FORMER clients’ worst fears were realised this week after it was revealed that confidential legal documents were among 500 boxes of papers cleared out of derelict law firm Walter, Scott and Ross two weeks ago.
The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA), which ordered the office in St Mary’s Street to be cleared out, this week admitted that sensitive files have been found there, despite having asked for clients’ files to be removed when the firm was shut down in 2009.
The office has become a haven for vandals and there is evidence of homeless people sleeping there and drug use in and around the premises.
Both the fire service and the police have also made pleas for something to be done about the building, described as ‘an accident waiting to happen’.
Former client Charles Hirons said: “I think it’s an outrage that the general public can be treated with such disregard for private matters – matters have been allowed to be thrown about in the public domain.”
When the firm was closed down because of financial irregularities in 2009, the SRA appointed Birmingham-based solicitors Martineau to ensure that all files were removed, stored securely and returned to former clients.
Dozens of concerned clients called the Advertiser in the wake of the closure complaining that they had not yet received their wills, deeds and other documents.
One elderly former client told us this week he has still not received the deeds to his house three years on.
Another client said: “It doesn’t bear thinking about. You would think that somebody in authority would have stepped in to stop it getting to this stage.”
A spokesman from the SRA said: “There was potentially confidential material found in the building when we went in there two weeks ago, even though it was unsafe to do so.”
He said the SRA is in discussions with Martineau about what ‘could or could not have happened’ when they, as intervention agents, took on responsibility to clear the building in 2009.
The SRA have asked for anyone with concerns to call them on 0870 606 2555.
And Terrence Devine director of legal advisors New Future Services has now asked for former clients, who still have files missing, to contact him as he prepares a legal case against the SRA.
He said: “Anybody could have picked up anybody’s information.
“If the SRA had done their job right in the first place, why would they need to take another 500 boxes out of the building?
“We know people have been in there and have thrown paperwork out of the windows. The people of Derbyshire have been lied to and we are certainly not going to accept it.”
Mr Devine has asked for concerned former clients to call him on 01922 217002.