Scottish Solicitors’ Discipline Tribunal
Reports relating to Paul Anderson; Janette Barr Napier Walkingshaw; John McLaughlin; Deryck de Maine Beaumont; David Alexander Symington
An Appeal was made to the Discipline Tribunal by Paul Anderson, Solicitor on behalf of the former firm of Paul Anderson, Solicitors against a Finding of Inadequate Professional Service made by the Council of the Law Society of Scotland and a Direction that the Appellant should pay the sum of £750 by way of compensation. The Tribunal dismissed the Appeal.
The Appellant was not present to present his appeal. The issue in this Appeal was whether or not the Inadequate Professional Service provided by an employee of the Mortgage Centre Northern Limited was provided by Paul Anderson, Solicitors. Given that the shop premises displayed both the name of Paul Anderson, Solicitors and the Mortgage Centre Northern Limited, that the telephone exchange for the solicitor’s firm and the Mortgage Centre Northern Limited were the same, that the registered office and other addresses of the Mortgage Centre Northern Limited were the same as the addresses of Paul Anderson, Solicitors, that Paul Anderson, a partner in the firm of Paul Anderson, Solicitors was sole director of the Mortgage Centre Northern Limited and one of the Company Secretaries and one of the two Share Holders, that Paul Anderson signed the Annual Returns and that the Mortgage Centre Northern Limited paid commission to Paul Anderson, Solicitors, it appeared to the Tribunal that the services provided by the Mortgage Centre Northern Limited were part of the services provided by Paul Anderson. The Tribunal took account of the fact that a member of the public consulting the Mortgage Centre Northern Limited employee would reasonably be under the impression that the services being provided were the services of a solicitor especially as the employee not only arranged the mortgage but noted interest and made a verbal offer for the property. The Tribunal also noted that when the solicitor in the firm of Paul Anderson, Solicitors took over the transaction no fresh instructions were taken from the client and the transaction proceeded as it would have done if the same body had been dealing with the matter from the start. The Tribunal also found it particularly significant that when a fee note was rendered by Paul Anderson, Solicitors, it included the taking of instructions and applying for a loan which were matters dealt with by the employee of the Mortgage Centre Northern Limited.
Janette Barr Napier Walkingshaw
A Complaint was made by the Council of the Law Society of Scotland against Janette Barr Napier Walkingshaw, Solicitor, 26 Church Street, Lochwinnoch, Renfrewshire (“the Respondent”). The Tribunal found the Respondent guilty of professional misconduct in respect of her accepting improper instructions from a client and acting contrary to Article 5(a) of the Code of Conduct for Solicitors holding Practising Certificates issued by the Law Society of Scotland in 1989. The Tribunal censured the Respondent and fined her in the sum of £500.
The Tribunal did not consider that the Respondent had acted dishonestly. She had made no attempt in her file to disguise what had occurred. The Tribunal accepted that the Respondent had been manipulated by her client and had devolved responsibility. The Respondent had nevertheless accepted improper instructions from her client which had resulted in Mr F being denied part of his entitlement to an estate. The Tribunal took into account the Respondent’s personal financial circumstances and the fact that she had practised for 26 years without incident, that she had made good the loss and had had discussions with regard to a plea with the Complainers at an early stage. It was clear that the Respondent found the experience of having to appear before the Tribunal extremely distressing and the Tribunal considered that it would be very unlikely that anything similar would happen again in the future. The Tribunal accordingly imposed a censure and a minimal fine of £500.
A Complaint was made by the Council of the Law Society of Scotland against John McLaughlin, Solicitor, 2 Tay Street, Perth (“the Respondent). The Tribunal found the Respondent guilty of professional misconduct in respect of his failure to keep clients adequately informed, failure to report on progress being made, failure to perform instructions diligently and expeditiously, failure to respond timeously or at all to the repeated reasonable enquiries made of him by his clients and his allowing an inordinate and unreasonable delay to occur in the prosecution of the claim on behalf of his clients, all contrary to the 1989 Code of Conduct for solicitors holding Practising Certificates. The Tribunal Censured the Respondent and fined him in the sum of £4,000.
The Tribunal were extremely concerned by the inordinate and wholly unreasonable period of time taken by the Respondent in this case. A solicitor has a duty to perform the instructions received from his clients to the best of his capability, diligently and without unreasonable delay. The Respondent’s conduct demonstrated a clear inability on his behalf to discharge professionally instructions given to him. The Tribunal took account of the testimonials provided and the assurance given by Counsel for the Respondent that the Respondent would continue only as a Consultant rather than a partner in future and accordingly the Tribunal did not restrict the Respondent’s Practising Certificate but marked the seriousness of the case by imposing a substantial fine.
Deryck de Maine Beaumont
A Complaint was made by the Council of the Law Society of Scotland against Deryck de Maine Beaumont, Solicitor, Balnaguard, Pitlochry (“the Respondent). The Respondent made a preliminary human rights plea claiming that the Tribunal was not objectively impartial and independent, that the proceedings were unfair because the Respondent had been deprived of papers which he required, and that he was prejudiced by the lack of legal aid. The Tribunal repelled the Respondent’s Human Rights pleas. The Tribunal then heard evidence with regard to the Complaint and made no finding of professional misconduct. The Tribunal ordered that no expenses be due to or by either party.
David Alexander Symington
A Complaint was made by the Council of the Law Society of Scotland against David Alexander Symington, Solicitor, 19 Haddington Place, Edinburgh (“the Respondent). The Tribunal found the Respondent guilty of professional misconduct in respect of his failure to deal with requisitions made by the Keeper, failure to reply timeously to correspondence sent to him by fellow agents and failure to respond to the reasonable requests of the Law Society for information and found that the Respondent had provided an inadequate professional service in respect of his failure to prepare a deed of assignation in respect of two endowment policies, failure to timeously intimate the assignation of an endowment policy and his failure to deal with requisitions made of him by the Keeper. The Respondent was Censured, Fined £2,000 and had his Practising Certificate restricted for a period of five years with effect from 1st December 2002.
The Respondent accepted that his actions amounted to professional misconduct and that he had provided an inadequate professional service. It was clear to the Tribunal that the Respondent was not in control and not coping with the running of his sole practice. The Tribunal were accordingly of the view that, to ensure protection of the public, the Respondent’s Practising Certificate should be restricted. To give the Respondent time to conclude outstanding matters to his clients’ satisfaction the Tribunal ordered the restriction to run from 1st December 2002.