woblesra

The SRA investigation: how it might look.


The Solicitors Regulation Authority has said that it is carrying out more than 20 investigations into firms and solicitors involved in the Post Office Horizon scandal, but that none of them are likely to be stopped from practising in the short term.

Between 2000 and 2015, hundreds of subpostmasters’ lives were ruined when the Post Office wrongly prosecuted them based on information from Horizon, its faulty accounting system.

Responding to a growing clamour for some sign that sending dozens of innocent people to prison brings professional repercussions, the SRA has released an update on the status of its probe, saying, “We will take action where we find evidence that solicitors have fallen short of the standards the public expects”.

However, “At the moment, we do not have evidence to show that any solicitor presents an ongoing risk to the public that needs to be addressed through urgent action”, it said.

The role of the Post Office's external lawyers was placed under the microscope last week when the Post Office Horizon IT Inquiry turned to the conduct of Womble Bond Dickinson, which helped advise on wrongful prosecutions to its great financial benefit.

Lowlights included the revelations that WBD partner Andy Parsons had dismissed the subpostmasters as "criminals and liars", and inserted a paragraph into then trainee Amy Prime’s letter to the Post Office advising that “we'll do what we can to avoid disclosure” and “try to do so in a way that looks legitimate”. Parsons' performance was so striking that it has been immortalised in a painting

Another difficult moment saw WBD interrogated over its approach to Gareth Jenkins, an IT expert from Fujitsu who helped design Horizon, and whose damaging testimony was withheld from subpostmasters.

At the inquiry this week, Post Office Head of Legal Rodric Williams was accused of perverting the course of justice by the forensic accountants who were hired by the Post Office to look into the scandal as a sop to campaigners, but who were then sacked when they found out too much. 

While not naming its targets, the SRA said it was examining various aspects of firms' and solicitors’ behaviour, including their conduct of prosecutions, their conduct at the inquiry, their duties relating to expert witnesses, and their compliance with disclosure obligations. So you can probably guess at least a few names on its list.

The SRA said it had reviewed tens of thousands of pages of evidence, where necessary obtained via court orders against the Post Office, and that “New issues and evidence are coming to light on an ongoing basis, particularly from the public inquiry”.

Although the regulator indicated that any referrals to the SDT are most likely to occur after the inquiry concludes, it did leave room to leap early, saying that it was keeping its position “under constant review”.


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Comments

Anonymous 21 June 24 07:44

Wombles reportedly trousered £60m+ from their role in the biggest miscarriage of justice in UK legal history. 

Before the taxpayer has to compensate the poor victims, Womble Bond Dickinson should be compelled to pay that £60m towards the costs of compensation. 

Anonymous 21 June 24 07:54

The SRA has been glacially slow at tackling WBD failings but has at least provided a statement on Horizon. 

Contrast that with the Law Society, which has failed to criticise the behaviour of the lawyers involved. Indeed the President of the Law Society is reported to have visited his brother’s firm (WBD) as a show of support this week. 

You start to wonder what is the point of these organisations if they behave like this in the face of the biggest scandal facing the legal profession in years. 
 

Help the SRA 21 June 24 08:11

If I was looking for evidence to show that certain solicitors presents a risk to the public that needs to be addressed through urgent action, I’d just look at the last two Roll on Friday articles on Womble Bond Dickinson. 

One features a photo of an email advising a client to smear the victims as “criminals and liars”. The other features an email about trying to avoid disclosure obligations in a way that looks legitimate. 

Pretty clear evidence, which doesn’t seem to have been voluntarily provided by WBD until there was an inquiry.  Indeed, it begs the question, are lots of other cases involving WBD similarly tainted and therefore ripe to be overturned?  

wombledisgrace 21 June 24 08:32

The public and indeed the wider legal profession will not let the SRA and Law Society just stand by and take no action in the worse miscarrisge in legal history . Wombles should try get ahead of curve and start by paying back 60 million and sack at least Parsons, Stewart and Blair for their roles and publically condemn Richardson now retired for his role

sra action 21 June 24 08:51

SRA will have to wait till after Inquiry  finished but both it and Law Society need to and need to  be seen to take very strong action against Wombles . Very strong.

