Peter Reynolds loses another lawsuit: an interview with Chris Bovey

January 26, 2014

in Featured Articles, Reports

PR avatar resized 264x300 Peter Reynolds loses another lawsuit: an interview with Chris BoveyChris Bovey is a businessman and co-founder of NORML UK, and was sued, along with myself, Alun Buffry, and Greg de Hoedt by Peter Reynolds last year. To date, Alun Buffry has chosen to settle out of court, Greg has not yet been served with the court papers, and I won judgement and costs in November. This week, Chris had his first hearing and has also had the case struck out with costs awarded. Chris kindly agreed to an interview in order to publish his side of the story.

chris bovey sarah mcculloch Peter Reynolds loses another lawsuit: an interview with Chris Bovey

Me and Chris outside the Royal Courts of Justice.

So, what happened in a nutshell?

Last February, I received a defamation writ from the Royal Courts of Justice issued by Peter Reynolds. I knew it was nonsense, however, when you get a lawsuit taken out against you, you can’t ignore it. The case has dragged on for nearly a year and last Thursday my legal team made an application to have Peter Reynolds’ entire case struck out. They succeeded, it was struck out and he was ordered to pay my legal fees, which are to be determined at a date in the near future.

What did he actually sue you for?

Mainly for calling him a bigot. There were some comments I’d made on Facebook calling him a racist, a homophobe and an anti-Semite, and I’d shared some satirical cartoons (that were widely shared anyway) taking the piss out of him. There were some comments where I’d called him names, but I was pretty angry at the time, as he’d falsely accused me on Facebook of hacking the CLEAR web site and reported me to the police for it, boasting on Facebook that I was likely to go to prison. Nothing ultimately came of the police investigation. Although I didn’t take this seriously, my girlfriend saw that post and it upset her.

What was your girlfriend’s  reaction to the lawsuit?

I laughed when I saw the writ, but it really upset my partner, because she saw stamps saying Royal Courts of Justice, and was like, “Chris, what have you done”? She started crying, which made my kids become frightened and my little girl started crying too. That really made me angry. Within half an hour, I’d booked a meeting with a top London firm of online defamation lawyers for the following Tuesday.

What did the lawyers say?

I met with a lawyer called John Spyrou, who specialises in Internet defamation and sports law. He was of the opinion that Peter Reynolds had taken a very risky course of action and thought they would have a good chance of success of getting the claim struck out of court before it went to trial. It’s in no-one’s interests to go to trial because of the sheer cost involved.

John was even prepared to take it on a no-win-no-fee basis, he was that confident. However, a no-win-no-fee agreement is the decision of an insurance company, not the lawyers themselves. Unfortunately, it was turned down, not because of the merits of the case, but because of Peter Reynolds’ apparent lack of assets. There was no guarantee that even if I won, he would have the money to pay.

John said I was the calmest client he’d ever met who was being sued and that normally he has to spend the meeting reassuring the client not to worry. I genuinely wasn’t worried, since I was absolutely confident I had not defamed Mr Reynolds and was of the opinion, like you, that this was an exercise in intimidation.

I had no desire to play lawyers and barristers with Peter Reynolds, so I hired professionals to handle the case for me, though that does not mean it wasn’t a massive inconvenience and still took up many hours of my time. In the meeting I asked quite a few questions about who would pay my costs in the event of a successful defence of the claim, the answer obviously being that the claimant normally would be ordered by the Court to pay either the majority or all of the legal fees incurred should they be unsuccessful.

Was it fair that Peter Reynolds represented himself and you had professional lawyers?

It takes six years to qualify as a solicitor or barrister, and I was given a deadline of just six weeks to prepare and submit a defence. I’m a very busy man and know little to nothing about Civil Procedure Rules or defamation law, so I was left with no choice other than to hire professional legal representation. Peter Reynolds suggested that I take legal advice, and unlike him, I did.

peter reynolds email bovey Peter Reynolds loses another lawsuit: an interview with Chris Bovey

Chris didn’t take the claim seriously, but he did take legal advice. Peter Reynolds took the claim seriously but didn’t take legal advice. Take from this what you will.

