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DISHONESTY RULES: Rogue solicitors guilty of fraud, embezzlement and theft from wills receive soft censures from pro-lawyer Scottish Solicitors Discipline Tribunal and courts

Consumers are not protected by lawyers regulating lawyers. SCOTLAND’S legal profession and anyone connected to it – including the judiciary –  often praise the system of self regulation where lawyers look after their own – to the point of taking over and closing any public debate on creating independent regulation of solicitors.

And, of course lawyers will continue to regulate themselves in Scotland – because self regulation is too protected by vested legal interests, because it allows a solicitor to rip off their client, to be judged by his colleagues and to walk away from it, no matter what was done to the client.

Time and again, lawyers look after their own, investigate themselves, appear in front of their friends at the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission (SLCC), and, at most, receive a censure, or slap on the wrist from the Scottish Solicitors Discipline Tribunal (SSDT).

Diary of Injustice recently reported on how the SLCC refuses to identify corrupt lawyers within determination decisions which are only published after being approved by the Law Society of Scotland, featured here: FROM ROGUES TO RICHES: SLCC refuse to identify corrupt solicitors in case findings.

The SLCC print lists of doctored histories of complaints against lawyers, and then refuse to identify the solicitors who ripped off their clients – how corrupt is that!

Compare this to England & Wales, where decisions made by the Solicitors Regulation Authority in relation to identified law firms and names of solicitors can easily be found here Recent Decisions – Solicitors Regulation Authority.

Striking’s off rarely occur, only as a last resort for the members of Scotland’s legal profession must protect their own.

The slick SSDT website invites you, the public – to have confidence in the ways lawyers look after their own.

Yet in decision after decision, the extent of dishonesty during proceedings renders much of what is published in Tribunal ‘interlocutors’ as clever forgeries of the acts of wilful, determined and well practiced thieves – far more determined than will ever be told in public.

The noticeable lack of action by the SSDT to report solicitors to the Police & Crown Office for prosecution, does, as the years go by, verify the position that the SSDT seeks to protect solicitors from the full weight of criminal law – which applies to everyone else.

However, on that rare occasion where solicitors do appear in court, you just know they are not going to jail.

In a prime example of the above, earlier this week Scotland was meant to weep like a child after the Law Society sought to publicise the fact Paul O’Donnell – a solicitor from the law firm of Thorley Stephenson, in South Bridge – had sold his house to repay more than £21,000 he pled guilty to embezzling from the Edinburgh law firm Thorley Stephenson, in South Bridge .

O’Donnell, 35, had previously been warned he was facing jail for the embezzlement but the judge – Sheriff Frank Crowe – allowed him to remain free as he had repaid the £21,485 he had obtained dishonestly.

In court –  O’Donnell’s defence lawyer –  Murray Robertson told Sheriff Crowe that his client had sold his house, moved in with relatives, and the money had been repaid to Thorley Stephenson.

Sheriff Crowe was also told O’Donnell had been sequestrated, was declared bankrupt and is no longer practising as a solicitor.

In response, Sheriff Crowe told O’Donnell that cases of this nature usually involved a sentence of imprisonment but, as  O’Donnell had co-operated and admitted his guilt, arranged the sale of his house and returned the money to Thorley Stephenson, Sheriff Crowe avoided sending O’Donnell to jail and instead confined him to his current address from 9pm to 6am for six months.

You may be forgiven for thinking how amazing a lawyer who stole, avoided jail.

However, in the rare occurrences when solicitors do come before our courts, jail is always a last resort for the judge – who are themselves, lawyers.

So, with facts in hand that our courts take a shine to lawyers with tears in their eyes, it should be of little surprise the latest rulings by the Scottish Solicitors Discipline Tribunal offer mere censures and fines for executry and will fraud, theft and embezzlement – which are crimes to ordinary people in the real world.

Law Society-v-Euan Maxwell Terras

This case involved a solicitor in his writing and executing a Will in which his family were the Primary Beneficiaries. An amazing story, yet only punishment is a fine.

Read the ‘published’ details of the hearing here Council of the Law Society of Scotland v Euan Maxwell Terras

Edinburgh 29 August 2016.  The Tribunal having considered the Complaint at the instance of the Council of the Law Society of Scotland against Euan Maxwell Terras, Sprang Terras, 64 Kyle Street, Ayr; Find the Respondent guilty of professional misconduct in respect of his acting in the purchase of a property with the ancillary execution of a Minute of Agreement and the drafting of a Will where his son was the residuary beneficiary and found that in doing so (1) he acted in an actual conflict of interest situation in the purchase of the property and the execution of the Minute of Agreement where he had a personal and/or financial interest in both; (2) he did not insist that Miss MM consult other solicitors either in the purchase of the property or the execution of the Minute of Agreement when both were actual conflicts of interests; (3) he could not discharge his professional obligations to solely look after the interests of Miss MM both in the purchase of the property and the execution of the Minute of Agreement given the actual conflict of interest in both between him and Miss MM; (4) he called into question his personal integrity/independence in taking instructions and/or drafting the second Will which benefitted members of his family and in terms of which they would derive significant benefit; and (5) his advice, given the terms of the draft second Will, was not free from external influence and placed him in a conflict of interest; Censure the Respondent; Fine the Respondent the sum of £8,000 to be forfeit to Her Majesty; Find the Respondent liable in the expenses of the Complainers and of the Tribunal.

Law Society-v-Philip Simon Hogg

Philip Hogg was one of a two-partner Kirkintilloch firm – Alder Hogg. His co-partner was his twin sister Alison Hazel Margaret Greer. The case relates to massive overcharging of clients. – usually defined as fraud if not involving a solicitor.

The following is for one client: The Interlocutor final amount is that for £129K of legal work they charged £219K for £90K more than they should have. So, for this one client, in relation to Mr A’s executry, it is accepted that £90K was overcharged, however the Tribunal does not explain why a staggering £129K of executry fees was deemed acceptable.

Read the full ‘published’ version of events in this shocking case here: Council of the Law Society of Scotland v Philip Simon Hogg

Edinburgh 25 August 2016.  The Tribunal having considered the Complaint dated 22 April 2016 as substituted by the Complaint dated 25 August 2016 at the instance of the Council of the Law Society of Scotland against Philip Simon Hogg, residing at 9 Crossdykes, Kirkintilloch, as amended; Find the Respondent guilty of professional misconduct in respect of his failure in his obligation to see that the firm in which he was a partner complied with the accounts rules, his failure in his duty to supervise the firm’s office manager and cashier, his failure in his duty to take steps to satisfy himself that fees being charged to executries were properly so charged, his failure to see that at all times the sums at credit of the client account exceeded the sums due to the clients and his continuing to draw from the firm while it was being financed by the overcharges to clients; Suspend the Respondent from practice for a period of five years and Direct in terms of Section 53(6) of the Solicitors (Scotland) Act 1980 that the suspension shall take effect on the date on which these findings are intimated to the Respondent;

Law Society-v-Jane Elizabeth Steer

Elizabeth Steer worked for a Falkirk firm RMS Law. She previously worked for Russell & Aitken and now works for Allan McDougall & Co.

