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Raleys partners face £800,000 costs bill

17 February 2009

Six Raleys partners were suspended or fined for breaches of the practice rules at the end of their six week SDT hearing and face a costs bill of up to £800,000.

The SDT suspended senior partner Ian Firth, aged 60, for four years, and his younger colleagues David Barber for two years and Jonathan Markham for six months.

Carol Gill, Jim Gladman and Katherine Richards, who has since left the firm, were fined £10,000 each.

The partners were ordered to pay the costs of hearing, starting with an interim payment of £300,000 within 28 days. It is understood that this is less than half the total bill. Tim Dutton QC, the former chairman of the Bar Council, acted for the SRA.

In a statement the partners said staff at the firm were "devastated" by the accusations and would be "even more downhearted" by the SDT's verdict.

The SDT found that the Barnsley-based firm had breached Rule 1 of the Solicitors Practice Rules 1990 by obtaining a £4 million loan from the National Union of Miners without ensuring that the union took independent legal advice.

The firm further breached Rule 1 by acting where there was, or was likely to be, a conflict of interest, failing to advise clients that they were free to advise solicitors of their own choosing and/or encouraging them to enter agreements with the union.

The tribunal found that Raleys had breached Rule 1, Rule 15 and the cost information and client care code by providing incomplete or inaccurate advice to their clients and/or failing to give them adequate information about costs.

Raleys were also found to have breached Practice Rule 3 and/or the introduction and referral code.

The tribunal upheld the findings of inadequate professional service made against Raleys by Legal Complaints Service adjudicators, and ordered them to pay compensation to the miners involved and costs to the Law Society.

In a statement the partners said: “For five years during the investigation of these matters, Raleys has been vilified by certain politicians who have used the protection of parliamentary privilege to make the most outrageous accusations against the firm.

“We take heart from the tribunal chairman’s opening pronouncement that there has been a lot of misinformed public comment about the case.”

They went on: “The partners and our loyal, hard-working staff, many of whom joined Raleys to pursue a vocation of fighting for justice for vulnerable individuals against powerful corporations, have been devastated by the accusations made against the firm, and will feel even more downhearted by these decisions of the tribunal.

“We will, however, pick ourselves up and carry on serving the best interests of the community.”

Replying to a parliamentary question earlier this month, energy and climate change minister Mike O’Brien MP said that Raleys had been paid almost £78 million by the government to handle more than 60,000 miners’ compensation claims.

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Risk & Compliance Costs Clinical negligence Vulnerable Clients