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Scottish Solicitors' Discipline Tribunal

21 January 13

Report relating to Douglas William Spence

Douglas William Spence

A complaint was made by the Council of the Law Society of Scotland against Douglas William Spence, solicitor, Glasgow. The Tribunal found the respondent guilty of professional misconduct in respect of (1) his unconscionable delay and ultimately his failure to properly represent the interests of or carry out instructions of his clients in court proceedings against them; (2) his failure to keep his clients informed of the progress of the action, to advise them in a way which allowed them to make informed decisions, his failure to prepare for and to conduct hearings on their behalf, his failure to properly instruct local agents or to apply to the court for the recall of an arrestment on the dependence; (3) his failure or unconscionable delay in replying to emails or in returning phone calls made to him by the representatives of his clients; (4) misleading his clients about the conduct of their court action by leading them to believe that an application for recall of an arrestment on the dependence was a live issue before the court, well knowing that the warrant had been continued of consent, that an award of expenses had been made against his clients and that he was taking no steps to have the warrant recalled; (5) his misleading his clients by advising them that there was a hearing fixed at which an arrestment could have been lifted, when he was aware that no such hearing was scheduled and that there was no motion before the court for the recall of the arrestment; and (6) his misleading his clients about the conduct of their court action by advising them that there was a hearing fixed when an advocate would attend to represent the company and that there would be a consultation the day before to finalise the defence, when he knew that there was no such hearing and that counsel was not instructed and therefore no consultation was arranged.

The Tribunal censured the respondent and directed in terms of s 53(5) of the Solicitors (Scotland) Act 1980 that for a period of two years 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 such employer 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 two years.

The Tribunal noted that the respondent had delayed and ultimately failed to properly represent the interests of his clients in a court action. He had also failed to keep them informed of progress in the action and misled them about how the action was being conducted.

The Tribunal considered that given the respondent’s failure to deal with this file appropriately and the fact that he had misled his clients, the respondent’s actions could be regarded by competent and reputable solicitors as a serious and reprehensible departure from the standards expected from those within the profession.

The Tribunal was concerned about the risk of these failures being repeated should the respondent decide to return to the profession at a later date. The Tribunal considered that it was necessary for the protection of potential future clients that, in addition to censuring the respondent, his practising certificate should be restricted and he be supervised for a period of two years if he returns to practice.

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