Ms Steer was accused of falsifying an Affidavit.

Affidavits MUST adhere to the following: 1. both parties must be physically present at the signing i.e. the solicitor (notary public) and their client 2.it must be signed at the locus specified in the Affidavit

The affidavit complied with neither of these tests, instead Ms Steer sent it to her client in England to sign and return.

Problems with the affidavit only came to light when the client gave evidence stating that she had not been in Scotland for a while – but when at Avizandum the Sheriff realised that the Affidavit was signed in Scotland at a time when the client swore she was in England.

To make matter worse, Miss Steer also tried to mislead the Law Society during the Investigation. Read the full published Interlocutor here: Council of the Law Society of Scotland v Jane Elizabeth Steer

Edinburgh 16 August 2016.  The Tribunal having considered the Complaint dated 31 May 2016 at the instance of the Council of the Law Society of Scotland against Jane Elizabeth Steer, Messrs Allan McDougall, 3 Coates Crescent, Edinburgh as amended; Find the Respondent guilty of professional misconduct in respect of her failure to act with trust and personal integrity in connection with the preparation of an affidavit which she purported to notarise on 29 October 2012, submission to the court for lodging an affidavit which contained false or misleading information on 5 November 2012 and subsequent failure on 29 June 2014 to provide a full and candid explanation to the Law Society in connection with the preparation of the affidavit and its sending to the Secondary Complainer; Censure the Respondent;

And remember, readers – wherever there is dishonesty, there is a Scottish solicitor, and the Scottish Solicitors Discipline Tribunal.

THE DISHONESTY FACTOR:

An investigation by BBC Panorama –  Lawyers Behaving Badly – featured the case of John O’Donnell, and went on to reveal the startling differences in how dishonesty in the Scottish legal profession is treated lightly compared to England & Wales – where dishonesty is automatically a striking off offence.

Alistair Cockburn, Chair, Scottish Solicitors Discipline Tribunal. Featured in the investigation was the Scottish Solicitors Discipline Tribunal (SSDT) Chairman’s attitude towards solicitors accused of dishonesty in their representation of clients legal affairs. During the programme, it became clear that dishonesty among lawyers in Scotland is treated less severely, compared to how English regulators treat dishonesty.

Sam Poling asks: The Scottish Solicitors’ Discipline Tribunal hears all serious conduct cases against solicitors. Last year they struck off nine of them. But is this robust enough?

Alistair Cockburn Chairman, Scottish solicitors discipline tribunal replies: It is robust in the sense that it doesn’t just give convictions on the basis that somebody’s brought before us charged by the Law Society.  We are mindful, particularly when reminded of the lay members, of a duty to the public.

One is always concerned when there is deception but you can have a situation where solicitors simply lose their place. They make false representations in order to improve their client’s position, not necessarily their own. And you would take that into account in deciding what the penalty was but there’s no suggestion that such conduct wasn’t deemed to be professional as conduct. 

Sam Poling: So there are levels of dishonesty which sit comfortably with you, satisfactorily with you?

Alistair Cockburn: No it’s not a question of saying sitting comfortably with me.  I’ve told you…

Sam Poling: OK that you would accept?

Alistair Cockburn: No I’d be concerned on any occasion that a solicitor was guilty of any form of dishonesty.  One has to assess the extent to which anyone suffered in consequence of that dishonesty.  You have to take into consideration the likelihood of re-offending and then take a decision.  But you make it sound as if it’s commonplace.  It isn’t.  Normally dishonesty will result in striking-off.

English QC’s agree ‘dishonesty’ is a striking off offence. The SSDT Chairman’s comments on dishonesty compared starkly with the comments of the English QC’s – who said dishonesty was undoubtedly a striking off offence.

Andrew Hopper QC: “I cant get my head round borrowing in this context. Somebody explain to me how you can borrow something without anyone knowing about it. That’s just taking.”

Andrew Boon Professor of Law, City University, London: “They actually say in the judgement they would have struck him off but the client hadn’t complained.”

Andrew Hopper QC “We’re dealing with a case of dishonesty and that affects the reputation of the profession. I would have expected this to result in striking off.”

Andrew Boon, Professor of Law: “The critical thing is the risk factor. If somebody has been dishonest once the likelihood is that they are going to be dishonest again unless they’re stopped.”

As Sam Poling went on to report: “but he [O’Donnell] wasn’t stopped. The tribunal simply restricted his license so that he had to work under the supervision of another solicitor.”

Previous reports on the Scottish Solicitors Discipline Tribunal can be found here: Scottish Solicitors Discipline Tribunal – Pro-lawyer protection against client complaints

 

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REGULATION ROBBER: Lawyer who ripped off clients & embezzled £1.04m from Bank escapes Proceeds of Crime prosecution – thanks to solicitors’ self regulation stitch-up

No charges for lawyer who stole from clients & bank – Crown Office. A SOLICITOR who embezzled over £1 million from a bank has escaped criminal charges – because the Law Society of Scotland – who control self regulation of solicitors and the tribunals who ‘prosecute’ rogue lawyers – did not call for the case to be taken up by Police or prosecutors.

David Lyons (64) – who has appeared numerous times before the Scottish Solicitors Discipline Tribunal (SSDT) was struck off from the roll of solicitors after the tribunal heard in a recent case Lyons had consistently ripped-off clients and executry estates by charging excessive amounts for work and fees.

It also emerged during an investigation Lyons had secured a £1,010,000 property loan from the Bank of Ireland – but kept the cash for himself.

His business partner – Duncan Drummond, of Pollokshields, Glasgow, who was also found guilty of ripping off clients – was struck off at the same hearing.

In one case Drummond charged £15,700 for work he’d carried out which auditors calculated should actually have totalled £2,350 – a mark up of 568%. In another case he sent out a £4,000 bill for £1,125 worth of work.

Despite the severity of fraud and consistent breach of client trust,  there is no mention in the tribunal’s findings of any move to refer the case to Police Scotland or the Crown Office – who have both since confirmed no action is being taken against Mr Lyons or anyone from the now defunct law firm of Lyons Laing, which had offices in Greenock and Glasgow.

