22 APRIL 1882, Page 3

A very extensive series of frauds has been discovered in

the North of England. Three or four confederates, behind whom a clever lawyer is supposed to stand, have for some time past kept offices in Birmingham, Manchester, Sheffield, Glasgow, and other places, at which they received clients who claimed old -family property. They invariably told these persons that their claims were substantial, demanded fees for inquiry, fees for < registration, fees for drawing powers of attorney, and fees, often heavy, for pretended legal proceedings. As a belief in illusory family claims is widely spread• in England, they had hosts of clients, 400 in. Birmingham alone, and some hundreds -in Manchester, and are believed to-have netted some thousands. The police and the lawyers suspected their trade, but could not act, until one victim sought the advice of a Birmingham eoli- esitor, named 'Ratcliffe, who, with great spirit and a lawyer's 'usual contempt for legality, seized in the " Agency " office a quantity of eliminating papers. The-principals are supposed to Brave fled, and it is a little doubtful if their confederates can be -punished, the designers of-the fraud having carefully drawn all documents so as to make it appear that they were agents in ,business inquiries. The best hope seems to be that they -usually said that they were aware of the existence of property which did not exist, and this may bring them -within the statute. Otherwise, the encouragement of ridiculous hopes, for fees voluntarily paid by self-deluded victims, hardly amounts to a criminal offence. If it did, half the disreputable lawyers in the country might be placed in the dock at once.