The Morning Star reports that
SOLICITORS James Beresford and Douglas Smith were found guilty of misconduct on Thursday by the solicitors’ disciplinary tribunal in London over compensation payouts for sick miners.
The pair made millions from personal injury claims for miners under the government’s coal health compensation scheme.
The tribunal found eight out of 11 allegations against them proven. Chairman David Leverton said that Mr Beresford’s “attitude allowed himself and Mr Smith to put commercial goals before his clients’ best interests.”
The pair had also been accused of not giving adequate advice and entering into contingency fee deals against their clients’ best interests.
Which is putting it mildly!
The Times goes into greater detail:
Mr Beresford, 58, has banked more than £30 million from his firm’s work on the claims and was named last year as Britain’s highest-earning solicitor. Between 2004 and 2006, he grew richer at a rate of £37,000 per day.
The money bought him a £1.8 million private jet, Aston Martins, a Ferrari and extensive improvements to his home near Wetherby, West Yorkshire.
He and Mr Smith, 51, agreed to a “dubious” secret deal in 2002 under which they paid hundreds of thousands of pounds to a company owned by an employee of the Union of Democratic Mineworkers (UDM). The two men were found guilty of nine charges of misconduct involving numerous breaches of the Solicitors’ Practice Rules. The Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal ruled that they entered into a sham arrangement with the UDM, failed to act in the best interests of their clients, failed to give adequate advice and improperly released confidential information.
In thousands of cases they sliced money from damages to claimants. Some deductions were kept as a success fee; others went to the UDM.
Beresfords’ financial relationship with the union was revealed by The Times in 2005 and is linked to a criminal inquiry that the Serious Fraud Office has been pursuing for the past three years.
The role of strike-breaking scab union the UDM is very interesting. Better known of late for its leadership’s fleecing of members, with the two most senior leaders earning six-figure sums, it was formed during the Great Miners Strike and its leaders appeared at the Tory party conference to the applause of those set on destroying the UK’s collieries.