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Scottish Solicitors' Discipline Tribunal

17 March 14

Report relating to Norman Douglas Paton Cathcart

Norman Douglas Paton Cathcart

A complaint was made by the Council of the Law Society of Scotland against Norman Douglas Paton Cathcart of Campbell Cathcart, Glasgow. The Tribunal found the respondent guilty of professional misconduct in respect of his failure to communicate effectively and appropriately with the secondary complainer, the liquidator of his client; his failure and/or unreasonable delay in responding to the Society in the investigation of the complaint made by the secondary complainer; and his failure and/or unreasonable delay in responding to the Financial Compliance Department of the Society.

The Tribunal suspended the respondent from practice for a period of three years and directed in terms of s 53(6) of the Solicitors (Scotland) Act 1980 that this suspension shall take effect on the date on which the written findings were intimated to the respondent. This sentence was appealed to the Court of Session. The court upheld the Tribunal’s decision but gave the respondent a period of three months in which to organise his affairs. The Tribunal also made an order for compensation in the sum of £5,000 to be paid to the secondary complainer.

The Tribunal was extremely concerned by the respondent’s conduct. The respondent failed to communicate effectively with an officer of the court, causing significant problems both in terms of cost and time for a liquidator trying to sort matters out. The respondent’s failure to communicate effectively caused a member of another profession, and creditors, unnecessary difficulties. The respondent’s conduct was also aggravated by his failure to respond to the Society when they were investigating the matter, and his failure to respond to the Financial Compliance Department of the Society. The Tribunal was concerned to note that the two previous findings of misconduct against the respondent were analogous. This showed a pattern of behaviour since 2002-03 of failure to respond and procrastination. The plea in mitigation made on the respondent’s behalf was somewhat confused in respect of whether the respondent’s reason for failure to respond was just due to his depression or because he decided that some of the documents should not be given to the liquidator.

The Tribunal considered that this complaint on its own would merit a restriction on the respondent’s practising certificate. However, when taken together with the two previous findings of professional misconduct, from which it appeared that the respondent had not learnt anything, the Tribunal considered that public confidence in the profession would be undermined if the respondent was not suspended from practice. The Tribunal was satisfied that the secondary complainer had been directly affected by the respondent’s professional misconduct. These losses exceeded the maximum amount of compensation that the Tribunal could award. The Tribunal accordingly awarded compensation of £5,000.

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