The ‘independent’ Scottish Legal Complaints Commission (SLCC) has also not issued any comment on the case or the lack of action against Lyons and his business partner.

The Scottish Sun newspaper reports:

‘Untouchable’ lawyer fury: Bent brief in £1m bank theft let-off

CROOK DODGES CASH GRAB

EXCLUSIVE by RUSSELL FINDLAY 14 Feb 2016

A CROOKED lawyer dodged prosecution despite nicking more than £1million.

David Lyons, 64, was struck off after embezzling the money from the Bank of Ireland.

But the Crown Office will not put him in the dock or use proceeds of crime laws to claw back the cash.

Former Labour minister Brian Wilson blasted the decision.

He said: “There are people in jail for embezzling £1,000 but as a lawyer he’s untouchable.

“It’s an example of the madness where lawyers are treated as a separate class of citizen.”

Lyons, of Kilmacolm, Renfrewshire, was struck off over eight counts of professional misconduct, including pocketing the £1.04million in a commercial property deal.

The Dublin-based bank — bailed out with 3.5billion euros of taxpayers’ cash after the 2008 economic crash — would not discuss the case.

But Fergus O’Dowd, who is on the Irish parliament’s justice committee, said: “If they won’t pursue him in Scotland’s criminal courts they should go after the money.”

He added: “It’s a disgrace the bank won’t comment.”

Lyons ran Lyons Laing in Greenock, where clients were ripped off with hugely inflated fees over a decade.

His colleague Duncan Drummond, of Pollokshields, Glasgow, was also struck off over four counts of misconduct.

Mr Wilson is also calling for an end to self-regulation by legal watchdog the Law Society of Scotland.

An LSS spokesman said a judicial factor was appointed in 2009 to run Lyons’ company.

He added: “The factor has an obligation to report findings to the Law Society and Crown Office.”

The Crown said: “There are no criminal or civil recovery proceedings against someone of that name.”

Scottish Solicitors Discipline Tribunal Hearing & Decision: Having heard submissions on behalf of the Complainers and the Second Respondent in mitigation and having noted three previous Findings of professional misconduct against the First Respondent and one previous Finding of professional misconduct against the Second Respondent, the Tribunal pronounced an Interlocutor in the following terms:-

The Tribunal having considered the Complaint dated 9 April 2015 at the instance of the Council of the Law Society of Scotland against David Richard Blair Lyons, residing at Greenways, Pacemuir Road, Kilmalcolm (“the First Respondent”) and Duncan Hugh Drummond, residing at Flat 1/2, 80 Kirkcaldy Road, Pollockshields, Glasgow (“the Second Respondent”);

Find the First Respondent guilty of professional misconduct in respect of his failure to respond to correspondence from the Complainers, his failure to obtemper statutory notices, his taking of grossly excessive fees from executry estates, his failure to comply with the requirements of the Accounts Rules, his taking of fees from the sale proceeds of a property to which he was not entitled, his failure to obtemper letters of obligation, his taking of fees without rendering fee notes, and his embezzlement of the sum of £1,040,000 from the Bank of Ireland;

Find the Second Respondent guilty of professional misconduct in respect of his taking of grossly excessive fees from executry estates, his taking of fees without rendering fee notes, his failure to comply with the requirements of the Accounts Rules and his failure to supervise his firm’s assistant, in breach of the undertaking given by him to the Complainers; Order that the name of the First Respondent be Struck Off the Roll of Solicitors in Scotland; Order that the name of the Second Respondent be Struck Off the Roll of Solicitors in Scotland.

THE LYONS SHARE – How law firm employed legal industry’s commonly used overcharging scams to rip off wills & executry estates:

In the executry of Mr E, the Respondents took fees totaling £15,950.00 excluding VAT during the period 21 June 2007 to 7 April 2009. A file audit by the Auditor of Court at Greenock assessed the fees due to the firm for that period to be £8,597.00 excluding VAT. The overcharge was 86%. The Second Respondent was principally in charge of this case.

In the executry of Mr AE, the Respondents took fees totaling £12,500.00 excluding VAT during the period 6 December 2004 and 26 June 2008. A file audit by the Auditor of Court at Greenock assessed the fees due to the firm for that period to be £4,338.05 excluding VAT. The overcharge was 188%. The First Respondent was principally in charge of this case.

In the executry of Mr F, the Respondents took fees totalling £15,700 excluding VAT during the period 3 April 2007 to 23 December 2008. A file audit by the Auditor of Court at Greenock assessed the fees due to the firm for that period to be £2,350.00 excluding VAT. The overcharge was 568%. The Second Respondent was principally in charge of this case.

In the executry of Mrs G, the Respondents took fees totalling £13,100.00 excluding VAT during the period 12 April 2006 and 4 August 2008. A file audit by the Auditor of Court at Greenock assessed the fees due to the firm for that period to be £5,917.03 excluding VAT. The overcharge was 121%. The Second Respondent was principally in charge of this case.

In the executry of Mrs H, the Respondents took fees totalling £8,000.00 excluding VAT during the period 5 July 2007 and 6 April 2009. A file audit by the Auditor of Court at Greenock assessed the fees due to the firm for that period to be £4,642 excluding VAT. The overcharge was 72%. The Second Respondent was principally in charge of this case.

In the executry of Mr I, the Respondents took fees totalling £4,000.00 excluding VAT during the period 26 February 2008 to April 2009. A file audit by the Auditor of Court at Glasgow assessed the fees due to the firm for that period to be £1,125 excluding VAT. The overcharge was 256%. The Second Respondent was principally in charge of this case.

In the executry of Mr J the Respondents took fees between November 2004 and May 2008 which exceeded by £90,000 or thereby the value of the work as assessed by the Auditor of Greenock sheriff court. The Second Respondent was principally in charge of this case.

In the executry of Mr M, the Respondents took fees of £2,000.00 plus VAT in December 2006 and £2,500.00 plus VAT in November 2007. On neither occasion did the Respondents issue a fee note. The Auditor of Court assessed the fees due to the Respondents as £3,397.00 plus VAT. The overcharge is therefore £603.00 plus VAT. The First Respondent was principally in charge of this case.

Also in relation to this case, the assistance of the Complainers having been invoked by Ms N, the executor, and the files having been provided to the Complainers, on 15 August 2008 the First Respondent wrote to the Complainers asking for the files to be returned for Taxation. The files were sent to the First Respondent on 1 September 2008. Thereafter the Complainers wrote to the First Respondent requesting return of the files on 10 and 21 October 2008, 10 November 2008 and 7 January 2009. No response was ever sent by the First Respondent. On 16 January 2009 the Complainers issued a notice under Section 42C of the Solicitors (Scotland) Act 1980 requiring return of the file. The First Respondent did not return the file. The Complainers wrote with a list of conduct issues to the First Respondent on 25 February 2009 arising out of this executry. No response was ever received from the First Respondent. The files were eventually recovered from the Judicial Factor.

