HomeCase studiesSMEs, directors & shareholdersCommercial litigationHelping a husband and wife avoid director disqualification and get their legal costs paid back

Why the client needed our help

Our clients were a husband and wife who set up a journalism training company for students in 2001. The company had successfully trained many budding journalists over the years, but as a result of a combination of the effects of the previous recession and issues with regard to the landlord of their premises, it entered into liquidation

Director disqualification proceedings were commenced against our clients alleging, amongst other things, that our clients had caused the company to engage in commercial practices which were considered unfair and that they had erroneously included signage on their websites that the business was accredited by the National Council for Training of Journalists in circumstances where it was alleged the courses offered to students were not actually accredited.

How we helped

From receipt of the papers, we undertook a detailed examination of the director disqualification allegations against our clients in the light of evidence served by the Secretary of State.  It appeared from our review that the Secretary of State had taken a very one-sided approach to the circumstances relating to the running of the company and the withdrawal of accreditation by the NCTJ and how this was actually communicated to the students who were about to commence the course in September 2011.  

We felt that the Secretary of State’s claim was entirely without merit and we undertook a detailed analysis of the evidence supplied, reviewed company documentation held by the liquidator of the company and then commenced work on a detailed Affidavit in response. The Affidavit itself ran to 74 pages and included approximately 750 pages of exhibited evidence.

The detailed approach taken included a comprehensive rebuttal of the allegations that students on the course were not informed of the loss of accreditation, details of the appeal process which had been commenced by our clients against the decision by the NCTJ and putting this in context in relation to students commencing the course in September 2011.  The evidence also covered the detailed attempts by our clients at the time to ensure that students who had not completed their courses at the time of liquidation were placed free of charge with an alternative provider and included detailed work demonstrating that many if not all of those students went on to complete their examinations and had gone on to enjoy successful careers as journalists.

Following service of our evidence in reply to the director disqualification allegations, the Secretary of State then served what is known as a Part 18 Request seeking further information from our clients with regard to legal advice they had taken as a result of the appeal process against the decision by the NCTJ.  Those requests were answered on behalf of our client.  

The outcome

We were pleased to be notified by the Secretary of State that it intended to discontinue the proceedings entirely. Following this, we negotiated with them regarding costs, and were able to secure payment of the majority of our clients’ legal costs which they had incurred in defending these proceedings from the Secretary of State.

The exquisite pain of having former colleagues make false allegation after false allegation against you has to be experienced to be believed. But Andy Wilks’ vast knowledge, attention to detail and dogged determination won through in the end. My only regret is that due to the court rules relating to cost recovery, he was prevented from recovering the full 100% and offset our own expenses.

The client

Key contacts

Stephen Downie

Stephen Downie


Andy Wilks

Andy Wilks

Managing Partner

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