The demise of Davenport Lyons

THE BACKGROUND: Davenport Lyons had a deserved bad reputation as bullying solicitors because of their harassment of innocent people. Two solicitors from the firm were fined and suspended by the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal after being exposed by both the BBC's Watchdog programme and the consumer magazine Which?

The complaint was originally brought in 2008 by Which? magazine after they accused Davenport Lyons of using "excessive" and "bullying" conduct. But consumer group Which? saw the Davenport Lyons tactics as little above blackmail and filed a complaint with the UK's Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA). Which? complained to the SRA in 2008 that Davenport Lyons partner David Gore and former partner Brian Miller had engaged in ‘bullying’ and ‘excessive’ conduct, while acting on behalf of client copyright holders.

Following an investigation in 2011, the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal (SDT) fined and suspended two Davenport Lyons lawyers after they were found guilty of six breaches of the Solicitors' Code of Conduct. This was because of them sending more than 6,000 intimidating letters to individuals they accused of illegal file-sharing.

In the Tribunal's Judgment (case reference: 10619/2010) it says: "They [the solicitors] became in thrall to the scheme and what they perceived to be the driving imperative to make it profitable for themselves and their Firm."

One pensioner managed to get a grovelling apology from D-L.

THE BIG QUESTIONS: Our understanding is that Davenport Lyons was a partnership and, as is normal, it is likely that each partner will have taken a share of any accumulated profits. So was the money improperly obtained by the shocking bullying of vulnerable innocent people returned to them, or was it divided up by the Firm - that is, between the Davenport Lyons' partners. In short, did the solicitors profit as the Tribunal suggested?

Jewish Family Life and Customs (A Practical Guide) is a pamphlet produced by the Family Law Group of the Board of Deputies.
It gives information to solicitors and others concerning the requirements of practising Jews in the United Kingdom. It states:
"Jewish tradition highlights the importance of family ties and only by maintaining contact with both parents will the child be able to sustain relationships with both sets of grandparents and other relatives."

This picture typifies the multi-generational family relationships the Jewish Board of Deputies advocates.

Click photo for more information.

This has serious moral implications because at least one partner sits on the Jewish Board of Deputies - a community lobby organization which often pronounces on matters of basic universal principles of human rights and common decency (see panel right). A former president was the Labour peer and notorious paedophile Greville Janner. Accused of a string of child sex abuse offences, he was suspended by the Labour Party in April 2015. One MP said Janner was a 'serial child abuser' who 'violated, raped and tortured' children in the Houses of Parliament. An investigation into a 45-year 'cover-up' was started but he avoided prosecution by claiming to be suffering from Alzheimer's - even though he managed to attend the House of Lords daily and claimed more than £100,000 in expenses in the four years after he was diagnosed with the disease. By his death in December 2015, the dozens of his young victims were 'robbed of justice'. But lawyers for Janner's victims said a civil case seeking compensation from his estate would now proceed. Stephen Pollard, the editor of The Jewish Chronicle, said: "It is alleged that he did a lot of unspeakable acts". His daughter, Laura Janner-Klausner, the Senior Rabbi to the Movement for Reform Judaism, declined to attend Margaret Thatcher’s funeral in 2013, because of her dislike of the former prime minister’s politics. (see Janner-Klausner 'wrong' over Thatcher funeral) Applying the same contorted logic, should we therefore assume that the 300 people who attended her father's funeral were supporters of paedophilia?

More than one deputy (and in 2015 a vice-president) is a member of the West London Synagogue. In former times it was the leading synagogue of the reform movement when it was under the stewardship of such luminaries as the late rabbis Dr. Werner van der Zyl and his successor Hugo Gryn. Latterly the leadership has left a lot to be desired. The present incumbent is Rabbi Julia Neuberger (picture left), also a Liberal Democrat peer who became embroiled in the MPs expenses scandal. She claimed £78,000, asserting that her main home was in Leamington Spa and not her nearby London town-house, which is conveniently close to both the House of Lords and her synagogue. In 2011 another peer, Lord Taylor of Warwick, was jailed for a year for falsely claiming more than £11,000 in expenses for travelling from a residence in Oxford while actually living in Ealing, West London. Read how 'Absurd' rules allow expenses fiddling peers to dodge justice.
Extract from Submission to the Prime Minister’s Holocaust Commission
by the Board of Deputies of British Jews, May 2014
Olivia Marks-Woldman, Chief Executive of the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust says: Ask your children what they learnt from their Holocaust Memorial Day activities at school. (2016)

The celebration of family is regarded as a major part of the Jewish tradition. Rabbi Berel Wein says "It has become ever more imperative that family relationships and influences be strengthened. The family is the last and strongest fortress for developing character, morals, tradition and proper role models for children and later generations. A child who sees and interacts with grandparents and great-grandparents can gain a greater perspective on life and its events than what the child would gain on its own without the input of generations. ... One of the many terrible consequences of the Holocaust has been the disruption in the chain of generations. Knowing the past generations is somehow a crucial and necessary component for Jewish survival."
To deny a child the opportunity of a relationship with a grandparent who escaped from Hitler's evil grasp is both inhumane and damaging to the child's development. Preventing a grandparent from recounting her authentic testimony is callous and makes a mockery of encouraging Holocaust education and awareness.

Don't Stand By; speak up for these grieving grandparents now.