I never asked to be sued and his case was cringeworthy. I wish he had sought legal advice and obtained professional legal representation, since I am informed that he would have been advised by any competent lawyer to withdraw the case immediately. It would have saved everyone a whole lot of time and money.

Have you seen his blogpost declaring “mission accomplished”?

Yes, and I have very little to say about it. I’ve obviously taken a record and sent it to my lawyers.  Good thing I did, since he changed it the following day. In the original he stated “He stands not a snowball’s chance in hell of getting a penny from me!” and openly admitted that he was going to appeal it to try and cost me more money. Somebody must have told him that publicly admitting you’re trying to abuse the court system to raise the other side’s costs is not the wisest thing to do when you’re about to enter costs proceedings.

Is it true you’re part of a “some international gang of legal high distributors”?

I was actually one of the few people involved in the UK headshop industry who never sold mephedrone or other white powders like Benzo Fury (sold as bath salts), because I didn’t want anything to do with it. It didn’t sit right with me. But I’ve been a long-time and well-known proponent of regulating the so called legal high market. I believe the sale of psychoactive substances should be regulated and if the Government is genuinely interested in harm reduction, they should follow the lead of New Zealand where they have recently regulated the market.

Funnily enough, when I was a member of CLEAR, Reynolds was always bugging me for free samples and there’s a radio clip of him on the Lou Collins Radio Show plugging my business before we fell out (he always called me Lord Bovey for some weird reason). Here, if you keep listening you can also hear him complaining about people attacking him for his blogposts well before I knew what was going on (a couple months before it all kicked off, I’d suffered a minor stroke, so I was more concerned with my health issues than Peter Reynolds’ blog):

 

Is it true that you and your fellow defendants tried to contact Peter Reynolds’ mother and children?

No, that’s not true. I’ve never contacted his children or his mother. Even if I wanted to, which I don’t, I wouldn’t know how to, since Reynolds is quite a common surname and I don’t have a clue where they live. Peter Reynolds has been making out that he went to the courts in exasperation because we were all “harrassing” his family members, but none of our  claims contained any allegations that any of us had actually done so.

The only time I met another member of the Reynolds family, was when his son Richard Reynolds, a trainee barrister, accompanied his father to a mediation meeting between themselves, me and my lawyer John Spyrou.

What’s a mediation meeting and what happened?

The court requires all parties to attempt to settle their differences before trial, usually at a meeting with a third party mediator, who tries to guide everyone to a deal they can all be happy with.

Peter Reynolds and his son came in very bolshie, demanding a full apology and retraction, and also £12,000, saying if we did not agree to this, they’d get £100,000 out of me in the courts. My lawyer told him there was no way they would get that kind of money even if they did win, and that he was under strict instructions from his client that he was not prepared to give him a penny. They kept talking with my lawyer and left the room a few times, then next they made an offer that I just make an apology, and again, John turned them down.

In the end, Peter Reynolds actually said they were prepared to shut it down if each party agreed to bear their own costs and sign a meaningless agreement similar to the one that Alun Buffry signed. They left with that on the table, but I instructed my law firm immediately afterwards that I was not interested in such an offer. The meeting was quite a surreal experience, but it was quite fun watching John, a professional libel lawyer, grind them both down to nothing.

alun buffry peter reynolds settlement Peter Reynolds loses another lawsuit: an interview with Chris Bovey

Alun’s settlement agreement.

 What about the actual hearing this week? What happened at that?

That was surreal too. I had to travel all the way to London from Devon to attend, missing my son’s 11th birthday. It was held in Master Eastman’s office, so was a very grand room with a big desk in the middle with the Master sat behind, with my barrister, Yuli Tatatsuki on the left and Peter Reynolds on the right. Then me and another lawyer sat at the back, as John couldn’t make it that day.

