Saturday, December 13, 2008

"morally bankrupt parasites"

"shameless layabouts and gutless politicians ... the degrading impact of irresponsible handouts to morally bankrupt parasites ..." , go on, Jeff Randall - tell us what you really think about welfare.

Talking of morally bankrupt parasites, isn't there room for Doncaster solicitors Beresfords in that category ?

The men who became two of the highest-paid solicitors in Britain by mishandling the claims of almost 100,000 sick miners will be struck off after being found guilty of misconduct yesterday.

James Beresford and Douglas Smith, partners in the South Yorkshire firm Beresfords, took advantage of vulnerable miners by putting their own commercial goals before those of their clients, the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal found. The company earned more than £115m under a government scheme for compensating miners with health claims, and Beresford himself made more than £16m in one year.

Eight out of 11 allegations of serious professional misconduct against the pair - including acting in a conflict of interest, failing to give adequate advice and information to clients and creating fee arrangements which were not in their best interests - were proven against them, the tribunal said.

"If ever there was a group of persons who needed the full care and attention from solicitors, it was these miners," said tribunal chairman David Leverton, adding that the miners had been vulnerable because of their "understandable inability to appreciate legal documents".

According to the Guardian, taxpayers have stumped up £6.9 billion to compensate former employees of the National Coal Board for various industrial diseases. More than half of that money has gone to lawyers. Beresfords are just the fattest vultures on the carcass.

When I first heard about this story a few years back, I wondered what the unions were doing. Surely they'd see it as part of their remit to ensure that their ex-members got a good deal - find good lawyers with reasonable fees, then recommend them ?


Beresfords has enjoyed a close working relationship with the Union of Democratic Mineworkers and Vendside, the claims-handling company owned by the union, which chose to pass on several thousand of its cases to be dealt with by the Doncaster solicitors.

And as the three leading individuals at the UDM have flourished financially, so have their friends at Beresfords.

Looks like the union are 'Democratic' as in 'Democratic Republic of Congo'. In some societies, that kind of betrayal - of your own people - would merit a firing squad.

"This has turned out to be a bonanza for solicitors," said Geoffrey Hopkinson, son of miner George Hopkinson, who died of a lung obstruction after years of inhaling coal dust in the mines. Hopkinson, whose claim was handled by Beresfords, said his family received £549.38, which he described as "derisory".
If you've ever seen someone with serious lung disease, only just able to get out of a chair and move around with difficulty, oxygen mask removed for a few wheezy words then straight back on again ... and you think that the people ripped off were miners, as good people as you could ever find in Britain - for once I'm stuck for words with more than four letters.

Don't forget the 'irresponsible handouts' to the said parasites.

The tribunal heard how the scheme, which was agreed after a high court case established British Coal's liability in 1998, allowed legal costs to be claimed from the DTI, leaving the full amount of compensation for the miners themselves.

Yet Beresfords failed to inform miners they were entitled to the full amount, and deducted up to 30% as fees.

Two issues here. Obviously our fee-inflaters are among the lowest of the low, not quite there with child-murderers but somewhere just above - the vicinity of those who mug OAPs, steal charity boxes or tell a class of seven year olds that Santa doesn't exist.

But the government's well-meant announcement that client compo, whatever amount, would be net of legal fees was an inducement to said vultures to make as many claims as possible, sure that whatever the client got, they themselves would be fat. HM Treasury might as well have sent men with pockets full of our cash to walk the streets of South Yorkshire, bearing notices inviting passers-by to rip them off. Of such good intent is the road to hell paved.

UPDATE - Beresfords are apparently planning to bounce back via :

"which will screen cases submitted by users and then share the resulting workload among paying subscriber law firms.

The business will be a direct competitor to both Injury Lawyers4U and, according to literature provided at a conference the firm’s chief executive Mark Farrell spoke at earlier this year.

Beresfords originally sought to launch the venture this autumn, according to the pamphlet, however this has yet to take place.

The URL was registered in 2003 by Esther Beresford, believed to be Jim Beresford’s daughter Esta, who is also a lawyer at the Doncaster firm. Her ownership of the domain name will expire in 2010.

I believe ScumbagsR Us, Ambulance Chasers Inc and Fraudulent ClaimCorp are also active in the personal injury marketplace. Not to mention the personal injury solicitors who have their adverts in our local NHS casualty department - something to read while you wait ...


Martin said...


Given the Santa incident occurred in Oldham, one would be very interested in finding out the teacher's religious orientation. A small act of jihad in the classroom?

Re Beresfords - in 21 years of studying, talking about and sometimes even practicing law, I've met good solicitors, bad solicitors, diligent solicitors, lazy solicitors, solicitors I'd trust with my last penny and solicitors I wouldn't trust to buy a pint of milk. If this scheme was launched on the basis that fees would not be included within the payment, it would have been an accident waiting to happen. One can almost imagine the groans from the Law Society beaks as soon as this story broke.