The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men and women to do nothing. (Edmund Burke)

In July 2015 new laws were brought in which now allows peers to expel colleagues for misconduct. The Baroness/Rabbi felt qualified to pontificate on the lack of morality in Britain in her book The Moral State We're in. But an anguished grandmother, who had fled Nazi persecution as a child, and wanted desperately to speak to Rabbi Neuberger about being denied contact with her own grandchildren who attended the synagogue, was not impressed when her concerns were brusquely dismissed. Is the Rabbi unaware of the traditions and values required of practicing Jews - especially the members of the Jewish Board of Deputies who espouse them? The Rabbi will be a guest speaker at the Jewish Book Week 2016, where she will discuss love, loss and depression, grief and the human condition. What will she say about refugee grandparents who grieve for the grandchildren they are not allowed to see?

Amazingly, Davenport Lyons had been solicitors to the Movement for Reform Judaism, a religious organisation which purports, on its website, to uphold "a life of integrity based on a process of informed decision making". (Picture right, Chairman Robert Weiner.) Did they not carry out a due diligence investigation?
And in February 2009, a JABE (Jewish Association for Business Ethics) seminar which focused on business ethical issues was hosted by ... yes, that's right - Davenport Lyons. Hmmmm!
[A rabbi] must not only teach Judaism and provide leadership to the religious institutions of Judaism, he/she must personally reflect the values and the ways of the faith that he/she wishes to instill in others.
     To Be A Jew - A Guide to Jewish Observance in Contemporary Life, Haylim Haleevy Donin.
In summing up, Dayan Abraham (a member of the London Beth Din) impressed on the audience the importance of Sanctifying God's name (Kiddush Hashem) in everything we do and that means acting properly and being seen to act properly at all times. Well that message was obviously lost on Davenport Lyons. There seems to be an ethical vacuum at the core of these institutions and growing numbers of the Jewish community are bewildered by the abandonment of moral values.


In April 2014 Davenport Lyons entered into administration after running up £13.4 millions in debts. It was acquired by the smaller law firm Gordon Dadds. Amazingly, David Gore, one of the two solicitors fined and suspended by the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal for their part in sending intimidating letters to innocent individuals, has been retained as a consultant with the new firm. Several others, who were partners at Davenport Lyons partners, have been downgraded to consultants. A highly respected London solicitor and former vice-president of the Board of Deputies - now retired and honoured for his public services - wondered why any of the D-L partners would have been taken on. Find out the role of a consultant.

A comment on the Law Society Gazette website:
As it was run as a traditional partnership there is no reason why the creditors shouldn't pursue the Partners personally and ultimately force them into bankruptcy. As someone else has suggested, the SRA should start regulatory proceeding against the Partners for breaches of the core principles.
A meeting of creditors was held in London on 4 July 2014.
Unsecured creditors were to be offered as little as 10p in the pound on outstanding debts. This included £1.3m to HM Revenue & Customs, more than £6m to the Royal Bank of Scotland, £2.3m to landlords and £2.3m to trade creditors. There is also an outstanding £770,000 owed for professional indemnity insurance. Scores of other creditors are left with a legacy of hardship, while those culpable for much of the financial ineptitude walk away without censure. Do they not have moral responsibilities?

LATEST UPDATE: Our investigations have discovered that a North London property, where a former D-L partner lived with her second husband, cannot be sold because of a charge imposed by the Bank of Scotland. The Bank is the biggest creditor and will take all necessary steps to recover the huge sum owed to it. A registered charge secured on a property restricts the sale until discharged by the chargee upon payment of the final redemption fee. Trustees from KPMG have been appointed.

According to insiders, some D-L employees were angered because they felt they had been kept in the dark about the administration process. If any of those who lost their jobs at Davenport Lyons would like to speak to us, please contact us in the first instance.

WARNING: Anyone, other than Nikki van der Zyl or Kerry van der Zyl, who claims to be the daughter or granddaughter of Rabbi van der Zyl is an imposter. If you know of anyone practising this deception, please report it.

Find out more about Davenport-Lyons by following these links:

Davenport Lyons creditors set for talks over £13.4m debt. 26 June 2014

Notice of Corporate Insolvency - Meetings of Creditors 20 June 2104

Learn to do good.
Devote yourselves to justice;
Aid the wronged.
Uphold the rights of the orphan;
Defend the cause of the widow.
    Isaiah 1:17
Law firm Davenport Lyons sold via pre-pack 10 June 2104

Disgruntled ex-Davenport Lyons employee vandalises office 16 May 2014

Who actually benefits from law firm mergers? 8 May 2014

Shock of the new for Davenport 5 May 2014

Davenport Lyons collapses 02 May 2014

Disarray: The story behind the Davenport Lyons "reverse takeover" by Gordon Dadds 29 April 2014

Gordon Dadds buys Davenport Lyons out of administration 28 April 2014

Davenport Lyons enters administration 28 April 2014

Davenport Lyons: we are not on the verge of administration 11 March 2014

Howard Kennedy FSI abandons merger with Davenport Lyons 27 February 2014

Howard KennedyFsi mulls second London merger as it considers Davenport takeover 25 February 2014

Davenport Lyons and Howard Kennedy FSI in merger talks 14 February 2014

Shakespeares calls off merger talks with Davenport Lyons 30 January 2014

Two solicitors accused over file-sharing 'bully tactics' (The Law Society Gazette)

Which goes after Davenport Lyons

Davenport Lyons Solicitors - an independent review. (Yelp)

Davenport Lyons (Wikipedia)

Davenport Lyons lawyers fined and suspended (Hermes project)

Davenport Lyons lawyers suspended by SDT for causing "intimidation". (The Lawyer, August 2011)


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