Peter Reynolds started off the hearing by asking for an adjournment of one week, saying he’d only seen the skeleton argument for the strike out a few hours prior, because he was travelling and couldn’t open the attachments on his phone, blah blah; it was a sorry sight, reminded me of a teenager trying to blag another week to do his homework. My Counsel pointed out the skeleton was properly served on time. Master Eastman didn’t seem that impressed either, saying something along the lines that defamation was a very serious matter that Mr Reynolds had chosen to bring before the courts, and if he didn’t make himself available to view correctly served documents by the defence that was his tough luck; “Request denied, I want to get on with this today”.

Here is a copy of the skeleton argument, which was made and was subsequently successful, which gives you the basis of the Strike Out:

Download (PDF, 63KB)

Basically, Peter Reynolds hadn’t actually said who saw the alleged defamatory material and what damage had been done, which is essential in a libel case, because if you can’t prove in whose eyes your reputation was damaged and to what extent it was damaged, then you can’t prove you were ever defamed. There were some other procedural errors as well. Peter Reynolds was prepared to accept his claim was defective and asked the Court to give him more time. My barrister pointed out to the Master that he had been made aware of the defects in his claim as early as March last year and subsequently on numerous other correspondences. She referred to a recent precedent set by Judge Tugendhat, the most senior media judge in the country, who had struck out a poor libel proceeding by a litigant in person against ITV on the grounds that the litigant in person had nothing to lose, where ITV (who had hired expensive legal representation) and the public (who pays for the courts and judges) stood to lose far more if a defective case was allowed to continue.

Judge Tugendhat further stated that such a situation was especially unjust to the defendant where there was a risk of not being able to recover costs against the claimant. In such a case, only the litigant-in-person stands to win. He concluded in his judgement that:

“…the potential injustice to a defendant in the position of ITV is such that the court must exercise its powers of case management in the light of the overriding objective with great care. If a case cannot succeed, the sooner that it is decided the better for everyone.”

What was Peter Reynolds’ counter-argument?

The usual waffle about how I was somehow responsible for an organised campaign against him, but providing no evidence, and how it would be a travesty of justice if he were not allowed to force me spend £200,000+VAT in legal bills to have his defectively pleaded case taken to trial. He hardly answered any of the issues raised by my Counsel.

And how did he take losing?

Well, I was sat behind him, so I could for most of the time only see the back of his head.

The Master instructed us to go outside for 10 minutes while he wrote his judgement and then we went back in; it was pretty clear the way it was going from the start, but it took about 20 mins for him to read it and then at the end I heard the beautiful words, “I am striking this out”.

Peter Reynolds tried to put on some bravado and shook the barrister’s hand, asking her where she studied. He asked the Master a few questions like whether he could get a transcript, whether he could appeal. My favourite bit was when the Master said to him something along the lines of “Mr Reynolds, you do realise you’ve lost and in such circumstances the losing party has to pay the other side’s costs?”, and him saying “Yes”.

He left pretty pronto after that.

Peter Reynolds says he is going to appeal. What do you reckon his chances?

Pretty poor. Master Eastman did NOT invite him to appeal, Peter Reynolds asked him if he could appeal the decision and he got a curt four word response “that is your right”, which certainly cannot be interpreted, as he’s written, as “Master Eastman has invited me to appeal to a more senior judge and I think I probably will.”

Afterwards, my Counsel told me his chances of a successful appeal would be very slim and while, like Peter Reynolds, I have no legal training, I’d say those slim chances were made even slimmer now he’s posted publicly that he was going to appeal simply to cost me more money in legal fees and had no intention of paying any costs he’s required to by the court.

 

What happens now? How much have you won in costs?

