Scottish Solicitors' Discipline Tribunal
Reports of cases relating to Paul Saunders Jardine; Kevin Murphy; Ewan Sherriff
Paul Saunders Jardine
A complaint was made by the Council of the Law Society of Scotland against Paul Saunders Jardine, solicitor, Jardine Phillips LLP, 205 Morningside Road, Edinburgh. The Tribunal found the respondent guilty of professional misconduct in respect of his failure to respond to communications from a beneficiary and their solicitors; his failure to fulfil an undertaking given to the beneficiary’s solicitor; his failure to provide his business file and other documents timeously to the Society; his failure to provide any explanation why the file and documentation had not been produced timeously following the service of a number of statutory notices; his failure to provide a cheque to the Accountant of Court despite his promises to do so; his failure to provide the Accountant of Court’s office with a copy of an executry account; and his concealment from his business partner of correspondence from the complainers, the Tribunal and the fiscal.
The Tribunal censured the respondent and directed in terms of s 53(5) of the Solicitors (Scotland) Act 1980 that any practising certificate held or to be issued to the respondent shall be subject to such restriction as will limit him to acting as a qualified assistant to (and to being supervised by) such employer or successive employers as may be approved by the Council or the Practising Certificate Subcommittee of the Council of the Society, and that for an aggregate period of at least three years, and thereafter until such time as he satisfies the Tribunal that he is fit to hold a full practising certificate.
The Tribunal also ordained the respondent to make payment to the Society in the sum of £2,517.40 in respect of loss resulting from the misconduct.
The Tribunal considered that the repeated failures to respond to correspondence and the deliberate concealment of the correspondence addressed to his partner would be regarded by competent and reputable solicitors as serious and reprehensible departures from the standards expected of those within the profession. The Tribunal noted that apart from the resultant delay and inconvenience, no members of the public suffered financially as a result of the respondent’s failures. The Tribunal also took into account that the respondent had appeared before the Tribunal, had candidly admitted his failures and had shown a keenness to have the matters resolved. While it was noted that a number of changes to the management of the practice had been made, the Tribunal was not satisfied that sufficient steps had been taken to prevent further failures should the respondent experience a further period of stress. Accordingly, the Tribunal considered that it was necessary for the protection of clients that the respondent’s practising certificate be restricted and that he be supervised for an aggregate period of three years.
A complaint was made by the Council of the Law Society of Scotland against Kevin Murphy, solicitor, Hamilton Burns & Co, 63 Carlton Place, Glasgow. The Tribunal found the respondent guilty of professional misconduct in respect of his sending a letter direct to the client of another solicitor both by fax and by Legal Post to the client’s business address, in breach of para 14(2) of the Solicitors (Scotland) (Standards of Conduct) Practice Rules 2008. The Tribunal censured the respondent and fined him in the sum of £500.
It was obvious from the background to the matter that there had been various correspondence between the respondent and the client’s solicitor about the disputed invoices. The Tribunal considered that the respondent’s conduct amounted to professional misconduct, but took account of the respondent’s previous unblemished record, the references lodged, his inexperience as a partner at the time and his insight into his failure.
A complaint was made by the Council of the Law Society of Scotland against Ewan Andrew John Sherriff, now care of BCKM Solicitors, 53 George IV Bridge, Edinburgh. The Tribunal found the respondent guilty of professional misconduct in respect of his causing a letter to be sent on firm notepaper to Halifax plc which he should have known contained false and inaccurate salary information about an employee, being conduct not in accordance with the common law principles of honesty, truthfulness and integrity expected of a solicitor practising in Scotland nor in accordance with article 7 of the Code of Conduct for Scottish Solicitors 2002. The Tribunal censured the respondent.
The Tribunal considered that the respondent’s conduct was serious and reprehensible and did amount to professional misconduct. It considered however that this fell at the lower end of the scale of professional misconduct. The letter was prepared by a trusted employee, and although the respondent had a responsibility to check this, there was no suggestion of personal gain or profit on his part. The Tribunal accepted that the respondent signed the letter in error at a time when he had a troubled personal life. It also took into account the fact that the respondent had already suffered consequences as a result of his actions. In the whole circumstances the Tribunal considered that a censure would be sufficient penalty.