Doing jury service has made me realise how cynical lawyers have reduced court to an expensive, shambolic farce

Have you ever been well and truly hoist by your own petard? I certainly have, because when I was Home Secretary I tightened the rules to prevent people like me being able to avoid jury service. It seemed a good idea at the time, as juries were increasingly made up of people who were either retired or unemployed, and we needed to ensure that they represented a wider spread of our society. So when I was recently summoned for jury service in my home city of Sheffield, I had no choice but to accept. In any case, I was happy to serve because I’m always preaching about active citizenship and the need for people to be involved in what David Cameron calls the Big Society.

However, I have to say that when I presented myself at Crown Court, the experience exceeded my worst fears. As a man who was once in charge of this failing system, I found myself asking if I could have done things differently. I wonder, too, whether Justice Secretary Kenneth Clarke (whose responsibilities I, as home secretary, once had) might just be thinking similarly today after sparking an outcry for trying to defend controversial government proposals to halve the sentences of some rapists if they made early guilty pleas. As I discovered, squaring the circle of transparent and honest sentencing with Treasury pressures to cut costs is always a nightmare.

My sympathies would be with Mr Clarke if only the ‘fine mess’ he’s got himself into hadn’t been so utterly predictable. But perhaps the swashbuckling, Hush-Puppy-wearing Justice Secretary could look at other ways of cost-cutting. Rather than reducing sentences for horrendous crimes, he could order a wholesale review of how the court system works. For my own jury experience left me staggered by the sheer waste of time and public money resulting from the chaos in our courts. Jurors had to sit around for days on end as trial after trial was cancelled because defendants or witnesses failed to turn up, or because barristers had double-booked, or members of the legal profession connived to stymie the judicial process.

None of this is the fault of juries — even though one of Britain’s most senior judges, Lord Justice Moses — has said that this broken system could be fixed by curbing the power of juries. Such a view is profoundly wrong. Rather than restricting the independence of jurors, we should restrain the power of the legal profession. Indeed, the last thing we should do is to give lawyers a greater licence to waste public money. And my, how they waste taxpayers’ money — as my fortnight’s jury service showed only too clearly.

When I arrived at Sheffield Crown Court on that first Monday, it appeared that we would be in for a busy week. Nine courts were available and seven new trials were listed. Forty-six jurors had been ‘inducted’ to cover all these trials and by 10.30 am we were ready to go. But as the day wore on, it became clear we were going nowhere. Only one of the seven trials got under way; the others either collapsed or were postponed. Of course, there are many unpredictable factors that can cause problems. Prisoners may, for example, be delivered late for court hearings, or the police or Crown Prosecution Service officials fail to get the case ready in time.

But the biggest problem is the way that defence barristers and solicitors manipulate the system. Often, a defendant’s counsel will cynically instruct the accused to change his plea at the last minute to guilty — knowing that this will result in a so-called ‘cracked’ or collapsed trial. This means the police and prosecution witnesses, as well as potential jurors, will all have wasted their day; not to mention the judiciary, whose time has been spent reading up on the cases.

Another common reason for proceedings being delayed — and therefore the court’s time wasted — is when lawyers deliberately present evidence late, or when new evidence is suddenly produced. This often results in the case being adjourned, adding yet more to the costs. After Day One was a washout, I wasn’t surprised that when I arrived in court the following morning, two of the five trials listed had already fallen. Lunchtime came and went, and those of us jurors who were still waiting for a case were invited to meet one of the resident judges, who thanked us for our patience and explained that, regretfully, none of the trials listed to start that day would be going ahead. Ah well, I thought, two days down: we’ll see what tomorrow brings.

Wednesday followed much the same pattern. When, again, none of the trials listed got off the ground, I was beginning to think this was an utter waste of everyone’s time. While I repaired to a side room to get on with some constituency work, other jurors read, played cards or watched daytime TV. Surely, Day Four would see some activity? At last, I was called for a case. Now I would get a better idea from the inside how the judicial system worked in practice. Initially, I was concerned that my blindness might be a problem when it came to seeing the evidence, but the only difficulty I had — one experienced by fellow jurors, too — was how hard it was to hear the evidence given by the witnesses and the accused. With no microphones available, they were constantly asked to speak up.

What struck me, too, was that those giving evidence needed proper guidance about the way the court system worked, and what was expected of them, and it left me wondering whether perhaps trained volunteers could help with this. As for the presence of a former Home Secretary on the jury, the defendant in the case seemed rather disconcerted, while my fellow jurors overcame their initial surprise and were very helpful. When we eventually retired to the jury room to consider our verdict, we had a long and sensible discussion about the case, and the very able young woman who had been chosen as foreman asked each one of us for our verdicts. I agreed with everyone else.

After all the delays and problems of the first three days, at least I felt my experience of the jury’s deliberations was an admirable example of how the system can work. For obvious reasons which involve the laws of contempt, I can’t give details of the case I was involved in, suffice it to say that it should never have reached Crown Court. It was a trial that could easily have been dealt with — at much less cost — in the Magistrates’ Courts. After all, it is supposed to be only the most serious cases, requiring barristers as well as a jury, which should reach the Crown Court.

So as well as feeling frustrated about the waste of time and money (incurring expensive barristers’ fees, as well as many other costs, including jurors’ expenses), I also started thinking more profoundly than before about the role of the jury. Above all, it confirmed my view that the system has got to be changed so that it is harder for people to opt for a jury trial. It is well-known that defendants seeking to persuade the court of their innocence prefer jury trials, because they believe juries are more sympathetic than a magistrate, who sees hardened criminals in the dock every day. Having learned much from my first case, I hoped I would also learn more from my second week as a juror. But the following Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday passed and I never saw another defendant or judge in court.

On that second Thursday, having been on jury duty for nine days and having served on only one case, Citizen Blunkett was discharged. Despite a total of 36 trials listed over the two weeks, only five had gone ahead — and thousands of pounds had been wasted on many lawyers, police and officials whose expertise was not called upon. As a former Home Secretary, once in charge of this failing system, I am left to wonder if I should have pressed harder to get things changed. Having now had the experience of two weeks as a juror, I realise I didn’t know the half of it.


    GRIEVING families are being cheated out of their inheritances by criminals exploiting Britain’s lax wills regulations.

    Probate fraud now cost thousands of victims at least £200million a year. The Society of Estate and Trust ­Practitioners (Step) last night called for tighter regulation of will writers and estate administrators to stop the soaring number of ­victims, often elderly, being ripped off. By law in England and Wales beneficiaries are not given access to estate accounts and rely on the honesty of the executor.

    A poll by Step found that 75 per cent of its members encountered “cowboy” will writers in the last year. These include people’s identities being stolen allowing wills and property deeds to be changed. Also 66 per cent questioned found hidden costs in the stated prices for wills and 63 per cent dealt with firms which folded and disappeared with the inheritances. A sharp rise in the number of carers, or nieces and nephews, acting as lay executors to save up to £9,000 by not appointing a professional, has sparked more fraud. Experts warn against using cut-price unregulated online will services.

    Rogue lawyers have also been caught. Legal executive Jacqueline D’Hazzard, 44, from Hove, East Sussex, was jailed last month for defrauding four elderly clients out of £100,000. She transferred money out of their accounts into her own before giving details of their estates to families. Solicitor Peter Jeffreys, a partner of Wilsons in Salisbury, Wiltshire, and expert on probate, said: “There is an amazing diversity of ways in which a determined fraudster can milk the system.”


    Lawyer caught with almost 6,000 child porn pictures 'fantasised on MSN chat about underage sex'

    A former council boss caught with almost 6,000 child pornography images fantasised with adults on internet chatrooms about having sex with children, a court has heard. Lawyer Andrew Laycock, the former Head of Legal Services at Hertfordshire County Council, chatted with other paedophiles on MSN messenger. But yesterday the 59-year-old escaped jail after a judge heard that he had been attending courses to help him overcome his long-term perversion.