Now we move to costs proceedings. The exact amount of costs will be determined at a later date in the near future, but I can tell you it’s not an inconsiderable amount. You can’t actually get out of a costs order by posting to the internet that you don’t intend to pay, so I shall be in touch with my lawyers tomorrow to see what legal avenues there are to recover the monies. As soon as I get an exact figure of what he has been ordered to pay, I’m sure you’ll be the first person to know. Fortunately, there are measures in law to get money owed from people who don’t want to pay their debts, but we’ll cross those bridges when we come to them. I never asked to be sued, like you, everyone I showed the case to said it was the most ridiculous thing they’d ever read.

The writs and hearings alone have cost him almost £10,000 then on top of whatever he is finally ordered to pay you and my own legal costs, I should imagine the final bill will be extremely high. He’s effectively paid a small fortune to make what was already a bad reputation even worse. LOL!

Thanks very much Chris. You’re still writing the foreword to my book?

They say everyone has a book in them, and they also say your first book should be about a subject you know about. Well we both, not through choices of our own, know a fair bit about this now and I’m far too lazy to write a book, but you can probably squeeze a foreword out of me, so I think it’s a good deal that I get to write the short foreword and you get to write the actual book!

Final note:  I promised when I won my own case that I would publish all of the correspondence and documentation. This, and the book-writing, was held up temporarily while Peter Reynolds did a legal thing, but that is now at an end and the documents at least should follow shortly. Stay tuned!

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{ 28 comments… read them below or add one }

Stuart Wyatt January 26, 2014 at 7:12 am

Congratulations on your long-expected victory Chris!

It can’t have been nice having the alcoholic, homophobic, racist, misogynistic & anti-semitic fraudster take up a year of your life in the way that he managed to. In his own words, he admits that he had no case, and that the only goal in all of this was to cost you a small fortune in legal fees.

Watching Reynolds try and spin and lie his way out of admitting defeat on his blog and facebook is, er, quite incredible to witness. The man is a deluded fool.

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Chris January 27, 2014 at 8:43 pm

Thanks Stuart and in particular for your support over the last year. I knew the second I opened the envelope PR’s writ was stupid and wasn’t going anywhere, however, that doesn’t mean it hasn’t been an annoying, stressful and expensive experience.

I’ve already been in touch today with my legal team who are in the process of sorting out the necessary paperwork RE costs. PR can write on the Internet that I won’t get a penny out of him, we’ll have to see about that. I seem to remember the Master in the Court last week telling him that he’d lost and had to pay my costs.

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Pete January 26, 2014 at 11:00 am

Good article, thanks for that. As for Reynolds, he is toast. I find it difficult to understand how any human being can be so stupid. He’ll end up pennyless.

“It can’t have been nice having the alcoholic, homophobic, racist, misogynistic & anti-semitic fraudster take up a year of your life in the way that he managed to.”

I agree although I don’t think the term alcoholic should be used in such a derogatory way.

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Stuart Wyatt January 26, 2014 at 3:59 pm

” I don’t think the term alcoholic should be used in such a derogatory way.”

I agree, and I apologise for using it in the way that I did.

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Kevin John Braid January 26, 2014 at 1:05 pm

hehehei want a chapter to myself for PRW meh

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Lee January 26, 2014 at 2:37 pm

Not quite clear on something here. I gather from what I have read that the doomed libel action by Reynolds began early in 2013. The new defamation law only passed into law on the 1st January 2014. It is the new law that puts the onus on the Defendant to prove they have been libelled and defamed and suffered loss. Chris refers to having to prove the libel, defamation and loss in his case, therefore as the previous libel and defamation law was still effective at the time of this action, under that previous law Chris would not have to prove the libel and defamation nor prove any loss, under that previous law the onus was on the Claimant to prove their claims.

