Friday, 12 December 2008

Solicitors struck off for cashing in on sick miners

This is enough to turn your stomach...

A solicitor who became Britain's richest lawyer was yesterday struck off after being found guilty of creaming millions of pounds from compensation paid to sick miners. Jim Beresford, 58, and his partner Douglas Smith, 52, were also ordered to pay substantial costs for serious professional misconduct over the handling of personal injury claims made under a compensation scheme for miners suffering coal dust-related diseases and other injuries.

Over five years, Mr Beresford, who was named last year as Britain's highest-earning solicitor, profited by £30.2m in the government-run compensation that is expected to pay out a total of £7bn when it is finally settled.

His firm, Beresfords in Doncaster, South Yorkshire, expanded rapidly, acting in more than 83,000 cases of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and more than 14,500 cases of vibration white finger (VWF), a painful condition caused by working with vibrating tools. The joint earnings of Mr Beresford and Mr Smith went from more than £182,000 in 2000 to £23,273,256 in 2006.

But yesterday the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal, sitting in London, ruled the lawyers' actions amounted to a breach of the solicitors' rules and found them guilty of eight out of 11 of the allegations against them. The tribunal chairman, David Leverton, said: "If ever there was a group of persons who needed the full care and attention from solicitors, it was these miners. Mr Beresford described himself as an entrepreneur. Unfortunately, his attitude allowed himself and Mr Smith to put commercial goals before his clients' best interests."

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