk and showed conduct not befitting their profession.

The first known court actions against law firms for alleged undersettlement of sick coal miners' government compensation claims are expected to begin preliminary hearings in the coming weeks. A number of defendant firms have already settled out of court. Oldham County Court is due to hold case management hearings for about 18 undersettlement cases in September. The claimants allege that their solicitor failed to obtain the full amount of compensation owed to them under the government's coal health compensation scheme.

  • £2m miners fund missing cash probe
  • Payouts to sick miners pass £3bn (from 2006 most of it went to crooked lawyers)
  • Sick miners' lawyers struck off (from 2008)

    Life seemed rosy for high-flying barrister Victoria Edmonds-Shakell when she married her apparently respectable husband, a court heard yesterday.

    But far from being the perfect match, Paul Shakell was actually a heroin and crack cocaine addict who owed more than £12,000 to a notorious drug dealer. And it was not long before his wife was sucked into his murky world, bailing him out and supplying him with money to feed his habit. Yesterday, however, 29-year-old Edmonds-Shakell, who works for the prestigious St Philips Chambers in Birmingham, walked free from court with an absolute discharge after a judge heard that she had been put under ‘severe moral pressure’ to support her husband.

    Judge Michael Stokes QC said she had been placed in a ‘virtually impossible position’ when she had written cheques and sent cash to a drug dealer as well as supplying her husband with money she knew he would spend on drugs. John Price QC, prosecuting at Nottingham Crown Court, said her involvement came to light following the arrest of a major drug dealer, Kenroy Johns, 41, in Rugby in 2008. He was later jailed for nine years. An investigation into Johns’s bank accounts revealed a series of payments from Edmonds-Shakell. The court heard that £8,000 was paid in via cheques – including one for £5,780 – and another £4,000 was paid by direct transfer between early 2007 and the middle of the year. Mr Price added: ‘When questioned about these payments she explained they represented her attempt to pay off debts accumulated by her husband when obtaining drugs from Johns.’ The court was told that the paying-off of debts did not constitute a criminal offence under the Misuse of Drugs Act.

    But Mr Price said Edmonds- Shakell also ‘allowed herself to become directly involved’ in the buying by her husband of heroin and crack cocaine. She admitted aiding the possession of class A drugs by another by giving Shakell £100, ‘not intending, but foreseeing that he might spend it on the purchase of drugs’. She denied two counts of being concerned in the supply of class A drugs between June 2007 and July 2008, pleas that were accepted by the prosecution. Mr Price said: ‘The guilty plea is accepted to be a sufficient representation of the actions by her in circumstances where she may have come under severe moral pressure to act as she did. Nevertheless, what she did was plainly wrong.’ Rex Tedd QC, defending, said that when Edmonds-Shakell married her husband ‘all on the horizon appeared to be rosy’, but the ‘reality soon became horrifically apparent’. Mr Tedd told the court: ‘She found herself in the horrific position of an innocent woman shackled to someone with an increasingly desperate drug habit.

    ‘He drained her financially. It was the ultimate nightmare for someone of good character.’ Mr Tedd said that Edmonds-Shakell was now separated, but not divorced, from her husband who received a caution in November 2007 for possessing heroin. He added: ‘There is no future in that relationship. He will not have the opportunity to drag her down again.’ Judge Stokes told Edmonds-Shakell, of Nuneaton, Warwickshire, she had been placed in a ‘virtually impossible position’ by her husband and he could see ‘no moral guilt given the circumstances’. Edmonds-Shakell works in family, civil and commercial law. Last night Chris Owen, chief executive of St Philips Chambers, one of the foremost in Britain, said they were aware of the proceedings, but had no other comment to make.

  • Lawyers – sex, drugs and rock’n roll

    Bankruptcy: What does it bring to mind? Dejection? Failure? Broken dreams?

    Third-year law student Joel Cranston sees something else: Job security, and a lucrative enterprise. Cranston, 29, has witnessed an “explosion’’ in bankruptcies — spurring him to explore a possible career in the field. “I’m definitely interested,’’ said Cranston, who’s from Barre and attends the Massachusetts School of Law at Andover. Still, he acknowledged, “I don’t know where the economy will be when I graduate. If no one’s filing bankruptcy, it may be just one area I take on.’’ The grim economy has created what seems like an infinite supply of somber situations: unemployment in the double digits; boarded-up homes; copious “going out of business’’ sales. But dismal times like this also cultivate success stories. Not surprisingly, personal bankruptcy law is one of them.

    “The volume over the last two years has increased dramatically,’’ said Mark Griffin, a lawyer and partner at Janos & Griffin, PC, who has worked in personal bankruptcy law for 14 years. He estimates that business has more than doubled at his Newburyport firm. The growth has been just as dramatic for attorney Herbert Weinberg: Rosenberg & Weinberg, his North Andover firm, saw a 150 percent surge in business in 2007, and another 25 percent jump in 2008. National numbers reflect the same expansion: Membership in the National Association of Consumer Bankruptcy Attorneys has ballooned from 2,486 in January 2007 to 4,588 as of early March.

    “I think for the next year or two, there will continue to be a tremendous demand,’’ Weinberg projected. Recognizing this, schools have also adapted. This fall, the Massachusetts School of Law at Andover, for instance, plans to add a new course on creditor’s rights. “A law school, or any school, has to respond to the economic times it’s in,’’ noted associate dean Michael Coyne. All told, the school has seen about a 20 percent increase in enrollment in its bankruptcy courses. “Students, like anyone else, want to know that they have good employment prospects,’’ Coyne explained. “The likelihood for the foreseeable future is that we will need more bankruptcy lawyers.’’ Personal bankruptcy filings haven’t shown any indication of plateauing.

    From 2006 to 2009, Chapter 7 filings rose from 617 to 2,085 in Essex County, and from 805 to 2,719 in Middlesex County, according to the Warren Group, a Boston-based real estate tracking company. Chapter 7, which liquidates nonexempt assets to pay debt, is the more common form of bankruptcy for personal debtors; Chapter 13 requires debtors to work out a plan to repay what they owe. Weinberg described people who have deferred taking crucial medications to pay their bills. The attorney drew a correlation between his profession and his wife’s: She’s a nurse who has participated in pediatric bone marrow transplants. “By the time people come to either of us,’’ he said, “they’re in serious distress.’’

    This is because they’ve watched six-figure salaries drain to zero, have used credit cards to pay off other credit cards, or have “raided’’ their retirement accounts, noted Lowell-based lawyer Louis Haskell. He’s represented one woman who owed money on a repossessed car and maxed out her credit cards to help pay for her mother’s chemotherapy and medical bills. “Everything has turned to garbage,’’ Haskell said of the economy. Including, well, garbage. He had one client who filed bankruptcy after his job hauling trash nearly disappeared.

    “Because there’s so little business, there isn’t as much garbage,’’ Haskell noted. “I don’t think we’ve had a recession so bad that there’s no garbage.’’ People often make their situations even worse in an effort to evade bankruptcy because it’s such a dreaded concept. When clients come into Weinberg’s office to talk about bankruptcy, he takes a somewhat unusual poll: If they had the choice to go to the dental office next door and have all their teeth extracted in exchange for not having to file bankruptcy, would they do it? Nearly all of them, he reported, would choose to go toothless.

