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Lord Advocate Mulholland in the dock as Crown Office dithers over prosecuting yet another CROOKED LAWYER who stole £116K from client accounts

21 Nov

Another case of “Inadmissible evidence” ? SCOTLAND’S CROWN OFFICE & PROCURATOR FISCAL SERVICE, fresh from revelations they REFUSED to prosecute FOURTEEN lawyers who were reported to prosecutors by the Scottish Legal Aid Board (SLAB) for stealing millions from Scotland’s taxpayer funded £160 MILLION legal aid budget under the former Lord Advocate now Dame Elish Angiolini DBE QC, face allegations the same policy is continuing under Lord Advocate Frank Mulholland QC after a new case reported in the Sunday Mail newspaper revealed prosecutors in Hamilton are DITHERING over whether to prosecute yet another crooked lawyer Antony David Murphy, who stole £116,000 from clients accounts holding deposits from homebuyers.

Antony David Murphy, (55) was finally struck off last week by the Scottish Solicitors Discipline Tribunal (SSDT) after long running complaints were finally acted on by the Law Society of Scotland due to fears the clients who had lost much of their money with Murphy would turn to the media and generate a series of unwelcome headlines for the notoriously corrupt system of rubber-stamp self-regulation run by the Law Society of Scotland & Scottish Legal Complaints Commission (SLCC).

The full judgement and details of the complaints made against Anthony Murphy can be downloaded from the SSDT’s website HERE or viewed online here : Council of the Law Society of Scotland v Anthony David Murphy :

Edinburgh 14 September 2011; The Tribunal having considered the Complaint dated 11 May 2011 at the instance of the Council of the Law Society of Scotland against Antony David Murphy formerly of 31 Chapel Street, Hamilton. Lanarkshire now of 3 Chateau Grove, Hamilton, Lanarkshire;

;Find the Respondent guilty of Professional Misconduct in respect of his knowingly permitting a client to sell heritable property to a third party when his clients were contractually bound to sell to others,

;His knowingly falsely representing to his professional body that his accounting records had been destroyed when they had not and his acting recklessly by clearing monies out of his client account that he could not be sure were due to him as fees and in so doing his removing approximately £116,200 worth of clients monies to which he was not entitled, all in breach of Article 7 of the Code of Conduct for Scottish Solicitors 2002,

;His failure to account to the liquidators of Company A and Company E or respond to the reasonable enquiries of the liquidators and his breach of Rule 4 of the Solicitors (Scotland) Accounts Rules Etc 2001;

;Order that the name of the Respondent Antony David Murphy be struck off the Roll of Solicitors in Scotland; Find the Respondent liable in the expenses of the Complainers and of the Tribunal including expenses of the Clerk, chargeable on a time and line basis as the same may be taxed by the Auditor of the Court of Session on an agent and client, client paying basis in terms of Chapter Three of the last published Law Society’s Table of Fees for general business with a unit rate of £14.00; and Direct that publicity will be given to this decision and that this publicity should include the name of the Respondent.

However not all the heads of complaint were found by the SSDT to have been proven, and controversially the tribunal backed away from finding Murphy had defrauded the Inland Revenue, where in its judgement it stated : “The Tribunal is also not able to find, on the basis of the evidence led, that the Respondent acted dishonestly by not disclosing money to the Inland Revenue.”

A legal insider commenting on the decision said the Law Society of Scotland were reluctant to inform on or find in complaints that solicitors were defrauding HMRC due to fears it may encourage UK tax authorities to take a closer look at law firms, many of whose accounts are known to be a mess and “full of fraudulent activity”.

CLIENT ACCOUNTS AT SCOTTISH LAW FIRMS ARE DANGEROUS HAVENS FOR YOUR MONEY :

In a shocking example of the level of endemic fraud within the Scottish legal profession showing how solicitors steal from client accounts on a regular basis, just one of the cases brought to the attention of Diary of Injustice over the past year told the story of an apparently small but well known law firm in the Scottish Borders which was found to have dozens of bank accounts where client funds had been lost on a regular basis and worse still, one of the solicitors in the law firm, a well known fraudster, has, according to information seen by Diary of Injustice, 23 different bank accounts in different banks & different names, some using variations of his own name, others allegedly in his family members name with control signed over to him.

