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The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) today launched a series of allegations of misconduct against six partners at Barnsley-based Raleys Solicitors in relation to their handling of compensation claims from sick coalminers.
The Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal, which is expected to last 20 days, is thought to be one of the longest hearings of its kind.
The six partners - David Barber, Derek Firth, Carol Gill, James Gladman, Jonathan Markham and Katherine Richards - each face five allegations of misconduct.
One of the allegations states that the firm took a £4m loan from the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) without ensuring that the union took independent legal advice. At the same time, the union received a fee for referring compensation cases to the firm.
The SRA claims that the firm failed to maintain an independent relationship with clients, providing clients with inaccurate advice concerning the benefits available under an NUM compensation scheme.
The SRA also accuses Raleys of taking a slice of the compensation payment made to each of its 29,000 clients and passing the fee onto the NUM. In total the firm is alleged to have paid £6m to the NUM, as well as receiving a £4m loan.
The watchdog argues that the Raleys solicitors are guilty of conduct unbefitting a solicitor.
In a similar case the tribunal last month struck of Beresfords Solicitors partner Jim Beresford along with his colleague Douglas Smith for failing to act in the interests of their clients by taking a cut of payments make to sick miners under the Government's British Coal compensation scheme (TheLawyer.com, 15 December).
Bevan Brittan partner Iain Miller instructed Timothy Dutton QC of Fountain Court Chambers to act for the SRA.
Beachcroft instructed Gregory Treverton-Jones of 39 Essex Street to act for Raleys.
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