Advice firm folds after DTI probe

Access to Justice Ltd, a benevolent company that provides legal advice to those who cannot afford a lawyer but are not eligible for legal aid, has been wound up following an investigation by the Department of Trade and Industry.

The non-profit-making organisation, whose patrons include 12 Old Square silk John Roberts QC, was closed exceptionally quickly, with the High Court granting a winding up order on the same day as the DTI presented its petition.

Roberts, a Crown Court recorder, said that when he was asked to become a patron he was under the impression that Access to Justice was a charity.

“I was not being paid any money – my aim was humanitarian,” said Roberts, who had a hands-off relationship with the organisation.

Liquidator Shirley Jackson, of Begbie Norton, said that Access to Justice had been insolvent and was trading inappropriately.

The DTI had carried out an investigation under s.447 of the Companies Act, which allows the requisition and the seizure of books and papers.

It is understood Access to Justice had not paid its council tax over the past two years and had been unable to acquire charitable status.

Established in 1985 by Sir Charles Blois, Access to Justice's Holborn office was run by lawyers operating on a pro bono basis.

The company, which kept a low profile in the legal community, dealt with a wide range of legal problems in tribunals and the courts. It sought donations from companies to cover its annual £100,000 per annum running costs.

No one from Access to Justice could be contacted for comment.