    Prosecutor Peter Shaw told St Albans Crown Court that police armed with a search warrant raided the home Laycock shared with his wife and two step sons in Hertford at 6.45 in the morning on June 22 last year. Laycock, who had answered the door, said he was responsible for the images. His Apple Mac computer was analysed and found to contain images, mostly of young girls aged between ten and 14. Some 4,634 were at Level 1, 121 at Level 2, 516 at Level 3, 370 at Level 4 and 79 at Level 5 - the most serious level. All were images and none were movies. In all there were 5,720 images. In a police interview Laycock confessed that his dark secret had gone on since he was a teenager.

    'He said he had interacted with other adults on MSN messenger and had talked to other adults about having sex with children. He admitted the fantasies involved children as young as seven or eight, ' said Mr Shaw. Laycock had pleaded guilty at an earlier hearing to 17 counts of making indecent images of children and one count of possessing more than 5,700 indecent images during June last year. He was supported by his wife in the public gallery at the court.

    Dee Connolly, defending, said Laycock had taken up the police advice at the time of his interview and attended courses at the Lucy Faithful Foundation that aims to rid people of their addiction to child sex abuse images. She said: 'He was extremely full and frank in his admissions and took the offer to get help. He is deeply ashamed of his behaviour.' Judge Andrew Bright QC told him: 'You built your reputation up as a lawyer and have rightly lost it as a result of what you were secretly doing.'

    The judge gave him credit for his guilty plea and passed a 26 week jail sentence suspended for two years with two years' supervision and a condition that he attends an Internet Sex Offenders' Treatment Programme. He must register as a sex offender for 7 years.

    After the hearing CPS prosecutor, Robbie Weber, said: 'Mr Laycock, who is now retired, had previously held the role of Head of Legal Services at Hertfordshire County Council, until October 2009. 'His crimes started when he worked for the council, however, there is no evidence to suggest that any of the offences were committed whilst he was at work.' Mr Webber said that the defendant's home computer was seized as part of the investigation and thoroughly analysed, using the latest computer technology.


    Broken Britain: Taxpayers fork out £645,000,000 on legal aid for warring families each year

    Warring families are costing the taxpayer millions of pounds in legal aid every year. Lawyers are making an average of £645 million pounds annually from divorcing couples, parents fighting custody battles or people restraining violent partners (or so crooked lawyers and their gold digging clients allege like Heather Mills ).

    The money is also being used to fight civil cases between family members and siblings who are contesting a will. The shocking figure works out to £28 for every household in England and Wales. In November last year the Government drew up plans to overhaul the legal aid system and has said there will be restrictions on the type of family cases that would receive support.

    Couples will also have to take part in mediation before for they qualify for legal aid. Jonathan Djanogly, the justice minister, told The Sunday Telegraph: 'The current systems encourage lengthy, acrimonious and sometimes unnecessary court proceedings, at taxpayers' expense, which do not always ensure the best result for those involved. 'Our proposals aim to radically reform the system and encourage people to take advantage of the most appropriate sources of help, advice or routes to resolution - which will not always involve the expense of lawyers or courts.'

    The move has huge opposition from lawyers who rely on millions of pounds in legal aid each year. Figures, released under a Freedom on Information Act, show that £645 million of legal aid was spent on family law with £940 million going towards civil cases and advice. Increasing breakdowns between parents who are fighting bitter custody battles over their children is costing the taxpayer £468 million.

    Taxpayers are also forking out £350,000 for children to have their names changed through a lawyer after a split between parents and £25 million for divorce cases. Overall £2.1 billion is paid to lawyers from legal aid, £1.2 billion of that is used to defend criminals. The remainder of the money is used for civil cases which includes family law, aid for immigrants trying to stay in the country and people suing the police and the NHS. The huge figures reveal the extent of 'broken Britain' and how too many lawyers are profiting from taxpayers.



    Ex-EastEnders star Billy Murray charged with beating wife and daughter 'after late-night row'

    Former EastEnders actor Billy Murray has been charged with beating his wife and daughter following an alleged alcohol-fuelled late-night row. Murray was arrested after a 999 call to the £700,000 penthouse flat of his second wife Elaine. The actor, 69, who played EastEnders villain Johnny Allen and who now fronts Injury Lawyers 4U TV adverts, had been out drinking with Elaine, 61, before a row erupted.

    It was reported that the couple's singer daughter Lizzie, 27, stepped in to break up the fight but was allegedly hit. The couple's other daughter, ex-Hustle star Jaime Murray, 34, was not involved in the incident in Chigwell, Essex. Murray, who also played Det Sgt Don Beech in The Bill, was taken away by police and has since been charged with two counts of common assault by beating.

    When approached at her home, the Sun reported that Elaine confirmed the incident and said she did not know Murray had been charged, but refused to comment further. A spokesman for Murray was unavailable for comment. Police said: 'We can confirm a 69-year-old man from London was arrested in Chigwell in the early hours of April 7. 'He has been charged with two counts of common assault. He will appear at Chelmsford Magistrates Court on May 6.' Speaking in 2004 of his marriage to hypnotherapist Elaine, Murray said: 'We've had our rough patches, that's well-known. 'I think she'd like to get me on the couch sometimes and zap me into the 21st century.

    rogue inc

    THREE rogue lawyers are linked to a firm behind a shady get-rich-quick scheme, a Record investigation has revealed.

    Cost Reduction Services - run by an ex-bankrupt who was accused of fraud use fake photos of "satisfied customers " and promises of £4600-a-month earnings to lure debt-hit Scots. But former staff members say the venture is a classic Ponzi scheme - in which new investors' cash is paid out to older ones with no real income being generated. The outfit is headed by self-styled finance expert Stewart Kennedy, 46, who walked away with £100,000 of his former clients' cash.

    Banned Twice-bankrupt Kennedy has assembled a list of suspect characters to work for the company, which is based in a part-empty office block by the M8 near Glasgow Airport. They include dodgy lawyers found guilty of professional misconduct by the Scottish Solicitors' Discipline Tribunal (SSDT), and several other former bankrupts. One boss at the firm is dodgy solicitor Catriona McFarlane, 50, who is banned from practising law unsupervised.

    Crooked lawyer Andrew Miller, 49, who was struck off and branded dishonest by the SSDT, was taken on as a salesman for the business. And John O'Donnell, 60, a third solicitor rapped by SSDT - is being styled by Kennedy as the firm's "court lawyer", sources say. Kennedy's business targets debt-ridden homeowners and small businesses, by cold-calling them and offering to reduce their monthly outgoings.

    Their "solution" involves remortgaging clients' homes or properties to free up cash for clearing other debts such as loans and credit card balances. Customers are charged £3500 in fees then offered the chance of buying £15,000 "franchises" in the business - which CRS say will involve no work but bring in £4600 a month. But insiders claim nobody could have received the promised returns.

    Yesterday, an expert in the franchise market said the scheme was "very suspicious" and should be avoided. Cost Reduction Services - full name Cost Reduction Services (2010) Ltd - were registered at Companies House in April 2010, contradicting claims on their website that they have been in business for 10 years. The business has no link to Surrey firm Cost Reduction Services Ltd.


    And suspicions have been raised further by our findings that the firm is using an online slideshow with phoney photos to flog the £15,000 franchises. They are marketing the deal by using glowing testimonials from people they claim are happy customers. But the satisfied "franchise holders" who are shown during the 43-minute sales presentation are actually faces from random snaps found on the internet. Our investigators traced one of the individuals - who the firm claim is called Mandy - and found she is actually a Spanish woman from Madrid called Marta Balius.

