Cleared ex-B&C director slams Treasury Solicitors and DTI

The Treasury Solicitor's department has come under fire for its handling of disqualification proceedings it brought against John Gunn, the former chairman of collapsed company British & Commonwealth (B&C).

Gunn was last month cleared in court of any wrongdoing and is now seeking hundreds of thousands of pounds of costs from the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI).

He has publicly criticised the DTI both for trying to disqualify him and for taking so long to bring his case to trial.

Gouldens associate George Lubega, who advised Gunn alongside partner David Cooper, said the way Treasury Solicitors had gone about discovery had been “appaling”.

He claimed they had not attempted to index their files: “They just said 'Here's 360 boxes of files, which ones do you want?' Why should an individual director, who has no legal aid, have to fund his lawyers to look through a room full of documents?”

He said it regularly took at least three written requests and several weeks before Treasury Solicitors responded to questions from his team.

However, a Treasury Solicitor's Department spokesman said Gouldens had been unable to substantiate its claims of delays in court and stressed that the department had spent more than £100,000 producing a list of the documents that filled 20 lever arch files.

B&C went into liquidation in 1990 after buying computer leasing company Atlantic Computers.

Four years later a report by two DTI inspectors – Eben Hamilton QC and accountant James Scott – found that irregular accounting procedures at Atlantic had been responsible for the collapse.

It said that Gunn had made a misjudgment rather than being dishonest.

Nevertheless, a year later, the DTI issued disqualification proceedings against five Atlantic directors and the B&C directors Gunn, Ashman and chief executive Peter Goldie. Goldie, advised by Frere Cholmeley Bischoff, accepted the DTI's case against him in 1996 and was disqualified for five years.

The others appeared before Mr Justice Lloyd last month and the five Atlantic directors were disqualified for periods of between five and seven years. Ashman, who represented himself, was cleared along with Gunn.