    “My office is the last place they ever wanted to be, and I am the last person they ever wanted to talk to,’’ he said. It’s a sweeping sense of reluctance and shame he attempts to ease by pointing out that bankruptcy is permitted by the Constitution, and also appears in the Bible. Referring to debt as a form of bondage, one passage permits a discharge of debt every seven years. Still, even if bankruptcy is an ancient practice, it has evolved.

    Two hundred years ago, according to Jeffrey Kitaeff, a North Andover-based lawyer who teaches bankruptcy classes at the Massachusetts School of Law at Andover, debtors would lose everything, literally walking away with empty pockets. Today, though, some assets can be protected up to certain amounts, such as a primary residence and some retirement accounts. The goal is to give people a “meaningful, fresh start,’’ Kitaeff explained before cracking open his code book for a Tuesday evening bankruptcy course. A few minutes later, the packed class was fully engaged in legalese — discussing the ins and outs of cram downs, automatic stays, loan modifications, and debt reaffirming.

    There are 35 students enrolled in the twice-weekly class; that’s more than double the 17 enrolled last semester, and almost triple the 12 students who attended two semesters ago, according to Kitaeff. Cranston said the course will prove useful no matter what career path he chooses — as every lawyer deals with bankruptcy at some point. “It has such a wide impact on every issue,’’ he said. For instance, financial services. That’s the line of work Mark Dell’Orfano is in, and he’s taking the class to augment his professional knowledge. “I figured it would be a worthwhile endeavor to learn about the code, find out how bankruptcy works,’’ said Dell’Orfano, 35, who lives in Bedford, N.H. “The bankruptcy system is misunderstood,’’ he said. “People look at it like ‘I failed in life.’ But it’s more about setting somebody back on track, hitting the reset button.’’

    neil fagan

    Attack: Finola McKenna hit Neil Fagan with a champagne glass
    Leather thong: Neil Fagan wanted his lover to inflict pain using nipple clamps

    The top lawyer, his lover and a drug-fuelled sadomasochistic sex session that led to bloodshed at the Hilton

    As one of the most highly regarded lawyers in the City, Neil Fagan has spent decades advising clients about risk. But when it comes to his own personal life, the married father-of-three was a little less cautious. Yesterday a criminal court heard how the top lawyer was attacked by a woman with a champagne glass during a drug-fuelled sadomasochistic sex session at an exclusive London hotel.

    Staff alerted to the sound of screaming at the Waldorf Hilton Hotel found the 61-year-old former partner in leading law firm Hogan Lovells wearing only a tiny leather thong, nipple clamps, other sexual paraphenalia, and with hot wax dripping down his chest. His lover Finola McKenna, who was also naked, glassed the lawyer in the face when he tried to force her to use a 'medieval torture instrument' during a kinky sex session, Southwark Crown Court heard yesterday. The manager of the prestigious five-star hotel in Covent Garden, Sufiyan Baig grabbed the glass from his 46-year-old lover and locked the couple in the room while he called the police.

    But when officers arrived they found the couple still naked and covered in blood after apparently rolling around on the floor. When police tried to apprehend the naked woman, who was still holding a broken champagne glass, she bit the ankle of the female officer attempting to restrain her. Prosecutor David Povall described the lurid scene on May 20 last year as McKenna was convicted of assault occasioning actual bodily harm.

    He told the court said: 'While someone fetched the police Mr Baig waited outside the room and continued to hear struggling, arguments and the smashing of glass from inside. 'Officers came up to the room and opened the door and were again faced with the defendant and Mr Fagan both effectively naked. 'By this stage there was a considerable amount of blood smeared on the tiled floor and a quantity of broken glass. 'Both the defendant and Mr Fagan were bleeding from both their faces and their bodies.

    The defendant was holding a broken champagne glass and a small bottle of champagne, her wrist being held by Mr Fagan.' Police officers wrestled the naked woman to the floor in the corridor and held her there until she calmed down when they allowed her to dress. But after she got her clothes the mother-of-two tried to escape, running along the plush corridors of the hotel until she was tackled by a member of staff. Mr Povall added: 'As she was being handcuffed she bit the leg of PC Nancy Simpson, who was one of the officers restraining her, causing her to skin to break.'

    Police later found cocaine and cannabis scattered around their £500 a night suite. Mr Fagan, who suffered superficial cuts to his face, neck, arms and feet in the attack, accepted a police caution for the possession of class A drugs.

    But the corporate and commercial litigation expert, who retired from Hogan Lovells in April last year after a 40-year legal career, refused to give a statement about what happened, save to say that he and McKenna were acquaintances. Yesterday his lover pleaded guilty to two counts of assault occasioning actual bodily harm Richard Butcher, defending, said his client was a 'hard-working' woman who was 'deeply ashamed' at what had happened that night.

    Judge Michael Gledhill QC gave her a conditional discharge for the attack on Mr Fagan, who the court heard she had been meeting for sex for a number of years. The judge said: 'It is quite clear to me that he wanted you to do things to him such as dripping hot wax on him and that he wanted to do things to you, which you did not want to happen. 'I've seen at least two implements which looked to the untrained eye as medieval torture instruments and not surprisingly you did not want to have pain inflicted upon you. 'I accept that you told him that but he persisted.

    'He is a professional man and he has put his professional reputation very much on the line and he did not want to be involved in this case at all. 'I accept that it was what he was trying to make you do that made you behave in this uncharacteristically violent way therefore I see fit to give you a conditional discharge.' McKenna was sentenced to four months in prison, suspended for 12 months and given a six-month curfew order for assaulting a police officer.

    The judge added: 'Police officers have to be protected from drunks who go around assaulting them - particularly by biting them. 'I hope this may just persuade you to stop going out to champagne parties and spending the night with men such as this. 'I hope you will put this dreadful incident behind you.'

    McKenna was also ordered to pay £250 compensation to PC Simpson and £250 towards the cost of the prosecution. Yesterday Mr Fagan, who is now 63, was unavailable for comment at his million-pound home in Farnham, Hampshire. The high-flyer still works as a legal consultant for a City firm of analysts, the Forensic Risk Alliance. He is also and adviser to the law firm, Armstrong Bonham Carter.

    According to Debrett's, he considers his family, swimming, sailing, gardening as his favourite recreations. Yesterday his wife Catherine, with whom he has three daughters, refused to comment at their home.

    james mcintyre A DISGRACED ex-lawyer once jailed for gun crime is set to have his life story dramatised by TV giant HBO.

    Scot James McIntyre has penned a script, titled Jimmy Two Guns, about his career. And it is now being put into development by the team behind gritty US dramas The Wire and The Sopranos. A source close to McIntyre, - nicknamed Diamond Jim because of his stud earring - said: "Jimmy has led a very colourful life. Because of his job, he was heavily involved with the biggest figures in the Glasgow underworld. And he paid a heavy price for it by ending up in jail."

    McIntyre, 53, was caged for three years in November 1997 after cops stormed his home in Linlithgow, West Lothian, and found a stash of guns he was said to be hiding for the McGovern crime clan. The Law Society had probed his underworld links and booted him out of the profession. McIntyre is now a scriptwriter and has written for BBC1 Scotland soap River City. He used his real-life experiences of police chases, slashings and the underworld to create hard-hitting storylines for gangster Lenny Murdoch. Now he's hoping to make it in the States. Our source said: "The script for Jimmy Two Guns is incredible. "Some of his stories would make Tony Soprano blush. And they are all true." The source added: "It is early days. They haven't started casting yet, but James Gandolfini could be perfect to play Jimmy - as long as he could put on a Scottish accent."

