Crossley suspended for copyright infringement conduct
Solicitor Andrew Crossley was yesterday suspended from practising for two years and ordered to pay over £76,000 in costs in a Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal hearing arising from threats of court action against people accused of infringing copyright.
The founder and sole principal at London firm ACS:Law was referred to the SDT by the Solicitors Regulation Authority over his action on behalf of his client Media CAT in sending thousands of letters to people accusing them of unlawfully downloading media on ‘peer to peer’ web networks.
The letters threatened court action if the recipients did not make payments of around £500 to settle claims of alleged copyright infringement.
Crossley, who represented himself, admitted six of the charges: allowing his independence to be compromised; acting contrary to the best interests of his clients; acting in a way likely to diminish the trust the public places in the legal profession; entering into arrangements to receive contingency fees for work done in prosecuting or defending contentious proceedings before the courts of England and Wales except as permitted by statute or the common law; acting where there was a conflict of interest in circumstances not permitted; and using his position as a solicitor to take or attempt to take unfair advantage of other persons being recipients of letters of claim either for his own benefit or for the benefit of his clients.
The SRA dropped a seventh charge of providing false information in statements made to court.
Crossley contested an eighth charge of failing to take adequate steps to ensure that appropriate technical and organisational safeguards were in place at his firm to protect against the accidental loss of personal data and documents. He claimed the site had been attacked by activists opposing his actions, and asserted negligence on the part of his internet service provider, but the SDT found the charge proved.
Commenting on the outcome, an SRA spokeswoman said: ‘We hope that it serves as a warning to others. Solicitors have a trusted position in society and therefore have a duty to act with integrity, independence and in the best interests of their clients.’
She said: ‘This decision follows a lengthy and complex investigation by members of SRA staff although the actual hearing time at the SDT was significantly reduced because of the admissions Mr Crossley was prepared to make in advance.’
Crossley will have 28 days from the date that the judgment is published to appeal. He declined to give any comment to the Gazette.