In the executry of Ms O between 20 May 2008 and 28 May the Respondents deducted fees without rendering fee notes to the executor, Mr P, in breach of Rule 6(d) of the Solicitors (Scotland) Accounts etc Rules 2001. The Second Respondent was principally in charge of this case.

 

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DISHONEST LAW: Latest annual report of discipline tribunal where lawyers appear in front of themselves – reveals pitiful 31 case workload in the fairy tale land of solicitors’ self regulation

Lawyer vs lawyer tribunal protects bad apples, again. AMID the usual claims of client protection while attempting to polish the bad apples from the rotten – the latest annual report of the Scottish Solicitors Discipline Tribunal (SSDT) – the body charged with ‘prosecuting’ rogue solicitors who rip off their clients – details a dry, if ‘increasingly complex’ series of cases where rogue solicitors are hauled before their own colleagues to face the music.

This year’s thirty eight page report from the lawyer vs lawyer tribunal – covering the period 1 November 2013 to 31 October 2014 and only now published in the second week of March 2015 – details the usual, typically less than honest world of self regulation of the legal profession – where lawyers investigate themselves and then recommend their colleagues appear before themselves for a quick slap on the wrist.

The grand workload of the tribunal for the last year has – unsurprisingly – not seen a busy year, with 31 cases taken to the Tribunal during the 12 months, along with another 11 appeals against decisions of the Law Society of Scotland and other miscellaneous applications. The Tribunal managed to break away from the hustle & bustle, and occasional dodgy deals at parties by making findings of professional misconduct in 24 cases.

And – dishonesty – the habitual daily workout of some in Scotland’s legal profession – made famous by Alistair Cockburn’s performance on the BBC Scotland’s investigation Lawyers Behaving Badly – only merits a single mention in the entire report of a year’s worth of prosecuting dodgy solicitors.

2013-2014 SSDT Annual Report – revealing slaps on the wrist dished out to rogue solicitors. In this year’s SSDT Annual report – and like others before it – there is little to show the legal profession have any regard for client protection. Typically, solicitors receive pittance fines – which are usually made up from hikes in legal fees as soon as they get back to work. Along with fines, the traditional slap on the wrist was handed down on several occasions.

Chairman of the legal profession’s in-house tribunal commented: “Details of the Tribunal’s workload over the past 12 months are set out in this report. The Tribunal has continued to be very busy with cases becoming more complex and taking up more Tribunal time.”

The Tribunal is also dealing with a lot of Complaints which involve Secondary Complainers who have made claims for compensation.

There have again been a large number of cases involving the Council on Mortgage Lenders Handbook. It is hoped that members of the profession take time to read these decisions and be reminded of their obligations in terms of the Handbook.

The Tribunal is receiving an increasing number of Appeals under section 42ZA by Lay Complainers who often have difficulty in framing their Appeal in a structured and relevant way. The Tribunal accordingly has prepared guidance for Lay Complainers to try to assist them with this.”

Going on to comment on the state of the tribunal’s online website – which has suspiciously deleted many findings against rogue Scots lawyers, Chairman Cockburn said: “The Tribunal Findings continue to be put on the Tribunal website which can be accessed at http://www.ssdt.org.uk The Tribunal experienced technical difficulties with its website during the year owing to the age of the website. A temporary website is now in place and the Tribunal is working towards having a new website in operation in 2015.”

“Tribunal hearings continue to be held in public, normally at The Scotsman Hotel in Edinburgh. The diary part of the Tribunal website details the substantive business scheduled to be heard but not procedural business. In certain cases, business is not put into the diary if the hearing is to be held in private.”

DISHONESTY FACTOR:

An investigation by BBC’s Lawyers Behaving Badly featured the case of John O’Donnell, and went on to reveal the startling differences in how dishonesty in the Scottish legal profession is treated lightly compared to England & Wales – where dishonesty is automatically a striking off offence.

Alistair Cockburn, Chair, Scottish Solicitors Discipline Tribunal. Featured in the investigation was the Scottish Solicitors Discipline Tribunal (SSDT) Chairman’s attitude towards solicitors accused of dishonesty in their representation of clients legal affairs. During the programme, it became clear that dishonesty among lawyers in Scotland is treated less severely, compared to how English regulators treat dishonesty.

Sam Poling asks: The Scottish Solicitors’ Discipline Tribunal hears all serious conduct cases against solicitors. Last year they struck off nine of them. But is this robust enough?

Alistair Cockburn Chairman, Scottish solicitors discipline tribunal replies: It is robust in the sense that it doesn’t just give convictions on the basis that somebody’s brought before us charged by the Law Society.  We are mindful, particularly when reminded of the lay members, of a duty to the public.

One is always concerned when there is deception but you can have a situation where solicitors simply lose their place. They make false representations in order to improve their client’s position, not necessarily their own. And you would take that into account in deciding what the penalty was but there’s no suggestion that such conduct wasn’t deemed to be professional as conduct. 

Sam Poling: So there are levels of dishonesty which sit comfortably with you, satisfactorily with you?

Alistair Cockburn: No it’s not a question of saying sitting comfortably with me.  I’ve told you…

Sam Poling: OK that you would accept?

Alistair Cockburn: No I’d be concerned on any occasion that a solicitor was guilty of any form of dishonesty.  One has to assess the extent to which anyone suffered in consequence of that dishonesty.  You have to take into consideration the likelihood of re-offending and then take a decision.  But you make it sound as if it’s commonplace.  It isn’t.  Normally dishonesty will result in striking-off.

English QC’s agree ‘dishonesty’ is a striking off offence. The SSDT Chairman’s comments on dishonesty compared starkly with the comments of the English QC’s – who said dishonesty was undoubtedly a striking off offence.

Andrew Hopper QC: “I cant get my head round borrowing in this context. Somebody explain to me how you can borrow something without anyone knowing about it. That’s just taking.”

Andrew Boon Professor of Law, City University, London: “They actually say in the judgement they would have struck him off but the client hadn’t complained.”

Andrew Hopper QC “We’re dealing with a case of dishonesty and that affects the reputation of the profession. I would have expected this to result in striking off.”

Andrew Boon, Professor of Law: “The critical thing is the risk factor. If somebody has been dishonest once the likelihood is that they are going to be dishonest again unless they’re stopped.”

