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ACS:Law solicitor withdraws from filesharing case

Judge senses 'desire to avoid judicial scrutiny'

The main partner at ACS:Law, the legal firm which sent 'bullying' letters to Brits accused of illegal filesharing, has withdrawn from a court case pursuing the defendants.

Andrew Crossley, who is currently being investigated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority, blamed death threats for his withdrawal from the case.

"I have ceased my work... I have been subject to criminal attack. My emails have been hacked. I have had death threats and bomb threats," Crossley said in a statement that was read out in court.

"It has caused immense hassle to me and my family," he added.

Last year, ACS:Law sent hundred of letters on behalf of MediaCAT, a firm that was given the go-ahead by a number of copyright holders to pursue copyright infringement on their behalf. The letters claimed the recipient was guilty of illegally downloading music and video files from the web. The letter ordered the recipient to either pay compensation or face legal action.

In September, the message board 4chan was thought to be behind a revenge DDoS attack on ACS:Law's website, which resulted in the details of thousands of Sky Broadband customers accused of illegally downloading files from the web being posted online.

The Information Commissioner (ICO) is currently investigating the incident, and Crossley may face a fine from the ICO.

It was revealed during the court case that the copyright holder receives 35 percent of any compensation, while ACS:Law pockets the remaining 65 percent.

ACS:Law drops the cases

The case took a strange turn last week, when all 27 web users facing legal action received letters last week claiming the cases were being dropped and the legal action would not take place. However, this move initially requires approval from the judge presiding over the case, something which had not been gained.

Furthermore, the court was told the pair planned to re-file the cases at a later date when a number of errors had been corrected.

"I want to tell you that I am not happy. I am getting the impression with every twist and turn since I started looking at these cases that there is a desire to avoid any judicial scrutiny," said Judge Birss, who is presiding over the case.

'Why should they be vexed a second time?'

The judge also revealed that granting permission to drop the cases was complicated, as the copyright holders are not involved in the legal action, and they could potentially continue to pursue the accused themselves.

"Why should they be vexed a second time?" he said

Even more confusion was caused after ACS:Law claimed a firm called GCB Limited was handling the compensation payments.

"In order to allow us to focus on the issuing of proceedings, our client has instructed agents, GCB Limited, to correspond with you directly in relation to the above matter in place of ACS:Law Solicitors," a letter from the legal firm reads.

However, GCB, which was formed by accountancy firm McLean Reid, claims it has nothing to do with the cases.

"We have no connection whatsoever with ACS:Law. GCB Limited was formed by us and appears to be being misused by some third party. We are taking urgent steps to ensure that our name is not in any way abused in this connection," the company says on its website.

Judge Birss revealed said he was considering banning MediaCAT from sending any more such letters until the issues raised by the cases had been resolved.

A full judgement on the case is expected later this week.

See also: ACS:Law's first illegal download cases thrown out


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