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The Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal (SDT) has suspended two Davenport Lyons lawyers from practising and fined them £20,000 each for sending “intimidating letters” to individuals they accused of illegal file-sharing.
Davenport Lyons partner David Gore, who is still with the firm, and former partner Brian Miller were both found guilty of six breaches of the Solicitors’ Code of Conduct 2007. Both have been suspended from practising for three months.
The breaches related to conduct between 2006 and 2009, when, acting on behalf of various clients, more than 6,000 letters were sent to individuals claimed to have been involved in unlawful file-sharing in breach of the Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1998.
The letters demanded compensation and costs and warned that the recipients faced further action and increased costs if the matter was not settled as a matter of urgency.
An investigation by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) found that the concerns of those who had received letters and protested their innocence were disregarded.
The SDT found, in effect, that Miller and Gore became too concerned about making the scheme profitable for themselves and their firm.
Their judgment became distorted and they pursued the scheme regardless of the impact on the people receiving the letters and even of their own clients, the SDT said.
In addition to the £20,000 fine, Miller and Gore were ordered to pay interim costs to the SRA of £150,000.
An SRA spokesperson said: “We welcome the decision of the SDT, which follows a lengthy and complex investigation by members of SRA staff.
“Some of those affected were vulnerable members of the public. There was significant distress. We are pleased that this matter has been brought to a conclusion and hope that it serves as a warning to others.
“Solicitors have a duty to act with integrity, independence and in the best interests of their clients. Solicitors who breach those duties can expect to face action by the SRA.”
The order has been suspended for 21 days to allow time for an appeal.