As Sam Poling went on to report: “but he [O’Donnell] wasn’t stopped. The tribunal simply restricted his license so that he had to work under the supervision of another solicitor.”

LEGAL WORLD’S TRIBUNAL WHERE LAWYERS APPEAR IN FRONT OF THEMSELVES:

Just how complex are the rules around prosecutions of solicitors for ripping off their clients?

Notes from the SSDT report reveal the hurdles put in place by the legal profession to protect their own …

In cases of professional misconduct the Tribunal will receive a Complaint from the Law Society fiscal which will then be served upon the Respondent. The Respondent has three weeks in which to lodge answers (although extension of time for lodging answers requests are often received and are sometimes granted provided there is a valid reason). The matter will then be set down, either for a procedural hearing, a preliminary hearing or a substantive hearing. Procedural hearings are used to clarify whether or not there are any preliminary issues and identify whether evidence is going to be required. Preliminary hearings are set down where there are preliminary points which have to be decided before the Complaint can proceed to a substantive hearing. These usually take place by way of a debate. At a substantive hearing the Tribunal will either proceed to make a finding of professional misconduct, find the Respondent not guilty of professional misconduct or remit the matter to the Law Society under section 53ZA on the basis that the Tribunal considers the Respondent’s conduct may amount to unsatisfactory professional conduct.

If there is a Secondary Complainer involved in the Complaint they only become a party to the proceedings after a finding of professional misconduct is made. Prior to any finding of professional misconduct, Secondary Complainers have no direct input into the Tribunal process. If a finding of professional misconduct is made and if the Secondary Complainer has requested compensation, it will be up to the Secondary Complainer to provide the Tribunal with the necessary evidence. The Tribunal will then decide whether or not it is appropriate to make an award of compensation in favour of the Secondary Complainer. There can be cost implications for the Secondary Complainer if additional Tribunal time is required to deal with their claim and an award is not made in their favour.

In relation to section 42ZA Appeals the Tribunal receives the Appeal either from the solicitor, or from a Lay Complainer. Lay Complainers when making an Appeal under section 42ZA often have difficulty in focusing their Appeal and setting out clearly and succinctly what their grounds of Appeal are. The Appeal should identify any error of fact or law made by the Law Society. The Appeal will be served on the Law Society and the Solicitor/ Lay Complainer and three weeks are allowed for the lodging of answers. Again there may be circumstances when an extension of time for lodging answers is given.

The Tribunal cannot give Lay Complainers advice with regard to the making of their Appeals. The Tribunal however does understand that it is difficult for Lay Complainers to deal with the formal Tribunal process and guidance notes have been made available on the Tribunal’s website. If Lay Complainers are unable to put their Appeal in the proper form, despite having been given warning in terms of Tribunal rule 23 and being given the opportunity to amend, the Appeal may be struck out as being manifestly unfounded. Procedural hearings are usually held for section 42ZA Appeals so that it can be clarified whether or not the matter is to proceed by way of submissions or whether the facts are in dispute. Sometimes there are three parties to 42ZA Appeals being the Appellant, the Law Society and the solicitor/Lay Complainer, in whose favour the Law Society previously made a Determination.

 

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SNOOPED OFF: Lawyer involved in £500K public contract industrial espionage complaint struck off by Scottish Solicitors Discipline Tribunal

Lawyer copied details of rival law firm’s bid to win £500K public contract. A SOLICITOR from the Edinburgh based law firm Dundas & Wilson has admitted stealing details from rival law firm Brodies LLP in order to win a £500,000 public contract involving five Scottish local authorities who proposed to share services for waste management and recycling.

Lawyer Keith Armstrong (41) who resigned from Dundas & Wilson in July 2012 after representatives of Renfrewshire Council contacted the law firm over the similarity of details contained in competitive bids, admitted in evidence to the Scottish Solicitors Discipline Tribunal he stole details from rival law firm Brodies LLP in order to help win the contract.

It transpired from the tribunal hearing that documents which Armstrong had ‘acquired’ came from papers held by his partner, Kate Mayor (36) who was at the time business development manager for Brodies LLP.

As a result of the tribunal hearing, Keith Armstrong has subsequently been struck off the roll of solicitors. He now works for energy giant SSE PLC, (formerly Scottish & Southern Electricity), who were recently fined £10.5m by industry regulator Ofgem for mis-selling gas & electricity contracts

The Scottish Sun reports:

LAWYER SWIPED FILES FOR £500K DEAL PLOT

Exclusive: By Russell Findlay 13 July 2014 Scottish Sun

A TOP lawyer stole secret files from a rival in a plot to win a £500,000 contract. Dundas & Wilson partner Keith Armstrong. 41. copied a draft bid belonging to blue chip competitor Brodies.

He admitted swiping the document from under the nose of innocent missus Kate Mayor, 36 – then Brodies business development manager before “fraudulently and deceitfully” using it in his own firm’s tender.

A source said yesterday: “For a partner to commit what amounts to industrial espionage is unprecedented. The scandal has rocked the legal establishment.”

The Edinburgh companies with combined turnover of £100million were battling for the contract from North Lanarkshire. North Ayrshire. East Dunbartonshire. East Renfrewshire and Renfrewshire councils in 2012.

Armstrong was rumbled after officials noticed 27 parts of the two rival bids were identical. He owned up to his bosses and quit before the contract was eventually won by Pinsent Masons.

Armstrong, right, of Edinburgh. was struck off following a probe by the Scottish Solicitors’ Discipline Tribunal. Chairman Alan McDonald ruled: “His conduct is so grave it is very likely to bring the profession into disrepute.”

The divorcee, now working for power giant SSE. last night refused to comment at the £615.000 home he shares with Ms Mayor in Morningside. Brodies also declined to comment.

SSDT REPORT CENSORED IDENTITIES OF LAW FIRM:

Curiously, the opinion published by the SSDT directed that neither Brodies LLP or Mr Armstrong’s current employer Scottish & Southern Energy should be mentioned by name or identified in any way in the report …

Tribunal heard lawyer ‘copied’ terms of bid from competitor. On or around 22 May 2012 a representative of RC (Renfrewshire Council) contacted D&W (Dundas & Wilson), noting that some concern had arisen in respect of certain similarities between the Tenders submitted by D&W and that submitted by another Tenderer. RC had compiled a comparison document setting out the relevant text of concern and by email of 22 May 2012 invited D&W to attend a meeting on 24 May 2012  to  discuss  matters. 

