Some years ago, I was visited in my office by a well-known local “personality” and solicitor, the late Kevin Alphonsus Dooley. One of his striking features was the amount of gold jewellery which he sported – rings and bracelets – an obvious signal of his material success. He had also represented many local notables, including former chief constable, Ken Oxford, and former Liverpool FC manager, Roy Evans. His issue was a simple one. Although he had never been convicted, or even charged, with any criminal offence, he had been disbarred as a lawyer by the solicitors’ regulatory authority.
In the course of the interview, he told me that he had been accused of money laundering on behalf of local criminals, but no action of any sort had been taken against him within the criminal justice system. To evidence his innocence of any wrongdoing, he showed me what he claimed were receipts for the transfer of large sums of money to the celebrated Hollywood producer/director, Francis Ford Coppola, a man made mega-rich via classic films like “The Godfather” and “Apocalypse Now”. Of course, I had no way of judging whether or not these documents were authentic. Nor could I properly evaluate Mr. Dooley’s claim that he was transferring money as investments in the movie mogul’s film making. What was most striking to me was the power of the solicitors’ regulatory body to stop Mr. Dooley – or any other solicitor – in his tracks.
I was reminded of this when I discovered recently that Wirral solicitor David Roberts had met the same fate at the hands of the solicitors’ regulatory body, being disbarred and his practice closed down. I had noted that Mr. Roberts (very often alongside another Wirral solicitor, Mr. David Sewell) had been a director of a whole range of development companies. More pertinently, Mr. Roberts’ name cropped up time and again in relation to that string of off -the-shelf companies involved in the dodgy developments blighting Liverpool and other northern cities.
Now, I do not know the reasons why Mr. Roberts was struck off, or whether or not his disbarring was connected in any way to the malpractice of the con artists behind the dodgy developments which affect inner Liverpool. However, it underlines the powers available to various kinds of regulators to hold people to account outside of the criminal justice system if those regulators are so disposed, and believe their intervention to be appropriate. It also raises questions about the apparent indifference of the council, the police, and the district auditor to alleged malfeasance within areas for which they have responsibility. Until they all wake up and get their respective acts together, the crooks will continue to prosper.
There are a lot of honest people who are increasingly disillusioned with the quality of representation which they get at both a local and a national level. When, for example, they witness the coarse and degrading behaviour of councillors, as was recently the case in Liverpool, they are no longer as shocked as they might have once been. Citizens have become inured to lower standards in public life. They are tired of the lack of transparency and accountability; and, therefore, in many cases, have decided to try to do something about it.
The city-region being generally a Labour fiefdom (at least, at present), changes therein are mightily significant. Long-serving Labour councillors are now fearful for their hitherto comfortable seats and comfy council positions. The impetus behind Momentum is a great part of this. I am well aware that Momentum is more or less a new name for an old entity – the Broad Left in Labour Party circles. I am also aware that some tired old sectarian voices from the past are with them; but the majority of Momentum members appear to simply want a change from the out-dated clique-based politics of yesteryear. They want truly accountable and transparent representation.
As we see more young men and women selected for council seats, so we will see the demand for change increase. I hope they are successful because without fresh blood, I cannot see from where the motivation will arise which is necessary to effect positive democratic change across the city-region. Who knows, it might be kick-started locally with a debate on the Liverpool mayoralty, or the debate on the financing of Everton’s proposed stadium.