Scottish Solicitors' Discipline Tribunal
Reports relating to Fiona Mary MacLeod; James Joseph McDonagh; Alan Monro Simpson
Fiona Mary MacLeod
A complaint was made by the Council of the Law Society of Scotland against Fiona Mary MacLeod of Shell UK Ltd, 1 Altons Farm Road, Nigg, Aberdeen (“the respondent”). The Tribunal found the respondent guilty of professional misconduct in respect of her failure to comply with her obligation in terms of the Solicitors (Scotland) (Continuing Professional Development) Regulations 1993 by failing to submit a record for the practice years 2000-01, 2001-02, 2002-03 and 2003-04, and her failure to reply timeously, openly and accurately to the reasonable enquiries made of her by the Society. The Tribunal censured the respondent and fined her in the sum of £500 to be forfeit to Her Majesty.
The Tribunal considered this to be an unfortunate case. For the reputation of the profession to be upheld it is imperative that solicitors complete the necessary continuing professional development hours each year. In this case, although the respondent had completed the hours she failed to provide evidence of compliance to the Society over a period of four consecutive years. As a consequence of this the Society’s ability to regulate compliance with the Continuing Professional Development Regulations was hampered and impeded. Furthermore the respondent then failed to reply to 20 letters and eight phone calls from the Society over a period of four years when they attempted to make enquiry of her with regard to why she had not made her record card available. The Tribunal noted that the respondent was not giving legal advice during the relevant period, but as she had a practising certificate it was her responsibility to ensure that the conditions of the certificate were complied with. The Tribunal took account of the fact that the respondent had co-operated with the Society since the complaint was raised and considered that a censure plus a fine of £500 would be an appropriate penalty.
James Joseph McDonagh
A complaint was made by the Council of the Law Society of Scotland against James Joseph McDonagh, solicitor, 9 Bank Street, Dundee (“the respondent”). The Tribunal found the respondent guilty of professional misconduct in respect of his deceiving and misleading his client by holding himself out as a practising Scottish solicitor when he did not hold a practising certificate, his intromitting with client monies while subject to a restricted practising certificate, his failure to reply to the reasonable enquiries of the Society for information and his continuing to practise as a solicitor after 15 June 2001 without having obtained a restricted practising certificate from the Society. The Tribunal suspended the respondent from practice for a period of two years.
Given the lack of satisfactory explanation from the respondent with regard to why his answers had been lodged late and why he was unable to attend the Tribunal hearing, the Tribunal decided not to allow the answers to be lodged late, and refused the respondent’s motion to adjourn and proceeded to deal with matters in the respondent’s absence. The Tribunal heard evidence from one witness and received affidavit evidence from another two witnesses, and was satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that the respondent held himself out as being a practising solicitor when he no longer held even a restricted practising certificate and that he deceived and misled his client. The Tribunal was also satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that he intromitted with monies from his client, but did not find that there was sufficient evidence to establish that the respondent had acted contrary to rules 4 and 6 of the Solicitors (Scotland) Accounts Rules 1997. The Tribunal considered that the respondent’s ignoring of the single request from his client for a full and detailed accounting was not sufficient to amount to professional misconduct. The Tribunal noted two previous findings of professional misconduct against the respondent which related to analogous matters, and in particular noted that even after the Tribunal findings were issued in August 2003, the respondent still did not tell his client that he did not have a practising certificate. The Tribunal accordingly considered that the respondent should be suspended from practice for a period of two years.
Alan Monro Simpson
A complaint was made by the Council of the Law Society of Scotland against Alan Monro Simpson of 48 Thomson Drive, Bearsden, Glasgow (“the respondent”). The Tribunal found the respondent guilty of professional misconduct in respect of his fraudulently altering conveyancing documentation by inserting thereon a photocopied stamp to suggest that the documents had been presented to the Register of Sasines for recording when in actual fact they had not, and his deceiving his clients by holding out the purportedly recorded documents as authentic when they were not. The Tribunal ordered that the name of the respondent be struck off the Roll of Solicitors in Scotland.
The respondent did not lodge answers and did not appear at the Tribunal. The Tribunal after hearing evidence was satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that the respondent’s conduct amounted to professional misconduct. The respondent was a solicitor acting on behalf of clients and prepared dispositions on their behalf. He then had the deeds signed by his clients. He indicated to his clients that he had sent these for recording. The stamps on the dispositions were not genuine and the Tribunal was satisfied that the respondent had fraudulently stamped the dispositions and thereafter pretended that they had been registered when they had not. The Tribunal found the respondent’s actions in this regard to be bizarre. It was clearly a contrived fraud which had been pre-planned and he carried out a series of actions which were designed to mislead his clients. His dishonesty was reinforced by his letters to his clients and was maintained over a period of time. The consequences of the fraud for his clients could have been serious. The Tribunal considered that the only option open to it was to strike the respondent’s name from the Roll of Solicitors in Scotland.