The  other Tenderer, namely  Firm  X (Brodies LLP), was  also invited to a similar  meeting  on that  date. D&W immediately  commenced  an internal investigation. In the course of said investigation the Respondent admitted to D&W that  he  had  been  responsible  for  the  text  that  had  been highlighted and  that  he  had  plagiarised  these  from  another Tender document for the project belonging to Firm X.

In  particular  the Respondent accepted that on 28 or 29 April 2012 at his dwelling  house, without the permission or consent of  his  partner,  Ms  B,  who  was  at  the  time  a  Business Development  Manager  at  Firm  X, he accessed  the Tender as prepared  by  Firm  X  for  the  project,  copied  parts  of  said  draft Tender  and  made  use  of  that  information  when  completing D&W’s  Tender  for the project.

Amstrong was represented at the hearing by William Macreath of the Legal Defence Union & Levy McRae, the Law Society of Scotland was represented by Elaine Motion QC.

Tribunal Decision : The Tribunal having considered the Complaint at the instance of the Council of the Law Society of Scotland on behalf of Firm X against Keith Guy William Armstrong, formerly of Dundas & Wilson, Solicitors, Saltire Court, 20 Castle Terrace, Edinburgh and now c/o Levy McRae Solicitors, 266 St Vincent Street, Glasgow;

Find the Respondent guilty of Professional Misconduct in respect of his having accessed confidential information belonging to another firm of solicitors in relation to a project, having copied and thereafter used part of that firm’s Tender document in his own firm’s Tender and his fraudulently and/or deceitfully having allowed it to be submitted as his own firm’s work bringing his integrity into question;

his actions being deliberate and wholly inconsistent with the requirements to maintain mutual trust and confidence with his fellow solicitors in allowing a Tender to be submitted, part of which had been plagiarised from another firm’s Tender which he knew or ought to have known, was not only confidential but was of a commercially sensitive nature and his actions drawing the profession at large into disrepute;

Strike the Respondent Keith Guy William Armstrong from 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 but will not include the name of Firm X or the Respondent’s current employer or otherwise identify them.

 

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DISHONESTY TRIBUNAL: 35 cases of dodgy lawyers with a mere 9 struck off & 26 slaps on the wrist is a “busy year” claims Scottish Solicitors Discipline Tribunal

Dishonesty among lawyers is tolerated more in Scotland. A SCOTTISH TRIBUNAL tasked with judging corrupt lawyers and applying sanctions from a slap on the wrist to a striking off, is generally viewed as an old pals act back slapping exercise which tolerates dishonesty among the Scottish legal profession much more than it’s English counterpart, say critics & clients who have endured lengthy and in many cases almost pointless hearings of the Scottish Solicitors Discipline Tribunal (SSDT).

The SSDT, who claimed in a recent legal profession internal media story that they had been through a “very busy” year to 31 October 2013, revealed the tribunal heard a less than stellar 35 cases compared to 26 for the previous year. The Tribunal claimed it had a “significant increase in business” in its hearings, which now also include appeals by lay complainers against decisions of the Law Society of Scotland not to make a finding of unsatisfactory professional conduct.

However, out of the 35 cases which actually made it to the tribunal through the usual maze of self protecting self regulation where lawyers regulate themselves, a paltry NINE cases resulted in solicitors being struck off, with the remaining solicitors receiving slaps on the wrist, broken down as three suspended from practice, two had a restriction placed on their practising certificate, four were fined and censured and a further six were censured.

And, while the SSDT claims to take its duties to deal with the worst elements of dodgy lawyers seriously, it has been reported by the legal profession’s internal media that in only two of the cases brought before the tribunal in the past year, undisclosed amounts of compensation were ordered by the tribunal to be paid.

A summary of the cases heard before the tribunal in it’s “busy year” claimed that: “In all, nine cases involved failure to complete conveyancing procedures in a proper manner (with or without other failures), and the same number saw a failure to comply with the accounts rules. Eight cases involved misleading the Law Society of Scotland or other parties, and seven a failure to reply to the Society or others. There were numerous other findings of misconduct including five of dishonesty.”

As of today, the 2013 annual report has yet to be published on the tribunal website, which is well known for its lack of information and more often than not publishing of judgements months after they have occurred – a move viewed by many in the media as an attempt to hide the true scale of dishonesty and dodgy lawyers from the public’s attention.

DISHONESTY IS THEIR GAME: The Scottish way of dealing with dishonest lawyers often gives a slap on the wrist whereas solicitors found guilty of dishonesty stand a greater chance of being struck off in the rest of the UK:

Dishonesty in Scots solicitors more common than lawyers would have us believe. SCOTTISH solicitors “make false representations in order to improve their client’s position, not necessarily their own”. This was a claim made by solicitor Alistair Cockburn, Chairman of the Scottish Solicitors Discipline Tribunal (SSDT) in response to key questions raised by BBC Journalist Sam Poling in a recent investigative programme Lawyers Behaving Badly which is no longer available for public viewing.

The claims made by the tribunal Chief led to startling revelations over how the lawyer led discipline tribunal which is charged with making findings against members of Scotland’s legal profession deals with allegations & evidence of dishonesty against rogue solicitors.

Insisting the discipline tribunal was ‘robust’ and had a duty to the public, the Chair of the SSDT went on to justify his position, stating “One has to assess the extent to which anyone suffered in consequence of that dishonesty.  You have to take into consideration the likelihood of re-offending and then take a decision.” Mr Cockburn went onto claim dishonesty is not commonplace and would result in solicitors being struck off. The SSDT Chair told the BBC journalist: “Normally dishonesty will result in striking-off.”

In comparison to the light way in which the Scottish tribunal appears to treat dishonesty among legal colleagues in all its various shades, English legal experts who studied the judgements of the Scottish Solicitors Discipline Tribunal condemned the way dishonest lawyers are more often than not let off the hook in Scotland.

Speaking on a case where a well known Scottish solicitor accused many times before of dishonesty was at it again, English QC Andrew Hopper said on national television: “We’re dealing with a case of dishonesty and that affects the reputation of the profession. I would have expected this to result in striking off.”

Andrew Boon, Professor of Law added : “The critical thing is the risk factor. If somebody has been dishonest once the likelihood is that they are going to be dishonest again unless they’re stopped.”

Almost all complaints against solicitors indicate at at one stage or another, the solicitor was dishonest to their client, either by making a false representation to them as to the progress of their case, or making false representations to cover their own positions.

Very few complaints made by clients against Scottish solicitors which involve serious allegations of dishonesty have ever resulted in solicitors being struck off by the Scottish Solicitors Discipline Tribunal, and an ongoing media investigation into judges undeclared earnings from top Scots law firms has turned up links between serving members of Scotland’s judiciary, law firms, and solicitors who have frequently been accused of dishonesty yet never struck off.