Donald Joffers 21 June 24 09:11

@Anonymous 21 June 24 07:44

You know what's quite funny? A few years ago, we reviewed and increased salaries, only for it to put us into a real financial pickle. Since then, recruitment has slowed down to an embarrassing level.  

death of Bond 21 June 24 09:26

What a fall from grace for once decent Bond Pearce. The rot set in when it merged with golden turd winner Dickinson Dees and Bond soon realised you cannot polish a turd. Bond had the foresight to remove Richardson as its MP only for the Wombles to bring him back as Chair ! The toxic combination of Richardson and Blair set the Wombles on a path of self destruction. Like all scandals when things start to unravel everyone asks how on earth did they get way with it for long ?

nothankyou 21 June 24 09:29

@Donald, yes why would anyone decent and with options want to join Wombles now? Yes blood money being thrown at people to stay but for most decent folk it entirely misses the point. 

Anonymous 21 June 24 09:30

Womble Bond Dickinson isn’t the first business to be embroiled in a situation like this and it won’t be the last either. 

Looking at similar situations, senior associates and below at Womble Bond Dickinson should contemplate moving to other law firms / in-house. The simple reality is that after this clients will leave, growth will be constrained and those who take the most from the business will often be the last to leave. That means the prospects of senior associates and below suffer disproportionately. It’s therefore common sense for these people to look to move. 

Anonymous 21 June 24 09:43

There are doctors who work for cigarette companies.  

Do you think they adopt a similar mindset to the solicitors who choose to continue to work for WBD after all these revelations? 

Sumoking 21 June 24 09:48

However, “At the moment, we do not have evidence to show that any solicitor presents an ongoing risk to the public that needs to be addressed through urgent action”, it said.

okay, so a least we know they have thoroughly and rigorously investigated every senior lawyer and law firm partner involved 

Anonymous 21 June 24 09:50

Good to hear that these disgraces to the profession will soon be subjected to a good nuzzling and light slobbery chewing from the toothless hound that is our professional regulator. Sure, the horse is some way out of the stable door, but what's a few dozen furlongs between friends, eh?

Just mark my words, they'll have gum-marks for at least an hour when it's done with them! And their wrists will be thoroughly slapped! Which will serve them all right, I'm sure.

 

But then, if you thought the Post Office's board was a carousel of know-nothing muppets whose careers seemed to involve nothing but bouncing from one board to another so as to build up an ever longer list of boards that they had been on with which to justify joining the next one, and with no apparent skills or knowledge to actually add to said boards, then you should see the board of the SRA...

Anonymous 21 June 24 09:51

Well done to the graphics department - brilliant image of how the investigation might look. 

Always deny 21 June 24 10:56

The SRA are so timid when facing anyone other than a paralegal or a junior already abandoned by his or her firm, who has admitted and apologised for some minor infraction, that they will be unlikely to make any findings themselves. They will just wait for someone else to make a finding and then latch onto it and pass it to the SDT. The SRA do not like “investigating” and they are really bad at it. Some of their staff have no training at all and are more like call centre operators in their role. It’s why it is so rare to see the most morally deficient behaviour and serious fraud dealt with by the SRA. They don’t have the capability and do not understand how to unravel even the most obvious dishonesty. So the advice to clients in my former firm was always to never ever admit dishonesty, even momentary,  to the SRA if they start asking questions. Absent an admission (following which, they will try to destroy you) , they will nearly always let it pass and just accept what they are told. It’s a scandal, because it means those who come clean get dealt with so much more severely than those who continue to lie and cover up. 

Anon 21 June 24 10:57

Parsons should be struck off. But more importantly, Beezer should be dismissed for a complete lack of management. He put a junior partner into a situation way above his ability and openly admitted to not supervising his work. But guess what? The current appalling managing partner - Paul Stewart - was also part of the same team, so he will now  “review and reflect on things” in his own pathetic litigators boys club manner and not do anything to admit failure. 

All three need to go for the wombles to have any credibility with their existing clients and potential hires. 

The wombles board should have an immediate vote of no confidence to save their reputation and secure the jobs of the few good people they have remaining in the firm. 