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sarah January 26, 2014 at 2:44 pm

The problem with Peter Reynolds’ claim was that there was nothing for either the claimant or the defendant to debate. So one of the issues with libel is you can argue over exactly how many people saw the particular material complained, because that will affect the extent to which your reputation has been harmed; but he said that one of Chris’ comments, posted to Facebook, had been seen by 23 million people, because that’s how many Facebook users there are in Britain. It’s a patently stupid thing to say, and really, what can you do with that sort of claim at trial? It’s not a reasonable point to even try to engage with.

It was stuff like that that basically made his claim essentially impossible to reply to because it was ridiculous to begin with.

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Darryl Bickler January 27, 2014 at 7:58 pm

Its is the claimant who alleges libel not the defendant!

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stevester January 26, 2014 at 10:19 pm

Lol, what a knob ! We all know he wont pay and you will have to get a writ from the court ordering possessions be removed . If that happens please contact the sheriff programme on BBC 1 . Id love to see him squirm on national tv .

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Darryl Bickler January 27, 2014 at 4:29 pm

I see PR intends to appeal on a human rights ticket concerning the rights of litigants in person (LIP) I am all for the rights of the LIP who defends against any accusation, but as far as a LIP bringing actions is concerned, I would have to be convinced that the LIP claimant had been actually harmed by events, as opposed to trying to cause as much cost as possible. So now the human rights issue that is supposed to be the focus, ie the rights of people who use drugs, is being sidelined in favour of the entitlements of those who choose to spend thousands litigating over insults. If this does go on, then try and demand he has legal insurance or make an application for security for costs.

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Chris January 27, 2014 at 7:57 pm

I’m pleased Facebook removed the defamatory post Mr Reynolds made about my person following the Court striking out his defective and poorly pleaded claim. I wonder how long his ban will be for?

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Darryl Bickler January 27, 2014 at 8:02 pm

Yep, but censorship and complaining to FB isn’t going to help anyone – we have to refute lies not ban them.

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Chris January 27, 2014 at 10:25 pm

I refuted his lies on this blog, however, it is against Facebook’s T&C to defame and abuse someone, as he did me, so I’m glad they deleted the defamatory words and have given him another ban from posting.

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lem January 29, 2014 at 9:29 am

I thought we were supposed to ignore them, Darryl.

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Darryl Bickler January 29, 2014 at 10:10 pm

Lem, I have been possibly libelled by PR numerous times – I choose to ignore his outbursts saying that I am a disgrace to the legal profession. If anyone who knows me thinks I am a disgrace I would listen, but given it’s someones little rant about something I said that has no bearing on my worthiness in that regard I will ignore it, doubtless it will have been that I disagreed with some scheme he has by pointing out the stupidity of having a ‘cannabis-based’ movement at all, given that the government are misusing their duties with regard to the protection from drug related harms by focussing on substances rather than substance related outcomes and how to improve those outcomes neutrally. This means the threshold for interference into personal liberty is HIGH.

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fuckaroo January 28, 2014 at 10:34 pm

twat lol

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sarah January 29, 2014 at 5:30 am

Maharg is banned from this blog for making anti-semitic analogy involving Hitler and the Israeli Army. The rest of what he wrote makes him look stupid, so I have left that up.

I refer all other commenters to my firmer stance in moderating comments to my recent article and my current moderation policy:

http://www.sarahmcculloch.com/personal/2013/compare-blog-holocaust-banned/

http://www.sarahmcculloch.com/moderation-policy/

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Darryl Bickler January 29, 2014 at 8:05 am

There is nothing wrong with banning idiots from a blog, it’s not true censorship, it’s management. I didn’t see the Maharg posts and I am sure they were rubbish, but banning people for criticising the Israeli army? [Hitler comparison]

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sarah January 29, 2014 at 12:55 pm

He wasn’t criticising the Israeli Army, he was invoking a specific battle the Israeli Army was involved in just to be absolutely sure that his Hitler reference was linked to Jews and wasn’t just incidental. Of course you can criticise the Israeli army if you want to.

