Sunday 19 January 2020

Firm pursued over 'claims harvesting' websites

Mr Justice Kelly adjourned proceedings for four weeks (Stock photo)
Mr Justice Kelly adjourned proceedings for four weeks (Stock photo)
Shane Phelan

Shane Phelan

The regulatory body for solicitors has brought High Court proceedings against a business alleged to be involved in the use of websites to 'harvest' personal injury claims.

The action is being brought by the Law Society against Waterford-based businessman David Smyth (66) and the firm Agenda Computers Ltd, of which he is a director.

Details of the action emerged in the High Court where Paul Anthony McDermott SC, for the society, said the case related to so-called "claims harvesting" websites.

He said these appeared to offer the service of a solicitor, but were in fact not run by a solicitor.

Mr McDermott said the case also related to the alleged breach of the advertising regulations for solicitors.

He said applications were being made to the court in circumstances where there was a need to protect the public.

The case, he told Mr Justice Peter Kelly, involved "serious allegations".

Under the Solicitors (Amendment) Act 2002, non-solicitors are prohibited from advertising legal services that could otherwise be provided by a solicitor for a fee.

Non-solicitors are also prohibited from advertising professional legal services that make reference to claims or possible claims for damages for personal injuries and potential awards.

A solicitor found to be working in partnership with or accepting referrals from such websites could be found guilty of misconduct.

Mr Smyth, of Eldon, St John's Hill, Waterford, was not in court to respond to the claims and was not legally represented.

A man who identified himself as a friend of Mr Smyth's told the court he was abroad.

Mr McDermott said there had been contact from Mr Smyth asking for an eight-week adjournment.

He said the Law Society could not agree to this as Mr Smyth had been aware of the case since early October.

Mr Justice Kelly adjourned proceedings for four weeks and said he was allowing Mr Smyth two weeks to file a response.

Agenda Computers Ltd was incorporated in 1999 and Mr Smyth is one of two directors of the firm.

Irish Independent

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