Scottish Solicitors' Discipline Tribunal
Reports of cases relating to Raymond George Mallon; David Robert Lingard; John Charles Nason Craxton
Raymond George Mallon
A complaint was made by the Council of the Law Society of Scotland on behalf of the secondary complainer against Raymond George Mallon, RMS Law LLP, Falkirk. The Tribunal found the respondent guilty of professional misconduct in respect of his failure or undue delay in responding to a mandate sent to him by the secondary complainer’s new agents, Balfour & Manson, on 27 March 2012 and subsequent reminder letters, and in responding to Balfour & Manson’s letter of 27 March 2012 and subsequent reminder letters and to telephone messages. The Tribunal censured the respondent and fined him in the sum of £1,000.
The respondent had failed to comply with the terms of the mandate for a period of almost four months despite numerous written and verbal reminders. The Tribunal has made it clear on a number of occasions that it is imperative that solicitors fulfil their professional obligations and respond properly to mandates. Failure to do so hampers the new solicitor in implementing a client’s instructions, which is prejudicial to the reputation of the legal profession. The Tribunal noted that the respondent had appeared personally and apologised, showed insight and accepted his culpabilities. The Tribunal however imposed a fine in addition to a censure to show the seriousness with which it views failure to respond to a mandate. As very little evidence of any loss or stress was provided by the secondary complainer, the Tribunal made no award of compensation.
David Robert Lingard
A complaint was made by the Council of the Law Society of Scotland against David Robert Lingard, director, Leonards Solicitors Ltd, Hamilton. The Tribunal found the respondent not guilty of professional misconduct but remitted the complaint in terms of s 53ZA of the Solicitors (Scotland) Act 1980.
The Tribunal found the respondent and his witnesses to be credible and reliable. The respondent had re-rendered fee notes for personal work done for a client to the client’s family company on the instructions of that client, who had ostensible authority built up over many years to represent the family company. This client then made a promise that the company would pay the solicitor’s fee, which bound the company to pay the money. The Tribunal considered that the nature of the payment was to pay a debt and there was accordingly no need for written authority. In respect of the payment of Faculty Services fees, the Tribunal found that there was a technical breach of the Accounts Rules (money taken from one client to pay another without written authority), but in the whole circumstances of the case, given that the client the respondent was dealing with was a trusted agent of the company and gave him oral authority to take the money, the Tribunal did not consider that the respondent’s conduct was so serious and reprehensible as to amount to professional misconduct. The Tribunal however considered that the circumstances of this case were such that the conduct might fall within the definition of unsatisfactory professional conduct and accordingly remitted the complaint to the Society in terms of s 53ZA.
John Charles Nason Craxton
A complaint was made by the Council of the Law Society of Scotland against John Charles Nason Craxton, solicitor, Dartford. The Tribunal found the respondent guilty of professional misconduct in respect of his between 28 July and 9 September 2011 charging excessive fees of £4,800 including VAT for the administration of an executry estate, and taking £4,320 including VAT from estate funds towards satisfaction of the fees charged and failing to bring their existence to the attention of the executrix by rendering fee notes to her. 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 being supervised by such employer or successive employers as may be approved by the Council of the Law Society of Scotland or its Practising Certificate Subcommittee, and that for an aggregate period of at least three years.
The respondent made a preliminary plea to the effect the Tribunal did not have jurisdiction due to his sequestration. The Tribunal found no merit in this submission. The Tribunal considered the respondent ought reasonably to have known that the fees raised and deducted were excessive. He took fees on a different basis to that set out in his terms of business letter. The Tribunal noted that this was a one-off transaction rather than a repeated course of conduct, but considered that there were areas of the respondent’s practice that required review, retraining and supervision and, accordingly, imposed an aggregate restriction on his practising certificate to ensure that he would work under supervision for a period of three years before he could obtain a full practising certificate.