FOR THE ATTENTION OF: BRUCE BATTEN/SPOTLIGHT
RE: FREDDIE ANDREWS
Hall's 30th January '84 report as promised. I must admit that I found it odd that, as an investigative journalist, your mind should have been so uncritically salved by even a long conversation with Brian Hall - an individual whose performance, like that of the office which he represented, has been so dysfunctional. The points Hall raised and that you recounted during our (confidential) chat, were irrelevant to the central issues of the case.
There's little point in a detailed analysis of the report, given your indication that the subject is not one for your programme, but I suggest that points 14, 15, 16, 17 and particularly 18 make it surprising that no criminal action has ever been taken against Herbert Wright on Freddie Andrews' behalf.
This report fails because it refuses to address the legal short-circuit of Freddie Andrews' legal status and the various responsibilities of those charged with his care.
One sample point.
The March '86 settlement - over two years after this report and seven years after the patient had been in care - followed Hall's request in this report to 'institute appropriate proceedings against Messrs Tughan & Co and Mr Herbert Wright in relation to loss arising from the Smithfield transaction'. The '86 deal amounted to Andrews 'repaying' £35,000 to Tughan & Co plus gross interest ('77 - '86) while the law firm paid £45,125 in revised and uncollected rent to the patient.
In a letter to Freddie Andrews' sister, Vera Douglas, (3.04.86) Hall outlines his method of assessing this £45,125 figure. Hall merely adds together revised rents for the ten year period of the firm's failure to collect for the Smithfield properties, but neglects any mention of:
A/ Lost interest which the lost revenue would have gathered if invested
B/ Damages, criminal or otherwise, in favour of the patient because of Tughan & Co's lamentable performance.
You are indeed correct when you write that Freddie Andrews' case is 'a very long standing and complex matter'. To any sane individual your suggestion that Mrs Wright should obtain help from a local lawyer would seem common sense.
This is, however, Northern Ireland. The legal community here are a close knit group. I know that Mrs Wright has consistently attempted to obtain the services of a committed lawyer, but has not been able to find anyone willing to confront the authorities and their fellow members of the legal profession: Tughan & Co, the solicitors firm who had charge of Freddie Andrews' estate when the original frauds occurred, are the biggest in Belfast. Its senior partner, Tom Burgess, is a prominent man in both the social and legal communities. Mrs Wright's attempts to gain legal support have been abortive: the solicitor and barrister she engaged for the last year did literally nothing on the case - the fact that he was unable to bill Mrs Wright for any service demonstrates this. The next solicitor who agreed to take on the case subsequently phoned Mrs Wright after a month to say that her boss had advised her that they would not tackle the case. It is hard to know how to obtain adequate legal support under such conditions.
I certainly do intend to pursue this matter to the best of my abilities. But surely this is one of the key issues of the case: an investigation of this sort should not be left up to a private individual such as myself - it is a public matter of public concern and should be sponsored by those charged with upholding the rights of the mentally handicapped. I am not running myself down - I have made some headway recently despite the prevarication of the Official Solicitor and other agencies - however I am constantly anxious that I, untrained in the law, could be missing something blatantly obvious which would force the Fraud Squad to take up the case again. Additionally, I am forced to work in an isolated way here in Belfast: I neither have emotional or practical support for an unpopular - and to many professional people here - disquieting case.
Another worry I have is that I am starting to study for a CQSW at Queen's University Belfast in September and would be keen to start studying with the feeling that I had some assistance in this matter.
Yes, the affair appears horribly complicated but it is really rather simple - it is a scandal in two acts. The first act occurs when law men and property developers see that Freddie Andrews is mentally handicapped and has a lot of property. They take it all. They tangle the misappropriations up in paper work so that it appears to be too complicated to untangle.
The second scandal occurs when Freddie's family have him placed in care in order to expose the 1972 -1978 frauds. Ironically the office of care and protection do nothing. Subsequently, when it becomes apparent that their own incompetence is going to be publicly exposed the office goes on a 'damage limitation exercise' - placing the reputation of the department and of those running it before the interests of the profoundly handicapped individual with whose care they have been charged: It really is that simple.
I am not being too cynical when I say that the care authorities despise Mrs Wright and seem to be using every device to avoid a public examination of how they have administered Freddie Andrews' estate. Mrs Wright's husband died last year and I am amazed that, through many, many personal difficulties - including the full time care of her profoundly handicapped brother - she has had the stamina to persist on her brother' behalf.
I don't know structures or resources - human or otherwise - MENCAP has in the province but I do urge you to take on this case, to put whatever is in your power behind Freddie Andrews' cause. As a matter of coincidence I am well acquainted with Mr Ian Millar who is a leading representative of MENCAP in Northern Ireland (to demonstrate what a small place this is, I went out with Ian's niece for ten years!). Perhaps you might suggest an official meeting to explore some of the options in pushing this injustice towards some sort of resolution.
In any case, please telephone me if you do wish to talk to me about all this.