    A north-east solicitor yesterday settled his libel claim against the owner of a website that blacklists solicitors and law firms.

    Scott Eason, principal at Eason Law, had instructed libel lawyers Carter-Ruck to bring a claim for damages of between £50,000 and £100,000 and obtain a High Court injunction against Rick Kordowski, who runs Under the terms of a High Court order, Eason agreed to drop his claim for damages and costs if Kordowski removed allegations against Eason and Eason Law from the internet; undertook never again to publish allegations referring to Eason or his firm; and wrote to Eason to apologise.

    Carter-Ruck said in a statement yesterday: ‘Scott Eason has today settled his libel action against Rick Kordowski, owner of the website Solicitors from Hell. Mr Kordowski has removed the false and defamatory allegations from his website, agreed not to publish them again and apologised to Mr Eason.’ Eason said in a statement released by Carter-Ruck yesterday: ‘I am happy and relieved that this case has now settled. I felt very strongly about what was published about me and I could not allow the allegations to remain on the internet. ‘I initially wrote to Mr Kordowski myself asking for the allegations to be taken down, but he refused to do this without payment. As a matter of principle, I refused to pay Mr Kordowski any money and he left me with no option but to issue libel proceedings against him. ‘I am glad that Mr Kordowski has accepted the allegations are false, taken them down from his website and apologised to me.’

    Kordowski said today that he will not delete complaints about ‘Premium Players’ unless the person who made the original post or a High Court judge asks him to do so. Complainants do not have to pay to post on the site, but if they feel strongly about their story, they can pay £25 to have the firm listed as a ‘Premium Player,’ as long as their posting contains information that is useful to the public, Kordowski said. If listed as a premium player, a solicitor or firm cannot pay to have the posting removed, he added. Kordowski’s apology to Eason reads: ‘I would like to apologise for allowing defamatory allegations about you made by a third party to be posted on my website I did not know at the time of publication that the allegations were false, but I now understand that they are. On that basis, they should never have been published. ‘I have taken the allegations down from my website and agreed not to republish anything about you or your firm again. I understand that, as I have no funds, you have kindly agreed to waive your entitlement to damages and costs.

    ‘I am sorry for the embarrassment and distress the allegations have caused you to suffer.’

    john cort Only one of many lawyers evil enough to murder you either directly or indirectly

    A solicitor was jailed for life yesterday for arranging the 'calculated and ruthless' contract killing of his business partner to get a life assurance payout.

    Vina Patel, 51, was found dead in her office in Cort and Co solicitors in Leicester, on January 15 last year. John Cort, 54, of Leicester, and Brian Farrell, 37, of west London, were found guilty of murdering Mrs Patel and sentenced to life imprisonment. Setting a minimum term of 29 years for Cort and 28 years for Farrell, Mrs Justice Linda Dobbs told them the murder was 'premeditated, calculated and ruthless'.

    During the trial at Nottingham Crown Court, the court heard that debt-ridden Cort hired Farrell to commit the murder in a 'contract killing' that would lead to a huge life assurance payout. Farrell and Cort remained emotionless as the unanimous verdicts were given, while there were whispers of 'yes' from Mrs Patel's family in the public gallery. The judge said: 'By their verdicts, you, John Cort and Brian Farrell, were responsible for the murder of Vina Patel. 'You deprived the family and friends of Vina Patel of a cherished person.'

    She quoted from a statement from the solicitor's widower Surendra Patel - which was not read to the court - saying that since her murder the family had been dogged by 'torment, depression and paranoia'. Mrs Justice Dobbs said: 'That you, Mr Cort, were able to have murdered a close friend of 30 years, erstwhile lover of 20 years and partner prepared to help you with your divorce, reveals your true character. 'You are a controlling person who will stop at nothing to achieve your aims. 'You were the driving force behind the murder.' She said the offence was 'of particularly high seriousness'.

    Farrell, who had to sit down halfway through the judge's sentencing comments, was accused of following where Cort led. The judge told him he was prepared to help his friend by carrying out a callous murder motivated by money. She said: 'Cort knew this case backwards and had thought of nearly every answer to every question asked. 'Where Mr Cort led, you followed and followed willingly.'

    She told the men they would serve life in prison and Cort could not be considered for parole for 29 years, while Farrell would not be considered for 28. For each man, who had previously good character, 329 days served on remand were taken into account. Speaking after the unanimous verdicts today, Mr Patel branded his wife's business partner the 'devil'.

    He said: 'We wanted justice for Vina, this is it. The man (Cort) is completely callous, there was no reaction at all. 'I think he is the devil. If you ever want to meet the devil, he is it.' Mrs Patel was found dead at the foot of a staircase in the offices of Cort and Co on January 15 last year by her husband and daughter after she did not arrive to pick the latter up from work. The 51-year-old mother of two had suffered a broken neck as well as other injuries.

    The court evidence suggested she had either fallen because she was being attacked or had been attacked, then her body arranged to make it look like an accident. A swab of her right hand showed a mixed profile including her DNA, with the remaining DNA a 'billion times more likely to have come from Brian Farrell than from someone unrelated', the court heard. Mobile phone evidence showed that four days before her death Farrell travelled to Leicester from London in what the prosecution claim was a 'dry run' for the killing. The court heard that divorcee Cort 'lived a life he simply could not afford' and had spiralled into £171,000 debt.

    Mr Spencer told the jury he rented a penthouse apartment in Leicester as well as two different flats in London for girlfriends and frequented top restaurants and luxury hotels in the capital. The court heard that weeks before Mrs Patel's death he had persuaded her they should up their life assurance cover from £500,000 to £1.5 million, claiming he had a serious illness. More than £650,000 had gone missing from the company's client account, which should have been paid to customers or mortgage lenders, the court heard. The firm was investigated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) last July after Cort's arrest.

    An investigator said there were £1.4 million of 'questionable' transactions, including the £650,000. Giving evidence, Cort said he had been having an affair with Mrs Patel lasting 20 years. He said when their relationship broke down he started seeing other women, including 23-year-old model and former Miss Black Nottingham Charissa Watson and Rumbizi Kampiri, the wife of a government minister in Zimbabwe. His defence claimed a meeting set up on the evening of her death was legitimate.

    Farrell told police he spoke regularly to Cort because the pair were having a sexual relationship. His defence said the presence of Farrell's DNA on the victim's body and evidence that his phone had been used near her office were not proof he had been in direct contact with her. Mr Patel released a statement after the trial but felt unable to read it himself.

    It said: 'It is a huge understatement to say that our beloved Vina is greatly missed by all who knew her. 'To us she was more than a mother, wife, daughter and sister. 'She was the one person we could all turn to, who we trusted and relied upon. 'She provided the comfort and security and was the glue that kept us together.

    'Vina was a warm, generous, honest and caring person while still being strong, assertive and passionate.' He said his wife stood up for what she believed in and freely helped those who needed it. 'For the family, her premature death has unimaginably changed our lives. Without her, our lives are devoid of joy and optimism,' he said. 'For us there is no light relief, no escape from what has happened. 'We are glad that justice has been done, but nothing changes for us.

