This is really bizarre
A London solicitor is being investigated by the police after conducting three years’ worth of extremely bizarre fake litigation that a judge has described as “breathtaking”.
Between 2010 and 2013 Andrew Benson — then a partner in the fraud team at London litigation boutique Byrne & Partners — orchestrated the sham which involved fictitious hearings before the Commercial Court and the Court of Appeal, fake judgments and sealed court orders, fake correspondence with a law firm and the fictitious instruction of various barristers.
There were even telephone conferences where Benson’s senior partner and Doughty Street silk Ed Fitzgerald QC were impersonated, a court has heard.
Since the case report (embedded in full below) bringing to light the incredible behaviour appeared on BAILII yesterday, and quickly ended up on Twitter, lawyers have been tweeting their shock at what one QC described as “the most startling” judgment he has ever read:
— Mukul Chawla QC (@MChawlaQC) November 19, 2014
In the opening sentence of the judgment, Mr Justice Hamblen warns:
“The facts giving rise to the present application are so extraordinary that they could have come from one of A.P.Herbert’s ‘Misleading Cases’ [an anthology of satirical law reports published in 1935].”
The judge continues:
“As with A.P. Herbert’s ‘Uncommon Law’, this case involves the false document literary technique — the creation of a sense of authenticity through the invention of documents which appear to be factual.”
Hamblen LJ goes on to detail how Benson falsely claimed to have instructed, among others, former Director of Public Prosecutions Lord MacDonald QC, while also charting how the fictional litigation had involved extensive faked correspondence with City law firm Norton Rose Fulbright.
In fact, added the judge:
“None of this reflected reality. Throughout that period there was in fact no contact with Norton Rose or the court.”
The fiction unravelled — finally — in December last year when questions were asked about a transcript of one of the purported hearings before Justice Popplewell and his real clerk was contacted directly.
At which point Benson was, according to Hamblen LJ, fired from Byrne & Partners and placed under investigation by the Metropolitan Police and the Solicitors Regulation Authority. The judge added:
“The deception practised by Mr Benson over a period of more than three years … is rightly described as breathtaking. Until the police and the SRA have concluded their investigations much remains unclear, including his motives.”
The case in which Benson was acting involved a dispute between an Islamic Investment Company and some diamond traders over the default of a loan. Neither Benson nor Byrne & Partners were party to the case before the court.