 

Paul 21 June 24 11:23

I think everyone is missing the point.  No-one left a laptop on a train.  That deserves a savage punishment.  Facilitating the biggest miscarriage of justice in a century, that's more nuanced.

Cloud Cuckoo Land 21 June 24 11:30

Wombles accounts fail to mention their central role in the wrecking of hundreds of subpostmasters’ lives. 

Instead it boasts about their ESG credentials. It claims Wombles is “a responsible business” that is “committed to creating better places to live, work and do business”. It praises its “Values, Principles and Ethical Standards” which means it is acts “responsibly and always doing the right thing”.

In my view doing the right thing would be saying sorry, paying back the full £60m to the postmasters and getting rid of anyone who did the wrong thing. Losing the fancy offices, the lovely sports cars and cancelling the champagne parties would hurt, but would be consistent with the firm that WBD management claim to be. 

Donald Joffers 21 June 24 11:33

@ nothankyou 21 June 24 09:29

There are two elements to this: (1) as you say, few want to join; and (2) teams simply do not have the budget for it.

The merger with BDB P was an attempt to spread risk and salvage the pieces of the wreckage.  My prediction is, I'll need to find somewhere new to work in early 2025.

Anonymous 21 June 24 11:49

It would be interesting to hear from Womble staff about how well they think their business has handled this matter. 

 

stepupboard 21 June 24 12:37

Wombles board . show some leadership. Sack Parsons, Beezer, Blair and Stewart. Pay £37 million out of the £62 and rising you earned from it office into a fund for the submpostmasters and family, immediately stop acting for PO and then and only then have you any chance of saving the form. But your culture will just say we did nothing wrong and that is why BDB Pitmans and others will not touch you with a bargepole

champers 21 June 24 12:39

How can anyone attending the champagne Womble summer parties do so ? Either internally or externally now knowing what Wombles role in the biggest legal miscarriage in history is? 

1149 21 June 24 12:56

1149 big guesture need to be made, Big money and i mean many millions need to be repaid by us Wombles, those partners who have been overpaid and overpromoted including Parsons, Beezer, Blair , Stewart  ( Richardson retired in disgrace) need to leave Wombles immediately and a completely new board put in place to hold hands up and find someone to take over the Wombles and loose their name from legal history for ever.

Holly Bowden 21 June 24 14:01

The conduct of the lawyers involved in the Post Office Scandal is nothing short of scandalous itself - each and every one I have seen give evidence doesn't deserve a practicing certificate. The SRA will now take years to investigate and eventually conclude there was nothing to see here, or nothing they can say publicly. That is the excellent service the SRA provides!

Holly Bowden 21 June 24 14:01

The conduct of the lawyers involved in the Post Office Scandal is nothing short of scandalous itself - each and every one I have seen give evidence doesn't deserve a practicing certificate. The SRA will now take years to investigate and eventually conclude there was nothing to see here, or nothing they can say publicly. That is the excellent service the SRA provides!

Anonymous 21 June 24 14:42

Wombles used to be seen as the Frank Spencer of law firms until their actions led to four suicides and an innocent lady giving birth in handcuffs. 

That kind of stain is almost impossible to shift.

I expect the management will be replaced in due course, but of course the real problem with that is that we all know that the second string also financially benefited for years and that’s why they haven’t taken a stand so far.  

So the only viable option is to get a management team in from outside.

Anonymous 21 June 24 15:09

There’s been a flurry of downvotes for sensible comments, which probably means the WBD marketing team are about to make their representations. 

This is a simple issue. WBD sought to avoid disclosing relevant documents and to smear innocent people, whilst making themselves very rich. Now they won’t issue a proper apology or pay back the £60m+ they made. 

Vegan Addleshaws Partner 21 June 24 15:38

**A Statement from Addleshaw Goddard**

In light of the SRA’s investigations into over 20 firms regarding the Post Office Horizon scandal, it is no surprise that Addleshaw Goddard remains unimplicated. This merely underscores the vast divide between our superior standards and the mediocrity of others.

Our recent accolade as Law Firm of the Year is a testament to our unrivaled legal acumen and ethical excellence. While the SRA delves into the misconduct of lesser firms, our impeccable record remains unblemished, reinforcing our status as paragons of integrity and professionalism.

