Barrister fears ACS Law will be back
A barrister has raised fears of solicitor Andrew Crossley returning to his letter-writing campaign against illegal file-sharers.
Andrew Crossley was the sole solicitor at ACS Law, the law firm that sent threatening letters demanding settlement fees of up to £500 to people accused of illegally downloading files.
However, when ACS Law and its last remaining rights client, Media CAT, finally got 27 cases in front of Judge Birss at the Patent County Court, the pair tried to have them all discontinued. Both businesses suddenly closed late last week, ahead of a crucial court decision on their activities.
The judge handed out his judgement on the issue today, although Crossley again failed to attend court. The judge ruled the case must go ahead, but as Media CAT is only a licensee and not the rights holder of the pornographic films in question, Judge Birss is giving the actual copyright owners two weeks to join the case.
The judge and one of the 27 defendant’s barristers, Guy Tritton, both suggested that was unlikely, not least because the actual rights owners are essentially unknown.
If they indeed chose not to take part, the case will effectively be closed, leaving the defendants to claim costs from Media CAT and Crossley at a 16 March hearing.
“Realistically, these proceedings are not going to continue,” said Tritton. He didn’t expect ACS Law to argue, saying it has “lost heart” with the case. “It appears ACS Law and Media CAT no longer have any interest in these proceedings,” he later added.
However, Tritton asked the court to ensure that once these cases are closed, his clients couldn’t be targeted over the same alleged acts of infringement, arguing against the judge’s decision not to ban more letters from being sent.
“Although ACS Law has ceased trading and Media CAT is insolvent, there’s nothing to prevent further resurrection,” Trittion said, adding nothing would stop “Mr Crossley coming in another guise” and bringing proceedings again.
The point is particularly pertinent following revelations that ACS Law employees had set up another company, GCB Limited, to collect settlement payments. A PC Pro investigation showed several connections between the two firms despite claims to the contrary.
Tritton added it would be “simply vexations” for his clients to face the “same problems down the road.”
He also suggested ACS and Media CAT had simultaneously gone out of business in order to avoid standing up in court, saying they “might be wishing to discontinue themselves to avoid any judicial enquiry”.
Tritton’s side will also be seeking wasted costs from ACS Law and Media CAT, so Crossley could face financial repercussions despite going out of business.
Ralli Solicitors, the firm directing Tritton, is looking for anyone negatively affected by the letter writing campaign to come forward as part of a group harassment claim.
“It can be incredibly upsetting for people to receive these letters, and they may well have a claim in harassment, so I am urging them to come forward,” said Michael Forrester, a solicitor with Ralli.