Scottish Solicitors' Discipline Tribunal
Report relating to Alison Baxter
A complaint was made by the Council of the Law Society of Scotland against Alison Baxter, solicitor, formerly of Baxter & Co, 18 Victoria Street, Aberdeen and now care of Burness, Paull & Williamsons, Aberdeen. The Tribunal found the respondent guilty of professional misconduct in respect of her failure and delay over a period of eight and a half years to record a standard security in favour of a lender and disposition in favour of her client, and failure to respond to communications from the lender or their agents.
The Tribunal censured the respondent. The Tribunal had a discussion about whether or not the respondent's conduct was sufficiently serious and reprehensible to meet the Sharp test. The incident related to one client and one file.
On balance, however, the Tribunal considered that the respondent's conduct did meet the test of professional misconduct, given that the delay continued for a totally unacceptable period of eight and a half years, during which time the client remained uninfeft and the lender remained unsecured. Extensive delays in recording deeds and failure to respond to lenders in respect of enquiries about these delays are prejudicial to the profession and likely to bring the profession into disrepute.
The respondent did not provide a satisfactory explanation or much detail about why she failed to respond to the lender between 2005 and 2009. It was stated that it was due to health problems, but despite this she managed to continue with her other work. The Tribunal accordingly made a finding of professional misconduct, but considered the respondent's conduct to be very much at the lower end of the scale. The Tribunal noted the respondent's health problems and considered that a censure would be a sufficient penalty in this case.