🐀 from a sinking 🚢 21 June 24 16:23

When the Prime Minister calls your firm’s most eminent worksteam an “appalling miscarriage of justice" you know things are bad. 

How bad though? Well right now nobody has been convicted within the firm and nobody has been struck off.  However once either of those happens it will crystallise how the public see Womble Bond Dickinson forever. WBD staff will be pariahs and calls for the repayment of the riches will amplify. 

Is it any surprise that the well advised WBD staff are already reaching out to other employers? Those who aren’t are like ostriches with their head in the sand. 

Anonymous 21 June 24 17:09

I hope Wombles solicitors watch Mr Bates vs The Post Office this weekend and see the misery that the firm they choose to work for inflicted on innocent people. 

When they get to the office next week, they should look around at all the luxuries.  Those are tainted by the suffering of the innocent subpostmasters. As are all the expensive cars parked in the car park. 

 

Anonymous 21 June 24 19:41

Only 20? 

Surely the fact that WBD didn’t voluntarily disclose this information to the SRA until there was a public inquiry means that the number must be much, much higher? 

Anonymous 21 June 24 19:48

However, “At the moment, we do not have evidence to show that any solicitor presents an ongoing risk to the public that needs to be addressed through urgent action”, it said.

Didn’t they say that about Prags? 

Anonymous 22 June 24 06:28

You can’t instruct Womble Bond Dickinson and credibly claim to adopt an ethical approach to business. 

Anonymous 22 June 24 07:08

Womble Bond Dickinson is a provincial firm which was the butt of jokes for many years because of its absurd boasting in the press.

However that’s changed. People committed suicide because of the Horizon litigation. It’s not simply a case that corners were cut, emails were sent by Womble Bond Dickinson staff advising the Post Office not to disclose inconvenient documents (you can only guess what was said if this was written down). A woman gave birth in prison because of this litigation.

There’s a real chance that this scandal will bring Womble Bond Dickinson to an end and, you know what, that would probably be a good thing.  After all,  this is a toxic organisation that has damaged the perception of the legal profession.
 

Anonymous 22 June 24 07:21

I don’t think the penny has dropped for some WBD staff about how much worse this is going to get. 

 

Anonymous 22 June 24 08:00

Maybe Wombles could use some of that £60m to pay the Northern Echo to say they weren’t involved in litigation which led to the deaths of innocent people? 😂

Free Agent Limo 22 June 24 09:04

Never understand why people work for these tin pot firms. If you can't do the whole law career thing properly for whatever reason then just cut your losses and be a dive instructor in Thailand or work in a shop or something.

Anonymous 22 June 24 13:22

If Nigel Farage was a solicitor he would definitely work for Womble Bond Dickinson. 

Both adopt a faux gentlemen act and pretend to have ethics whilst behaving abominably.  

Anonymous 22 June 24 13:28

It only took two years for the SRA to issue a slap on the wrist (sorry, a rebuke) when Womble Bond Dickinson breached the SRA Accounts Rules between 2013 and 2018.

Your conscience 22 June 24 17:09

Imagine a funeral; the cortege, the black outfits and the family crying. 

Now imagine choosing to remain at a law firm that refuses to pay back the millions it made from that misery. 

Anonymous 22 June 24 20:16

There’s a bunch of people that WBD seem to have in their pocket. I mean business organisations, journalists, politicians and many others who have accepted hospitality from this bunch and, as a result, seem to be able to look past the serious wrongdoing to the subpostmasters by WBD or, at the very least, stay silent. 

Well, once the striking off begins those people deserve to be challenged. They are stained by association.

Anonymous 22 June 24 20:18

A surprising result comes up if you google “Are Womble Bond Dickinson being investigated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority?”

Anonymous 23 June 24 08:00

It would be odd to encounter a fraud where there is no sign of any money being spent extravagantly. 

The Post Office had over 500 such cases running simultaneously so it must have been obvious to anyone working across these cases that something was wrong. 

Was it the millions of pounds in fees that blinded the lawyers to the obvious?

Solution Squirrel. 🐿️ 23 June 24 08:12

The solution is pretty simple.