    'Our only hope is that we can finally move on, forget the deceptive, unimaginable way she was taken from us, forget the image that haunts my daughter and me of when we found her, forget the fear she must have felt in her final moments and begin to cherish the many wonderful memories we have of our limited time with her.' Detective Chief Inspector Chris Redfern, who led the investigation, said that, although Mrs Patel's death originally looked like an accident, thorough examination of the scene and an expert post-mortem examination led to an investigation which identified Cort and Farrell as the people responsible. 'The motive for Vina's murder was greed and money,' Mr Redfern said. 'When the life insurance money was put on hold pending the completion of the police investigation, Cort, still needing large sums of money, began to use the business client account to fund his extravagant lifestyle and that of his entourage. 'These serious allegations are currently still being investigated.

    'Vina's death has had a devastating impact on her family who have shown tremendous dignity throughout a long investigation. 'I sincerely hope that they will be able to take some comfort from seeing justice done and our thoughts are with them at this difficult time.' Lawrence English, Acting Chief Crown Prosecutor from CPS Leicestershire and Rutland, said: 'This case was one of the most challenging murder cases we have had, combining as it did factors such as a deplorable level of conspiracy between the two men, greed, fraud, and frightening pre-meditation of the part of both, but Cort in particular. 'We are satisfied justice has now been done for the family of Vina Patel, who have shown tremendous courage in the face of such a tragedy. 'We sincerely hope this verdict will go some small way towards easing their suffering.'

  • Killer lawyer's 'act of evil'
    end of lawyers Does the Law Society know that there’s an internet generation?

    In 1996 senior figures in the Law Society said that I should not be allowed to speak in public. I had been predicting that most lawyers and clients would soon communicate by e-mail and the feeling was that I had failed to understand confidentiality and was bringing the profession into disrepute. Do we now have a more enlightened Law Society? To judge by its recent consultation document, Access to Justice Review, the answer is not clear. Although the title is promising, the report appears to be about finding new ways of funding old-fashioned lawyers. The review is said to set out the society’s views. Its president calls for a “radical rethink” and “a willingness to challenge outdated assumptions”.

    The first chapter expands on this encouraging message, speaking of dispute avoidance, public legal education and the promotion of legal health. Tellingly, none of these is discussed again. Instead, the report is devoted largely to the shortcomings of the legal aid system and to alternative methods of funding and procuring legal services. Government policy and practice are criticised. The “system” is to blame. And if solicitors cannot earn a sensible living, it is claimed that access to justice will be denied. The Law Society is right to stimulate debate on the funding of legal services. But it has missed an opportunity in not simultaneously exploring ways that lawyers can change their working practices to help to reduce costs. The report tells us that, in 2008, 85.9 per cent of law firms had four or fewer partners, while 44.2 per cent were sole practices. To the business-minded, this looks like a cottage industry, with members who handcraft labour-intensive and bespoke solutions in delivering a face-to-face advisory service. Where in the report, then, in relation to lawyers, is the radical rethink? Nowhere. There is no discussion, for example, of the scope for project management, workflow tools, outsourcing, wider use of paralegals, economies of scale or shared services centres. The spotlight is never trained on the inefficiencies of traditional legal practice.

    It is the same with IT. Three of four UK homes have computers and 1.4 billion people use the internet worldwide, yet the society devotes just half a page of 60 to technology. There is no analysis of automated document production, online legal guidance and reporting, video-meetings or electronic procurement of legal services, each of which can bring significant reductions in legal costs. Instead, in 15 tendentious sentences, lawyers are simplistically discouraged from entering the information age. What legacy is the Law Society leaving the internet generation? In England and elsewhere, I find compelling examples of firms, small and large, introducing efficiencies — standardising, systematising, modernising, and, in turn, slashing the costs of legal services. If some law firms can do this, all should. Of course our justice system needs attention. In 2007, 1 million civil problems went unresolved, while more than 3,000 pieces of legislation were created, each impenetrable for the layman. Our first-rate judiciary is often let down by antiquated court facilities. Public funds are diminishing and, generally, legal action in the courts is open only to the rich or those of low or no income. The problem is far more complex than the society allows. Improving access to justice involves more than solving a funding conundrum.

    Six building blocks must be put in place to increase access. The first is progressive, streamlined and innovative firms that multisource, embrace technology and handle some legal work in a non-bespoke manner. The second is a healthier and more integrated third sector, acknowledging that many citizens who face everyday legal problems need only a kind, empathetic ear with a light sprinkling of legal insight. Third, a new wave of imaginative, entrepreneurial and market-driven alternative providers of legal service are vital to the mix. They will find ways of making state funding go farther, of keeping law firms on their toes and of delivering service in ways that consumers find convenient.

    Fourth, legislation and case law should be easily accessible and digestible through no-cost online systems. A related and fifth challenge is to implement public information policies, requiring bodies that create law also to provide clarification and help on its impact. Finally, citizens must be better equipped, so that, despite the Law Society’s misgivings, they can take care of some legal affairs on their own; or, when guidance is needed, they are able to work more efficiently with advisers. To equip citizens, improved public legal education and richer online legal resources are needed. This last requirement is pivotal. We must learn from other jurisdictions and professions. If we can provide online medical assistance through NHS Direct, we can surely do the same in law. Unlikely? About as unlikely as e-mail was for clients and lawyers in 1996.

    Richard Susskind is the author of The End of Lawyers?


    Solicitors’ insurance: is it time to stop insuring rogue lawyers?

    There are 262 firms in the assigned risks pool this year - too many for some

    If you failed to pay your car insurance or lied in your proposal for home insurance, you can expect your insurer to take a dim view and void your policy. But for those insurers who cover solicitors, they can take as dim a view as they want but they cannot escape having to pay out on claims under the policies. “Solicitors’ professional indemnity insurance is probably the only insurance cover in the world where you cannot void the policy for non-payment of the premium,” says Martin Ellis, a director of the broker Prime Professions. Another broker, who prefers to remain nameless, is more blunt about the problems insurers have had with solicitors in the ten years they have been buying cover on the open market: “No one expected to deal with a profession that lied on proposal forms, didn’t pay premiums and didn’t honour obligations.”

    Insurance is fast becoming a big problem for the solicitors’ profession. Things were not exactly chipper anyway with a recessionary increase in claims against a backdrop of solicitors generating more claims than all other professionals as it was. Now the administration of Quinn, the Irish insurer that provides cover for nearly 3,000 of the 11,000 law firms in England and Wales, means it is likely that all those firms will be looking for a new home when they have to renew their cover this autumn. Quinn specialises in smaller, high street firms that, because of their reliance on risky areas such as conveyancing, are seen as the hardest to insure. Frank Maher, a partner at Legal Risk, a Liverpool firm that advises other law firms, predicts that if Quinn does leave the market, “it’s going to leave a lot of firms unable to obtain any cover at all”. Alan Bannister, a regulation specialist at Vizards Wyeth, agrees: “It’s going to make a difficult situation even worse.” There is talk of a new insurer looking to fill the gap — and most years someone seems to swoop in just in the nick of time to introduce new competition — but Maher reckons “it’s unlikely they are going to want to step into the breach for that many firms”.