Legal insiders this afternoon have indicated the Law Society of Scotland are not eager to see Murphy prosecuted by the Crown Office. A decision is yet to be made by the Procurator Fiscal in Hamilton. Diary of Injustice can also reveal today another investigation being carried out by authorities into a well known advocate accused of legal aid fraud is said to be “going badly” with expectations of a prosecution diminishing due to “interference from legal circles in the investigation”.

The Sunday Mail reports :

No action taken against lawyer who swiped £116k from clients

Nov 20 2011 By Russell Findlay, Sunday Mail

A BENT lawyer who swiped £116,000 from his clients has not been prosecuted. Tony Murphy, 55, was struck off last week for raiding accounts containing deposits from homebuyers.The slippery brief from Hamilton, Lanarkshire, was first exposed by the Sunday Mail three years ago.

He was reported to the Crown Office last June. But they have taken no action against him. A Crown Office spokesman said: “The procurator fiscal at Hamilton has received a report concerning a 51-year-old male and it remains under consideration.”

Murphy was found guilty of professional misconduct by the Scottish Solicitors’ Discipline Tribunal. He collected deposits from 29 buyers but then acted in the sale of the development to another company. Only part of the deposits were returned and Murphy also took a £50,000 fee after court action against the firm. He was also found to have failed to account to the liquidators of two companies and to have falsely represented to Law Society officials that his accounts had been destroyed in a flood.

Murphy was linked to dodgy builder Stephen Connelly who has been struck off as a company director until 2018. He left homebuyers and taxpayers £485,000 out of pocket when his Glen Isla Homes firm failed.

TRIBUNAL’S DECISION IN MURPHY CASE RE-WROTE COMPLAINT, BACKED AWAY FROM CLAIMING TAXMAN WAS DEFRAUDED

After hearing evidence from the complainers, some of which was reporter by the SSDT in the judgement Council of the Law Society of Scotland v Anthony David Murphy, the Tribunal found Ms Grandison and Mr Ritchie to be credible and reliable witnesses and accepted their evidence. The Tribunal found the facts in Articles 1.1, 2.1, 2.3, 3.1, 10.1, 10.4, 10.5, 10.6, 10.7, 10.9 and 10.10 of the Complaint to be proved beyond reasonable doubt. The facts in Articles 2.2, 3.2, 10.2, 10.3 and 10.8 of the Complaint the Tribunal found proved beyond reasonable doubt subject to the following deletions and amendments. With regard to Article 2.2 the Tribunal deleted the final two sentences as no evidence was led with regard to this. In connection with Article 2.4 the Tribunal deleted from “Enquiries were made” in line 12 to “Company D” in line 18 and from “Enquiries” in line 21 to “Company D” in line 23, as the Tribunal was not satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that these facts were proved on the evidence. In connection with Article 3.2 the Tribunal deleted the last two sentences as no evidence was led to substantiate this. In connection with Article 3.3 the Tribunal deleted from “They delivered” in line 6 to “of another” in line 13 and from “It was clear” in line 18 to “number of years” in line 25, because the Tribunal did not consider the evidence sufficient to substantiate this and the Tribunal also made a number of minor amendments in this Article to reflect the evidence led. In connection with Article 10.2 the Tribunal deleted the sentence starting “The Respondent” in lines 5 and 6 as this was not borne out by the evidence. In relation to Article 10.3 the Tribunal deleted from the words “The Complainers” in line 2 to “Respondent” in line 6 as the Tribunal was not satisfied that this had been proved on the basis of the evidence led. In connection with Article 10.8 the Tribunal deleted the last three sentences as this was not spoken to in evidence. The Tribunal also deleted Articles 4.1 – 9.1 and 11.1 to 11.2 as the fiscal did not lead any evidence with regard to these averments.