 

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The Dishonesty Factor: Scottish solicitors accused of dishonesty ‘less likely to be struck off’ than dishonest lawyers who face tougher regulation in England & Wales

Contrary to profession’s view, evidence from clients suggests dishonesty in Scots solicitors is rewarded, not punished. SCOTTISH solicitors “make false representations in order to improve their client’s position, not necessarily their own”. This was a claim made by solicitor Alistair Cockburn, Chairman of the Scottish Solicitors Discipline Tribunal (SSDT) in response to key questions raised by BBC Journalist Sam Poling in the recent investigative programme Lawyers Behaving Badly.

The claims made by the tribunal Chief led to startling revelations over how the lawyer led discipline tribunal which is charged with making findings against members of Scotland’s legal profession deals with allegations & evidence of dishonesty against rogue solicitors.

Insisting the discipline tribunal was ‘robust’ and had a duty to the public, the Chair of the SSDT went on to justify his position, stating “One has to assess the extent to which anyone suffered in consequence of that dishonesty.  You have to take into consideration the likelihood of re-offending and then take a decision.” Mr Cockburn went onto claim dishonesty is not commonplace and would result in solicitors being struck off. The SSDT Chair told the BBC journalist: “Normally dishonesty will result in striking-off.”

However, many clients who make complaints about dishonest solicitors will be surprised at the SSDT Chair’s claim, given the fact most complaints involving dishonesty encounter resistance on the part of the legal profession’s self regulatory bodies such as the Law Society of Scotland and Scottish Legal Complaints Commission (SLCC).

Solicitors sometimes make false representations – SSDT Chair Alistair Cockburn speaking to the BBC. Sam Poling asks: The Scottish Solicitors’ Discipline Tribunal hears all serious conduct cases against solicitors. Last year they struck off nine of them. But is this robust enough?

Alistair Cockburn Chairman, Scottish solicitors discipline tribunal replies: It is robust in the sense that it doesn’t just give convictions on the basis that somebody’s brought before us charged by the Law Society.  We are mindful, particularly when reminded of the lay members, of a duty to the public.

One is always concerned when there is deception but you can have a situation where solicitors simply lose their place. They make false representations in order to improve their client’s position, not necessarily their own. And you would take that into account in deciding what the penalty was but there’s no suggestion that such conduct wasn’t deemed to be professional as conduct. 

Sam Poling: So there are levels of dishonesty which sit comfortably with you, satisfactorily with you?

Alistair Cockburn: No it’s not a question of saying sitting comfortably with me.  I’ve told you…

Sam Poling: OK that you would accept?

Alistair Cockburn: No I’d be concerned on any occasion that a solicitor was guilty of any form of dishonesty.  One has to assess the extent to which anyone suffered in consequence of that dishonesty.  You have to take into consideration the likelihood of re-offending and then take a decision.  But you make it sound as if it’s commonplace.  It isn’t.  Normally dishonesty will result in striking-off.

The position on dishonesty taken by the SSDT boss appears to conflict with that found by many clients who are forced into the unenviable position of having to complain about their solicitor.

After months of waiting on results from regulators run principally by lawyers, most clients who file complaints against their solicitors will be all too aware that regulators often refuse to even look at claims of dishonesty due to the fact a proven case of dishonesty against a solicitor may entitle clients to claim compensation from the Scottish Solicitors Guarantee Fund, and raise potential legal action in Scottish courts.

More often than not, solicitors who are dishonest to their clients, and solicitors who regularly make dishonest representations – even before judges in a court of law, will not be struck off simply because regulators will ensure such cases never appear before the tribunal or see the light of day in a complaints decision found against a fellow solicitor by his colleagues in the profession’s own self regulator.

Unsurprisingly, the Scottish tribunal’s view of claims of dishonesty by solicitors – a common theme in almost all complaints made by members of the public or clients against the legal profession in Scotland, contrasts sharply with the opinions of legal experts in the rest of the UK who insist dishonesty is a striking off offence.

The BBC asked a panel of three legal experts from England & Wales for their opinion on the case of John G O’Donnell and how he was dealt with by the discipline tribunal which related to a case where O’Donnell was accused of borrowing £60K of clients money without consent. The panel easily concluded solicitors accused of dishonesty should be struck off as there was a risk to the reputation of the legal profession and the risk of reoffending was too great.

Dishonesty in the legal profession: Risk factors mean it is a striking off offence – English legal experts. Andrew Hopper QC said: “I cant get my head round borrowing in this context. Somebody explain to me how you can borrow something without anyone knowing about it. That’s just taking.”

Andrew Boon Professor of Law, City university, London said : “They actually say in the judgement they would have struck him off but the client hadn’t complained.”

Andrew Hopper QC “We’re dealing with a case of dishonesty and that affects the reputation of the profession. I would have expected this to result in striking off.”

Andrew Boon, Professor of Law: “The critical thing is the risk factor. If somebody has been dishonest once the likelihood is that they are going to be dishonest again unless they’re stopped.”

As Sam Poling went on to report: “but he [O’Donnell] wasn’t stopped. The tribunal simply restricted his license so that he had to work under the supervision of another solicitor.”

In Scotland every year and for well over two decades, there are and have been thousands of enquiries and complaints to the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission (SLCC) and the Law Society of Scotland.

Almost all complaints against solicitors indicate at at one stage or another, the solicitor was dishonest to their client, either by making a false representation to them as to the progress of their case, or making false representations to cover their own positions.

More often than not, as in the case of Borders solicitor Andrew Penman, who a Law Society reporter found in 1994 had deliberately deceived a bank, had attempted to put files in order with an implication of dishonesty while doing so, hardly any complaint against a Scottish solicitor which documents dishonesty on a grand scale, has ever resulted in a striking off.

Mr Penman, who still works as a solicitor at Stormonth Darling solicitors in Kelso, was never struck off, and the Law Society along with its most senior staff set out to ensure any legal action against Mr Penman would never make it to court, the case and its history reported in detail HERE.

Contrary to the Law Society’s claims during the 1990’s, the Penman case was not a blip. Evidence from hundreds of complaints since the 90’s show is more common than not for the dishonesty of a solicitor to be rewarded in the Scottish legal profession with a continuing practicing certificate, just as in the O’Donnell case and hundreds, potentially thousands of others, rather than result in a striking off.

