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UPDATE2 ACS Law UK Goes Before Disciplinary Tribunal for ISP File Sharing Threat Letters

Posted: 06th Apr, 2011 By: MarkJ
p2p copyright uk ISP file sharing lawIt's been confirmed that the controversial and now defunct UK solicitors firm ACS:Law (Andrew Crossley), which sent thousands of "bullying" letters to those accused of having abused their broadband ISP connections for "illegal" internet copyright infringement (p2p file sharing), will finally go before the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal (SDT) on 3rd June 2011.

The law firm was officially referred to the SDT after an investigation by the Solicitors Regulatory Authority (SRA) found that their method of sending such letters appeared to have breached a number of industry rules. Since then ACS:Law has been forced to shut down after a related case against 27 suspected internet pirates collapsed spectacularly (here and here).

It's understood that the 3rd June event will merely be an initial and somewhat administrative "Pre-Listing Day". According to the SDT, Mr Crossley's case will be proceeding to a substantive hearing in the usual way. At pre-listing either a date for a substantive hearing is fixed or, if the Tribunal so directs on application by the parties or of its own motion, the case is listed for an interlocutory directions hearing.

An interlocutory directions hearing is where a Tribunal hears from the parties and makes directions concerning the future procedural conduct of the case, including directions as to the listing of the case for substantive hearing.

The SDT said (UPDATED):

"[The 3rd June 2011 is] an administrative day upon which the Tribunal's office will consider listing the matter for either an interlocutory or substantive hearing taking into account the time estimates and dates to avoid that have been provided by the parties.

[These] are in fact alternative ways forward at the pre-listing day: on that day either the case will be listed for substantive hearing or the parties will be given a date for an interlocutory hearing at which directions will be given, including directions concerning the fixing of the date for the substantive hearing."

ACS:Law is known to have sent thousands of letters to people in the UK, many of which demanded settlement fee/payments of several hundred pounds (e.g. £500). Those who didn't pay were warned that they would face the courts (civil action), although this rarely ever happened due to the difficulty (weak evidence, technical complexity etc.) and high cost of trying such cases. ACS:Law did finally attempt this earlier in the year and failed (as above).

It is the practice of the SDT to hear applications in public, although Crossley could make an application for all or part of the case to be heard in private. At present the SDT's website doesn't have much information, although it will be launching a new site next month (May 2011).

Sadly the SDT informed ISPreview.co.uk that, "No further details of the case will be made available by the SDT on its website or otherwise, save for publication of the date of the hearing".

UPDATE 12:47pm

We've updated the article with some new details from the SDT to help clarify what will happen on 3rd June 2011.

UPDATE 7th April 2011

Some further general information from the SDT.

An SDT Spokeswoman told ISPreview.co.uk

"As you know SDT hearings take place in open court, save for in the most exceptional of circumstances, dates of forthcoming hearings having been published on the SDT website in advance. The Tribunal's Orders and detailed Judgments are currently published by the SRA and the Gazette, and from June 2011 on the SDT website.

Judgments are also provided by the Tribunal free of charge on receipt of written request from members of the Public, the Profession, the Press etc, but only once they have been sent to the parties and filed at the SRA. We do try to be as open as we can within the limits imposed by our role as the independent, neutral, transparent Tribunal service provider."
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