On the facts found as proved the Tribunal had no hesitation in finding the Respondent guilty of professional misconduct. In respect of the Company A matter, the Respondent was aware that his client, Company A had concluded missives with a number of individuals in respect of the sale of units to them. Despite this knowledge and without advising the prospective purchasers or their solicitors, the Respondent acted on behalf of Company A when it negotiated and sold its interests in the development to a third party. The Tribunal considered that the Respondent brought the profession into disrepute by knowingly permitting his client to sell heritable property to a third party when his client was contractually bound to sell to others. The Tribunal also considered this to be a breach of Article 7 of the Code of Conduct for Scottish Solicitors 2002. It is important in order to preserve the integrity of the conveyancing system in Scotland, that solicitors should not, where they are aware that a client has concluded missives with a number of purchasers, proceed to negotiate a separate transaction and act in the sale of a development site to a third party knowing that the client would be in breach of the various contracts with prospective purchasers. The Respondent should have refrained from acting for Company A in respect of the subsequent transactions. As a result of the Respondent’s actions a number of purchasers were financially disadvantaged in that they did not receive their full deposits back. The Tribunal found it unnecessary to decide whether the Respondent’s conduct in this matter also amounted to a breach of Article 1 and / or Article 5a of the Code of Conduct. The Tribunal however had no hesitation in finding that the Respondent’s conduct in acting in this manner amounts to professional misconduct in terms of the Sandeman test. (Richard Allan Sandeman-v-The Council of the Law Society of Scotland [2011] CSIH 24 P433/10).

The Tribunal also found the Respondent guilty of professional misconduct in respect of his knowingly falsely representing to the Law Society that his accounting records had been destroyed in a flood when they clearly had not been. Article 7 of the Code of Conduct for Scottish Solicitors provides that “solicitors must act honestly at all times and in such a way as to put their personal integrity beyond question”. The Respondent was in breach of this code by providing false information to his professional body and the Tribunal consider that this would be regarded by competent and reputable solicitors as serious and reprehensible. The Tribunal was also extremely concerned by the fact that the Respondent acted so recklessly in clearing money out of his client’s accounts on 4 November 2008 when he could not be sure that these monies were actually due to him. The Tribunal was satisfied on the basis of the evidence from Morna Grandison that in doing so he removed approximately £116,200 of client’s money to which he was not entitled. The Tribunal consider this to be totally unacceptable and it puts the Respondent’s personal integrity in severe doubt.

The Tribunal also found the Respondent guilty of professional misconduct in respect of his failure to account to the liquidators of Company A and Company E and failure to respond to the reasonable enquiries of the liquidators concerning matters of importance identified by the liquidators. The Tribunal consider that it puts the Respondent’s personal integrity into question when he does not answer questions about client’s funds. The Tribunal also had concerns with regard to the apparent unlimited use of a credit card on the Company A and Company D accounts but the clients did not make a complaint about this and the Tribunal was unable to find it proved beyond reasonable doubt that the Respondent was not authorised to use this money.

The Tribunal also found the Respondent guilty of professional misconduct in respect of his breach of Rule 4 of the Accounts Rules due to the shortfall of more than £8,000 on his client account. The Tribunal was not able to find a breach of Article 9 of the Code of Conduct or find the Respondent guilty of professional misconduct in respect of misleading the solicitors acting for the purchasers of the properties at Property 2, because it is not clear to the Tribunal what the Respondent had been told by Company C. The Tribunal accordingly cannot find that what the Respondent stated in his letter of 10 September 2007 was dishonest. Company C were the finders for the purchasers and accordingly it is likely that the purchasers would have had some contact with Company C. No evidence was led with regard to what any of the purchasers were told. The Tribunal is also not able to find, on the basis of the evidence led, that the Respondent acted dishonestly by not disclosing money to the Inland Revenue.

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