If I wanted to act like a censor, I could have deleted his entire message without comment. Instead I left the non-bigoted bits up, even though they are critical of me and Chris, and I explained that Maharg had been banned and why.

I will not have people making Nazi comparisons and anti-semitic comments on my blog. They will be edited. If people persist, they will be banned.

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Darryl Bickler January 29, 2014 at 3:17 pm

Yep, I think its fine to run your blog in the way you see fit on this sensitivity; yet if people want to make offensive remarks, whilst there is no duty to publish them, there should not be an actual ban. I was mocked for suggesting ignorring people, but if controversial or political people in the public domain spent their time responding to every insult then they would do little else.

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lem January 29, 2014 at 5:39 pm

But, if we have to refute lies, how do we ignore them, Darryl?

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Darryl Bickler January 29, 2014 at 7:42 pm

Lem, legislation is already in process to limit what campaigners can do. Free speech is under attack from may quarters. I am not sure where you are quoting me from. When I say ‘have’, in ‘have to refute lies’ then that is my personal choice wherever I feel there is an imperative to do so. Ignorring people is always an option, that’s all.

I’ve often suggested that we are as a society becomming ‘harassment hyper-sensitive’ whilst concurrently not respecting difference at all with so many personal traits and habits. I have also argued for the rescuing the fortitude of the so-called victims of verbal abuse, because of basing their perceived harms on notional standards of what is actually so offensive, that it cannot be said without consequence. Anyway now we have a prize example of this endless cycle of legal obligation to adjudicate what you can say online if PR appeals.

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sarah January 29, 2014 at 7:53 pm

“I’ve often suggested that we are as a society becomming ‘harassment hyper-sensitive’ whilst concurrently not respecting difference at all with so many personal traits and habits.”

I respect the differences of others. People who don’t respect my difference can fuck off. If they don’t, that’s harrassment. Not hard.

“Anyway now we have a prize example of this endless cycle of legal obligation to adjudicate what you can say online if PR appeals.”

We do not, because Peter Reynolds has no basis on which to appeal. He put forward a case that was impossible to rebut because it was totally non-specific, and he had 11 months from the filing of the defence to fix his case and chose not to until half an hour before his case was struck out in its entirety. What’s his appeal argument going to be? “Uh, sorry, didn’t realise that if I sue someone for damaging my reputation I actually need to outline what damage was done instead of vaguely whinging about it, give me another chance”?

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Darryl Bickler January 29, 2014 at 8:16 pm

Sorry Sarah, you say it’s easy to get but I am not sure. Harassment is someone saying that someone’s ‘difference’, as say regards their religious beliefs, is bullshit or that they resemble some evil character from history?

As regards the case, I did say “if”.

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Darryl Bickler January 29, 2014 at 9:16 pm
Darryl Bickler April 8, 2014 at 7:46 pm

Hi Sarah

I see P Reynolds is saying there is a hearing on Friday 11 April at the High Ct where he seeks to re-open the case. Have you any comment that you are able to make about the grounds claimed for this?

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Chris April 8, 2014 at 8:37 pm

I don’t believe anything the clown does can be taken seriously.

For obvious reasons, I doubt Sarah will make any comment until after the hearing, however, I wish her the best of luck and I’m sure PR’s attempts to play lawyers and barristers will be as disastrous as his previous attempts.

Being sued by a looney is a right pain, even when you have specialist legal representation, so I have nothing but respect for Sarah who has had to deal with this idiot for the last year without the assistance of a law firm.

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Lem April 13, 2014 at 8:01 pm

I’m assuming the lack of comment on Friday’s hearing is due to Sarah having some common sense?

PR doesn’t seem to blessed with any whatsoever and is up to his usual trick of typing whatever bollocks first enters his drink addled ‘brain’.

I’m really not sure that describing one of the directors of a law firm as a “shyster”, is a particularly wise move.

PR never ceases to deliver.

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