    A second so-called customer, named as Andrew, is an American model posing as a businessman for promotional shots. The slideshow is voiced by Cost Reduction Services "franchise manager" Graham Scott, 56, from Avonbridge, near Falkirk. Like Kennedy and at least one other member of staff at the firm who claim to be able to help customers with their financial problems, Scott is a former bankrupt. In the presentation, he talks up the company's EasyEarn Franchise and promises punters a return of £4600 a month for no work. When we confronted Scott with the evidence yesterday, he eventually admitted the pictures were fake. He said: "They're just, erm, erm, stock pictures." Scott refused to answer any further questions about the featured customer testimonials.

    He referred all further questions to managing director Kennedy, who was discharged from bankruptcy on April 1 last year, just days before he registered his company. Former mortgage advisor Kennedy , from Quarriers Village, Renfrewshire, appeared in court charged with fraud in 2007 after walking away almost £100,000 of his clients' cash, though prosecutors later dropped the case. Sources with knowledge of how the company works say they cold-call people from the phone book or businesses from the Yellow Pages website.

    Staff who were doing the cold-calling say they were working from £10 pay-as-you-go mobiles after the office phones were disconnected. And several staff have complained they were left unpaid then sacked. One former employee came back to confront Kennedy, and the doors at the office overlooking the M8 near Glasgow Airport are now kept locked. One former staff member said: "The scheme targets homeowners who have at least 30 to 40 per cent equity.

    "The idea is to convince them to remortgage their home to free up some cash, which is used to pay off debts. "If we convince them to remortgage a bit higher and hand over £15,000 for a franchise, then all the better. "The remortgage is done in such a way that your payments do reduce to start with. But when interest rates go up or the fixed term ends, the payments will too."

    Another source said: "The company hasn't got enough work to pay dozens of franchisees thousands of pounds a month. The only way it can pay out money to franchisees is by getting lots more people to buy franchises. Then they use the money from the new franchise owners to pay the first group, and so on. "That's called a Ponzi scheme. It might work for a while, but will eventually fall in on itself. People should be wary given Kennedy's history." Marian Owen, of consumer website Business Opportunity Watch, said: "The franchise looks very suspicious to me because the profits they promise are so high they sound too good to be true. With a standard franchise, you may make good profits but you have to work hard for it."

    She a l so pointed out t hat t he franchise offer sounds more like an investment scheme. Anyone operating an investment scheme must be registered by the FSA. Cost Reduction Services are not. Mrs Owen added: "It seems to me that this is deposit-taking activity, which is in breach of the Financial Services and Markets Act unless you have the appropriate authorisation, such as a banking licence - of which there is no sign."

    Kennedy did not respond to requests for comment. Staff said he was out of the country. Scott said while he was "not privy" to details of the company's earnings, it was his "understanding" from Kennedy that Cost Reduction Services had enough work to pay franchise holders from business earnings.

    TWO of Scotland's top criminal lawyers are being sued for more than £500,000 after allegedly swiping hundreds of Legal Aid case files from their former employers.

    Harvie Diamond, 55, and Richard Freeman, 45, are being taken to court by leading law firm Ross Harper. It is claimed the two men took more than 300 files from the firm, when quitting as partners last October. They have set up separate offices in Glasgow just 20 yards from their former base, but are barred from going into business together. Last night a source said: "These files are worth a lot of money.

    "It could have put a smaller company out of the game.

    "It is lucky Ross Harper are on a good financial footing. Half-a-million pounds worth of work disappearing overnight is a lot of business. "It could have cost people their jobs - not rich lawyers but admin staff. This dispute is the talk of legal circles at the moment."

    It is also alleged that Mr Diamond and Mr Freeman, both of posh Newton Mearns, near Glasgow, owe Ross Harper up to £50,000 in Legal Aid cash.

    An interim interdict has been issued against both men at the Court of Session. They have been ordered not to work together or to deal with any Ross Harper clients.


    This column doesn’t often quote Shakespeare, but a line from one of the Bard’s lesser works has kept coming back to me over the years. In Henry VI (Part 2), Act 4, Dick the Butcher tells his fellow rebels: ‘First thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers.’

    There’s been much debate as to whether this is a back-handed compliment to the legal profession, since the rule of law is seen as a barrier to bloody revolution. Whatever Shakespeare’s intention, the quotation is reported to have been greeted with cheers and laughter by the audience when it was first performed. Lawyers were no more popular then than they are now. In the second decade of the 21st century, the case for putting lawyers to the sword seems compelling.

    I’m not talking about the trusted family solicitor who guides us through estate planning and dabbles in a little light conveyancing; or those poorly rewarded briefs who toil in pursuit of justice in Uxbridge magistrates’ court; nor blessed libel practitioners, who have kept this column out of the dock for more than two decades. The problem is the burgeoning legions of ‘yuman rites’ parasites, judicial activists and tribunal advocates. Some of us can’t help reaching for our scabbards every time we see the smug visage of Michael Mansfield QC or read the latest pronouncement from the absurdly pompous judges of our shiny new Supreme Court.

    There are times when I’d be happy to see the streets running with the blood of those spiv lawyers behind those adverts on daytime TV, which promise the gullible and greedy a fortune in ‘comp-en-say-shun’ for the most trivial injury. The adage ‘accidents will happen’ has been replaced by a modern creed of ‘where there’s blame, there’s a claim’. Just call Blame Direct and it’s trebles all round. No-win, no-fee outfits have created the false impression that there’s no cost involved in spinning the wheel in the compensation casino.

    The truth is that we all pay for these chancers, through extortionate insurance premiums and higher prices for goods and services, levied to meet the crippling cost of litigation. Whatever Ken Clarke’s other failings, his decision to scrap no-win, no-fee arrangements is the best piece of news to come out of the Coalition. But it only scratches the surface of the tyranny of the modern legal system. Laws were originally designed to protect us. Increasingly, they are employed to oppress and exploit the paying public.

    New Labour was a party of lawyers, by lawyers, for lawyers. Incorporating the European Human Rights Act into British law was the most ruinous, pernicious action ever undertaken by any government. In addition, we have been subjected to an avalanche of unnecessary legislation, most of it originating in Brussels, which has restrained our freedom and granted inalienable ‘rights’ to criminals and terrorists. We CAN all name our most infuriating examples, from jailbirds granted the ‘right’ to heroin and pornography in prison, to bloodthirsty foreign preachers of hate given the ‘right’ to live freely on benefits in our country at the expense of those innocent taxpayers they want to kill.

    Britain’s bill for legal aid is the highest in the world. On top of that, small businesses upon which our economic recovery depends are subjected to a tsunami of unwanted, costly rules and regulations. No area of human activity or endeavour is immune from legal interference. So it is not surprising to learn this week that Britain boasts more lawyers than police officers. According to the latest figures from the Law Society, the number of qualified solicitors and barristers stands at 165,000 — in contrast to just 142,363 police. That’s an increase of more than 42 per cent between 2000 and 2010, when Labour’s legislation mill was working full tilt. The number of lawyers hired by local government over that period shot up by an astonishing 70 per cent.

    Unlike police officers, only one in ten of whom is on front-line duty at any given time, the massed regiments of the legal profession seem to be on parade 24/7. When they’re not litigating, some of them are engaged in a never-ending search for more work, drumming up lawsuits where none should exist. It’s not just their ‘get-rich-quick’ come-ons to the victims of minor workplace mishaps. Lawyers and their agents can also be found hanging around hospital accident and emergency departments handing out business cards.

    As well as more than 165,000 qualified lawyers, we also have to contend with a vast standing army of quasi-judicial officials hired to enforce the new laws. Whenever any piece of legislation from Brussels arrives on our shores, it isn’t just rubber-stamped, it is gold-plated with pages of ‘guidelines’ that must be implemented to the letter and rigidly underwritten with the threat of criminal prosecution for non-compliance. Ultimately, the blame lies with the parliamentarians who nod through these laws.

