Dear Lydia Sinclair
RE: FREDDIE ANDREWS
Firstly, let me apologise for the two months it has taken me to reply to your letter of 8th May - this case is terribly time consuming and I do have the normal distractions involved in living. Most of my time recently has been taken up dealing with the complicated legal correspondence being batted back and forth between the various agencies. I was encouraged by your aagreement that this case is the concern of organisations like MENCAP. Being able to write to you in an informal manner is almost a relief!
Not totally a relief, however, as I do feel the need to emphasise the seriousness of Freddie Andrews' plight. Your May letter mentioned that some years ago you had '...discussions... with Mr Hall the Northern Ireland Officer for care and protection'. It is little wonder that you go on to write that you were 'unable to make any progress'. Mr Hall, after all, presided over Freddie Andrews' affairs for a considerable period. As such, then, any enquiries into how the vulnerable learning-disabled adult's estate was dealt with impacts rather disagreeably upon Mr Hall's reputation and the office of the Official Solicitor. Freddie Andrews was placed in care early in 1979. Two subsequent Official Solicitors neglected his affairs for a five year period. It was not until Freddie Andrews' sister, Mrs Wright, brought in the RUC Fraud Squad that the Official Solicitor's office sprang into life. The prosecution of solicitor Herbert Wright over a decade after the fraud owes more to Mrs Wright's perseverance than it does to the Official Solicitor's office. Yet, for trying to uncover the circumstances surrounding her brother's estate - both before and after he entered care - Mrs Wright has been depicted as a busy-body and an unstable woman. The Official Solicitor's office even described Freddie's caring sister to the Laing Development Ltd as ' dangerous and inaccurate'.
Even then, solicitor Herbert Wright alone was convicted and for only one fraudulent sale, whereas technically all of Freddie Andrews' considerable estate (including the home in which he had always lived) were disposed of by a group which included Wright. There then follows the failure of the Official Solicitor's office to take adequate steps on Freddie Andrew's behalf to recover the properties and punish those involved in the fraud.
Quite frankly Ms Sinclair, Mr Hall will talk to anyone questioning the Andrews' administration in reassuring tones, saying that Freddie Andrews' fortune is intact and that there are no questions to be answered: last year a local B.B.C. television programme who were researching a documentary on the subject following Paul Foot's article, were persuaded by Mr Hall that there was no story. Furthermore the B.B.C. journalists would not tell Mrs Wright that it was because of their conversation with Hall that they were dropping the story.
Your 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 closeknit group. I know that Mrs Wright has consistently attempted to obtain the sevices 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 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 apears horribly complicated but it is realy 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's 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.
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.