SELECTION OF VICTIMS
THE SUNDAY TIMES 24 APRIL 1994
Law Society leaves fraud victim penniless
SURROUNDED by solicitors’ bills she cannot afford to pay, it is hardly surprising that Farideh Beveridge has lost faith in the legal system. Five years ago, she owned the valuable lease on an elegant flat in Belgravia, one of the most exclusive parts of London. Now she is living on state benefits in a small rented flat.
Beveridge, 46, was the victim of a solicitor subsequently jailed, for defrauding building societies and clients of hundreds of thousands of pounds. The rising tide of dishonesty among solicitors has led in recent years to a doubling of investigations against them. The Law Society, the solicitors’ ruling body, promises that all victims are fully compensated. But Beveridge has not received a penny.
Horst Rauter, former millionaire businessman, was also ruined when a lawyer stole the £1.25m proceeds from the sale of his company. The solicitor, Hugh Simmonds, the former mayor of Beaconsfield, committed suicide in 1988 just before a visit by fraud investigators. It was estimated he had defrauded clients of at least £3.8m.
Nearly six years later Rauter, 50, married with two children, has recovered less than a quarter of his losses and spent almost the same amount in legal and accounting costs against the society to pursue his claim. His new solicitor, Desmond Collins, said: “I find it impossible to justify the conduct of the Law Society. It makes me ashamed of my professional body.”
The problem for the Law Society is that the number and size of claims against its members have increased alarmingly. Its compensation fund, paid for by an annual levy on all solicitors, paid out £23m last year, a rise of 52% over the previous year. Last week, an internal society report put this year’s pay-out at £31.4m.
Victims are told by the Society to consult new solicitors to help them prepare compensation claims. And, because the majority are legally aided, the taxpayer is footing the legal fees.
Victims can also face the cost of bringing solicitors to justice. The Solicitors Complaints Bureau (SCB), set up by the Law Society to investigate fraud and complaints from the public, refused tohelp Beveridge when she wrote alleging dishonesty by her solicitor, David Duff the former chairman of Hibernian football club, to whom she had agreed to sell her Belgravia flat.
The SCB wrote to her in February 1990 saying she must take action against him herself, after he allegedly forged a document handing over to him the lease on her flat.
“Forgery is a criminal offence and the bureau has no power to investigate such allegations.”
It advised her to go to the police. But the police refused to act, saying it was a civil dispute. Duff continued in practice as a solicitor for a further two years until Hampshire police stumbled across his name in another inquiry.
Beveridge, who made 20 court appearances in her fight against Duff, sold everything she owned to fund lawyer’s costs when she was turned down for legal aid. When her money ran out, she was in turn sued by her solicitors, The Simkins Partnership, for more than £10,000 in unpaid fees and interest.
In the end she did get state aid and won her case against Duff in the High Court. The court ordered him to pay £155,000 to Beveridge and then granted her possession of the Belgravia flat. But the slow pace of the legal system meant it had taken her three years to get justice. By then it was too late. Duff was bankrupt and the flat had been repossessed by the landlords, the Duke of Westminster’s Grosvenor Estate.
It won the flat back in a county court hearing just weeks before she won her case and by doing so invalidated any lease on the property. The High Court possession order proved worthless.
JOSEPH DOWLING – MAY 2002
A Bomb hoax which triggered a terrorist alert involving hundreds of police, a hostage negotiating team mounted officers and dog patrols was caused by a pensioner, a court heard yesterday. Joseph Dowling 69, parked a van outside Law society offices in London, put a picture of an explosion on the windscreen and brandished what looked like a detonator, it led to a 28-hour stand-off in which buildings were evacuated and streets cordoned off. Police realised there were no bomb in the van when Dowling who had a grievance over £587 payment from a firm of solicitors, gave himself up. A judge at Southwark Crown Court jailed the retiredproperty developer for 15 months.
Crooked lawyer stole £90,000 from Midland pensioners to fund boob job and chihuahua.
Nov 29 2009 by Jeanette Oldham, Sunday Mercury
VICTIMS WHO GOT MOST OF THEIR MONEY BACK
24 August 2013
I thought my case beat everything until I read yours. I have been – effectively – “mugged” for a mere £50-£60,000!
In my case it was not just solicitors but the legal system itself which conspired to rob me. I usually refrain from suggesting that judges and court staff are capable of crookery because I fear I will be thought to be mad. Indeed, until this happened to me I would have assumed anyone who suggested that the UK system was bent – rather than just incompetent – was paranoid. Now I know better, and you, clearly, do too.
I am a writer, previously a journalist, and I have written for practically every newspaper in the UK. But I have failed entirely to get anyone to take an interest in my story. The Oldie was prepared to run it, but the solicitors scared them off with such threats of litigation that even they backed off. I know I am not alone but I have found very few people who have raised their head above the parapet to talk about what has happened to them…. it is therefore good to see your webpage.
I have spent years and years fighting my own case and being beaten into the ground. I have seen the same things as you: lawyers lying on oath, documents switched in court, tricks which are not just filthy but transparently criminal. And not just getting away with it but getting the connivance of the Judges and all of it met by a complete blank wall by those who are meant to be watchdogs: the law society,legal ombudsman, MP, higher courts, etc.
