Scottish Solicitors' Discipline Tribunal
Reports of cases relating to John Graham Lints; Douglas William Spence
John Graham Lints
A complaint was made by the Council of the Law Society of Scotland against John Graham Lints, solicitor, Edinburgh. The Tribunal found the respondent guilty of professional misconduct in respect of his undertaking five conveyancing transactions in which he failed to comply with his obligations in terms of the Money Laundering Regulations, the Solicitors (Scotland) Accounts etc Rules 2001 and Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 by not applying appropriate due diligence.
The Tribunal ordered that the name of the respondent be struck from the Roll of Solicitors in Scotland.
The Tribunal noted details including the suspicious nature of the mandates and the large amounts of monies being paid to finance companies. It considered that the respondent as a very experienced conveyancer must have been aware there was a strong possibility that these transactions amounted to mortgage fraud and therefore he should have carried out appropriate due diligence. In terms of rule 24(3) of the Accounts Rules, solicitors are obliged to comply with part 7 of the 2002 Act.
The Tribunal considered that the respondent’s conduct in each transaction was not in accordance with the common law principle of honesty and integrity expected of a solicitor practising in Scotland, or with his obligations in terms of the Accounts Rules. The respondent never met the clients concerned, and did not carry out the usual tasks associated with conveyancing, such as obtaining instructions, examining titles, negotiating missives, and discussing reports and missives with the client. He had not demonstrated any insight into the seriousness of his failures and the resultant effect on the lenders. It is essential for the public to have confidence in the legal profession and that solicitors will act with integrity and fulfil their professional duties in all cases. The Tribunal considered that the respondent’s conduct in turning a blind eye to potential mortgage fraud demonstrated his lack of integrity and brought the legal profession into disrepute. Given all the circumstances and in particular his lack of insight, the Tribunal considered that neither a restriction nor a suspension was appropriate and decided to strike the respondent’s name from the roll.
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 his deceiving his clients between April 2008 and 27 November 2009 by pretending to instigate litigation against a former tenant of his client’s company in Dunfermline Sheriff Court, the truth being, as he well knew, that no such action had been raised, no court hearing scheduled, no counsel instructed to deal with the pleadings and no conversation about a hearing on 27 November 2009 with an agent for the former tenant; and his unconscionable failure between 5 July 2010 and 16 August 2012 to reply to the reasonable enquiries of the Society into the complaint by his client or to comply with notices served on him by the Society.
The Tribunal suspended the respondent from practice for three years.
The essential qualities of a solicitor are honesty, integrity and truthfulness. In this case the respondent pretended to have instigated litigation on behalf of his client and maintained that pretence in the respects libelled. If solicitors are not truthful with clients it is very damaging to the reputation of the profession. The respondent also prevented the Society from carrying out its statutory duties. The Tribunal considered that this, together with the conduct in previous Tribunal findings, showed a persistent course of action of providing misinformation to clients. In this case it was potentially financially prejudicial to the client. The Tribunal noted the respondent’s remorse and insight. It however considered that the danger to the public was such that it could only be met by removal of the respondent from practice in the meantime.