    Ellis is not so gloomy. Only in the past three years has the Irish insurer grown its market share aggressively so “it wasn’t that long ago that these firms were insured by someone else anyway”. He argues that most small firms are unfairly tarnished by the shortcomings of the minority; three quarters of sole practitioners on his books, he says, have never faced a single claim. Though former Quinn firms may face higher premiums this year, the alternative is falling into the assigned risks pool, a safety net for those who cannot find insurance and whose claims all the insurers writing solicitors’ business are required to meet. But the pool is controversial — firms there face punitive premiums, which often they do not pay, and by definition most of them are risky. After many years when there were only 20 to 30 firms in the pool, in 2008-09 there were about 140 and the present estimate is that they will generate claims of £30 million to £50 million worth of claims. The figure for this year, when there are 262 firms in the pool, could be horrific. Though the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA), which dictates the insurance arrangements, has recently tightened up the pool’s rules, an influx of Quinn firms could bring it to its knees.

    So, in the interests of helping law firms and maintaining insurers’ interest in the market, is it time to loosen the SRA’s minimum terms and conditions that every insurer is required to offer and make the cover unvoidable? Pressure from insurers, who dub them the maximum terms, is rapidly building, but equally should innocent clients lose out because their solicitor lied on their proposal form? The problem becomes sharper because solicitors, unlike most professionals, hold client money — although as Maher notes, an independent financial adviser (who need not carry insurance) can effectively lose all your life savings and the maximum you can recover is £48,000 from the Financial Services Compensation Scheme. While recognising that it is a “very, very worrying time” for firms, Des Hudson, the chief executive of the Law Society, says that he would not give up this unique level of consumer protection lightly. Mark Humphries, who chairs the SRA’s financial protection committee, describes it as a “very delicate” balance but says “the priority will be to ensure as far as possible that changes to the minimum terms don’t have the effect of prejudicing the interests of the innocent consumers”.

    At the same time, we will shortly enter the annual phoney war where there are warnings of premium meltdown that never ultimately materialise.Law Society research shows that the annual renewal process has been fairly smooth for most firms despite the recession. “Will we see increases in premiums this year?” Ellis asks. “Yes. Will they be bizarre increases? No, they will be manageable.” This is not the end of the problems, though. The Black Solicitors Network claimed recently that there is enough evidence of discrimination by insurers against black and ethnic minority firms to warrant a complaint to the Equality and Human Rights Commission. Hudson also highlights the need to go back a stage and consider why some law firms are seen as so risky. “Are professional standards as high as they need to be?” he asks. “There are underlying issues about quality assurance that we need to get at.”

    law society As the UK heads for an election on 6 May the corporate media and political parties WAFFLE on about what they assume is the issues the electorate are concerned about. This is just another arm of the propaganda pumped out by a media controlled by Britain's criminally corrupt law societies.

    We can say with certainty the BIGGEST threat to a man and his family in the UK presently are the judicial mafia along with their lawyer goons who are destroying men for profit.

    The three major parties should be renamed as the 'ABUSE OF MEN FOR PROFIT' parties with lawyers within their ranks and heavily controlled by masons and public school twatties who have been brainwashed into ROYALIST thinking that provides a devious and dangerous set of hand picked goons represented by a media heavily involved in a conspiracy that makes all others pale by comparison. The British mass media more than anything else is a complete fraud with media lawyers in the background manufacturing the programming to have us believe these cretins they promote are worthy of our vote and that our vote will make a difference to our lives. The poorest sections of British society have NEVER changed throughout the political history of the UK so how do these scumbags expect us to believe that any one of their promoted goons will do anything different, when recent reports show the massive disparity between rich and poor is back to an era when we had slave labour.

    British politicians of ALL major parties are being funded by ultra rich masonic business types who demand a return for their money when they get into power. So do not expect any CHANGE of policy that will see the continuation of the the rich getting richer on the backs of the poor working classes who have throughout history been ignored by the 'ABUSE OF MEN FOR PROFIT' parties and NOTHING will change until WE CHANGE our thinking in the belief that one of these masonic mobsters will have the answers to really change the UK for the better. Don't believe the lies and manufactured speeches they are all in this together to create a facade of honesty and respectability when they are NOTHING but a bunch of losers and low life criminals disguised behind armani suits .

    There are ten of thousands of hard working separated fathers now living in abject poverty, either homeless or in bedsits and penniless thanks to the masonic legal and political goons masquerading as some sort of quasi-democracy. They are ALL out to destroy heterosexual men while propping up the masonic coffers and who they ultimately answer to.
    crooked lawyer Lawyers, along with judges are the BIGGEST threat to heterosexual men across the planet especially in divorce courts.


    LAW firms that advertise in prison newspapers and encourage inmates to sue for negligence are costing ­taxpayers millions of pounds every year.

    Personal injury lawyers exploit ­Britain’s compensation culture and openly tout for business among ­convicted criminals, including such notorious killers as Ian Huntley. The Soham murderer, who killed 10-year-olds Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman in 2002, could win thousands in damages after his throat was slashed by another inmate at Frankland prison, County Durham, a week ago.

    Despite public anger at such a prospect, more solicitors than ever are seeking to cash in by turning the penal ­system into a “money pot”. The Prison Service paid £3.3million in compensation to prisoners in the year 2007/08. Probation chiefs say in most cases inmates answered one of hundreds of legal adverts in publications such as Inside Time and ConVerse. Nearly 50,000 prisoners read the monthly newspapers which have the adverts on almost every page, some with graphic images and inflammatory language to drum up business. Manchester firm Amelans Solicitors uses grisly photographs of prisoners wounded by fellow inmates to highlight its services along with the statement: “The powers-that-be probably won’t help you… see if we can.” Although legal, these practices are sure to astound victims of crime, many of whom have not had compensation. The probation officers’ union Napo says it does not object to legitimate claims but is unhappy at the number of trivial cases. Last week lawyers for prisoner Jack Foster told the High Court how High Down prison, Surrey, breached his human rights by denying him nicotine for seven days for swearing at a warden. They argued the habitual smoker should have been given nicotine patches or gum to ease his cravings. Gerry Cooper, a prisoner at Bullingdon jail in Oxfordshire, sued the Home Office four years ago after falling out of his top bunk.

    Napo assistant general secretary Harry Fletcher said: “The fact that so many law firms advertise for business in prison magazines proves what ­litigious places prisons have become. “They are seen by many as money pots, an easy way of making a profit for themselves and convicted criminals at the expense of the judicial system and taxpayer. There has been an explosion in this kind of tactic in recent years.” Matthew Elliott, of campaign group the TaxPayers’ Alliance, said: “It’s disgusting to see these vultures angling for a chance to sue the taxpayer.” ConVerse claims its adverts are no different from personal injury notices in hospital emergency wards. The Ministry of Justice last night insisted claims were robustly defended if the evidence allowed. It said: “The National Offender Management Service successfully defends significantly more civil claims than are settled.”

    jeffery sparke Drink-driving lawyer Jeffery Sparke, 39

    A LAWYER who claimed his 12-month ban for drink-driving was too tough had his appeal dismissed by a judge who branded him a “roaring drunk”. Jeffery Sparke, 39, downed half a bottle of Jack Daniel’s whiskey before attempting to drive off in his car with his nine-year-old daughter in the passenger seat. When he was arrested by police he fought them and said: “How much do you earn? I make £180,000. I bet you love your job.’’

