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Law Society ‘routinely fails to report lawyer crime’ as Crown Office admits it never received report on Glasgow lawyer theft cover-up investigation

11 Jan

Law Society of ScotlandLaw Society of Scotland failed to tell Crown Office of theft evidence. CROWN OFFICE OFFICIALS have admitted the Law Society of Scotland and the Scottish Solicitors Discipline Tribunal failed to inform them, and the Police, of alleged criminal activity after solicitor Catriona Macfarlane, based at Glasgow law firm Hasties, was found guilty by the Scottish Solicitors Discipline Tribunal (SSDT) in early November 2009 of covering up a £24,000 client theft by her own husband, a mortgage broker.

Law Society of Scotland v Catriona Macfarlane 5 verdictSolicitors Tribunal found solicitor guilty of covering up a theft, but didn’t tell Police or Crown Office. To-date, no criminal charges have been brought in this case, and many are now questioning why there has been no Police investigation over the highly detailed findings published by the Law Society and the Scottish Solicitors Discipline Tribunal (SSDT), which stated that Catriona Macfarlane’s actions had left her client in a vulnerable position and left them exposed to an unacceptable risk after it had been revealed she covered up her own husband’s theft of £24,150 from a client who had approached Mrs Macfarlane to act for him in a house purchase deal.

You can read my earlier report on this case, here : Glasgow lawyer who covered up husband’s £24k client theft gets slap on the wrist by Law Society tribunal, continues working and the SSDT’s verdict availabe for download in pdf, here: Law Society v Catriona Margaret Macfarlane

COPFSCrown Office were reluctant to release statement on lack of prosecution. Initially the Crown Office delayed responding to media enquiries, and then put off giving any statement on the affair after Crown Office officials delayed media reaction by re-categorising any enquiries as Freedom of Information requests, which can take up to 20 days or more to generate a reply. The Crown Office only issued a statement on the affair after Scotland’s FOI Commissioner Kevin Dunion had been informed of the misuse of FOI legislation to delay a COPFS statement on a potential criminal investigation.

A spokesman for the Crown Office was eventually forced to admit : “I can confirm that we have not received a criminal report in connection with either Nigel MacFarlane or Catriona MacFarlane in relation to the incident.”

Philip YellandLaw Complaints Chief Philip Yelland did not report investigation’s theft details to Police. This stark admission by the Crown Office that it had not been alerted to the case has raised growing questions over why the Law Society of Scotland and the Scottish Solicitors Discipline Tribunal did not contact the Police & Crown Office over the events which had been revealed in their own investigation, and has left many questioning why the Law Society’s Director of Regulation, Mr Philip Yelland, notorious for being involved in many ‘controversial’ Law Society complaints investigations also did nothing, despite his own public claims that solicitors engaging in such activity have been struck off in the past … although not always reported to the Police as they should have been …

Law Society’s Director of Regulation Philip Yelland claimed lawyers are struck off for bad conduct but evidence shows otherwise.

A senior legal insider today alleged the Crown Office was reluctant to prosecute members of the legal profession for criminal activity, and went onto accuse the Law Society of Scotland of routinely covering up criminal activity of its members it had detected in the course of investigating complaints against solicitors.

He said : “The Law Society of Scotland have to look at nearly 5000 complaints a year against solicitors and a good percentage of those relate to theft of a client’s funds, misappropriation of titles, fraud, and other activities which fall into the realms of criminal law. Not once however, do the Law Society turn over any details of criminal activity they uncover during the course of their investigations to the Police or the Crown Office, or even the Scottish Legal Aid Board, so effectively we have the body responsible for regulating solicitors in Scotland failing to pass on evidence of criminal actions to the proper authorities for a criminal investigation.”

He continued : “I would also have to question whether the new Scottish Legal Complaints Commission has, after one year of operation, passed on the details of any possible criminal activity on the part of solicitors it has detected, to the Police or Crown Office ?”

After enquiries made today, a source close to the SLCC confirmed that no cases had been passed by the SLCC onto the Police as of yet – which is odd, considering some of the kinds of allegations and evidence I have been reading in complaints cases presented to the SLCC for investigations.

A spokeswoman for one of Scotland’s consumer organisations today called on the Police & Crown Office to be more pro-active in detecting criminal activity carried out by members of Scotland’s legal profession.

She said : “It is worthwhile noting in the case of solicitor Catriona Macfarlane the Scottish Solicitors Discipline Tribunal were fairly exact in their findings and the level of detail, but it appears the Police and the Crown Office, who must have been aware of what had been reported by the Law Society and the SSDT, and the reports in the media, still did nothing.”

She continued : “Just as much as the Law Society of Scotland and the SSDT have a duty to protect consumers from solicitors who damage their clients, there is a duty on the Crown to detect and prosecute any criminal activity on the part of a solicitor to protect the general public. Why therefore has no action been taken by the Crown Office on this case where, according to the SSDT’s findings it seems a theft had been committed and covered up by a solicitor who is still able to practice.”

MacAskill tight lippedJustice Secretary Kenny MacAskill – tight lipped & soft on crimes committed by solicitors. From cases reported to me in the past involving criminal actions reported to or detected by the Law Society during the course of their investigations, it is clear to me the Law Society has a policy of not reporting criminal activity by solicitors to the Police or the Crown Office, and there is ample evidence to suggest the Crown Office itself has no wish to prosecute lawyers for criminal actions in Scotland, as I revealed in an earlier article I wrote here : Justice Secretary ‘hush hush’ on criminal records of lawyers as Crown Office claims its too costly to keep details on legal profession’s crooks

Just to back that up once again, a client I know who reported his own solicitor to the Law Society of Scotland over fee irregularities and the misuse of his property titles claimed he had also tried to report the matter to the Police in his area but was told they did not want to become involved as the PF would probably do nothing.

He said : “I complained to the Law Society about my solicitor sending me demands for work he had not done and also refusing to hand over my title deeds until I paid his bill. The Law Society looked at the complaint and my solicitor then claimed the bill was an error but we then found out he had used my house titles to get himself a loan at the bank.”

He continued : “I called the Police in and they said it was a civil matter and wanted the Law Society to clear it up but the Law Society did nothing other than wipe the false bill, the lawyer got away with what he did at the bank and it took me nearly a year to get my title deeds back. He should have been charged and sent to jail along with all those at the Law Society who covered it up.”

The Crown Office were challenged today on the Macfarlane case, and asked if they have any intention of directing the Police to conduct enquiries with a view to bringing charges against the individuals concerned. So far, no comment has been received from the Crown Office.

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