File-share 'bullying' lands lawyer in court

A solicitor accused of sending 'bullying' letters to Internet users accused of illegal file sharing is being referred to a legal disciplinary body.

The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) decided to refer Andrew Crossley of ACS:Law to the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal (SDT), following a complaint by consumer magazine Which? that the lawyer's actions had been "excessive".

In May 2009, ACS began sending out thousands of letters on behalf of copyright holders including Reality Pump and Topware Interactive.

The letters accused the recipients of illegally downloading copyrighted material via peer-to-peer networks - and demanded that they pay £500 in compensation, or face court.

ACS:Law's conduct even came under fire in January from the UK recording industry's trade body, the BPI. But an unapologetic ACS vowed to keep sending the threats.

Which?'s legal head, Deborah Prince, said of the SRA's move: "We welcome this decision because we've received so many complaints from consumers who believe they been treated appallingly by this law firm.

"We also believe that it's time for the profession to take action against law firms, and those responsible for them, which behave in a way we believe most right-thinking people would view as both aggressive and bullying."

The news comes just as an earlier disciplinary investigation appears to have lost its way.

The SRA referred Brian Miller and David Gore of law firm Davenport Lyons to the SDT after a complaint made by Which? in December 2008.

At the time the complaint was made, it was expected to be heard by the end of 2010. As yet, the SRA still hasn't presented its case to the tribunal, and no hearing is expected until to late next year.

Deborah Prince of Which? expressed her disappointment at the SRA's lack of progress, saying: "If it is going to take another two years for this case to reach the SDT and then for the SDT to reach a decision, that means we'll have waited close to four years without any professional body taking action in order for what we say is bullying behaviour to stop."'

A spokesman for the SRA responded: "We would like to see prosecutions accelerated... However, it's important to stress that the interests of consumers would not be well served if the SRA failed to ensure that this complex case is properly formulated and that all the supporting evidence is gathered. The case is being dealt with as expeditiously as possible."

If you receive a threatening letter of this kind alleging file-sharing abuses, you'll find some handy advice here from the nice folks at