    But there’s also the growing peril of judges who think it is their job to make the law, not just apply it, in a multitude of areas ranging from privacy to illegal immigration. Deliberately perverse interpretation of European law has allowed unelected judges to turn on its head the concept of human rights, and earned a fortune for the Wicked Witch and her mates at Matrix Chambers. When it comes to lawyers, Shakespeare called it right.

    michael karus A FORMER lawyer who stole £400,000 from a pensioner's estate has been released from prison after serving just 12 months of a three-and-a-half-year sentence.

    Michael Karus, 49, has been seen out and about in Edinburgh, though it is understood he has to wear an electronic tag until the summer and must be home before 7pm each night. Karus, of Gloucester Place in the New Town, has boasted of being a "shark" who preyed on vulnerable victims and even named two of his firms GWS (Great White Shark) and Mako - after the shark - in celebration of his predatory style. He was jailed in October 2009 after he admitted embezzling £413,052 while acting as executor of the estate of retired teacher Edith Hampton, 89, formerly of the Victoria Manor Nursing Home in Albert Street, who died in 2003.

    Ms Hampton, who never married and had no children, hired Karus in 1992 to draw up a will leaving her estate to the Cancer Research UK charity. But she changed her will seven years later to leave the money to June Pirie, her cousin's daughter. Following her death, Karus transferred the money into his personal account.

    Among the dispersals from that account were £115,000 to Edinburgh Metropolitan Properties, of which Karus was a director; £82,000 to the Karus & Co pension fund and £60,000 to a judicial factor, clearing off his law firm's debt. Between £2000 and £5000 went to pay off debt on Karus' credit cards.

    Lawyer stole £1.4 million to fund fast cars, private jets and meals at top restaurants

    A solicitor faces jail for stealing £1.4million from his law firm and its clients to fund an extravagant lifestyle of private jets, foreign holidays and fast cars. Senior partner Simon Morgan, 50, and his office manager wife Ann Young-Morgan, 55, bled the company dry as they diverted vast sums to live like millionaires.

    The couple, who filled their £2 million home with expensive furniture and electrical equipment, even made up a story about Young-Morgan having a rare form of cancer to explain their frequent shopping trips to New York and London. The firm’s other partners were duped into believing she needed expensive treatment costing up to £50,000 a time and took money out of the business to fund it. Yesterday a jury at Leeds Crown Court convicted Morgan of six counts of theft. His wife faced the same six allegations, but was unfit to stand trial for psychiatric reasons. A jury decided she committed the acts she was accused of.

    Morgan was warned by Judge James Goss QC that he faced jail, but sentencing was adjourned. His wife may be given a hospital order. Young-Morgan’s job was to control the accounts at Leeds-based Milners Solicitors and she did so by using standing orders to transfer around £10,000 a month into her personal account, the jury heard. She submitted false receipts for anything from office stationery to client entertainment to cover her tracks. Their luxury lifestyle included a £20,000 holiday to the Caribbean with their children and a £15,000 skiing holiday to the French Alpine resort of Courchevel, travelling by private jet.




    Judge faces multimillion payout after leaving wife for widow of gunman barrister Mark Saunders

    A High Court judge once described as Britain’s top divorce lawyer has left his wife of 29 years for a barrister whose husband was shot dead by police. It is understood Sir Nicholas Mostyn’s marriage ended after his wife discovered he was having an affair with 40-year-old Elizabeth Saunders, whose husband Mark died in a hail of bullets at their £2.2 million Chelsea home. It followed a five-hour siege in which he drunkenly brandished a shotgun.

    Sir Nicholas, 53, became a judge in April after a career in family law in which he was nicknamed Mr Payout because of the huge sums he won for ex-wives. Friends said Sir Nicholas – who also acted for Sir Paul McCartney in his divorce from Heather Mills – is expected to pay Lady Mostyn ‘several million pounds’ as part of a divorce settlement. The Mail on Sunday has confirmed that he was already in a relationship with Mrs Saunders when the controversial inquest into her alcoholic husband’s death was held in September. They worked together last year when they represented Earl Spencer during his divorce case.

    But there is no suggestion, however, that the affair began before Mr Saunders, also a barrister, died in May 2008. Although a verdict of lawful killing was recorded, police made a catalogue of blunders and jurors were denied the opportunity to voice ‘misgivings’ about the officers’ handling of it. Oxford-educated Mrs Saunders, who is rated as one of the leading juniors in matrimonial finance and who uses the surname Clarke professionally, wept silently at the end of the hearing and later issued a statement describing 32-year-old Mr Saunders as ‘a loving and much-loved husband’.

    Friends of Lady Mostyn, meanwhile, said she has been left devastated by the split and has instructed divorce lawyer Frances Hughes. Sources said her husband, who earned up to £500 an hour as a barrister, has moved out of the family home in Hertfordshire. A friend said: ‘She wants him back. She does not want a divorce.

    ‘She thinks it’s a terrible idea, not just for the sake of their children but for her sake. 'She is aghast at the whole concept. She loves him. She thinks he is probably still in love with her. They’ve been married for nearly 30 years and known each other for 33. She just does not want this.’ The couple have four children, aged between 12 and 23. Another friend of Lady Mostyn added: ‘She’s distressed and doesn’t want to talk to anybody. She’s separated from her husband after a long marriage. Her children are back with her for Christmas.’

    LAWYERS in a High Street firm have been fined for flouting rules meant to stop money laundering. But George Morton and Malcolm Thomson escaped with their jobs.

    Legal watchdogs found that Morton, 58, "completely ignored" procedures put in place to stop criminals laundering dirty money. He continued to do so for over a year despite warnings from Law Society of Scotland investigators. They discovered £1.43million of payments made without proper background checks. Some were in cash and some were for unidentified clients in Jersey and the Virgin Islands.

    Thomson, 45, was found guilty of five counts of professional misconduct over breaches in accounting rules. The pair, who worked for Marshall Wilson Law Group in Falkirk, were each fined £7500 by the Scottish Solicitors' Discipline Tribunal after they struck a deal which saw some charges dropped. Thomson was named as the firm's money laundering reporting officer in 2005 - but now admits he is "not a suitable person" for the role.
    david burgess A top human rights lawyer killed under a Tube train was leading a secret life as a transsexual escort, the Standard can reveal.

    David Burgess, 63, died when he was allegedly pushed in front of the train at King's Cross station on Monday evening. The father-of-three, who had more than 40 years' experience as an immigration solicitor, was hugely respected within the profession, working on ground-breaking legal cases helping asylum seekers and torture victims. He was known as David by clients and colleagues at Luqmani Thompson and Partners, who described him as a “trailblazer”.

    Among his pioneering work, Mr Burgess secured a legal victory which has meant asylum seekers cannot be deported if they are in danger of being tortured. But for at least the past four years Mr Burgess had been dressing in women's clothing and also using the name Sonia. The Canadian-born lawyer's ex-wife and adult children, who were today “too upset” to talk about his death, were aware of his identity. Yesterday they paid tribute to Sonia as a “loving and wonderful person” who would be “missed deeply”.

    Mr Burgess had been married to Youdon Lhamo, a former client who was a Tibetan asylum seeker. The couple had a son and two daughters, but are believed to have divorced in 2006. Ms Lhamo lives in Scotland. Today more details emerged shedding light on the lawyer's complex personal life. He set up profiles on two transgender websites as Sonia. On one he advertised his services as a “pre-op” transsexual escort looking for paid encounters with men. On the website Birchplace, which bills itself as a “lifestyle fetish community”, Mr Burgess posted several photographs of himself as Sonia and described himself as having a “party doll” personality.

    Under the heading things I like, he wrote: “Fashion, makeup, shopping, romance, Look magazine, romantic films and most guys but let's not forget girls a guy is for 40mns [though maybe the next one will fall in love with me...] but a wardrobe is for a season.” On another transgender website, Mr Burgess wrote he was seeking “mature admirers” and was looking for casual and serious relationships. News of his death has led to several tributes from fellow members. Suzanne Clare, a “crossdresser from London”, posted: “I feel devastated by the meaningless destruction of a loving and gifted person. I am proud to have been one of her friends — her passing will always leave a void in my life.”

