Salisbury firm Wilsons is facing a £135,000 negligence claim from the National Rifle Association (NRA).
The group says that the firm gave incompetent advice when it sought Lottery funding. It is claiming that lawyers from the 18-partner firm encouraged it to apply to the funding council Sport England for a grant, despite the fact that the group held a non-competition agreement with a local clay pigeon shoot. The pact prevented the NRA from making its new facilities available to the public, thereby contravening Sport England's funding rules, which state that the facilities have to be open to the public for the next 50 years. The NRA is claiming that no reasonably competent solicitor would have given unequivocal advice that the association would not be in breach of the 1999 agreement if it attempted to fulfil the Lottery conditions. Wilsons partner Andrew Roberts is alleged to have told the NRA that the agreement could have been interpreted in several ways, but did not alert them to the fact the third party could inhibit Lottery funding. Its application to the Lottery fund was frozen until the competition agreement was amended in October last year. The delay, said the NRA, cost it an estimated £25,000 in legal fees and other costs and the claim also includes an additional £110,000 for fees and professional negligence. The NRA said it needed the money to build shooting equipment for the 2001 Commonwealth Games at Bisley, Surrey, but could have waited until the non-competition agreement with the local clay pigeon manager was adjusted. Stringer Saul litigation and dispute resolution partner Richard Taylor is representing the NRA. Beachcroft Wansbroughs associate David Cooper is acting for Wilsons. Wilsons was unavailable for comment.