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Davenport Lyons solicitors fined £20,000

The Solicitors Regulation Authority has welcomed a decision by the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal (SDT) to fine two solicitors £20,000 apiece and suspend them from practising for three months, for sending intimidating letters to individuals they accused of illegal filesharing.

David Gore, a current partner at London law firm Davenport Lyons and Brian Miller, a former partner at the same firm, appeared before the Solicitors' Disciplinary Tribunal (SDT) between 31 May and 8 June 2011, where they faced six allegations of breaching the Solicitors' Code of Conduct 2007. All six allegations were proven. The matter was adjourned to a hearing before the tribunal for sanction and costs on Monday 1 August 2011.

The breaches related to conduct between 2006 and 2009, when, acting on behalf of various clients, over 6,000 letters were sent to individuals claimed to have been involved in unlawful file sharing in breach of the Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1998.

The letters demanded compensation and costs and warned that recipients faced further action and increased costs if the matter was not settled as a matter of urgency.

An investigation by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) found that the concerns of those who had received letters and protested their innocence were disregarded. The SDT found, in effect, that Mr Miller and Mr Gore became too concerned about making the scheme profitable for themselves and their firm. Their judgment became distorted and they pursued the scheme regardless of the impact on the people receiving the letters and even of their own clients.

In addition to the £20,000 fine, Mr Miller and Mr Gore were ordered to pay interim costs to the SRA of £150,000. Full costs are subject to a detailed assessment.

An SRA spokesperson said: "We welcome the decision of the SDT, which follows a lengthy and complex investigation by members of SRA staff.

"Some of those affected were vulnerable members of the public. There was significant distress. We are pleased that this matter has been brought to a conclusion and hope that it serves as a warning to others.

"Solicitors have a duty to act with integrity, independence and in the best interests of their clients. Solicitors who breach those duties can expect to face action by the SRA."

The order has been suspended for 21 days to allow time for an appeal.  

 

Note to editors

The allegations against Miller and Gore are listed below. For further information, please contact Phill Griffin email phillip.griffin@sra.org.uk

Allegation 1 In breach of Rule 1.03 of the Solicitors Code of Conduct 2007 ("the Code") allowed their independence to be compromised.

Allegation 2 In breach of Rule 1.04 of the Code the Respondents did not act in the best interests of their clients.

Allegation 3 In breach of Rule 1.06 the Respondents acted in a way that was likely to diminish the trust the public place in them or in the legal profession.

Allegation 4 In breach of Rule 2.04(1) of the Code the Respondents entered into arrangements to receive contingency fees for work done in prosecuting or defending contentious proceedings before the Courts of England and Wales except as permitted by statute or the common law.

Allegation 5 In breach of Rule 3.01 of the Code the Respondents acted where there was a conflict of interest in circumstances not permitted under the Rules, in particular because there was a conflict or significant risk that the Respondents and/or their Firm’s interests were in conflict with those of their clients.

Allegation 6 In breach of Rule 10.01 of the Code the Respondents used their position as solicitors to take or attempt to take unfair advantage of other persons, being recipients of letters of claim either for their own benefit or for the benefit of their clients.  

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