    In a separate domestic incident he had scratched the word “bitch’” on his wife’s BMW Z4 sports car with a set of keys, a court heard. Sparke was charged after a family row which led to him being jailed. But he insisted the driving ban was “too harsh” and claimed he needed his car to get to court because public transport was “not suitable”. His appeal was thrown out by Judge Bernard Lever at Minshull Street Crown Court, Manchester, who said he had considered increasing the ban when he ordered Sparke to serve a two-year community order with an obligatory domestic violence programme. The judge said: “He was roaring drunk – not just slightly inebriated but roaring drunk. I wonder if I shouldn’t extend the ban to two years.

    “Here he is trying to drive drunk with a child in the car and he thinks 12 months is too harsh.” Sparke’s six- year marriage began to crumble when he admitted to his wife Jayne, 40, that he was having an affair and threatened to leave the marital home in Hyde, Cheshire. She had discovered a text on her his mobile phone from his mistress saying: “I’ll wear whatever you want.’’ Trouble began last March during a family party to celebrate the birthday of Sparke’s mother-in law Mary Clarke.


    Lawyers to pocket half the £2.5bn compensation for sick Ground Zero rescue workers

    Lawyers could pocket up to half of the £2.5billion in compensation money available for Ground Zero rescue workers who fell sick in the aftermath of 9/11. Thousands of emergency workers have filed lawsuits claiming they suffered chronic illnesses from poisonous ash from the ruins of New York’s World Trade Centre. Police officers, fire fighters, ambulance crews and construction staff are among those who claim they weren’t given the proper equipment.

    Many allege they contracted cancer as a result of their heroic efforts. But it is the lawyers who stand to earn a giant chunk of the money allocated for payouts. So far £192million has been paid out to five workers with minor injuries in the past five years. In the same period, according to court records, lawyers have snagged more than £175million. With 30 more cases expected to go to trial in New York in May, hundreds of millions more is expected to be spent in legal fees. Lawyers for the workers stand to reap between 30 per cent and 50 per cent of all settlements or judgments, based on their retainer agreements with the victims, the New York Post claimed today.

    The compensation cash comes from a taxpayer fund and insurance money. In all, about 10,000 Ground Zero workers are suing New York and the company that owned the Twin Towers. The controversy is further complicated by claims that not all of the alleged victims were as sick as they claimed. One demolition worker who said he developed health problems after toiling for six months in the toxic ruins of the terrorist target had actually been seriously ill since the 1990s.

    And a policewoman who was listed by her lawyers as having lung cancer turned out to have chronic asthma. The 30 cases scheduled to go to court in May are likely to serve as test cases to determine the level of compensation for other claimants. For some, the money will be too late. Fireman Raymond Hauber died of throat cancer at age 47 after spending at least 90 days on the smoking rubble.

    There is growing scientific evidence that the air at Ground Zero was dangerously contaminated. US studies show that one in ten people exposed to the post 9/11 dust developed asthma within six years, about triple the normal rate. Fire fighters have experienced abnormally high levels of sardoidosis, an inflammatory lung disease. Manhattan Judge Alvin Hellerstein is involved in ‘intensive discussions’ that he hopes will settle as many cases as possible without having to go to trial.


    Exclusive: Scots MP at war with family after aunt leaves home to him

    LIB DEM peer Archy Kirkwood is at the centre of a family row after his elderly aunt made a will leaving everything to him and his sisters. The ex-MP, now Baron Kirkwood of Kirkhope, arranged for colleagues at his old law firm to draw up the will for Sarah Barclay, who died four years later aged 95. Sarah's brother Jimmy claims she had earlier promised to leave everything to him, including her flat in Largs, Ayrshire.

    Retired joiner Jimmy, 84, said: "Sarah had always said that she would leave her flat to any remaining brothers or sisters - and I'm the only one left. "After she died I found out that Archy arranged for Sarah to make a will at his old firm in Hawick. "Archy was executor and he and his two sisters Elizabeth and Margaret were the beneficiaries. I got nothing. I never want to speak to my nephew again."

    Another of Sarah's nephews, musician George Hill, 64, said: "Aunt Sarah always told me she'd leave what she had to her remaining brothers and sisters and uncle Jimmy was her only remaining brother when she died in 2006. "When we found out what happened to her house and belongings, we were shocked. Archy was brought up in a prefab and then a council estate in Glasgow. "When he went to university and got into politics, the family were so pleased. Now we never want to see his face again."

    Following the flat sale, Lord Kirkwood and his two sisters each got a £22,000 share of Sarah's £66,000 legacy. Jimmy, who lives in Blackpool, is also upset at the small stone marking Sarah's grave in Largs. He said: "Archy had Sarah's flat emptied within days of her dying. I didn't even get the offer of a keepsake. This isn't about money. This is about family, and respect for a wonderful lady."

    Last year Lord Kirkwood - former MP for Roxburgh and Berwickshire - was embroiled in the House of Commons expenses scandal. He used £18,000 of taxpayers' cash to refurbish a London flat which he bought for £182,500 then sold it to his daughter at a knockdown £100,000 six years later. Lord Kirkwood was unavailable to comment but his wife Lady Rosemary said: "I'd heard Jimmy thought the will was different from what it was.

    "I think Sarah may have said different things to different people throughout her lifetime. "Jimmy could have had anything he wanted out of her house. And no one in the family is happy with the headstone. It is only temporary."

    john michael farren Police say that a former White House lawyer who worked with both President Bushes tried to kill his wife. Along with trying to strangle her, he allegedly "beat her with a metal flashlight until she lost consciousness," according to the affidavit quoted in multiple reports.

    "John Michael Farren, 57, of New Canaan, was charged with attempted murder and first-degree strangulation after police received a panic alarm from his home shortly after 10 p.m.," Connecticut's NewsTimes reports. "Farren was arraigned in state Superior Court in Norwalk Thursday. He appeared in court with a large bandage on the right side of his neck and has been placed on suicide watch." The report adds, "Farren has served as general counsel and vice president of external affairs for Norwalk-based Xerox Corp. and served as Under Secretary of Commerce for International Trade under President George H.W. Bush and in the White House counsel's office under President George W. Bush."

    Wall Street Journal law blogger Ashby Jones notes, White House lawyers go on to do a lot of things. The become highly-paid partners at Washington law firms. They go to think tanks. They, like Fred Fielding, reemerge to serve as White House Counsel again. They write memoirs. John Michael Farren, a lawyer in the Bush (II) White House, might be on his way to doing any of those things. But for now he’s got an issue. A potentially big issue. Farren was charged Thursday with strangulation and attempted murder. Connecticut authorities are claiming that he tried to kill his wife at their Connecticut home by beating her with a flashlight and strangling her.

    The Associated Press adds, "An arrest affidavit says the attack occurred after Mary Farren delivered divorce papers Monday. Police say she passed out during the attack Wednesday night at their New Canaan home and later fled with her children." According to the AP, "She is stable at a hospital with a broken nose, broken jaw and other injuries."

    A Washington Post graph indicates that Farren earned $158,500 in 2008 for his White House salary. In a 1992 Legal Times profile, Farren was described as "a rising star in the Bush administration" until his "stock" plummeted. But now, due to his energetic role in several highly charged trade issues, Farren’s stock at the White House is falling. “It’s almost as if he was deliberately trying to manufacture unnecessary political controversies,” says one presidential aide. Farren, whose decisions affect key sectors of the American economy, supervises a small army of bureaucrats who are charged with protecting troubled U.S. companies from unfair trade practices. Farren’s troops administer anti-dumping and countervailing-duty laws, as well as import restrictions affecting steel, semiconductors, machine tools, lumber, and automobiles.