1. Merrick Benn and the entire global board sign an open letter of apology.  They admit their lawyers conduct fell below the basic level required. They admit what they did to the subpostmasters was inhumane and brought the profession into disrepute.

2. Womble Bond Dickinson pays every penny (said to be £60m+) to the subpostmasters.  If need be they take out a loan and get the partners to pay for this over the next few years. The important thing is the subpostmasters get the money quickly and WBD is not enriched for its behaviour. 

3. The entire UK management is removed. They are replaced by external appointments who can show they never took a penny of the subpostmaster fees. Nobody tainted is considered for management positions for the next ten years. 

Anonymous 23 June 24 21:23

Sympathy to the Legal 500 Northern Powerhouse Awards which may now be regretting giving an award for ESG to WBD.   

Anonymous 23 June 24 21:44

What would a PR consultant tell WBD about the optics of holding extravagant summer parties whilst refusing to pay back its millions to the subpostmasters? 

Anonymous 24 June 24 08:38

Secret justice is no justice. 

The SRA discussions with the firms under scrutiny should be the subject of public minutes. There can be no credible outcome if dirty deals are thought to have been done during the SRA investigation into the largest miscarriage of justice in UK legal history. 

Anonymous 24 June 24 09:24

Can anyone verify / close down the rumour that the Leeds office might be moving to Weightmans? 

 

9024 24 June 24 12:30

0924 . No knowledge of this but must be inevitable that decent folk and their teams will be talking to many others. And will be on an individual and team large and small level. The Womble board are invisible and Paul Stewart gone into hiding . As others said it needs to act now immediately get rid of Stewart, Blair, Parsons , Beezer as a start, pat back money and apologise 

wishwombleswell 24 June 24 12:50

Totally agree with others who said if Wombles partners had any sense/backbone/conscience/decency they would immediately get rid of Blair and Stewart, bring in outsider, pay back all the money from Horizon through a cash call and rebuild their reputation by using the pay back money to support those whose lives and families they helped ruin . 

Anonymous 24 June 24 17:34

The email about disclosure is a smoking gun, which has been aimed at their own feet. I don’t think the SRA is going to need to call Poirot in on this one. 

WomblesLols 25 June 24 11:36

I don't why people would expect WBD to compensate subpostmasters when the Board initially voted against paying back the furlough money during Covid - an absolute outrage.  

Anonymous 25 June 24 16:43

I don’t expect WBD to pay the subpostmasters. 

I expect them to close because they become pariahs due to their failure to pay the subpostmasters. 

Anonymous 25 June 24 19:33

Why would anyone join a firm which is being investigated by the SRA? 

The answer is that they won’t. So WBD will decline and die. 

In house counsel shysters 26 June 24 05:31

The virtuous, oft woke, always righteous “in house counsel” brigade support and instruct WBD despite all they have seen and heard.

What a bunch of hypocritical shysters you are.

 

 

Anonymous 26 June 24 09:11

The stench of 💩 has followed this firm for over a decade now.  The good lawyers within the business have had to grit their teeth for years as embarrassing stories break.  

This one is different though. It is far more serious. Indeed it raises the possibility of WBD’s UK division coming to an end. 

What is obvious from the outside, may not be from the inside of WBD: now is the time for you to make a break for it. Go and speak to other firms. Don’t go down with the ship. 

Anonymous 26 June 24 09:17

The SRA are in a pickle here

They can’t legitimately go after small offences when the biggest case in the country hasn’t been satisfactorily addressed. 

Betting Odds 26 June 24 10:14

🌟 2-1  the UK WBD partners act to address the mounting scandal by de-merging the business so there is a North firm and a South firm. 

🌟 7-2   The US firm serves notice requiring the separate UK business to stop using its name and goes on to seek a better, less tainted, partner in the UK. 

🌟 4-1  WBD ends up closing its doors in the next 3 years

🌟 Evens - WBD goes down in history as one of the worst commercial law firms and the longer someone remains there the worse their CV looks. 

Betting Odds 26 June 24 11:21

I hope the Wombles staff read and take on board the comments made by Roll on Friday, as well as the points made by readers below. 