    Nina Kanagasingham, 34, appeared before City of Westminster magistrates' court yesterday charged with murder. She is alleged to have pushed the lawyer under the Tube train. Police are investigating how the pair knew each other. Mr Burgess is reported to have lived with a 33-year-old Oriental man at his Soho flat.


    A case of racism or the authorities simply doing their job?

    The country's first black Rastafarian solicitor has said his career and reputation have been destroyed after he found himself in the dock facing a possible jail sentence. Jeffrey Atkinson is a well respected Birmingham lawyer and a jury last month found him not guilty of charges of conspiracy to obtain passports by deception. He alleges a white solicitor may not have been charged in the same circumstances.

    The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) said its decision to prosecute him had nothing to do with Mr Atkinson's ethnicity, religion or profession. In Birmingham's Handsworth and Lozell districts Jeffrey Atkinson is well known. The solicitor has built a reputation for defending people caught up in the city's gun and gang territories. He grew up on these streets and his Rastafarian dreadlocks have become familiar in the city's courts.

    "Whilst we respect the decision of the Jury, we are satisfied that the prosecution was properly brought” said Crown Prosecution Service

    He claims in the past that officials found his appearance hard to accept: "I think the most important point was the destruction of the racial stereotypes," he said. "The reaction I got from the courts was amazing. I would go into court and I would have various officials in the court telling me that I was standing in the wrong place... and I should have been where the defendants were and these were court officials." Last month, he was found not guilty after being charged with conspiracy to obtain passports by deception.

    He was alleged to have signed a number of applications for people who were using false identities. Now he is taking his own action against the police and the CPS.

    His lawyer, Errol Robinson, said: "It is difficult to imagine that a white solicitor faced with the sort of allegations that were here would have been prosecuted against the very poor evidence that was presented by the Crown Prosecution Service." The CPS strongly refutes Mr Atkinson's allegations of bias saying: "The decision to prosecute Mr Atkinson was not motivated by his ethnicity, religion or profession, but was based entirely upon an objective assessment of the evidence available. "Whilst we respect the decision of the jury, we are satisfied that the prosecution was properly brought," a spokesman said.

    A character witness for him at the trial was the chairman of the West Midlands Police authority, Derek Webley. The prosecution asked for that information to be kept from the jury but the judge refused that application and Mr Webley gave evidence.

    Community leader

    In a statement, West Midlands Police said: "This was done by the prosecution barrister in a hearing in court with defence representatives present. "The prosecution argued that to disclose Mr Webley's role to the jury would disproportionately weight his character witness evidence and that his character evidence related to his role as a community leader and not specifically to his role on the police authority." The force reiterated that Mr Atkinson was found not guilty and they fully accept the findings of the jury.

    Mr Atkinson was first arrested following a police investigation called Operation Vestige which alleged that a network of people were involved in fraudulent passport applications and sham marriages. So far 32 people have been convicted in the courts.


    david burgess A MAN who died after allegedly being pushed in front of a Tube train was formally named today as a leading immigration lawyer who held two identities — one as a man and one as a woman.

    Police said that 63-year-old David Burgess was also known as Sonia, an identity well-known to his friends and family. He was revealed as a senior partner with 40 years' experience who has brought cases against the Ministry of Defence over unlawful detention. He was responsible for an important constitutional case in English law when he challenged a judge to stop his client being unlawfully removed to Zaire.

    The solicitor, who lived as a transgender man, has also brought human rights cases against North Korea. He died after falling in front of a train as it drew into King's Cross underground station just after 6.30pm on Monday. Nina Kanagasingham, 34, of Cricklewood, appeared at City of Westminster magistrates' court today charged with his murder.

    Mr Burgess's identity was revealed after the court refused pleas by police and prosecution to keep it a secret. Police also issued a statement on behalf of the lawyer's family. The solicitor's legal name remained David Burgess and he worked as a man for a Wood Green partnership. However, he also maintained a separate identity as Sonia Burgess and his family made clear they wished for her to be referred to as Sonia. The solicitor left behind two daughters and a son, all adults.

    The family statement read: “Sonia (David) was a loving and wonderful person and will be missed deeply. We would appreciate being given space to come to terms with our loss.” The firm of Luqmani Thompson and Partners said in a statement: “We are immensely saddened by the death of an enormously talented practitioner, an inspiration to a generation of lawyers practising in this field and a great friend.” It added that “he was a pioneer in setting legal tests and trends in genuinely trailblazing cases”.

  • First pictures of transgender human rights lawyer called Sonia who died after being 'pushed' under Tube train

    Scotland’s most senior judge has criticised lawyers for allowing a “straightforward” case to turn into “protracted” proceedings, with 52 days of evidence earning lawyers £1 million in fees. Lord President Lord Hamilton, sitting with Lord Carloway and Lord Hardie, spoke out in an appeal judgment following a case at Stirling Sheriff Court involving a father’s wish for access to his 10-year-old son. Sheriff Wyllie Robertson had denied the request for contact and the father appealed to the Court of Session. In their opinion upholding the sheriff’s decision, the judges said the boy’s mother had given evidence lasting 17 days, while her former partner had been questioned and cross-examined for seven days.

    Lord Hamilton said the judges had been told the length of time was not uncommon in family law cases and he described it as a “highly unsatisfactory state of affairs”, adding that the proceedings, not including judicial costs, had cost about £1m – most of which would be paid for by the public purse through legal aid. He said: “Cases of this kind are often difficult but their objective must be, in the interests of the child or children, an expeditious disposal. The primary responsibility for achieving such a disposal lies with the parties’ professional advisers, solicitors and counsel.” Bill Aitken, (legal mafia goon) Tory MSP for Glasgow and convener of the justice committee, said: “This is absolutely farcical and it is ludicrous that the intransigence of two individuals should have cost the legal aid budget this amount of money.

    “It is essential in family matters in the interests of the children that these cases are settled as speedily and informally as possible. In this case it clearly has not happened and the Lord President’s concerns are fully justified.” Lord Hamilton said sheriffs and judges were not best placed to control the scope of proceedings, adding that the development of practice notes giving guidance on cases involving the welfare of children may help to regulate procedure. He continued: “If, as is suggested, the present case is not atypical, it may be that the liberty which professional advisers have hitherto enjoyed in this field should be curtailed.”

    Jamie Millar, president of the Law Society of Scotland, said the body would consider the judgment carefully and added that it was “surprised” the judge had said members of the judiciary were not best placed to control the scope of proceedings. He added: “A sheriff can guide and direct the solicitors appearing in court and can question anything he or she thinks is irrelevant in order to manage court cases. “We would support steps that improve the efficiency of the courts and benefit those who use them.”

    The boy’s parents separated a few months after he was born in April 2000. The father was granted interim contact with his son in 2003 but relations between him and his former partner broke down within a few months. After 52 days of evidence at Stirling Sheriff Court in 2008 and 2009, Sheriff Robertson ruled that the father should have no contact with his son, named as S in court documents. Lord Hamilton said Sheriff Robertson had made “trenchant” criticisms of both parents. The father was said to be “often sanctimoniously dogmatic and insensitive” while the boy’s mother had lied about her academic qualifications and made misleading statements to the Child Support Agency

    The father’s lawyers argued there had been a “failure to act judicially” in the sheriff’s decision to withdraw access but Lord Hamilton said the allegation was “wholly without merit”. Kenneth Marsh, of Virgil Crawford solicitors, which acted for the boy’s mother, said: “We are pleased with the outcome. As regards the length of time these cases last, it is very difficult to determine the length of time in advance. Sometimes they can drag on. That can be unfortunate but it doesn’t necessarily mean that the length of time is inappropriate.” A spokesman for Jardine Donaldson, which represents the boy’s father, said: “Our client is most distraught that he cannot get the support from the court to have contact with his only child. We are actively considering appealing to the Supreme Court and the European Court of Human Rights.”