 

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LUCAN FOR HIM: Law Society repeatedly refused BBC Scotland access to ‘key player’ Regulation Chief for in-depth investigation report on rogue solicitors

Non appearance of top Law Society regulation boss in BBC investigation questioned QUESTIONS have been raised as to why Philip Yelland, the little known figure in charge of regulation of Scotland’s solicitors for the past two decades was not allowed to appear on Lawyers Behaving Badly, the recent BBC Scotland investigation on systemic failings in how the Scottish legal profession regulates itself and how lawyers have regularly escaped justice and continue to benefit from publicly funded legal aid.

In response to media enquiries, sources at the Edinburgh HQ of the Law Society of Scotland have confirmed that repeated requests from BBC Scotland for access to the society’s Director of Regulation were refused by Law Society chiefs who were determined there should be no access to, or any appearance by the twenty plus year serving head of regulation in the BBC programme.

Substituting for the Director of Regulation, the Convener of the Law Society’s Regulation Committee, Carole Ford was instead, interviewed on the powerful BBC programme broadcast last week.

However, while Ford’s performance was expectedly praised in some legal quarters, some legal experts, clients, and those who have experienced the ‘alice in wonderland’ world of how the legal profession regulates itself felt the Committee Convener was a poor substitute, and appeared to have little grasp as to the realities of how the system works, and how paying clients are treated by lawyers who regularly cover up for their own colleagues.

While many expected Mr Yelland to be part of the BBC investigation, there are numerous reasons as to why the one person in legal regulation circles who has been involved in many of the controversial and highly public cases involving solicitors escaping penalty for their actions over the past twenty years did not appear on the highly acclaimed undercover investigation by BBC journalist Sam Poling.

The Law Society’s reluctance to allow Mr Yelland’s appearance in the BBC programme may well stem from the unfortunate demise of the Society’s former Chief Executive Douglas Mill, who resigned a few weeks after the Law Society’s Council viewed and debated video footage posted to video sharing website You Tube of Mill’s angry confrontation at a Holyrood Justice Committee hearing with John Swinney, Scotland’s Finance Chief.

During the Justice Committee hearing in 2006 which formed part of the Scottish Parliament’s second, ill-fated attempt to clean up regulation of the legal profession, the former Chief Executive was caught out by the Scottish Parliament’s video coverage of the hearing when he argued with the SNP Finance Chief that the Law Society’s Master Policy, the insurance scheme which protects corrupt lawyers from clients, was fair, and that there was no collusion between figures at the Law Society and the insurers to throw out financial damages claims made by clients.

However, Mr Swinney, a skilled debater himself, trounced the then pugnacious Law Society Chief on all points, leaving the public with little doubt the Master Policy Insurance client compensation scheme run by the Law Society of Scotland is unfair and claims made by clients for damages are clearly subject to concerted and determined manipulation at the highest levels of the Law Society and the legal profession.

The footage featuring Mill’s Holyrood confrontation with John Swinney was first posted to the You Tube video sharing website in late December 2007. Mill, who superseded the equally controversial Kenneth Pritchard as Secretary of the Law Society of Scotland in the early 1990’s, then going on to become the Society’s Chief Executive and expected by many to remain in the position for a lengthy period of time, resigned a few weeks later in January 2008.

The confrontation between the former Law Society Boss and Scotland’s now Finance Chief, has since become a warning to how Law Society figures used to a closed world lacking any accountability can quickly stumble in public appearances such as the Holyrood Master Policy clash which made it obvious to all that the Law Society was, and remains determined to hang onto self regulation and the power that comes with it, at any cost.

Fears of BBC questions over claims made by clients against solicitors may also have played a part in the Society’s refusal to allow access to its regulation chief.

Academics heard involvement of Regulation Boss was linked to controversial complaints. A case referred to in a Research Report from the University of Manchester School of Law documented allegations in papers which have never been made public that the Society’s long time Regulation Chief was also allegedly linked to a case of a claim involving the Master Policy, where a respected businessman & family man from Oban committed suicide after he was sent to a law firm who have since been identified in a number of cases where dodgy solicitors have escaped justice and even possible criminal charges for legal aid fraud.

The revelations, appearing in papers studied by Professor Frank Stephen & Dr Angela Melville of the Manchester University of Law School in 2009 who were compiling a report on the Master Policy for the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission (SLCC), alleged the businessman from Oban had been sent to a Glasgow law firm to represent him in a court case against his former solicitors.

However the Glasgow based law firm, who have since represented the First Minister himself and a number of controversial figures in the legal world, did nothing for a period of three years and when it was revealed the same law firm who the Law Society’s Regulation Chief had allegedly recommended to the Oban businessman were also representing the Legal Defence Union, the organisation which represents crooked lawyers against complaints, the unnamed client committed suicide.

Against a background of too-numerous-to-mention cases where involvement of the twenty year plus serving Law Society’s Regulation Boss appears to have played a key part in allowing corrupt solicitors to remain in work, Yelland may well have faced difficult questions over his involvement in one of the key parts of the BBC Scotland report aired last week, that of former solicitor Tom Murray, currently living in Lucca, Italy.

Featured in the Lawyers Behaving Badly documentary, Murray, has appeared before the Scottish Solicitors Discipline Tribunal (SSDT) on no less than three occasions, (i) Law Society-v-Thomas Hugh Murray 01/03/2005 (ii) Law Society-v-Thomas Hugh Murray 25/11/2005 and (iii) Law Society-v-Thomas Hugh Murray 10/12/2009.

Former solicitor Murray, who said on the BBC programme during secret filming that if he returned to Scotland he could reapply to be a solicitor again, was found guilty of professional misconduct in respect of misrepresentation, deception and misleading clients including his failure to tell his clients he had been barred from practising as a lawyer. The solicitor who was sequestrated in Scotland in 2001 and continues to avoid any moves by the Law Society to take action against him and recover compensation awarded to his clients.

The case of Murray, and the Law Society’s apparently haphazard pursuit of complaints against him clearly provided fertile ground for difficult questions of Yelland, who has personally signed off on many of the communications to clients who were involved with the former solicitor. Diary of Injustice featured an in depth report on the Law Society’s involvement in the Murray case in an earlier article HERE

In a long, rambling statement attacking the BBC Scotland programme, the Law Society of Scotland made no mention as to why Mr Yelland refused to appear, nor did the Society explain why the one man who can be linked to many of the complaints made against Scottish solicitors which have done significant damage to the image of the profession, did not appear or give an account of his charge over regulation of, and standards in Scotland’s legal profession in the past two decades.

Diary of Injustice has reported on the BBC’s investigation into self regulation of the Scottish legal profession in previous articles here: Lawyers Behaving Badly – a window into the world of lawyers regulating themselves

 

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