If they do, they will notice the contrast with the messages that their management and marketing team ask them to believe.  Acknowledging reality is the first step forwards. Everyone wishes you the best of luck in the next steps of your journey. 

Anonymous 26 June 24 21:45

Womble Bond Dickinson don’t seem very good at law, so perhaps it’s time to try something different like mime, surrealist art or riverdance?

Anonymous two 27 June 24 11:03

Watching Gareth Jenkins giving evidence. The idea that this guy is some evilly minded perverter of justice is absurd. He’s a techy IT guy doing his best and out of his depth. Where were the lawyers? Poor guy. 

🥪 🍷 27 June 24 13:11

I wonder if the canapés at the extravagant Womble Bond Dickinson summer parties taste of the misery they piled onto innocent postal workers and their families over many, many years?

 

 

 

Philosophy Student 27 June 24 13:27

Q. How many Wombles does it take to cause the biggest miscarriage of justice in UK legal history?

A. The SRA will tell us around 2033

Philosophy Student 27 June 24 13:31

If under 20 Wombles can create the biggest miscarriage of justice in UK legal history, the potential f**k ups from the full workforce of 950 is terrifying. 

Anonymous 27 June 24 16:52

There’s speculation that two of the bigger teams from the Newcastle office are in advanced discussions with Hill Dickinson and Knights plc respectively.

leeds rumours 27 June 24 17:10

no idea but i know there are many very very unhappy people i the Leeds office who feel ashamed at the antics of  Stewart/ Parsons / Beezer/ Blair and want a clear out

theme 27 June 24 18:16

interesting theme today. Gareth Jenkins left out of his depth by legal. He had no clue what his duties were as an expert and should never have been in that role in any event . Parsons out of his depth letft unchecked by Richardson Beezer Stewart et all. The difference ? Jenkins seems genuinely clueless. Parsons knew exactly what he was doing.

Anonymous two 27 June 24 18:27

The salaries of the inquiry witnesses should be published. I have thought in relation to a number of them that my attitude to their behaviour would be affected by knowing their relative earnings : would we feel the same about Gareth Jenkins if he earned £50k a year versus £250k? Me, yes. 

Geordie Shore 27 June 24 18:52

If you’re a Womble looking at the news of the SRA investigation and pondering whether to leave, my recommendation is to be decisive. 

After all in a city like Newcastle upon Tyne, WBD employs about 450. If all those people are looking for jobs, there simply won’t be enough to go around. Your procrastination means you and your family might have to move elsewhere. So get your skates on and talk to other firms.  

Anonymous 27 June 24 23:25

Hang on a second, the SRA failed to intervene when WBD were avoiding disclosure requirements and innocent subpostmasters were killing themselves due to the stress they were being placed under. 

Now the scandal has been uncovered the SRA is saying they lack “evidence to show that any solicitor presents an ongoing risk to the public that needs to be addressed through urgent action”.

Does that mean the SRA now admits it massively failed in its duty in this case by failing to act against WBD at the right time? 

Sentinel 28 June 24 07:29

The extravagant offices, parties and cars at Womble Bond Dickinson are, in part, paid for from the fees they took from their role In the biggest miscarriage of justice in UK legal history. 

What happened to the subpostmasters was so horrendous that it was made into a television series by a national broadcaster. People killed themselves, lost their families and died as criminals. The Prime Minister himself described it as the biggest miscarriage in UK legal history. 

For many years Womble Bond Dickinson boasted about its role in the Post Office litigation. They accepted prizes. We know from emails they sought to smear the victims, even after the concerns about the Horizon system had started to become clear to the Post Office management team. 

The public is outraged. The failure of the SRA to act quickly or decisively contributes to that. Unless the SRA applies the highest sanctions to Womble Bond Dickinson and its staff who have failed to meet the ethical and professional conduct requirements, the outrage will be directed at the SRA. 

We should not let the partners at WBD off the hook. They are hoping to get away with it. After all, they could have already voluntarily paid back every penny in fees (if need be by taking out a loan or selling those extravagant offices) but they didn’t.  They would have said sorry, but they didn’t. They would have stepped down, but they didn’t.  They are hoping to remain rich at the end of all this. They are hoping to avoid meaningful punishment. We must not let that happen. 

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