    A spokesman for campaign group Families Need Fathers said: “What parents and their children need is a system that is not adversarial, that is quick and seen to be even handed and fair. “We agree with their Lordships that the legal professionals need to remember that they have a duty to the court and to the children involved and should not find themselves putting forward unfounded allegations by one parent against the other at the expense of court time and child welfare.”

    It is now up to Sheriffs Principal to consider whether to issue practice notes, as they have done in relation to adoption cases. A Scottish Government spokesman said: “It is not for the Scottish Government to comment on individual court decisions or the conduct of proceedings. However we remain committed to reform of Scotland’s courts service to ensure that the justice system works as efficiently as possible.”

    linklaters High-flying Hampstead lawyer commits suicide two days after honeymoon

    A high-flying Hampstead lawyer jumped in front of a Tube train just two days after returning from his honeymoon. Robert Worrall of Church Row in Hampstead jumped onto the tracks on the Bakerloo platform at Oxford Street station as a train emerged from the tunnel at 30mph. Cambridge graduate ‘Bob’ Worrall, 34, worked at the prestigious Linklaters law firm in the City.

    Westminster Coroner’s Court heard that Aberdeen-born Mr Worrall married Anya Smirnova on April 24 2010 after meeting her while working at the firm’s Moscow office. Giving evidence Pc Steve Tucker, of the British Transport Police, told the hearing: ‘On July 21 the deceased was standing at the very beginning of the Northbound Bakerloo Line platform at Oxford Street underground station. “Suddenly, as a train emerged from the tunnel, he dropped the bag he was holding and leapt directly into its path. “The train driver immediately applied the emergency brake, but was powerless to stop the train from hitting him.” Tube driver Martin Murray told the hearing when Mr Worrall jumped in front of his train “there was nobody near him”. Anya Worrall, his wife of less than three months, spoke only to confirm Mr Worrall’s address and occupation.

    When asked by assistant deputy coroner Dr William Dolman if her husband had ever made a pervious attempt on his life, or had said anything that day to worry here she replied: “No.” Dr Dolman then asked: “So it came completely out of the blue?” Mrs Worrall replied: “Yes”. Mr Worrall, who read economics and history at Selwyn College, had been treated in hospital following an overdose in 1998. His wife said he had not been suffering from depression while she had known him. Recording a verdict of suicide Dr Dolman said: “It is quite clear that Robert Worrall deliberately jumped into the path of the train which was travelling at 30mph.

    “He was on his own and he was not pushed and it was not a fall.” Speaking to a tearful Mrs Worrall Dr Dolman said: “I hope that you do not dwell on today or the events of July 21 but rather on the rest of the times you shared which were much happier.” After Cambridge Worrall took the LPC at BPP Law School in London. He qualified at law firm Allen & Overy in September 2005 and joined Linklaters in 2006. He was seen as a rising star in the legal world. Colleagues of Mr Worrall wrote tributes to him on ‘The Lawyer’ magazine’s website. One read: “How sad. I remember Bob from A&O and he was a lovely guy. A tragedy.”

    Another comment said: “So sad that a young and promising talent died so tragically. My sorrows go out to his family.” While another described the incident as “A very cruel act of fate.”


  • =====================================

    British law firm 'conspired' to hide $50bn debts of Wall St giant

    A top British law firm helped stricken banking giant Lehman Brothers hide its debts in the run-up to the bank's collapse, a report said yesterday. Linklaters, one of the City's 'magic circle' law practices, signed off questionable accounting techniques to disguise $50billion (£36billion) debts. The 2,200-page report, published yesterday in America, found that Linklaters allowed 'balance sheet manipulation' while investors remained in the dark as to what was going on.

    Crucially, Lehman had turned to the UK after it failed to find an American law firm who would sign off the activities, the report said. Linklaters advised Lehman that the accounting practice was allowed under English law. The report was produced by U.S lawyer Anton Valukas, who was appointed by a judge to investigate the collapse of Lehman Brothers in September 2008.

    It was the largest bankruptcy in American history and triggered a panic which brought the global economy to its knees. The domino effect resulted in the state bail-out of UK banks RBS and HBOS. The disclosure that one of the country's largest and respected law firms was involved in controversial accounting practices will be an embarrassment to the City. Mr Valukas found that Lehman had been insolvent for weeks before it filed for bankruptcy.

    Executives had used a complicated transaction that enabled them to remove liabilities from Lehman's balance sheet for a short time, when results were due, and hide the true level of its debts. It was approved by Linklaters and signed off by the bank's auditors Ernst & Young. The report found that Lehman used this transaction 'to create a materially misleading picture of the firm's financial condition in late 2007 and 2008'. The Valukas report said: 'Unable to find a United States law firm that would provide it with an opinion letter permitting the true sale accounting treatment under United States law, Lehman conducted its... programme under the aegis of an opinion letter the Linklaters law firm in London wrote... under English law.'

    There is no suggestion that Linklaters did anything illegal under English law. The firm said last night: 'The U.S. Examiner's report into the failure of Lehman Brothers includes references to English Law opinions which Linklaters gave in relation to a number of Lehman transactions. 'The Examiner - who did not contact the firm during his investigations - does not criticise those opinions or say or suggest that they were wrong or improper. We have reviewed the opinions and are not aware of any facts or circumstances which would justify any criticism.'

    Mr Valukas found no evidence of extensive wrongdoing at Lehman, but said there were grounds for negligence and breach of duty actions against chief executive Dick Fuld and some colleagues. He also found that Barclays, which bought a large chunk of Lehman's U.S. business after it filed for bankruptcy, received some assets it was not entitled to, including office equipment, but they were worth less than £6.6million.


    Lehman was dependent on raising hundreds of billions of dollars of short-term finance every day just to survive. This cash was raised on so-called 'repo' markets where assets can be swapped for short-term loans. Because money raised in this way has to be repaid within days, the assets are not deemed to have left the banks' balance sheets.

    However, under the terms of 'repo 105' Lehman could report a reduction in assets if it exchanged those assets for funds at a conversion rate of 105 to 100. Put simply, assets with a value of $105 would be swapped for loans at a value of $100, meaning that $105 of assets could be removed from the balance sheet when reporting group financial results.


    Five lawyers were arrested and detained for up to four hours for putting their personal belongings in the “wrong set of lockers” at a London jail. Scotland Yard today faced embarrassing questions after the defence solicitors were seized for failing to leave computer memory sticks and dictaphones in the correct place at HMP Brixton. Three of them are now suing the prison service and the police for the “colossal” error, saying the episode has left them “humiliated” and could damage their reputations.

    The lawyers, who were visiting clients, went to lock up the items at the jail as they have always done. However, the rules had changed and certain “prohibited articles” were to be left in a different set of compartments. One of the solicitors, Simon Jowett, who has had a number of high-profile clients, including train robber Ronnie Biggs, was detained for four hours before being bailed. Mr Jowett, 39, said: “I turned up that day with my briefcase which included a memory stick which I use for my day-to-day business. I went through to the lockers as I do every time I've been there and put the items in one.”

    Halfway into his appointment on September 21, Mr Jowett says he was interrupted by a guard who had searched his bag and told him the item should have been left in a different set of lockers. “I was held in the prison for an hour and a half,” said Mr Jowett. “Then the police arrived and they decided to arrest us. That process took another hour. Then we were all carted off to Brixton police station in vans and I was held in a cell for another hour. This is a colossal cock-up. “We had our photos taken, our DNA swabs done and our fingerprints taken. We were treated like criminals. Nowadays an arrest, even if no charges are brought, stays with you forever. This has put my reputation at stake.”

