The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) appears to have exposed hundreds of disabled people to the activities of a fraudster and convicted paedophile who posed as a lawyer to steal the money they were owed from discrimination claims.
The Claims Management Regulator (CMR), part of the MoJ, failed to make basic checks on Karl Lindon, and his company Disability Claims Management (DCM), and dismissed complaints about his activities, because it was deceived into thinking DCM was a charity.
Instead of shutting DCM down, CMR passed the complaints to the Charity Commission and Lambeth council, the local authority for the area of south London where Lindon’s business was based.
This week, enquiries by Disability News Service (DNS) have begun to produce evidence of confusion, incompetence and apathy among the organisations – including CMR – that should have been protecting Lindon’s disabled victims.
Those enquiries follow information provided by some of those defrauded by Lindon, and others who have supported and fought for his victims over the last seven years.
Some of the regulators could now face legal action for failing to act on complaints made by disabled people who were defrauded by Lindon.
A Ministry of Justice (MoJ) spokesman said that because DCM had been “operating as a charity”, its activities fell “outside the scope of the claims regulator”, and so CMR referred it to the Charity Commission and the local authority.
He added later: “We investigated DCM but could not prove it was being run other than in accordance with its charitable purposes, as was set out to us.
“We referred concerns about Disability Claims Management to the Charities (sic) Commission and local trading standards.”
MoJ has so far been unable to explain how this was allowed to happen when DCM was never registered as a charity with the Charity Commission.
And because Disability Claims Management had its application for charitable status turned down by the Charity Commission, Lindon’s actions fell outside its “jurisdiction as charity regulator”, a commission spokesman said.
The commission has refused to say what action it took to alert other regulators and organisations to Lindon’s activities.
Lambeth council admitted that its trading standards department had investigated “a number of complaints” about Lindon over “several years”.
A Lambeth council spokesman said: “The fact that Lindon was able to set up in business posing as a legal expert and prey on vulnerable people, causing great distress and financial hardship despite his previous conviction and prison sentence, raises a number of questions about the gap between regulatory bodies that meant our powers as a local authority were limited.
“We are now seeking to work with colleagues across those bodies to identify ways of improving co-ordination and partnership.
“We are pleased he has been convicted and have every sympathy with his victims.”
But Lambeth council also has outstanding questions to answer, and has so far been unable to explain why it failed to bring a halt to Lindon’s activities, and has refused to say how many complaints it received and which regulatory bodies it is referring to in its statement.
The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) was also approached with concerns about Lindon on at least three occasions, but claims it was unable to act because it was shown no evidence that he was claiming to be a solicitor, which would have been a criminal offence and could have led to it taking a private prosecution against him.
But in cases where it has no evidence of such activity, SRA does not have the powers to investigate, a spokesman said.
Several police forces around the country are also believed to have been asked to investigate Lindon, but refused to do so, until Surrey police finally stepped in and brought him to justice.
Last week, DNS reported how Lindon was jailed for three years after being found guilty by a jury at Guildford Crown Court of five counts of theft from disabled people, worth more than £50,000 in total.
Surrey police said Lindon, 35, from Louvaine Road, Wandsworth, south-west London, had scammed “numerous” people out of money. But it has refused to say whether Lindon had a previous conviction for fraud.
Lindon, a former Ministry of Defence press officer, had already been jailed for three years in 2007 and placed on the sex offenders register for life, after admitting distributing child pornography to an online network of paedophiles.
After his release from prison, probably in 2009, he set up DCM, and began targeting disabled people who had suffered discrimination in provision of services and in the workplace.
Disabled campaigners who fought for seven years to bring Lindon to justice believe he stole money from hundreds of disabled people across the country, through Disability Claims Management and other online organisations he set up.
But they are furious that regulators such as the Charity Commission, SRA and CMR, as well as Lambeth trading standards, and many other local councils, failed to stop Lindon’s activities, despite being told he was a dangerous and manipulative conman.
They are also critical of the police forces that refused to launch criminal investigations into his activities, and the charities whose names Lindon used to provide credibility and respectability for his company.
Disabled activist Adam Lotun, who has fought for justice for himself and other victims of Lindon since 2010, said the Charity Commission only acted after repeated complaints and pressure exerted by himself and fellow disabled campaigner Mark White.
He said it was only when he defended himself from a civil court action brought by Lindon, that – with the help of solicitors at legal firm Unity Law and barrister Andrew Hogan – he was able to “produce the irrefutable proof that Lindon was not qualified or regulated in any way to carry out any work in this area”.
This information helped him win his case against Lindon, but he says the criminal justice system failed to use this information to warn regulatory bodies about the fraudster, although he spread it as widely as he could himself, including via social media.
Lotun said: “This left Lindon to carry out his nefarious activities and continue to cause misery and distress to a great many people, until he was finally brought to book by Surrey police.”
He said he believed the government should launch a public inquiry to discover how many people were defrauded by Lindon and DCM and “how many regulatory and statutory bodies failed to take action”.
He said: “Everybody seemed to wait for somebody else to do something, but in the end nobody did anything, despite two particular individuals busting a gut and battling against their own disabling conditions to try to get anybody to listen to them and take action.”
There are also concerns about how Lindon used well-known charities to provide a veneer of respectability for his company.
Lindon suggested on his websites that his company donated significant sums of money to charities such as Guide Dogs and Middlesex Association for the Blind, while he claimed that he had received support from The Prince’s Trust.
Some of his disabled victims were disappointed by the actions of disability charity Disablement Association Hillingdon (DASH), which directed them to Lindon when they asked for advice and support in dealing with disability discrimination.
Angela Wegener, chief officer of DASH, said the charity had acted in “good faith at the time”.
She said: “We wouldn’t recommend [Lindon]. We would say, ‘This is somebody who provides that sort of information.’
“We wouldn’t recommend as such, we would suggest. ‘They are working in this field and seem to have the requisite qualifications.’”
She added: “He seemed to have quite a good reputation from various people he had said he was working with. Hindsight is a wonderful thing.
“It is very difficult if somebody is talking a good game. It is very difficult to know how to stop that happening.
“Obviously we would be very, very careful before we even advised anyone that there was someone working in this field.
“Certainly following [what happened with Lindon] we would be even more careful.”
But one of Lindon’s victims, who was passed his details by DASH, said: “I do think DASH are accountable for a number of victims’ pain as we had never heard of Lindon until they provided us with his details without carrying out proper checks.”
DASH was among those organisations and individuals that Lindon later threatened with legal action – including defamation – when they tried to raise concerns about his activities.
Guide Dogs said it had received “a very small donation” from Lindon in 2010.
A spokeswoman said: “Our immediate thoughts are with the people affected by his actions.”
The charity has so far failed to answer further questions about how Lindon used his connection with the charity.
Middlesex Association for the Blind has so far failed to respond to requests for a comment, as has The Prince’s Trust.
Solicitor Chris Fry, of discrimination law experts Unity Law, who acted for Lotun in his case against Lindon, is now hoping to build a case against the regulators that failed Lindon’s victims.
He is keen to hear from anyone who incurred a financial loss as a result of instructing Karl Lindon or Disability Claims Management to act for them, and who also has evidence that they lodged a complaint with any of the following organisations: the Law Society, SRA, the Ministry of Justice, the Claims Management Regulator, the Charity Commission, any individual charity, a trading standards department, or a police force.
Fry can be contacted by email at Chris.Fry@unity-law.co.uk or by contacting Unity Law.
19 May 2016