Being a good Essex boy, Randall's just 'avin a larf, throwing his readers a little bit of red meat amidst the rock 'n roll - mind you, it's a bit rich of him to bitch about 'morally bankrupt parasites', him being a journo and all. Scribe, write about thyself.

Laban said...

No, I imagine the teacher was a childless young secularist woman. The Guardian poll is supportive 3:1 of her decision.

Somehow I doubt if any teacher around Lailat al Miraj time would start telling the children that no-one flew to Jerusalem on a winged steed in a night ...

re Beresfords, when you think that nearly 4 billion has gone into lawyers pockets, they might well say "I give you my word, sir, when I consider my opportunities, I'm astounded at my moderation". A lot of other firms must have rolled in it. Or there might be a lot of small payouts with larger legal fees - which is what you expect when you basically announce that fees are free to the claimant.

Furry Conservative said...

Why aren't they in jail?

Martin said...

Furry Conservative,

I imagine that they will have several Fraud Squads crawling into and out of every orifice for the next decade at least.

Don't know how it's done in E & W, but if there's a suspicion of solicitor fraud the Law Society beaks go for them like valkyries before handing their still twitching corpses over to the rozzers.

paul ilc said...

"miners, as good people as you could ever find in Britain"

Let's not romanticise miners and their communities. They had some virtues, but many vices too - brutality, arrogance, intolerance, violence, insobriety, political intimidation, corruption....

Martin said...

Paul ilc,

The vices you describe are human and universal; they are not exclusive to a group of fellow citizens whose dangerous livelihoods were destroyed for political reasons, and who have since been ripped off by a group of sharks as they struggle to breathe their last. British mining was destroyed for no other reason than that the British seem unable to live any other way than constantly being at each others' throats.

paul ilc said...


Actually, the vices I mention are not universal: they may be quite common in humanity in general, but my experience of working in a mining area is that they were more common there than in society at large. I saw miners and their families at close quarters: often, it was not a pretty sight, though they had good qualities as well. To bathe miners in romantic nostalgia and see their communities as a lost working class Eden is risible.

Your diagnosis of the reasons why the Thatcher (pbuh) government took on the miners is feeble. The miners believed that we as taxpayers should engage in an orgy of cross-subsidy to preserve their lifestyle as an aristocracy of labour bringing uneconomic deep-mined coal to the surface. If governments or the taxpayer demurred, they would bring the economy to its knees, by violence if necessary. I'm afraid they got their comeuppance.

Martin said...


It appears that you have a particularly bad case of miner-dislike. The vices you enumerated in your previous comment are in fact universal - to say that they are not is to try to dehumanise those to whom you would prefer to attach them. Substitute 'Pole' for 'miner' in your comments and see what happens. No group is particularly attractive at close quarters - it does not mean that some groups are automatically less virtuous than others. It is the purposes to which they set themselves that determines their standing.

The flaw in your thinking is evidenced by your conflation of 'miners', the group under discussion in this post, with the National Union of Mineworkers. Without in any way attempting to justify that entity's historic anti-democratic Marxism, it might be constructive for you to think how they became that way.

David Thomson's 'England in the 20th Century' is a minor classic of great worth. At page 110, he quotes Lord Birkenhead's observation on attempting to broker peace in the mining industry in the months before the General Strike-

"It would be possible to say without exaggeration of the miners' leaders that they were the stupidest men in England, if we had not had frequent occasion to meet the owners".

Correlli Barnett, no friend of the miners' unions, also provides very clear analyses of how what I described above as the British habit of living at each others' throats, in this case the habit of British business owners of clinging to outmoded practices in pursuit of the quick buck, was as great a driver of industrial antagonism and unrest as any Marxist ideology.

paul ilc said...

No, Martin, I am not anti-miner. I think they have or had many virtues, but I do think that the romanticised picture of their communities we are sometimes offered is nonsense on stilts. Those communities could very unpleasant to individuals and many people I knew where only too glad to escape from their suffocating embrace.

At the time and place in which I worked with and close to miners and their families, the NUM had rock solid, almost totalitarian, support from the said communities. The NUM was an expression of mining communities I experienced, not a dominating influence.

If Laban wants an example of an upstanding and self-regulating working class community, the monocultural mining areas are, I believe, not the place to look. I would suggest (for example) the more varied, mixed working class and lower middle class communities in the smaller industrial towns of the north-east of England during the 50s and 60s. There, snobbery conducted its beneficent work, and people dreaded being thought anything less than respectable, attended church and chapel, and encouraged their children to "get on" and to be well behaved. This contrasted markedly with the mining communities I later became familiar with, where son would follow father down the pit and anyone who tried to get out was considered to be a class traitor and to have aspirations above their station.