The Specialist Fraud Panel
Last edited July 2006
A selection of reporting on fraud and corruption in the solicitors' profession: News Roundup
The Law Society has finally abandoned all pretences of maintaining standards. It has restored to the Roll a solicitor who had been struck off for lying to clients and stealing their money, and whose clients include convicted fraudsters with whom he colluded. Steven Daultrey is now once again a solicitor after years of pretending to be one despite being struck off. This is a sick, sick joke.
UnjustIS receives complaints from parties listed here. Here is an example: Shady
Review of the Regulatory Framework for Legal Services in England and Wales - Sir David Clementi issues Final Report 15 Dec 2004
You might have found this page when searching for solicitors to help you in a claim for fraud or gross negligence against other solicitors. You might have searched for: solicitors OR solicitor AND fraud OR negligence, or specialist AND fraud, or fraud AND defence, or variants thereof.
The Legal Services Commission set up the Specialist Fraud Panel (SFP) : "A specialist panel of solicitors was formally established by the Legal Services Commission on 23rd May 2000, in order to control defence costs in VHCC Fraud cases and to ensure the defendants receive quality representation from firms with expertise in managing such cases. Formerly known as the Serious Fraud Panel, from 1st December 2002 it has been know (sic) as the Specialist Fraud Panel." The foregoing link is now broken. (The new Web site of the Legal Services Commission is well worth browsing and searching, but the list seems to have been removed. UJ 24 Aug 2004)
Victims of solicitors' fraud or fraudulent representations might be attracted to firms who are members of the SFP, in the presumption that they might have found a firm to assist them in their claims and allegations. This might now be especially so given that The Law Society has promised a new, more objective and more efficient complaints handling service called the Consumer Complaints Service (CCS), to replace the much-criticised Office for the Supervision of Solicitors (OSS). One could be forgiven for assuming that the two initiatives are linked, but this does not seem to be the case. In my opinion the Specialist Fraud Panel is a misnomer, and some members' Internet advertising does not make sufficiently clear that they specialise in the defence of serious fraud cases and allegations. Neither does it state whether or not they can offer Legal Aid (or its equivalent). Here are some examples of SFP members' web site advertising, which, in my opinion, can mislead a party with a claim of fraud against solicitors into believing they have found a firm to help them:
"...believe that upholding the legal rights of individuals is at the heart of a civilised society. This belief has been central to our business. As we have grown into a large national firm with 10 offices across England and Wales, and one other associated office in Scotland, we have built an impressive reputation for vigorously and successfully protecting our clients' interests. Our aim for the future is to continue this tradition of success - to be the best national firm servicing the legal needs of individual people and those who represent them. Please select an option from the menu to the left for further information." Russell Jones Walker
"The scale and complexity of fraud investigations can be almost overwhelming. To be at the centre of an accusation of fraud, either as accuser or accused, is, to put it bluntly, a frightening experience. To make fraud investigations manageable you need to identify the key issues and pursue them relentlessly, and avoid getting lost in the incidental details." McCormicks
"Specialists in fraud and business crime. The partners regularly advise clients in connection with investigations and prosecutions relating to both national and international frauds. The firm has vast experience in all areas of fraud including money laundering, VAT, duty fraud, false accounting, fraudulent trading, corruption and insolvency cases. This is a complex field that requires specialist representation of the highest quality. As members of the Serious Fraud Panel (sic) we are able to deal promptly and effectively with these cases." Thanki Novy Taube
My opinion is that the SFP should change its name to the Specialist Fraud Defence Panel, or something equally unambiguous. In addition, I feel that all members' advertising should include a clear statement to the effect that they specialise in defence of fraud cases. Membership of the SFP could, in my view, bring an inherent conflict of interest in that, should a member accept an instruction from a client wishing to make a claim against another solicitors' firm on the grounds of fraud, the SFP remit will preclude objective action in such cases. How could it be otherwise? News
Opposing the SFP there is little or no similar support for victims of fraud conducted from within the solicitors' profession. Members of the Specialist Fraud Panel might not be able to help you with a claim against solicitors for fraud as their remit might not include tackling the shortcomings within their own profession. It seems to me that England has decided to spend more on the defence of fraudsters than on assisting their victims. Victims of lawyers' fraudulent or grossly negligent actions will probably find that, even if they do try to bring an action in law, they could be faced with a battery of specialist government/privately funded lawyers to thwart their quest for justice. The only recourse for victims is the CCS, or the police. Despite victims' losses being subjectively high, however, the police are seldom interested in pursuing allegations against solicitors of fraud, and the Serious Fraud Office will only stir if claims or allegations exceed at least one million pounds. There is, I understand, a memorandum of understanding between the police and the Law Society wherein complaints against solicitors received by the police are referred to the CCS. If you have lost your savings or nest-egg the currently established authorities or professional agencies will be of little help. If you do find a solicitors' firm that expresses an interest in your allegations, they will invariably charge you professional fees, which, in effect, means that the solicitors' profession continues to profit from you, first by fraud, then by fees and disbursements.
When disillusioned or disgruntled consumers of legal services ask the Law Society to recommend legal advisors to help them, it might direct them to members of the SFP. Many of these firms do not have a Legal Aid Franchise, so if you have been defrauded and left financially compromised by a solicitor or solicitors and their equally crooked clients, the ones listed below might not be able to help you effectively. Sir David Clementi, please take note.
Until victims of
solicitors fraud have a strong, determined body to effectively review and action
where appropriate their claims against solicitors, the solicitors profession in
England will remain as an attractive vector for criminals and fraudsters to
implement their schemes. The Law Society has failed to protect the public at
large and the business community from its wayward members. Membership of the Law
Society is now tantamount to being accorded a Thieves' Charter.
Paul Bantock May 2004.
Specialist Fraud Panel members' list at 11 May 2004.
Taken from the Legal Services Commission (The new Web site of the Legal Services Commission is well worth browsing and searching, but the list seems to have been removed. UJ 24 Aug 2004) Now updated here: New list