    Mr Jowett, who is a partner in a Wembley-based firm Tank Jowett and who has been to the prison over 50 times, said: “I want recognition that this was a huge error from the prison and the police. “It was hugely humiliating being carted off in a police van and then put in a dirty police cell. One of the solicitors was put in a cage where you would normally put violent aggressive drunks while another narrowly avoided being handcuffed.” All five lawyers were released on bail and no charges were brought.

    Jules Carey of Tuckers Solicitors, who is representing them, said: “I can see no lawful basis for the detention let alone the arrests of these solicitors. It is also unlawful and wholly unacceptable to remove confidential professional material from solicitors. I have today filed claims on behalf of my clients' for false imprisonment and the unlawful interference with their legal files with the Met Commissioner and HMP Brixton. “I sincerely hope their DNA and fingerprint records will be destroyed and that they will receive a forthright apology from the Met and the governor for the ordeal they endured.”

    A prison service spokesman said: “If individuals attempt to bring illicit items into prison they run a high risk of detection. We will confiscate any item found, and detain individuals while we notify the police.”

    A Met spokesman said: “Five people were arrested on suspicion of entering the prison with prohibited articles. They were later released without further action.”

    A lawyer has won libel damages after malicious and untrue accusations about her were posted on a website by a “cyber stalker”.

    Megan Phillips was the victim of “completely fictitious” derogatory personal and professional remarks left on the Solicitors from Hell site. More than 50,000 hits were received but the owner of the site refused to remove the comments after Ms Phillips contacted him to say they were “wholly untrue”. The website claims to get 1.5 million visitors a month. The mission statement on the homepage says it aims to expose lawyers it brands as “shameless, corrupt, money-grabbing, incompetent specimens of humanity”. The site's owner, Rick Kordowski, was ordered at the High Court to pay Ms Phillips, who works for Bhatt Murphy Solicitors based in Shoreditch, £17,500 damages for “hurt feelings, distress and injury to her reputation”. Mr Kordowski, of South Ockendon, Essex, was also ordered to pay £28,000 legal costs and issued with an injunction forbidding further publication of the allegations on the site.

    Guy Vassall-Adams, for Ms Phillips, told the judge the article about her was a “vitriolic attack on her personality and professional competence”. He added: “It is all completely false and malicious and has the hallmarks of a kind of poison-pen accusation, made under the cloak of anonymity.” Mr Vassall-Adams told the judge Mr Kordowski was prepared to withdraw the article, but only for an “admin fee” of £299, which Ms Phillips regarded as “extortion” and was not prepared to pay.

    Mr Kordowski told the judge he initially had no reason to doubt the allegations, but had recently been told they were posted by a “cyber stalker” and agreed he would have “handled things differently” if he had known this from the start. Mr Vassall-Adams said no attempt had been made to verify the allegations, nor had Ms Phillips been given the chance to respond. Giving evidence, Ms Phillips said: “The language of the post really upset me — it was very vicious.” She said after the verdict: “I am delighted that there has now been public acknowledgement that the posting was entirely made up and contained no truth whatsoever.”

    A female solicitor who discovered defamatory postings about herself on a website called 'Solicitors From Hell' has won her battle to have the allegations removed from the site.

    Anna Mazzola, a solicitor with London law firm Hickman Rose, won a rare ‘interim injunction’ today against Rick Kordowski, who runs the website. Mr Justice Edwards-Stewart granted the order against Mr Kordowski in the High Court following an application by barrister Guy Vassall-Adams who represented Ms Mazzola. Mr Vassall-Adams argued that the material about Ms Mazzola on the website - - was undoubtedly defamatory and that there were no grounds that it might be true.

    Mr Kordowski had not pleaded a proper justification defence, or produced evidence to support the allegations, but had simply argued that they might be true, and there was also evidence of his intention to continue publishing the defamatory material, Mr Vassall-Adams said. The barrister explained that Solicitors From Hell was a ‘grievance website’ which allowed members of the public to post anonymous complaints about solicitors, and he said that Mr Kordowski had published serious defamatory allegations without checking their truth or accuracy. He added that Mr Kordowski, who represented himself today in court, asked for payment from solicitors in return for removing articles from the website.

    It is not the first time that the Solicitors From Hell website has featured in a defamation action. In June this year, solicitor Scott Eason of Eason Law in the North East, brought a libel action against Mr Kordowski in a similar case. Mr Eason said he launched his libel action because he felt so strongly about the allegations published and could not allow them to remain on the internet.

    Mr Kordowski had refused to take the allegations down without payment, Eason said, adding: '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.' Subsequently Mr Kordowski removed the material from his website, sent Mr Eason a personal apology, and gave an undertaking not to re-publish the allegations. It is very unusual for courts to grant interim injunctions to stop publication of allegedly defamatory material in defamation cases, due to a rule protecting the right to freedom of expression.

    The rule was introduced as a result of the 1891 case of Bonnard v Perryman, which states that an order should not be granted if a defendant says he or she will justify an allegation. However an interim order can be granted if it appears that a defendant is unlikely to succeed at trial.


    Lawyer's sister sobs as family see shooting by police

    The family of barrister Mark Saunders weep as dramatic images showed the moment he died in a hail of bullets. Mr Saunders's sister Charlotte sobbed as the harrowing two-and-a-half-hour film was played at the inquest into his death — but his widow Elizabeth walked out of the court in tears before the footage, filmed by a police helicopter, was played.

    It came as recordings revealed:

    Scotland Yard negotiators reassured Mr Saunders until half an hour before his death that he would not be shot. The high-flying barrister threatened suicide in the final hour of the stand-off. He told negotiators he wanted to “let off some steam” before firing his shotgun for the final time at 21.09.

    Mr Saunders doubled up and was hurled back into his kitchen as marksmen fired five bullets into his body. The police footage of the siege in Chelsea on May 6, 2008, shows the drunk 32-year-old waving a shotgun in the air as he hung from the fourth-storey kitchen window of his home in Markham Square. As negotiators desperately pleaded with him to put the gun down via a loud hailer and mobile phone, Mr Saunders is seen slowly lowering the long-barrelled weapon. As it reaches a horizontal position a volley of shots rings out from armed officers stationed on and in three buildings that backed onto the property. Mr Saunders doubles up and is flung back into his kitchen by the force of five bullets that hit him in the head and chest, causing fatal injuries. The final shots came after three-and-a-half hours of extraordinary negotiations between Mr Saunders and a team trying to end the siege peacefully.

    As the tape of the increasingly desperate pleas from the police negotiators was played, the family watched the final countdown to his life on the court room screens:

    21.09 Mr Saunders tells negotiators he wants to “let off steam” as he fires his shotgun through the window. He then disappears inside the house.

    21.19 He appears by the window already damaged by the shooting.

    21.20 Mr Saunders is seen bending over, picking up and putting down his mobile without speaking. He then lifts the sash window to lean out and look around at police marksmen outside. Clearly drunk, he turns and leans back on the window box, his head lolling from side to side.

    21.26 He goes back inside the house.

    21.30 His head reappears outside the window looking up and around — his shotgun could be seen in his right hand still inside the house.

    21.32 He holds the gun in both hands and slowly lowers the barrel. As the barrel reaches hip level, pointing towards the police, a volley of shots rings out. Mr Saunders is hurled back into the room by the force of the bullets. The voice of negotiator Sonia Davies continues to appeal to him to “pick up the phone and talk to me, I've heard the shots and I'm really worried now”.

    Mr Saunders had first started shooting at 16.40 and soon after 17.00 police cordoned off the King's Road area as marksmen were en route. At 18.57 police negotiators led by Superintendent John Sutherland began the attempt to contact him on both his mobile and his landline. Mr Sutherland repeatedly assures Mr Saunders that “nobody is going to be killed”.

    Mr Saunders's replies were not recorded on the tape but it is clear he tells negotiators how scared he is and how much he loves his wife. He is so drunk he is sick twice during the phone conversations and also falls down the stairs.

