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Scottish Solicitors Discipline Tribunal

21 August 06

Reports relating to Norman James Cowie; Louise Marie Hay; William McCarthy


Norman James Cowie

A complaint was made by the Council of the Law Society of Scotland against Norman James Cowie, solicitor, Cowie & Company, 198 High Street, Cowdenbeath, Fife (“the respondent”). The Tribunal found the respondent guilty of professional misconduct in cumulo in respect of his failure to record dispositions, standard securities and discharges timeously, his unreasonable delay in responding to the reasonable enquiries of the Society and his breach of rules 6, 8, 9, 11 and 24 of the Solicitors (Scotland) Accounts Etc Rules 2001. The Tribunal censured the respondent, fined him in the sum of £3,000 and directed in terms of section 53(5) of the Solicitors (Scotland) Act 1980 that with effect from 28 February 2006, any practising certificate held or issued to the respondent shall be subject to such restriction as will limit him to acting as a qualified assistant to and being supervised by such employer or successive employers as may be approved by the Council or the Practising Certificate Committee of the Council of the Law Society of Scotland for a period of 10 years.

The Tribunal was of the view that the respondent had demonstrated a wilful disregard for the welfare of his clients, both individual and corporate in terms of lending institutions, by his persistent failure to record deeds without delay. Against this background the Tribunal also found professional misconduct established in terms of the various breaches of the Accounts Rules and failure to respond to enquiries from the Society, although the Tribunal recognised that these matters alone may not have been sufficient to establish professional misconduct. The Tribunal was of the view that it was necessary to restrict the respondent’s practising certificate for a period of 10 years to protect the public interest, and that a fine of £3,000 was also appropriate.

Louise Marie Hay

A complaint was made by the Council of the Law Society of Scotland against Louise Marie Hay, solicitor, Upper Vicarsford, 37 Albany Road, Broughty Ferry, Dundee (“the respondent”). The Tribunal found that section 53(1)(b) of the Solicitors (Scotland) Act 1980 applied to the circumstances of the case in respect of the conviction of the respondent of an act involving dishonesty. The Tribunal censured the respondent and directed in terms of section 53(5) of the Solicitors (Scotland) Act 1980 that any practising certificate held or issued to the respondent shall be subject to such restriction as will limit her to acting as a qualified assistant to and being supervised by such employer or successive employers as may be approved by the Council or the Practising Certificate Committee of the Council of the Law Society of Scotland for a period of five years.

The Tribunal was of the view that a conviction of fraud represents a serious departure from the high standards expected of a solicitor. The Tribunal however took account of the respondent’s personal circumstances in that she was at that time subject to the pressures of being a single parent. The Tribunal considered that there was no possibility of the same circumstances recurring. In addition, the Tribunal perceived the offence as being a technical one in that her right to payment of child’s tax credit required her to comply with the precise terms of the legislation. The Tribunal took account of the fact the offence was not committed in the course of her employment, that it occurred some time ago and that she did not seek to excuse her conduct in any way. The Tribunal was satisfied that the public would be adequately protected by a restriction on the respondent’s practising certificate to prevent her acting as a principal solicitor for the next five years.

William McCarthy

A complaint was made by the Council of the Law Society of Scotland against William McCarthy, solicitor, 57 Paisley Road, Barrhead, Glasgow (“the respondent”). The Tribunal found the respondent guilty of professional misconduct in respect of his persistent failure to respond to correspondence from the Keeper of the Registers of Scotland and from East Renfrewshire Council, resulting in an application for registration of title being cancelled and a disposition and two standard securities remaining unregistered. The Tribunal censured the respondent.

The Tribunal considered that the circumstances of the case, given the persistent failure to respond to both the Keeper of the Registers of Scotland and East Renfrewshire Council, were sufficient to amount to professional misconduct. The Tribunal however considered that this was very much at the bottom end of the scale of professional misconduct and was one of the least serious cases dealt with by the Tribunal in recent times. The Tribunal was impressed by the fact that the respondent had acknowledged his failures from the start and had apologised to his clients and the Society. The respondent had also reimbursed fees and paid expenses and compensation. The Tribunal imposed the lowest sanction available to it, being a censure.