I would like to drag the reader back to a posting I put on the system on 5th October 2015 entitled “St Bede’s College in Manchester And All That”, where in the second half of that article I complained about Slater and Gordon’s handling of a case involving two old boys of St Bede’s and the way they had been shuttled through the legal system in Manchester without any care whatever to their emotional and mental status.
These lads, originally three, had independently approached Panone, the Manchester solicitors, supposedly renowned for their work in the field of personal injury claims. One of the three was ditched at an early stage and the other two were carried forward, neither knowing of the other’s claim and in a flash almost, after being told that the international law firm of Slater & Gordon had taken over Panone, were persuaded to settle their case with the Salford Diocese. I will go into detail about these two men later in this piece but I always wondered why the two men were pushed through with almost indecent haste; but now I think I know.
Word has reached me from possibly the far most reaches of the Bedian diaspora area, in fact from the mainland opposite the Great Barrier Reef in Northern Queensland in Australia. This is Slater & Gordon’s home territory where they made their name in pre-war Australia championing worker’s rights and taking on the asbestos industry. In recent times they have had intent in not just buying into the UK legal scene but in fact buying up the UK legal market, wherever there was a law firm who were big into personal injury, which most of them were, it being the flavour of the decade, Slater and Gordon bought it. Eventually climaxing this bold venture with the ill fated acquisition of a UK outfit Quindell in early 2015 for $1.2 billion, all raised from institutional investors ($900 million) and a syndicate of banks ($350 million). It is now pay back time but unfortunately the money ain’t there. Quindell was a company that had previously gone on an acquisition binge of their own and by imaginative accounting had seemed to be earning more money than in fact it actually did and it all went tits up a few weeks ago.
Slater & Gordon’s share price has dropped from a high of $8.00 closing at 94 cents on 26th November. In a news flash by the ABC network of Australia it said that Slater & Gordon are in a real danger of going broke. “Lawyers who have left (the firm) speak of being pressured to settle cases, against the interests of the client, to bring early cash in the door”
Now without Quindell’s imaginative accounting, Slater & Gordon for years having themselves been on the acquisition trail have also been guilty of the same nefarious practices and are being investigated by the Regularity Commission in Australia, but this double whammy as really kicked them where it hurts. If they do go broke and it is highly likely according to ABC, the implications will be dire and wreak havoc in the legal systems of Australia and the United Kingdom.
But the above explains a lot as to why they behaved in such a way with my Bedian friends and at this point I would just like to rewrite part of that article “St Bede’s College……All That”. I got it slightly wrong but will now correct my mistake having interviewed one of the now 72 year old boys.
Boy A having read the Bishop of Salford’s half-hearted apology regarding abuse at St Bede’s in the Manchester Evening News on I think the 13th March 2011 decided to go legal with his experiences and approached Panone. He had had a lifetime of hardships after his two years of sexual abuse by Duggan when he was 14 and 15 in 1958-1959. Divorced from his family and eventually three wives, his life was a mess, unable to maintain intimate relationships and suffering from periods of deep depression.
So Panone welcomed him into their fold but did not tell him about the other two victims and to this day he knows nothing about the other fellow (Boy B) who eventually went forward as well. Boy A secured legal aid for his case and after psychiatric examination he was really looking forward to having his day in court, when two weeks before the case was to be heard Slater & Gordon’s solicitor (Panone having been acquired by S & G) came to him and said their barrister thought there was little chance of them winning in court and would he accept the £25,000 that the Diocese are offering to walk away. He was deflated and at the same time suffering from a severe bout of shingles which impaired his reasoning process he agreed. Four or five days later the solicitor was back and said the Diocese had dropped that offer of £25,000 and were now offering £10,000 and as the case had no chance in court would he accept the lower offer. Taking their advice and at a very low ebb he reluctantly agreed and three days later he received a cheque from Slater & Gordon for £10,000. S & G fees obviously being sourced from the legal aid fund. Undue haste is my reading on this process. Old Bishop Brain would not have had chance to sign his name on a cheque in so short a time and most importantly Boy A was never asked to sign a gagging order, the normal stipulation in these cases of settlement. Something smells rotten here and it ain’t the Bishop’s feet.
Boy B whose abuse from Duggan was probably classed as not as severe as Boy A but bad enough to have the same effects on his life, slipping into depression, alcohol abuse, sexual promiscuity, with an inability to sustain relationships and had sought out psychiatric help from the age of 23. Boy B did not get legal aid but the same steps applied as with Boy A, he eventually agreeing to a settlement of £5,000, so I am told, of which he received some weeks later a Slater & Gordon cheque for £300. Slater & Gordon had deducted their legal fees from the so called settlement.
The psychiatrist who had examined both of them had recommended a course of treatment for both but this was soon forgotten about as they were bundled off by Slater & Gordon as mere stooges in this legal game they were playing. After the trauma of their witness statements and against the advice of the psychiatrist, no counselling was offered, no advice given on how to control their feelings. Can I just remind you here what the Australian news agency said in their piece on the likely demise of Slater & Gordon.
“LAWYERS WHO HAVE LEFT (Slater & Gordon) SPEAK OF BEING PRESSURED TO SETTLE CASES, AGAINST THE INTERESTS OF CLIENTS, TO BRING CASH IN THE DOOR.”
Enough said. What a stinking rotten system we have to live with and rely on.