    20.34 Mr Sutherland tells him: “And you are not going to die today, you are not going to die today Mark. I know you don't want to hurt anybody Mark, I believe you completely when you say that.”

    20.37 Mr Sutherland tells him: “You don't want to even give your wife a reason to mourn. You just told me how much you care for her. If you love her to bits the thing to do is to come safely out.”

    20.41 Clearly responding to a threat from Mr Saunders, the officer tells him: “I don't want you to come out and fire one barrel. I don't want you to take one barrel in the face.”

    20.58 Mr Sutherland tells him: “You are not going to burst out and you are not going to get gunned down. Nobody's going to get hurt today, that's the deal.”

    The officer repeatedly tells him to put the shotgun down and put the safety catch on. Desperately he tells him: “I will prove nobody is going to shoot you. I promise you nobody is going to shoot you. If you want me to go on oath, I will go on oath. Leave the gun and go upstairs and I'll prove it to you.”

    21.00 Mr Sutherland tells Saunders: “Nobody is going to shoot you, that is the deal. “ But Mr Saunders's threats to commit suicide are clearly escalating. At 21.08, one minute before he shoots out of the window, the officer tells Saunders: “You are not resigned to killing yourself. There's too much to live for, Mark.

    “How can it possibly be painless to shoot yourself when you can cause her [his wife] agony and I know how much you love her?” The inquest continues.

  • SOURCE(now pulled)
  • No one's going to die today: What cops told gun siege lawyer before he was shot by seven marksmen
  • Cops must not remain anonymous: Marksmen in the lawyer killing must be held accountable
  • Disgraced police chief Ali Dizaei added to the lawyer gun siege confusion, inquest is told
    The British public are being blatantly ripped off by Corrupt Lawyers.

    The Law Society has made it obvious by its indifference, that its primary role is to promote and protect the interest of its members. Solicitors know that there are millions of pounds to be made from fraud. They use their legal knowledge to commit fraud, knowing they can get away with it. Innocent clients are becoming victims, lives are being destroyed, families are being ripped apart and people are losing their homes, because of debts incurred first by solicitors stealing their money, then by trying to fight them in court. The

    British government refuses to do anything about it. With the power of the internet victims such as my-self, refuse to suffer in silence any longer. We are exposing the criminals within the British Legal System. The Law has failed us. This is a desperate cry for help, a last resort! If embarrassing the solicitors, the Law Society and the British Government, is the only way of getting justice in Britain, then so be it.
    joshua gessler A McLean lawyer and father is charged with manufacturing child pornography.

    Joshua Gessler, 41, is accused of luring a Centreville runaway into posing for him. Gessler is charged with enticing the 15-year-old girl to get naked and take up sexually provocative poses. His McLean neighbors are shocked and reluctant to believe he is a calculating child pornographer. Neighbor Joan Bretz told us, "He bakes the most wonderful pies I have ever tasted in my life."

    Investigators say he takes some shocking pictures as well. Allegedly, the photographs of the girl fall into the category of pornography. One of his next door neighbors say he couldn't have taken the photos there. "This is an extremely well monitored place you are looking at, this little enclave," said Bretz. "He would have to have rolled her up in a rug." In the McLean neighborhood with an abundance of children, some neighbors are sceptical about the accusation but others stunned.

    One neighbor said, "He's very friendly, sociable, pleasant. My children go to school with his children. I'm shocked to know that he would do something like this." Those in the fight against the sexual abuse of children say Gessler is typical. He allegedly prowled social websites, and found the 15-year-old Centreville runaway there. Ernie Allen with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children stated, "They tend to be ordinary people doing ordinary things but with the Internet you can suddenly be anybody you want."

    On his employer's website it states "Joshua Gessler Arnold and Porter Corporate Securities Practice Group". It goes on to say "Mr. Gessler is an adjunct professor at George Mason University School of Law." He also is a family man, wife and two little kids. "I'm shocked and I'm sickened. My children play with his children here in the courtyard ... I'm horrified. I don't know what else to say," said one neighbor. The investigation is ongoing but detectives say they do not believe Gessler will face charges for having sexual contact with the girl.

    paul mcconville A SCOTTISH lawyer is under investigation over claims that he failed to pass on payments from a £2 million compensation pot for former miners that was paid to his firm.

    Glasgow-based personal injuries specialist Paul McConville is at the centre of a probe by the Law Society of Scotland over complaints concerning the way he handled more than £2.2m of cash paid out by the government-backed Miners Liability Unit, set up in 1999 to compensate thousands of ex-miners for ill health caused by their job. At least a dozen former clients have come forward with complaints that McConville failed to pay them or did not lodge their claim before the compensation fund deadline including the daughter-in-law of the late Henry Baxter, who says she is owed more than £9,000. As well as the compensation payments made to the firm it also received over £2m in payment for handling the cases.

    McConville was already suspended by the Law Society before the complaints came to light after being declared bankrupt over unpaid tax debts. It is not the first time the massive scheme to compensate former miners has hit the headlines. Last year two solicitors in England were struck off for claiming too much in fees after taking in £23 million from the scheme. McConville lives in a semi-detached home on a housing estate in Hamilton, Lanarkshire. Asked to account for the multi-million-pound sum that was paid to his firm, he said that he did not wish to make a comment at this stage but added: "I have never purloined any clients' money. That is the biggest no no for a lawyer."

    The Department of Energy and Climate Change, which oversaw the fund, has told Scotland on Sunday that McConville's firm, McConville O'Neill, had been paid £2.277m in compensation funds for the 1,704 claimants he was engaged by. The DECC says the firm was also paid £2.066m in "costs". However, it is unclear how much of the compensation money was paid by McConville to his clients as no subsequent checks were made. McConville, who until recently had an office in Hope Street, Glasgow, found his clients by advertising and by calling former miners and their families personally to encourage them to make claims on the fund.

    Three of McConville's former clients have told Scotland on Sunday how they spent many frustrating months trying to get the money owed to them from the solicitor who they claim avoided any attempts to make contact. Glenrothes Labour MP Lindsay Roy has written to Energy Secretary Chris Huhne, demanding an inquiry into what happened. Roy said he feared that hundreds of McConville's former clients may not have been compensated. "The trouble is we just don't know how much, if any, of the money went to McConville's clients. We also don't know how many other cases he failed to progress before the deadline. That is why we need a full inquiry into what happened."

    A spokeswoman for the Law Society of Scotland said: "We have received a number of complaints about his (McConville's) conduct and the inquiries are still ongoing." However, the Law Society's insurer has already paid out compensation to former clients of McConville for his failure to handle their cases properly. In a letter to one former client, Mary Hunter, from Leven in Fife, who received £1,000 compensation, the Society noted that it had referred her case to the Procurator Fiscal and that there was still an "outstanding conduct prosecution" by the Society against McConville. This is believed to relate to failing to reply to LSS inquiries into her complaint. The miners compensation fund was set up by the Labour government after British Coal was judged to have failed to provide safe working conditions for thousands of its former employees. Billions of pounds have been paid out for conditions such as vibration white finger, bronchitis and emphysema in what has become the largest personal injury compensation scheme ever devised. Payments have ranged from tens of thousands of pounds to less than £1. Huhne is currently resisting calls for an inquiry into McConville O'Neill because of ongoing proceedings.

    A DECC spokesman said: "Whilst the Secretary of State is sympathetic to the individual claimants affected by the issues raised, the department's position remains that we have met our obligations in relation to claimants. "As the defendant is in legal proceedings, it is not appropriate for us to instigate any inquiry into the conduct of solicitors chosen by claimants themselves to represent them. "That said, we will continue to offer assistance to the Law Society of Scotland over any inquiries it makes. We will also continue to cooperate with the police should they continue their inquiries." The lawyer has been the subject of a police investigation. However, a spokeswoman for Strathclyde Police, which took the lead in the inquiry, said that the force had been "unable to find evidence of criminality" and "deemed it to be a civil matter".