    Farren, who had resigned as deputy undersecretary of trade in 1988 to work on George Bush’s presidential campaign, was considered a seasoned political operative capable of giving sound advice. But the Tokyo trip proved disastrous and, more than any other episode, spawned the stories of White House disarray on trade issues that continue to dog President Bush’s re-election effort--and undermine Farren’s clout inside the administration.


    Stockport law firm closed over dishonesty probe

    All sales due to go ahead have been frozen by the SRA

    A Stockport-based law firm has been closed down and five solicitors have had their licences suspended amid claims of dishonesty. Wolstenholmes, which opened in 1818, is being investigated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA). The Legal Complaints Commission (LCC) is dealing with 116 complaints from customers who say they have lost money.

    One of those suspended, Imran Hussain, apologised for the current situation and for distress caused to customers. Helen Murgatroyd, Bobby Shabbir, Bilal Khawaja and Nasser Ilyas also had their licences suspended just before Christmas.

    £200,000 is a lot of money when you have worked so hard for that most of your working life
    Tracey, Wolstenholmes customer

    Many of the complaints are from customers who have been using the firm to help them buy and sell their homes. Mr Hussain said he had worked 17-hour days in a bid to ensure sales went through and he denies any wrongdoing. However many customers say they have been left hundreds of thousands of pounds out of pocket. BBC Radio Manchester has learnt that all sales which were due to go ahead shortly before the festive period have been frozen as the SRA intervenes.

    'Devastating' situation

    One woman, who wanted to be known only as Tracey, told the BBC that she was stranded in a caravan with her children, one of whom is disabled, after the £445,000 she had transferred to Wolstenholmes was frozen by the SRA. She transferred the cash, with £200,000 of it being her own money, to Wolstenholmes in mid-December. She said: "It's devastating really - £200,000 is a lot of money when you have worked so hard for that most of your working life."

    An SRA spokesman said: "The firm is currently under investigation and on 24 and 27 December we intervened into the practices of five of the solicitors whose practising certificates have been suspended. "The grounds for the intervention were suspected dishonesty and breaches of the Solicitors Accounts and Practice Rules. "The intervention is not punitive, it is about protecting the public and safeguarding funds. "For those who fear they have lost money, it will be dealt with by the solicitors indemnity insurance or the SRA Compensation Fund."

  • Wolstenholmes lawyers beware!!!
  • Solicitors Regulation Authority closes down law firm Wolstenholmes
    Accountant locked up for acid attack at High Court

    A Litigant with an "obsessional hatred" of the legal profession has been jailed indefinitely for an acid attack on a team of lawyers at the High Court. Former accountant Ashok Mahajan, 55, sprayed hydrochloric acid over a barrister, solicitor and pupil after his race discrimination claim was thrown out. Trainee barrister Lucy Colter suffered a burned eye as the corrosive fluid dribbled down her face, shrivelling her contact lenses and melting her clothes.

    Mahajan, of Wembley, had a decade-long history of courtroom outbursts including throwing a shoe at a barrister and threatening to shoot him. He later told psychiatrists he believed he was the victim of a "Nazi" plot against him by the legal profession. Mahajan was convicted of attempting to cause grievous bodily harm with intent following a three-week trial this year.

    He was given an indefinite period of imprisonment after reports indicated he posed a high risk to members of the legal profession. Southwark crown court had heard Mahajan launched his attack in October last year on Ms Colter, barrister Richard Liddell and solicitor Claire White.

  • High Court barrister burned in courtroom acid 'attack by furious litigant'

    Lawyer stabs himself then jumps to his death from Erskine Bridge after child abuse charges

    A WELL-KNOWN lawyer accused of child sex crimes stabbed himself in the stomach before jumping to his death from a bridge. Father-of-two Paul O'Neill, 45, leapt from the Erskine Bridge near Glasgow two days after he appeared in court charged with two sex offences against a young girl. A police insider revealed last night that a stab wound was found on O'Neill's body.

    The source added: "It seems that, given his very high social status and his family background, he could not face the court proceedings that lay ahead of him." O'Neill, a Scots advocate who practised on the Isle of Man, appeared at Hamilton Sheriff Court in Lanarkshire on Wednesday last week. He made no plea to two charges of lewd, indecent and libidinous practices and behaviour and was bailed. The alleged offences dated back to 1994. On Friday, O'Neill, who was originally from East Kilbride, was seen climbing a fence beside the Erskine Bridge. A shocked driver saw him plunge to his death.

    A source said: "When his body was examined, he was bleeding from a wound in his stomach, believed to have been caused by a knife. "There was also evidence that he had carried a rope to the scene. "It is clear that the victim was in a disturbed state." The Erskine Bridge has been a notorious suicide spot for years. Teenage pals Neve Lafferty, 15, and Georgia Rowe, 14, killed themselves there in October after walking out of the Good Shepherd children's home in nearby Bishopton. O'Neill, who was separated from his wife, was called to the Bar on the Isle of Man in 1995, the year after the alleged sex offences. He had moved to the island in 1992 after teaching constitutional law in the US.

    In 2003, O'Neill worked as a defence advocate in the case of 23-year-old Peter Newbery, who was convicted of strangling two teenage pals with a pair of shoelaces in the grounds of a children's home. His legal work earned him a high-profile on the island and he was respected by his peers. But his world fell apart last Monday when police arrived at his offices in the court building in the Manx capital, Douglas, to arrest him over the child sex allegations. O'Neill was held in Douglas overnight before being taken back to Scotland to answer the charges. Jonathan Wild, president of the Isle of Man Law Society, said yesterday: "All the members of the Bar are still reeling from the events that have taken place over the last week.

    "Paul O'Neill was very well-liked, very popular and very hard-working. "It's very sad. Our thoughts go out to his family at this very difficult time." Police confirmed: "There are no suspicious circumstances. A report is going to the procurator fiscal."

    isleofman An Isle of Man advocate has been found dead in Scotland.

    Paul O'Neill's body was discovered on Friday.

    Strathclyde Police confirm the body of a forty-five year old man was found under Erskine Bridge near Glasgow. Mr O'Neill who was originally from Scotland appeared in court in Hamilton last week accused of indecency offfences. The allegations against him dated back a number of years.

    His death is not being treated as suspicious and police are preparing a report for the Procurator Fiscal. Mr O'Neill has been described as popular and well-liked and news of his death has shocked fellow members of the Manx Bar.

    isleofman Lawyer accused of sex offences
    An Isle of Man advocate has been charged in connection with sexual offences, allegedly committed in Scotland around 20 years ago. Forty-five-year-old Paul O’Neill was arrested on warrant in the Island on Monday and taken to Scotland by officers from Strathclyde Police.
    He appeared at Hamilton Sheriff Court on Wednesday charged with two counts of lewd, indecent and libidinous practices, alleged to have occurred between 1987 and 1991. He was released on bail and will next appear in court on a date to be fixed.
  • Isle of Man lawyer Paul O'Neill found dead in Scotland
    peterfitzpatrick A SHAMED lawyer who hid a video camera in a female toilet has been suspended from practising for five years. Peter Fitzpatrick, 51, quit as a partner at Muirhead Buchanan in Stirling after his sick antics were exposed. The Scottish Solicitors' Discipline Tribunal found him guilty of professional misconduct yesterday.

