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Scottish Solicitors’ Discipline Tribunal

1 October 03

Reports relating to Robert Alisdair Mactaggart; Thomas Patrick Mellon; Donald MacAulay Johnson

Robert Alisdair Mactaggart

A complaint was made by the Council of the Law Society of Scotland against Robert Alisdair Mactaggart, Solicitor, 72-74 Main Street, Largs (“the Respondent”). The Tribunal found the Respondent guilty of professional misconduct in respect of his failure to supervise his employee to a standard to be expected of a competent and reputable solicitor whereby false or misleading information was produced to the executors in the estate regarding the extent of fees due to the Respondent’s firm. The Respondent was censured.

The events took place during late 1996 and early 1997. The complaint originally contained a number of charges against the Respondent who was only found guilty of one of the charges. The Tribunal considered that the Respondent had a system of supervision in operation at his firm and that generally the level of administration of the executry appeared adequate. The Tribunal also considered that given the qualifications and experience of the Respondent’s employee it was perfectly acceptable for routine matters to be delegated to the employee. The Tribunal also found that the Respondent could not be found guilty of professional misconduct in respect of an improper act by an experienced, long serving and trusted employee who had deliberately bypassed the supervisory system instituted by the Respondent. However the Tribunal found that a solicitor has a duty to ensure that fees charged by his firm are not more than the taxed amount or an agreed or approved amount. The Tribunal considered that any competent solicitor acting in accordance with the Sharp test and particularly a solicitor acting as executor would be concerned that any fee note that left his office was as agreed or as taxed. In this case a fee note was issued and debited to the executry which exceeded the taxed amount and was not agreed by the Respondent. The Tribunal considered that the Respondent, a solicitor and an executor in the estate, had a duty to check that correct fees were charged to the estate and found that the Respondent’s systems of supervision were clearly inadequate as the Respondent was unaware that fees in excess of the taxed amount had been charged to the executry. The Tribunal considered that this fell short of the standard to be expected of a competent and reputable solicitor and found the Respondent guilty of professional misconduct in respect of this part of the complaint.

Thomas Patrick Mellon

A Complaint was made by the Council of the Law Society of Scotland against Thomas Patrick Mellon, Solicitor, 4 Marchmont Terrace, Glasgow (“the Respondent”). The Tribunal found that the Respondent had failed to comply with the Determination and Direction given by the Council of the Law Society under section 42A of the Solicitors (Scotland) Act 1980 within the period specified and Directed that an Order be issued under section 53C(2) of the Act.

The Law Society had made a Determination that the Respondent should make a payment of £200 by way of compensation. The Respondent had failed to comply with this Determination.

Donald MacAulay Johnson

A Complaint was made by the Council of the Law Society of Scotland against Donald MacAulay Johnson, Solicitor, 60 Fernlea, Bearsden, East Dunbartonshire (“the Respondent”). The Tribunal found that the Respondent had failed to comply with the Determination and Direction given by the Council of the Law Society of Scotland under section 42A of the Solicitors (Scotland) Act 1980 within the period specified and Directed that an Order be issued under section 53C(2) of the Act.

The Law Society had made a Determination that the fees to which the Respondent’s firm was entitled should be abated by £200 exclusive of VAT and the Respondent’s firm was directed to pay the sum of £500 by way of compensation. The Respondent had failed to comply with this Determination and Direction.