Advertising standards watchdogs have thrown out a complaint about a law firm boasting of its record of clients avoiding a driving ban.
The Advertising Standards Authority today rejected any suggestion that Devon firm Patterson Law had misled the public with claims that could not be substantiated.
The firm had claimed on it website last July that 3,314 out of its last 3,436 clients had avoided disqualification, or had a 'significantly reduced' driving ban, through Patterson Law arguing their case.
A single complainant had challenged the claim on the ground that the length of a driving ban was at the discretion of the court and could not be known in advance. No details were released about the identity of the complainant.
Patterson Law told the ASA it had a strict policy for collating data on the road traffic cases they represented, with each client assigned a case progression officer who fed the eventual outcome to the manager uploading the statistics.
The figure of 3436 comprised all clients (at the time the ad appeared) who were at risk of disqualification according to both the Magistrates’ Association Sentencing Guidelines and Schedule 2 Road Traffic Offenders Act 1988.
Patterson Law said the statistics included only those cases where the guidelines suggested magistrates would consider disqualifying the driver.
The ASA agreed it was possible to determine whether a ban was significantly shorter than that usually imposed for a particular driving offence.
Its ruling states: ‘Consumers would understand that the claim referred to those traffic offences where disqualification was a realistic risk, but Patterson Law had either avoided a ban altogether for their clients or argued for a shorter ban than the sentencing guidelines suggested was the likely outcome for the alleged offence.’
The ASA said there was no breach of advertising rules and the claims in the ad had been substantiated and were unlikely to mislead.
Following the ruling, principal solicitor Emma Patterson told the Gazette: ‘It is not unusual for lawyers who specialise in motoring offence law to make reference to their success rates.
'We’ve worked hard with the ASA over the last few months to explain our procedures for keeping statistics. We have always felt and continue to feel, that it is important to keep statistics of our successes and failures to be able to monitor the quality of what we do.’
She said it was ‘clearly important’ that when the firm takes on a case to conduct a proper assessment of the prospects of achieving what the client hopes we will achieve at the outset.
‘We feel that this is useful information when a potential client is deciding whether or not to instruct and it also helps us to monitor the quality of our initial assessment. We would much rather a client did not instruct if the prospects of achieving their desired outcome is minimal. We don’t like people wasting money where they have very little prospect of success.’
Patterson added: ‘We are very happy that our statistics have stood up to scrutiny. We are very proud of what we do. We have been very thorough over the years to make sure that the statistics are both reliable and a fair representation of the outcomes in the relevant cases we take on. It is our view that potential clients as well as existing clients will be reassured by this finding.’