114 - 116 St. Mary Street
Hugh James, solicitors now based in Cardiff, are no strangers to the SFH website.
But this new entry also demonstrates the complete inadequacy of the Solicitors Regulatory Authority.
Also hopefully what is unveiled here,demonstrates the vital need of this website, and fully vindicates Rick Kordowski's earlier endeavours to confront the legal profession.
I apologise for the length of this piece. But given the seriousness of what is being alleged, this is perhaps necessary.
But to begin,anyone prepared to look at the former SFH site when it was run by Rick Kordowski, will see Hugh James featured TWICE.
In one of those cases, Malcolm Evans, Scott Thomas, and Nicola Sidoli (nee Martin) were all accused of incredible ineptness, and sloppiness, which included mixing up names and regarding their LIVING client as dead and gone.
Such behaviour would not be tolerated at a supermarket checkout.
This tale, involves the same case, but more serious facts have been uncovered - attempted fraud - which the SRA appears to be extremely reluctant to investigate, despite being provided with evidence that comes from a Hugh James source.
But this is also not the first time they have been accused of fraud. One other occasion - dealt with later - actually reached the House of Commons, and involved veteran Labour MP Austin Mitchell.
It is worth briefly looking at what the SRA decided when they made their first examination in Sept. 2010
They first said that the company had addressed the above concerns "in detail".
The complaints were "out of time" BUT Hugh James had failed to say that they had to tell their clients about the timsescale limits as laid down by the SRA.
This was in the Solicitors Code of Conduct 2007 and COULD have been regarded as a reason for the SRA to probe further.
However they decided that "the guidance given in the rules is not mandatory" and therefore the SRA were not going to exercise discretion, and dismissed any need to take action.
It was signed by Rachel Gilroy, Senior Caseworker at the SRA.
This gave Hugh James, the green signal to do exactly what they wanted.
And they certainly did .
It must be mentioned that this firm of solicitors like to project themselves as some kind of defenders of the unfortunate and deprived.
They have had some splendid publicity for their work involving healthcare for the elderly, making claims that they have managed to claw back millions of pounds in nursing homes fees, and have figured prominently in a number of Britain's national newspapers.
But others have challenged the way they do this, and have suggested that they are not adhering to an important law decision covering this particular specialist area. Many turned down by Hugh James could well have a legitimate case and won compensation.
This firm have repeatedly refused to say how many of their cases did not succeed.
They are also a reliable rent-a-quote when elderly healthcare issues are raised.
However, they also are equally adept at (non-legal) practices.
And the three mentioned earlier almost succeeded.
This particular instance - as listed earlier - involved healthcare refunds on behalf of the writer's late mother.
When first contacted, the company gave many reassurances that the case had a fair chance of success. Medical backing was provided by the company's own nurse, and Hugh James stated time and time again, that there was nothing to worry about. This case was already won.
So all systems were go. But strangely the name of the nurse giving the blessing to the medical evidence contained in the records, was omitted. More on that later.
A no-win-no-fee agreement was also dangled before this client's eyes.
But it just kept on being dangled.
However at this point, the firm were talking about arguing this particular case before a "Review Panel" . But the writer had already exhausted this (frustrating) path alone, and these lawyers knew this having been told at the very first contact.
Court action was the next step, which required proper legal representation, and that is why Hugh James had been approached. The "Review Panel" stage had been well passed.
However, despite their nurse's report pointing to a strong winnable outcome, it was now put forward that an "expert witness" was necessary,so now enter Professor Kevin Gournay, who held an impressive CV.
This included work for coroners offices in England and Wales, and the police service in Scotland, and involvement in dozens of cases involving health care. He also said he had helped government committees.
The professor now took a look at the medical records.
BUT formed an entirely different view to the nurse.
The case was "borderline" despite the fact that the person at the centre of all this, had been on the blind register, and had numerous other medical problems before she died in her nineties.
However, importantly, before he finally made up his mind,he requested a meeting with the company's client - and then went on holiday.
This all happened in 2007 and the Gournay report came out towards the end of that year. But in requesting the meeting, he made NO conditions whatsoever. It was purely a meeting to thrash out differences to see what common ground could be achieved, and THAT was all.
It is important to remember this in view of what came later.
Up to this point, no fees had been demanded by Hugh James for ANY reason. (letters attached.)
Indeed they were at pains to say that if the case was to prove negative at ANY point BEFORE going to court, and BEFORE any no-win-no-fee agreement had been signed, then all costs would be waived. This is in writing (edited version attached ). More soothing words.
