Nicholsons' ten-year 'Homes for Votes' role is terminated

Nicholson Graham & Jones has ceased to act on the long-running 'Homes for Votes' scandal, 10 years after being first instructed by Dame Shirley Porter, the former member of Westminster City Council, to deal with the action.
The council has recently issued a claim and is moving towards recovering millions of pounds against Porter and her former deputy David Weeks at a summary judgment court hearing, currently fixed for one day in mid-July 2002.
A week after the decision by the House of Lords, Porter instead retained 22-partner firm Jeffrey Green Russell, not only to defend the enforcement proceedings by the council, but also to take her case to the European Court of Human Rights.
However, Nicholsons will continue to act on the assessment of costs in the action.
The move comes after the House of Lords decision in December last year, which upheld the findings of District Auditor John Magill. He said that Westminster City Council lost £31m as a result of the unlawful activities of Porter and other members. The divisional court reduced the sum to £26m and discharged all members apart from Weeks and Porter. Rowe & Maw (now Mayer Brown Rowe & Maw) partner Tony Child represented the District Auditor throughout the proceedings.
Stephenson Harwood partner John Fordham, who is advising the council, said: “Legislation provided that the money was only collectable by the council 14 days after all appeals had been exhausted, so only after 27 December was the council able to move towards recovering the amount owed.”
Jeffrey Green partner Mark Spragg is adamant that the stance taken against his client is unfair. He argues that the surcharge in question was abolished by the Local Government Act 2000, following on from Lord Nolan's report in July 1997 into the standards of conduct in local government, and so no other public servant is subject to it.
Spragg has built a reputation for going up against formidable institutions, acting against the Serious Fraud Office, the Law Society and the Inland Revenue. One source close to the action, however, said that this was not the first time that Porter had changed her lawyers.
“Initially, she first instructed Stewarts Solicitors in Lincoln's Inn. Then she used Brecher & Co, and then Nicholson Graham & Jones,” said the source. “Her counsel also changed regularly. She used Anthony Scrivener, Jeremy McMullen and Lord Lester of Herne Hill.”
Nicholsons was unavailable for comment.