back to article Anti-piracy lawyers 'knowingly targeted the innocent', says law body

A major law firm knew it sometimes had no reliable evidence of unlawful filesharing when it demanded hundreds of pounds damages from internet users, according to the solicitors' watchdog. London-based Davenport Lyons threatened thousands of people with legal action for alleged copyright infringement between 2006 and 2009. They …

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  1. Andrew the Invertebrate

    stuff the SRA

    do these schisters really care about disciplinary proceedings? Where's the criminal investigation into fraud, exortion etc.. ?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      FAIL

      Seems you don't realise

      What being struck off from practicing as a lawyer means...

      1. Graham Marsden
        Thumb Down

        @being struck off

        I know what it means, but it takes something *really* substantial for those who are running the disciplinary proceedings (who are they? Why, I do believe they're *other* lawyers!) to actually use that as a penalty instead of saying "naughty boy, don't do it again".

      2. Anonymous Coward
        FAIL

        @Seems you don't realise

        Seems YOU don't realise.

        Losing your trade is considerably different than going to prison.

        1. CmdrX3
          Thumb Down

          and what...

          What's the problem with receiving both as a punishment.

    2. Chris Parsons

      Too true

      You've been really, really naughty, and we don't want you to do it again.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    IANAL

    But is this covered by laws against extortion ---- or blackmail ?

    Oh. silly me. These things don't apply to nicely spoken, well educated lawyers. Slap on the wrist will do.

    1. frymaster

      I don't know if this has occurred to you...

      ... but it's not the SRA's job to prosecute random people. It's not even their job to sue random lawyers on behalf of random punters. It's their job to police their profession. As such, all they can do is kick folk out of said profession. You want charges brought against them, go see the police.

  3. Robin 1
    Coffee/keyboard

    Um...

    Duh?

  4. Peter Galbavy
    Thumb Down

    hmm

    Sounds like "demanding with menaces" to me. If it's good enough for a loan shark then it's good enough for the bar.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Flame

    Scam

    "But is this covered by laws against extortion ---- or blackmail ?"

    I'd say the 2006 Fraud Act, The Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 and The Administration of Justice Act 1970.

    Police aren't bothered though. This is just an internal SRA job.

    1. Danny 14 Silver badge

      but

      it could become the focus of a small claims suit based on the evidence of the SRA findings - especially if someone just paid up.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    FAIL

    Dynamic?

    "...There were other factual possibilities known to [Gore and Miller] such as unauthorised access or a change in IP address after a 24-hour gap following modem switch off follow or other such occurence."

    I don't have recent experience with other ISPs, but Sky operate a dynamic IP system, even turning off the router for a second or two results in a fresh IP address, let alone a longer period. If they're not checking that the IP address holder is the correct one for the exact time period concerned, then that's completely shoddy work on their behalf.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Flame

      ...and that's just the start

      wasn't there a story recently where plod went in feet first on the basis of an ISP log, which they had not read the GMT offset on .....

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      RE: Sky

      Amusingly enough, Sky are also one of the ISPs dishing out their customer details to the likes of ACS law.

  7. LinkOfHyrule
    FAIL

    "good" lawyers

    These guys are not even "good" lawyers - they probably thought they were oh so clever with this little scam. All they basicly did was send blackmail letters asking for a few hundred quid (a few hundred quid is just beer money to any "decent" lawyer though isint it!).

    Yeah, being a lawyer is such a sexy job if you work for Davenport Lyons - all those envelopes to stuff and those Excel spreadsheets full of IP address to wade through - HBO should make a f**ing drama series about it!

  8. Darryl

    This just in...

    Lawyers use high pressure legal-speak to extort money from people.

    In other news, bears shit in the woods.

  9. Fizzle
    Headmaster

    Infinitives and beyond..

    I for one welcome our SRA overlords "knowingly splitting infinities" where no lawyers should have gone before - not if they've been educated proppa anyways!

  10. lotus49
    Pirate

    Not good news for ACS:Law

    OK these scumbags deserve to suffer more than being disciplined by the SRA (although that's pretty serious stuff for a solicitor) but this will be most unwelcome news for Andrew Crossley.

    ACS:Law is even more disreputable than Davenport Lyons so AC is dooooooomed. How my heart bleeds. Poor Andrew, perhaps he won't be able to afford that Lambo after all. He may even go bust as he confessed he feared he might in one of the many leaked emails. It's a tragedy, it really is.

    Ahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahah.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    SRA

    The SRA will do no more than a slap on the wrist and will be yet another whitewash I bet.

  12. JaitcH
    FAIL

    Anti-piracy lawyers 'knowingly targeted the innocent'

    Why are people so upset when all they have done is what they do as SOP? All Davenport has done is to confirm what people think of lawyers, bottom feeding scum.

    And why did the watchdog have to wait for complaints when Davenport's trickery was up front for all to see? Any decent watchdog outfit would sniffed this out way before.

    Hope Davenport have to refund all ill-gotten gains plus plus interest plus a big penalty, to boot.

    1. asdf Silver badge
      Flame

      easy silly

      In the western world corporations have far more rights than the sheep. You know don't bite hand that feeds you, do what your told or be black balled from the means of production, etc. Makes you miss the days of procuring your own food via farming, hunting, etc.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      FAIL

      @JaitcH

      "decent watchdog"? - that's an oxymoron.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    In other news...