However just after the professor's verdict, Nicola Martin sent a letter saying the case was sunk, even BEFORE the professor had given his absolute final decision,naturally expected after the meeting.
Did this lady have some kind of crystal ball that enabled her to prejudge the professor's final decision?
If the case was useless, then why a meeting - what was there to discuss?
In January 2008, things changed dramatically. The company started to demand money (evidence attached ) and said that if a meeting was to take place with Professor Gournay, he would have to have his fee of nearly £1,000 paid immediately.
But as months went by, Hugh James were not just demanding the professor's cash.
The no-win-no-fee arrangement was dead in the water stated Scott Thomas, but the firm would give their services on a "private paying basis".
He drew attention of an earlier letter of September the previous year, which spoke of estimates of £3,000 plus VAT.
But it must be pointed out that at the time, this was NEVER claimed as a demand for money and no demand had been made. (letter attached ).
However, in this new letter all kinds of costs were put forward including an added £2,000 for "additional work", but still no word from the professor.
He was then phoned directly by me, and it immediately appeared that there had been no moves at all on the meeting. But little else transpired.The professor was not best pleased that I had contacted him.
But as events moved on,the phone call turned out to be a smart move.
However, the cash-for-access demands from Hugh James continued.
March 2008, Scott Thomas asked for over £5,000 which included the professor's fee, and again demanded that this had to be paid BEFORE any meeting.
Another from Nicola Martin - also wanting money for the meeting - but this had ballooned to over £7,500. Added to this was a warning NOT to contact Professor Gournay directly.
They had very good reasons for this.
Money, it was said, was needed for "future work" whatever that might mean. My family had made no decision whatsoever about how the case would progress. That would come after the meeting.
There was no doubt whatsoever, that the present work had not been completed,so forget about the future. That had yet to be discussed.
And again,no news over the meeting.
Then followed an email from Scott Thomas in familiar vein in May 2008.
The professor, he said, was still on annual leave ( he was at home months earlier) but money must be paid AT ONCE.
And this time there was a significant difference.
No face-to-face meeting - I had to cough up for a mere TELEPHONE conversation instead. The bill for this again was thousands of pounds.
Yet another letter from Nicola Martin,backing Scott Thomas and demanding £7,000 which she says is linked to the Gournay meeting.
In August 2008, a letter complaining about all this was sent to Hugh James, and was dealt with by Malcolm Evans, who simply supported his colleagues (surprise, surprise) and went on to demand all fees to be paid at once.
This was resisted.
However, after this, I wrote a letter to Professor Gournay. Various legal points were raised, but it was stressed that there was strong resentment at the fact that he demanded cash in advance,for his suggested meeting.
In December, the professor replied at last (edited copy attached ).
In a long letter, he made this almost unbelievable statement:-
"With regard to certain specific points raised in your letters. I have to say that I have never "demanded" money to talk to you."
In other words, Evans, Martin, and Thomas had made this all up and lied to squeeze a large sum of money from a client - a criminal offence.
This letter also said that the Professor had received no further instructions from Hugh James regarding this particular case.
Everything this trio had said, was a total fabrication.
Hugh James received a copy of this letter, but never commented on its claims.
Various letters (one example attached ) were sent to all the lawyers involved in this scam, asking them for an explanation.By now Scott Thomas was working for another firm, NewLaw Solicitors, also based in Cardiff.
Not one lawyer replied.
The company continued to harass me for nearly £8,000, and even went to court - which was incredibly botched by Her Majesty's Court Service - but this was stopped short, when they were informed that if any more legal proceedings took place, then the professor's letter, and their cash-for-access demands, would be shown to the judge which substantiated allegations of attempted fraud.
Before this, Hugh James were threatening bankruptcy proceedings.
Now another curtain of silence descended.
Malcolm Evans has been asked more than once about all the above, but refuses to reply (except to say he still wants his money).
Then questions were asked concerning the (unnamed ) nurse who gave the initial report.
She was said to be "in-house" but when a Hugh James employee of long-standing was contacted, she totally denied that any such person existed.
And it does seem incredible that a fully qualified nurse would be working full-time for a firm of solicitors.
Finally a name was given, but no other details. Next followed a search at the Nursing and Midwifery Council but they were unable to locate her.
To broadly summarise so far. Up to the end of 2007, everything was sweetness and light, and I was given multiple reassurances that there was absolutely nothing to worry about, regarding financial concerns covering any legal action, nor the outcome of the case. Everything pointed to a win, depending on what the expert witness finally decided.
