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Scottish Solicitors' Discipline Tribunal

13 December 10

Reports of cases relating to Ronald Johnston Glass; Malcolm Thomson and George Morton

Ronald Johnston Glass

Eight complaints were made by the Council of the Law Society of Scotland against Ronald Johnston Glass, solicitor, formerly of Glasgow.

The Tribunal found the respondent guilty of professional misconduct in respect of his operating the client account in deficit, his breach of the Money Laundering Regulations, and his failure to maintain books and records as required by rule 8 of the Solicitors (Scotland) Accounts etc Rules 2001, to properly record a bridging loan, to attend timeously to the stamping and recording of deeds, to ensure that cheques were properly designated as required by rule 6(2), to follow lenders’ instructions in relation to reporting and investments of funds, to comply with the requirements of rule 21 in relation to borrowing from clients, to comply with the requirements of the Solicitors (Scotland) (Client Communication) Practice Rules 2005, to obtain written authority for an inter-account transfer, to comply with the requirements of the Solicitors (Scotland) (Incidental Financial Business) Practice Rules 2004, to deal timeously with professional correspondence from the Society, to obtemper statutory notices, to implement letters of obligation timeously, to settle a solicitor’s account timeously, to settle accounts due to Registers of Scotland, to administer an estate timeously and do what he had undertaken to the executrix to do, and to honour an undertaking given to a client.

The Tribunal conjoined the eight complaints and dealt with them in cumulo. The Tribunal was extremely concerned by the number of matters, which spanned a considerable period of time. It was clear that the respondent had had considerable operational difficulties, but he had continued to practise and accordingly must take responsibility for his actions. It was extremely reckless for the respondent to continue in practice in the circumstances.

The Tribunal, however, took account of the fact that no member of the public had lost out as a result of the respondent’s actions and there was no dishonesty involved. It also accepted that the respondent had medical problems. The Tribunal considered that a fine would not be realistic and that a restriction would not be a serious enough sanction given the numerous failings and the seriousness of the conduct. However, it stopped short of striking the respondent’s name from the Roll since it accepted that what had happened was inadvertence and negligence which spiralled out of control as the respondent ran out of money. In the circumstances, the Tribunal considered that a five-year suspension would be appropriate.

Malcom Thomson and George Morton

A complaint was made by the Council of the Law Society of Scotland against Malcolm Welsh Thomson, solicitor, Marshall Wilson Law Group Ltd, Falkirk (“the first respondent”), and George Raymond Morton, solicitor, formerly of Marshall Wilson Law Group Ltd and now of Morton Pacitti LLP, Falkirk (“the second respondent”).

The Tribunal found the first respondent guilty of professional misconduct in cumulo in respect of his several breaches of the Solicitors (Scotland) Accounts, Etc Rules 2001, namely rules 6 (client accounts), 8 (keeping proper books and accounts), 10 (reconciliation of client funds), 11 (interest on un-invested balances), and 22 (firm not to act for lender to one of its solicitors). The Tribunal found the second respondent guilty of professional misconduct in cumulo in respect of his several breaches of rule 24 (failure to comply with the Money Laundering Regulations).

The Tribunal censured the respondents and fined each of them in the sum of £7,500.

The Tribunal considered that the fact that the first respondent was responsible for repeated breaches of the Accounts Rules brought to his attention in a number of inspections was a serious and reprehensible departure from the standards expected of a competent and reputable solicitor in terms of the Sharp test. While all the breaches were towards the minor end of the scale, the Tribunal had concerns regarding the respondent’s failure to heed warnings from his professional body and his inability to address systems failures when these were pointed out to him.

The Tribunal was concerned that as a partner, he seemed unable to enforce compliance with the rules. The breaches, which went to the very heart of the accounting system, got worse rather than better during the three-year period averred and despite the warnings, the respondent chose to maintain both the onerous positions of cashroom partner and money laundering reporting officer. However, the Tribunal noted that the first respondent’s failures did not cause any prejudice to anyone other than his firm.

The Tribunal considered that the second respondent’s failures were very serious. The second respondent had completely ignored a number of regulations which had been in place for some considerable period of time and which were designed to prevent money laundering. While the affected transactions were ongoing, there were two inspections and one Guarantee Fund interview which highlighted the issues and yet the regulations continued to be ignored.

The Tribunal therefore considered that the second respondent’s failures in relation to a number of related companies over more than a year amounted to a serious and reprehensible departure from the standards expected of a competent and reputable solicitor. The Tribunal however noted that there was no suggestion of any dishonesty and that the transactions related essentially to one company over a specific period, and no subsequent breaches of the regulations were averred.

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