    Proof of ursine defecation in boscage found..

  14. Notas Badoff
    Pint

    You were only supposed to blow the ...

    "Gore and Miller also disregarded the harm the campaign of legal threats might do to Davenport Lyons' reputation, regulators claim, in breach of the Solicitors Code of Conduct."

    Notice when the Code of Conduct gets mentioned. "Gack!, you've damaged our legal (?) business!"

    Not of course for the previously mentioned

    "The pair are also accused of acting in the interests of Davenport Lyons, rather than those of their copyright-holding clients."

    which is just common practice, and common knowledge?

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    so just one question?

    When the inquiry finds that these companies acted improperly and illegally cannot any of the people they sent a letter to & who paid the requested amount then start a private prosecution against them for blackmail, extortion, abuse of the legal system, bringing the sytem into disrepute etc etc?? (feel free to add or pick offences that may apply)

    After all the report will be public record wont it? So that'll be evidence to use against them & unless they can prove you have the data on your pc without hacking into it (again illegal & therefore not admissable) or siezing your pc (they dont have the power to do that) surely they would have to refund you, right?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Go

      Legal Action

      Much as I like the idea of the scum being dragged through the courts, it would require the victims taking action, which will be expensive and time consuming, and probably not get very far.

      Perhaps a better approach would be for the SRA to force Davenport Lyons to repay all the money it received, (I leave the reader to decided if a nominal compensation amount should be added) . One would assume DL have kept records of all correspondance and transactions.

      Davenport Lyons as a "reputable" legal company should have had appropriate controls in place to ensure that none of the partners or staff acted inappropriately, so while the SRA may find "Gore and Miller also disregarded the harm the campaign of legal threats might do to Davenport Lyons' reputation", the company is ultimately responsible for the letters issued on it's headed paper, and must answer to the SRA also.

      One step further? - make DL send a letter of apology to all people it "accused".

    2. Danny 14 Silver badge

      yes

      and the burden of proof on civil recovery cases is much lower than a criminal one.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    ACS:Law next, but it might take a while, there's a LOT of evidence to go through!

    They sent 6,113 demands for money and were "regarding the scheme which they were operating as a revenue-generating scheme", according to the SRA.

    oh, they're not allowed to send threatening letters with the aim of generating income? I hope ACS:Law are watching closely, to quote an email from their file sharing team:

    "Please can you acknowledge receipt of this email and inform me when we can now receive

    the data for generating Letters of Claim necessary to generate the income for yourselves and the Client."

    (there are almost certain way better quotes, i only had a quick flick through a small section of one of the inboxes!)

  17. Dazed and Confused

    Jail

    Yeppp sounds just like demanding money with menaces, perhaps all the partners in the law firm might like to spend a while at Her Majesties pleasure to reflect of the value of their money making scheme.

  18. sybaris
    Thumb Up

    Nobcheeses

    I got not one but 2 of these from ACS in the space of a year, One telling me I downloaded some crapy film I never heard of and the other downloading some 'now thats what I call crap' album..

    After wiping my arse on it - it wiffed a bit so I left it, never heard owt else about it....

  19. Subban

    And this leaves the DEB where?

    So shock and surprise that the "evidence" isn't very good and innocent people got/get caught up in accusations, but where exactly does that now leave the Digital Economy Bill which is based on precisely the evidence, surely it shoots a lovely big hole in its hull.... I forget its a government boat though, the relevant politicians will be sticking fingers in the holes and keeping it afloat I guess.

  20. Winkypop Silver badge
    WTF?

    "Solicitors Code of Conduct"

    Solicitor's have a Code of Conduct...

    Who knew?

  21. D. M
    Flame

    code of conduct

    1. Anything goes

    2. see above

    But seriously, what do you expect from lawyer/solicitor?

    I have a quick fix "Any lawyer/solicitor knowingly target innocent or defend the guilty, automatically receive death penalty."

    1. Intractable Potsherd Silver badge
      WTF?

      Because...

      ...in a civilised country, everyone is entitled to a defence. Remember (at least in theory) innocent until proven guilty? How do you decide "knowingly defending the guilty"? By the fact that a jury finds the defendant guilty? What about appeals, especially many years later (eg Birmingham Six, Carl Bridgewater).

      Perhaps you need to think this through a bit more.

  22. Bernard M. Orwell

    Class Action

    I'm pretty sure that it'd be easy to find a schiester lawyer that'd be willng to entertain the idea of a class action against another schiester lawyer in order to recover fees paid as a result of fradulent/criminal extortion scheme.

    Cry havoc and let slips the dogs of law.

  23. Sam Therapy
    Happy

    My wife received a letter from ACS:Law

    Accusing her of dling some porn movie or other. She wrote back and told 'em to take her to court. Shortly after that ACS went tits up. Funny that.

  24. Dog Faced Boy
    Thumb Up

    @bernard

    British law firm Ralli are looking to take action against ACS Law - http://www.ralli.co.uk/news/recipients-of-acs-law-copyright-infringement-letters-urged-to-come-forward&archive=

    "It can be incredibly upsetting for people to receive such letters and they may well have a claim for harassment against acs law so I am urging them to come forward."

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