May 11th, 2007

You Can Always Trust a Solicitor

Posted in Other Stuff by 200

Solicitors don’t usually have a very high level of respect amongst most police officers. Tales of defence solicitors using every trick in the book to get guilty people off & poor quality prosecution solicitors failing to secure convictions are as old and abundant as the hills (in the Lake District, not Lincolnshire, obviously).

Not one who easily passes up the opportunity to have a pop at a solicitor, I bring you this story which featured in the national press and various websites last week;

Jim Beresford runs a firm of solicitors in the Doncaster area. Just 4 years ago Beresford was a ‘small town lawyer’ working out of an office in Doncaster. Today he has a £1.8million private jet, 2 Aston martins, a Ferrari & several racehorses. Last year he took home nearly £17million & operates from a plush 38,000 sq ft office complex & employs 200 staff.

What happened in the last four years to rocket this man to his current wealth? He hit gold when his company took advantage of a government scheme to compensate miners for ill health suffered as a result of poor working conditions over many years.

Basically, a solicitor acting on behalf of a miner to claim compensation from a fund of £7.5billion set aside by the government, gets paid a set fee of £2000, by the government, for what often amounts to little more than filling in a few forms.

It is alleged by the Daily Mail, among others, that Beresford’s firm also creamed off fees and various ‘expenses’ from the compensation amount over and above their £2000.

It is alleged that many miners were encouraged to take out insurance should their compensation claims fail and the DTI sought to recover legal expenses in defending the claims. In order to fund the insurance, miners were encouraged to take out loans for which Beresford earned commission. The DTI claims that it does not claim costs back from failed claimants so the insurance, and thus the loans were a complete waste of money.

One miner signed with Beresford was hoping to seek compensation to fund a digital hearing aid which costs £2000. Beresford opened an account for the claimant with the Bank of Scotland, they then debited this account with charges for £358 for ‘case investigation’ £171 referral fee when Beresford passed the case on to another firm, £1,522 insurance premium, £120 disbursements, £320 unidentified costs, £672 interest. Then there was a £400 cost of a hearing loss medial arranged by a company called Melox Ltd, 90% of which is owned by Beresford’s wife.

In December 2005 the miner was awarded £3,750 compensation but by this time his costs amounted to £3,591 which left him just £158 to fund his £2000 hearing aid.

Beresford’s firm represented between 58,000 & 90,000 (depending on which report you read), That’s an awful lot of Two grands & other ‘expenses’.
17 miners represented by the company were finally awarded between 1p & 99p, 65 between £1 & £2, 81 between £3 & £4, 68 between £5 & £6.

Beresford is described as the country’s richest solicitor, he & several other solicitors’ firms are currently under investigation by the Serious Fraud Office.

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