A law firm embroiled in a row with an animal rights charity has failed to get the charity closed down in a bid to recover allegedly unpaid fees for private prosecutions. 

In a remote High Court hearing, Judge Clive Jones dismissed a petition to wind up Animal Protection Services (APS) made by Liverpool firm Parry & Welch Solicitors. Despite being told that the charity disputed the fee claim, the law firm advertised notice of its winding up petition in The Gazette, the official public record. This was a 'flagrant and serious' breach of the insolvency rules, the judge said.  

He awarded interim indemnity costs of £22,000 against Parry & Welch.

The amount of unpaid fees alleged by Parry & Welch is not known.

The dispute between the charity and the law firm follows a judgment at Manchester Crown Court criticising both organisations for private prosecutions brought against puppy breeders, who they alleged had unlawfully sold the animals.

In a damning ruling last month, the honorary recorder of Manchester, Judge Nicholas Dean QC, said that the prosecutions brought by APS and Parry & Welch were an abuse of the courts process. He said the two organisations may have been engaged in ‘systemic fraud’ and ‘perverting the course of justice’ by bringing and pursuing prosecutions ‘with no evidential basis’ and ‘for wholly improper reasons and purposes’.

Both denied any wrongdoing. APS said it would review its investigative processes and co-operate fully with any regulatory investigations.

APS said that it terminated its retainer of Parry & Welch in September, due to alleged problems over the quality of legal services and advice provided.

John Lord, the partner at business firm Horwich Farrelly who acted for APS in the High Court case, said: 'It was very surprising indeed that Parry and Welch LLP elected to advertise the petition in clear breach of the rules.'

An APS spokesman said: 'Parry and Welch Solicitors LLP demonstrated a complete failure to observe procedural rules.' He said the charity will make a further report about the law firm to the Solicitors Regulation Authority.

The Gazette has contacted Parry & Welch for comment.