Fight against former solicitors

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AFTER more than three years of waiting, clients of a former Ilkeston solicitors are hoping a new legal fight will see missing documents and cash owed to them returned.

Concerned former clients and neighbours of the derelict premises of Walter, Scott and Ross packed out a community centre on Thursday night to hear legal firm director Terrence Devine’s plan for legal action on behalf of old customers of the St Mary’s Street firm.

Mr Devine, of New Future Services, gathered clients’ details at the meeting, in order to prepare his case against the Solicitors’ Regulation Authority (SRA), which was given the task of clearing all confidential material from the building when the firm shut because of financial irregularities in 2009.

The SRA admitted to the Advertiser that cleaners sent in last month had found confidential documents inside the building.

Mr Devine said: “We didn’t expect the amount of problems that have come from one firm.

“It’s absolutely massive.

“Through the research we have done, what has come up with regards to wrongdoings is phenomenal.”

He said that he will make a claim against the SRA for ‘incompetence and negligence’ when he has enough details from former clients to bring a case to the Law Society.

“What inspires me to do this is when we hear stories from you,” he said.

“We will put coaches on and stand outside those offices, if we have to, to make sure they get your deeds back to you.”

During the meeting, former clients – many of them pensioners – made shocking claims about documents, which had not been returned to them.

Les Fearn told the Advertiser he received his sister’s deeds after the firm closed down, while his sister received documents belonging to another client with the same surname in Sandiacre.

Les’s deeds have never been returned, despite numerous calls to the SRA.

After the meeting he said: “Things are moving a bit more at last.

“There are more people involved now to get the message out.

“I am 85 and I get worked up about things – I don’t want this sort of worry.”

Another former client, Charles Hirons, who brought the situation to Mr Devine’s attention, claimed that photographs of battered women and police interview tapes were ‘on the street’ after the demise of the firm.

“When the intervention took place in 2009, I was in the middle of a heavyweight court case at the High Court in London,” he explained.

“And 31 boxes of my paperwork disappeared for three months.”

Labour councillor Cheryl Pidgeon was also at the meeting and pledged to help.

She sad: “I am horrified that people’s very private and very personal details could be out there

“Why should you have to put up with this?”

Alastair Ross, who owns the building, denied rumours this week that he has been declared bankrupt but confirmed the building was now being looked after by trustees.

In the days leading up to the meeting, the premises on the corner of Jackson Avenue has had all its windows and doors fitted with metal plates by the trustees – the first time it has been properly secured since it closed.

Jackson Avenue resident Derek Grange said the roof had been in such a bad state that tiles had blown off and damaged his car.

“That could have hit my children,” he said.

“That building should have been secured from day one.”

Another meeting is currently being arranged by Mr Devine and details will be published in the Advertiser.

Anyone who missed Thursday’s meeting can contact him on 01922 217002.