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Scottish Solicitors' Discipline Tribunal

18 July 11

Reports of cases relating to Donald Macaulay Johnson; Grant O'Connor

Donald Macaulay Johnson

A complaint was made by the Council of the Law Society of Scotland against Donald Macaulay Johnson, solicitor, Glasgow (“the respondent”). The Tribunal found the respondent guilty of professional misconduct in cumulo in respect of his failure between 10 April 1995 and 31 October 1999 to register a disposition whereby his clients were uninfeft in the property until May 2007, his failure between 10 April 1995 and 31 October 1999 to register a standard security whereby the bank’s loan was unsecured until redeemed in January 2007, his failure between 7 August 2008 and 22 January 2009 to respond to the reasonable enquiries of the Society about the registration of the title, and his failure to comply with notices or send files as requested.

The Tribunal censured the respondent.

The Tribunal noted that the failure to record deeds in this case only related to one transaction. The Tribunal however was concerned by the respondent’s submission that he had two paralegals working for him and that he was not sure what had happened in this case. A competent and reputable solicitor would not deal with matters in this way. Despite there being money shown on the ledger in respect of this transaction, the respondent did not pick up the fact that the deeds had remained unrecorded for three and a half years. The Tribunal considered that this taken together with his failure to respond to letters from the Society was sufficient in cumulo to amount to professional misconduct. Given that the failure to record the deeds related to only one transaction and that the respondent’s failure to respond to the Society was mainly as a result of his moving address on a number of occasions, the Tribunal considered that this fell at the lowest end of the scale of professional misconduct and that a censure would be sufficient penalty.

Grant O’Connor

A complaint was made by the Council of the Law Society of Scotland against Grant O’Connor, solicitor, Abbey Grange Solicitors, Edinburgh (“the respondent”). The Tribunal found the respondent guilty of professional misconduct in respect of his conviction in relation to a charge under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971, s 4(3)(a).

The Tribunal censured the respondent and fined him in the sum of £10,000.

The Tribunal considered that the respondent’s actions would be regarded by competent and reputable solicitors as a serious and reprehensible departure from the standards expected from those within the profession. Having considered all the circumstances, the Tribunal concluded that the respondent’s conduct was of a kind which could bring the profession into disrepute and constituted professional misconduct. In considering sanction, the Tribunal noted that the respondent was convicted of the supply of a class A drug after tendering a plea of guilty. As such he brought himself and, more importantly, the legal profession into serious disrepute. One of the essential qualities of a solicitor is integrity, which extends not only to his professional life but also to his personal conduct. The Tribunal took note of the evidence that this was a single offence and that although it was committed in the offices of the firm of which he was then a partner, it did not directly pertain to his work as a solicitor. The Tribunal was impressed by the references lodged in support of the respondent, in particular those of his former partners, other members of the legal profession, current clients and employees. The Tribunal took account of the respondent’s level of co-operation with all the authorities including the police, the Crown and the Society, and the Tribunal accepted that the respondent showed genuine remorse and regret for his actions. The Tribunal did not consider the public to be at risk as the offence was in respect of the respondent’s private life and in the view of his psychiatrist there was little likelihood of the offence reoccurring. The Tribunal concluded that the appropriate sanction was to censure the respondent and fine him in the sum of £10,000.

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