A Law Society council member has admitted to five breaches of professional rules in relation to his dealing with the coalminers’ compensation scheme.
Glyn Maddocks, council member for the West Country and Gwent and a partner at Welsh firm Gabb and Co, was fined £15,000 at the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal (SDT) and ordered to pay the costs, estimated to be £60,000.
The SDT fined him the maximum £5,000 on one charge as he failed to recognise a conflict of interests between the firm and its clients as a result of his relationship with the claim farmers IDC. Other breaches included his firm paying unlawful referral fees.
In addition Maddocks’ firm has been ordered to repay around £160,000 to sick miners caught up in the British Coal compensation scheme saga, following the hearing this week.
Gabb and Co agreed to repay the money that had been deducted from miners’ damages and paid instead to IDC, an amount of less than £100 per claimant.
The tribunal was told Gabb and Co had bought the miners’ cases from IDC and had paid them over £110,000.
The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA), which brought the proceedings, said the successful outcome sends a message that the authority is determined to see these cases through in the interests of miners. It is the third successful case the SRA has brought, with at least 14 more to come.
Antony Townsend, the SRA’s chief executive, said: “We hope that other solicitors will wake up and understand that repaying improper deductions from miners’ damages is in their clients’ best interests.
“Failure to repay may aggravate any misconduct and will not be tolerated by the public, the SRA, or the profession.”
A Gabb and Co spokeswoman said that the firm was “extremely proud” to have successfully obtained over a thousand awards for miners and their families
“We have always acted in good faith and have never profited from any deductions made or set out to behave in any way other than ethically,” said the spokeswoman. “We’re not alone in having made mistakes in the handling of these claims, hence our willingness to offer reimbursements.”
The firm’s spokeswoman added that in 1999 Maddocks unknowingly misinterpreted the practice rules.
“This was unintentional and at every stage he thought he was complying with professional regulations. Glyn’s intention was always to achieve the best possible result for his clients and his professional integrity and track record has never been in question,” added the spokeswoman.
Timothy Dutton QC of Fountain Court Chambers was instructed by the SRA, while Gabb and Co instructed Andrew Hopper QC from Cartwright Black Solicitors.