Come 2008, cash demands came thick and fast, and no meeting.
Then, enter once more, the SRA at the beginning of this year (2013) when a complaint involving fraud,was made against Hugh James. A copy of the professor's letter was also included.
Yet once again, a curtain of silence.There was no response to emails.
Finally fed up with this lack of response, this writer had a look at the infrastructure that props up the SRA, and it transpires they have a standards committee whose chair is Sara Nathan ( who when signing off her mail, likes to include the letters OBE ).
Ms Nathan has quite a pedigree. She is married to Malcolm Singer who is
Director of Music at the Yehudi Menuhin School in Surrey which has recently been the subject of sexual scandals going back many years, highlighted by the violinist Nigel Kennedy.
However it must be stressed, Mr Singer is not involved in this.
According to her website entry , Ms Nathan spent 15 years producing programmes at the BBC and was at the launch of Radio 5Live where she was the inaugural editor of the morning programme.
She left the BBC in 1995 to edit Channel 4 News and since then, she has produced TV and radio programmes.
She is also a consultant editorial adviser to the BBC Trust, focusing on complaints.
This writer had a complaint, and so she seemed the ideal person to approach at the SRA, so off went a letter sent not to the SRA hq, but care of her husband at the Yehudi Menuhin School, just in case it got "lost" if sent directly to the SRA.
For a time, nothing was heard, but then in June this year came a rather terse reply.
She was not best pleased that she had been contacted through her husband's music school.However she said that she was not "head of standards" at the SRA.
"I merely chair the Standards Committee there as a board member. NEITHER (my capitals) that committee, nor I personally have a remit to deal with specific complaints".
The tone of this letter is quite extraordinary. This lady seems more upset at the interference with her domestic arrangements, then the fact that a member of her organisation is attempting to defraud a member of the public of a vast sum of money.
It is nice to know that such people can get their priorities right.
However, a bit of head scratching is possibly permissible at this juncture. Just what is the purpose of this "Standards Committee". Some kind of sinecure whose members can include in their pension plan?
And if the SRA are failing to deal in any way with a genuine complaint, surely this should be of concern to the standards committee ???!! !
And if they cannot deal with fraud allegations, then what do they deal with?
However, Ms Nathan did forward my complaints to the Chief Executive at the SRA.
And what a difference this approach made - not.
To date, there has still been no proper investigation by the SRA of the fraud allegations. Frequent emails have only brought a stock response, amounting to saying my email had arrived, and nothing more.
And - this writer finds this extraordinary - they do NOT tell complainants what has been decided by the SRA during, and presumably after the course of any investigation.
Under similar circumstances, the police are legally obliged to keep any victim of crime fully informed.
This was signed by Gary Stevens, "Regulatory Manager".
So what now?
It can be reasonably claimed that the SRA are extremely reluctant to investigate fraud, and therefore appear to condone it.
What other conclusion can be reached when they refuse to tell victims about progress of a case, or lack of it.
And this has to once again beg the question - what good are they, and what exactly do they pretend to regulate, and exactly how many vexed clients of solicitors have actually benefitted from this body?
It is worrying to think that many people with genuine complaints concerning lawyers, will probably give up when either turned down or totally ignored by the SRA.
And it appears that this body has given Hugh James licence to mislead as many people as they can - even if it involves criminal acts.
And there can now be no doubt. The three already mentioned earlier had deliberately planned to extract sums between £5,000 and £7,500 by a tissue of lies, evasions,and fake promises.
And to date, there have been no explanations coming from any of those involved.
Their technique - with possible variations - appears to first give clients false hopes, then when the case is well advanced, come up with some excuse not to go on, but then present a (hefty) bill.
And finally threaten if this is not paid.
These solicitors are nothing but cheap hustlers and glorified ambulance chasers, posing as a firm that fights for those defrauded by the state, of large sums of money in care home fees.
In fact, the only real interest they have is in extracting large sums of money from gullible clients, blinded by their legal gobbledegook.
Just how many have they taken in,and extracted cash from their bank accounts, for dubious legal work?
However as stated earlier, this not the first time that this mob, have had such accusations made against them. This time, it involved a lady called Mrs Ann Elizabeth Evans who alleged fraud at Hugh James.but if you want more details go to this website:-
House of Commons - Public Accounts - Minutes of Evidence
Has anyone reading this or similar cases on this site, have any doubts whatsoever, that regulation of all the legal profession, needs a good kick in the pants.
But just who will administer this?