Oh well – you know all this. I have thought often of trying to get a public campaign going but, despite sympathy and little bits of support from good people it has proved impossible. But when I saw your page I just wanted to make contact with a fellow sufferer! I so hope you come out of this without further damage.
UPDATE: AUGUST 2018
My ordeal ended nearly four years ago, thank heavens, and, like many who have been through such a thing I cannot face revisiting it. The lawyers triumphed in my case, but at least when I submitted the entire file to the Ministry of Justice I was paid my costs.
The Law Society, as far as I know, did nothing.
Here are the details of the case.
1. The name of the UK law firm was Legal Alliances Worldwide, owned by a solicitor called Philip Morris.It is based in Kidderminster.
2. We purchased a property in Egypt, and hired Morris to do the due diligence. Morris was recommended bythe estate agents. He claims he was an expert in Egyptian property law.
3. Morris assured us that a Mr Andrew Harris, the UK property developer was the rightful owner to the land and buildingthat he was developing in Egypt.
4. After doing the checks, Morris gave us permission to pay Harris the money for the property- so we did.
5. Morris then told us there were problems with the ownership of the land, and blamed the Egyptianlandowner, a Mr Adley. Suddenly, after assuring us that Harris was the landowner, we were told he was not.
6. We then realised that this was some sort of scam. After doing further investigations we found out that Morris and Harris were best friends, and the same thing had previously happened in Egypt with these two, on about several other developments.
7. Harris had been banned from being a company director in the UK by the registrar of companies for his involvement with a UK property fraud about 6 years earlier. Philip Morris was also the solicitor involved with the criminalSean Woodhall, a notorious property fraudster who disappeared in Brazil a few years ago.Just google his name, and you will see that Woodhall had quite a few powerful friends. We reported all this to the police, who were not interested.
8. We reported all this to the Law Society and Solicitors Regulatory Authority- quite frankly these two organizations were disgraceful. They seemed to just ignore all the evidence of Morris’ guilt, and blamed the victims rather than the criminals.
9. Altogether we estimate that Morris and Harris did this scam on about several property developments in Egypt, with around 100 victims. There are also numerous victims with the Morris and Sean Woodhall scams.
10. Not sure if Morris is still in practice, as he was claiming to be terminally ill, and not co-operating with anyone.
It was simply fraud without any supporting evidence whatsoever. I handled the case myself and asked many questions that were never answered. It went on for 21 months. ‘Tricks’ were used to prevent justice such as setting a hearing when I was the other side of the world and not allowing an adjournment. Then not allowing judgment to be set aside pending a new hearing, then not allowing an appeal. Eventually I got a solicitor involved who could also get nowhere.
Firstly, with regards to the Law Society, I am disappointed with their initial response. They seem to be deliberately ignoring important parts of my accusations. Also, my negligence solicitors, Irwin Mitchell, seem useless and not really interested. So far, we have got absolutely nowhere with them.
My case has been settled now out of court. We were lucky that I managed to eventually find an honest solicitor to help us. The crooked solicitor who swindled us is now claiming to be terminally ill, and not cooperating with anyone. We had zero help from the Police, and the Solicitors Regulatory Authority behaved in an appalling and disgraceful manner- deliberately ignoring all evidence of corruption by Morris. So, did the Law Society. We were lucky to get 95 per cent of our losses back.
The name of the law firm was Bhatia & Best. The solicitor that handled our case was Neil Bell.
Hedid a very good job, and yes we were very lucky. Their main office is Nottingham, but they also have offices in Mansfield and Chesterfield. Neil is based in Nottingham. If it wasn’t for him we would not have got the money back, as the SRA and law society to all extent and purposes sided with Morris.
We are pretty sure that Sean Woodhall faked his death in the plane crash in Brazil. No doubt with helpfrom the British establishment. Andrew Harris fled Egypt as he was about to be arrested for fraud. He is now backin Birmingham.
I think the people involved in our scam were all probably protected by some sort of masonicsecret society, because the evidence that shows Harris and Morris to be guilty of fraud is overwhelming. Anybody withan IQ above 1 could see this. But joking aside, the police and the SRA make my blood boil with rage. The did absolutely nothing for us.
I hope Neal Bell can help you. He is a working class, down-to-earth person, and we always found him honest and reliable.
CITIZEN’S ADVICE BUREAU
Unfortunately Citizens Advice Bureau only provide advice by phone and as I am in the Canaries this is not practicable. I feel certain they would just say see a solicitor: which I have already done and got nowhere. The view would be that I have had advice and there is nothing more that can be done!
I have also noticed how the legal profession have ‘sewn up’ all advice channels so that everyone just refers to solicitors. I am constantly told they are not legally qualified and therefore can give no legal advice whatsoever. I have even been told that court offices cannot tell me the correct form to fill in because this was actually adjudged in a court case to be legal advice, which they are told they must not give!
MPs say they cannot interfere with the independency of the courts! It seems to me that judges can be totally unjust if they choose to be and no-one will challenge them!