    It said the incident was "disgraceful, dishonourable and wholly unbecoming of a solicitor". The tribunal said he "failed to maintain a standard of conduct expected of a member of an honourable profession". A 24-year-old secretary had found a video camera in the firm's toilets - hidden inside a box with a hole in the side. Fitzpatrick, of Burnside, Glasgow, had admitted his March 2007 crime at Stirling Sheriff Court earlier this year. He got three years' probation and was put on the sex offenders' register.

    Upon her exposure as the employer of an illegal immigrant cleaner, Baroness Scotland claimed to have seen documents - including a passport - showing Loloahi Tapui had a legal right to work in the UK. A hasty Home Office inquiry meekly accepted the Attorney General's explanation and found her guilty of only a 'technical' breach of immigration laws, thus saving the peer from the sack.

    (How convenient that this sharp legal mind should have forgotten to copy Miss Tapui's paperwork, thereby ensuring her story could not easily be challenged.) Now, however, we have the cleaner's version of events. The Tongan - who was paid only £6 an hour, and put to work after a cursory ten-minute interview - says Baroness Scotland never asked to see her passport before giving her a job.

    They cannot both be right. It is an old truth of politics that it is not the misdemeanour which precipitates a minister's demise, but the attempted cover-up which follows. With conflicting accounts now in the public domain, Mr Brown must order the reopening of the inquiry into this unedifying saga to find out who is telling the truth. If it is not the Attorney General, her position will be untenable.

    michael hynes Howes Percival solicitor denies grooming and raping child

    A high-flying Norfolk solicitor, who lived a secret life of drug taking, hid a “dark side” of sexual abuse against a girl and also carried out a series of violent attacks on a woman over a period of three years, a court heard yesterday. While overseeing contracts worth millions of pounds for well-known law firms, Norwich-based solicitor Michael Hynes, 46, pictured, developed a cocaine habit which cost £10,000 over one 12-month period alone. During this time, he allegedly groomed and raped the girl, often forcing her to take class A drugs. He is also accused of three separate attacks in which he beat a woman.

    The court heard her ordeal only came to light when she was admitted to the Priory clinic suffering from depression. Giving evidence over a video link, she told a jury she never consented to the abuse but was reluctant to come forward because he told her it was she who would “look like the bad person”. Prosecutor Graham Parkins told Norwich Crown Court: “He was undeniably a hard-working solicitor but he had a dark side which he kept hidden for a long time.”

    Hynes, of Upper Street, Salhouse, worked in commercial property law for internationally renowned London-based firm Simmons and Simmons before moving to Norfolk with Mills and Reeve and most recently with Howes Percival. He was widely respected, having gained a first class law degree followed by a first class postgraduate degree from Cambridge. His clients included businesses with annual revenues close to £2bn. Hynes denies three counts of raping the girl, three counts of sexual assault and five counts of sexual activity with a child. He also pleaded not guilty to three counts of actual bodily harm against a woman. Mr Parkins said Hynes' respectable façade masked the reality of a man who began taking drugs, including ecstasy and cannabis, in 1996. During 2006 he paid £10,000 to a taxi driver who supplied him with cocaine.

    “Whether or not his behaviour had any connection to drugs we cannot say, but it's certainly a factor of his life during the period we are concerned with,” Mr Parkins added. His abuse began with touching but became more serious as the girl grew older. As well as forcing the victim to engage in sex against her will, Hynes forced her to take drugs. He would show her pornography, including images of children and extreme acts. On one occasion the girl, who cannot be named for legal reasons, was left gasping for air after he strangled her in a re-creation of a sex act. “I was terrified, very scared and shaken,” she said. “He was staring at me and he did not talk while he was doing it. I was kicking and struggling to breathe.” She also recalled how she would “cry and say no” whenever he abused her.

    She told the court he would belittle her: “He would tell me I should take drugs to improve my personality. He told me I wasn't very clever or attractive and I was boring. He would tell me I was a horrible person.” Mr Parkins said: “He is a highly intelligent man. But he was also a very controlling man. Over a period of years he groomed and sexually abused the girl and subjected her to other humiliating acts which will remain unknown to anybody but them.”

    The jury was presented with pictures of injuries suffered by the woman Hynes is alleged to have assaulted. He claims the woman faked the injuries using make-up. The case is expected to last up to two weeks.

    michael mansfield QUOTE
    Question: Aren't lawyers part of the problem too? They could reform the legal system but they also profit from it.

    Answer: Yes its got to change. In the House of Commons the single biggest pressure group is made up of lawyers and they're interested in maintaining power, rather than anything else. And the ones that are practising are interested in preserving the status quo, because that's what provides their living. The mood for change has to come from the public saying " We've had enough".

    thug POLICE are investigating an alleged extortion gang in connection with a series of baseball bat attacks on the homes of Lothian businessmen.

    A property developer and his family are among those to have been targeted by thugs to terrorise them into giving up claims on money or property. The gang is believed to include "white collar" professionals, including at least one lawyer, who provide a respectable front for their criminal activities. The three attacks took place at homes in Blackhall, Livingston and the south of the city, stretching back more than three years.

    The ringleaders are said to have links with the shamed Royal Bank of Scotland boss Donald Mackenzie, who was jailed for ten years for fraud and embezzlement in 2006, which was reduced to six years and eight months on appeal. At least one gang member was also questioned in connection with the brutal knife attack on former Law Society of Scotland accountant Leslie Cumming in the same year. A source close to the investigation said: "These guys are outwardly respectable and people dealing with them day to day would be shocked to know what has been going on.

    "They seem to have got used to the idea that they can operate outside the law, but detectives are building a case against them." The first attack was carried out in the Murieston area of Livingston in October 2005, when three men wielding baseball bats attacked a businessman in his own home, breaking his arm and causing other injuries. It was followed by an attack on two city businessmen's homes.

    One man has been jailed for one of the attacks but never revealed who had paid him to carry it out. One of the gang is believed to be one of 250 crooked lawyers, accountants and other "specialists" who give criminals professional help, identified by a "police "mapping" operation led by the Scottish Crime and Drug Enforcement Agency (SCDEA).

    The Scottish Government said the country's law enforcement agencies were determined to trace Scotland's organised crime gangs. "Organised criminals are driven by their own greed and their desire for power and influence. However, they cannot and will not be allowed to spread their criminal networks," said a Scottish Government spokesman. "This government is determined to take them on and take them down." An official police spokesman declined to comment.

    colin challenger A top barrister was dragged out of the High Court in handcuffs today after being arrested on suspicion of common assault. Colin Challenger suffered the indignity of being shoved into a police van and taken away for questioning after an altercation with a member of public.

    The drama - witnessed by astonished on-lookers - unfolded after a bankruptcy hearing involving one of Mr Challenger's clients at the Royal Courts of Justice in central London. Protestors, who believe Mr Challenger’s client - lawyer Jami Tehrani - has wronged them in the past, became upset after the case against him was adjourned until September.

    Tehrani is a close friend and former partner of disgraced race row lawyer Shahrokh Mireskandari, who has been suspended from practising as a solicitor and his firm Dean and Dean closed down by the Law Society over allegations of dishonesty and malpractice.

  • Barrister arrested for alleged assault at High Court