Scottish Solicitors' Discipline Tribunal
Reports of cases relating to Roy William Andrew Miller; Paul Thompson
Roy William Andrew Miller
A complaint was made by the Council of the Law Society of Scotland against Roy William Andrew Miller, solicitor, Glasgow. The Tribunal found the respondent guilty of professional misconduct in cumulo in respect that (1) he failed or delayed to respond to correspondence and statutory notices issued by both the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission and the complainers; (2) he failed or delayed to respond to a formal determination of the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission and failed to implement the terms of said determination; (3) he delayed in settling five invoices issued by expert witnesses instructed by him in relation to legally aided cases despite having received reimbursement of at least four of these invoices from the Scottish Legal Aid Board; and (4) he failed or delayed to implement the terms of a mandate received from another firm of solicitors and failed or delayed to respond to their correspondence in that respect.
The Tribunal suspended the respondent from practice for a period of three years.
The conduct described represented a course of conduct by the respondent spanning a period of in excess of two years. This conduct represented a catalogue of a failure to respond by the respondent to correspondence or notices. He had failed to respond to the SLCC. He had failed to implement their determination. He had delayed in settling witness invoices, even where in four out of five of these invoices he had already been reimbursed by the Scottish Legal Aid Board. He had failed to respond to the correspondence from these witnesses. He had failed to implement a mandate from another solicitor and failed to respond to correspondence from that solicitor. Finally, in respect to all of these complaints he had continually failed to respond to correspondence and notices from his regulatory body which was investigating them. Solicitors have a clear duty to respond to their regulatory body. The Tribunal had on many occasions made it clear that public trust in the profession depended on the regulatory body being in a position to investigate appropriately any complaint against a solicitor. A failure to cooperate prevented it from doing so and was extremely damaging to the reputation of the profession. Public trust required solicitors to cooperate with their regulatory body in their investigations when any complaint arose. The respondent’s lack of co-operation continued at a time when he had another matter live before the Tribunal. That case had resulted in a restriction on his practising certificate, as a way of protecting the public interest. Given the scale of the conduct in this case and the fact that the behaviour had continued as described, the Tribunal concluded that the misconduct could not go unmarked. In the circumstances the appropriate disposal was to suspend the respondent from practising as a solicitor and the appropriate period for such a suspension would be three years.
Two complaints were made by the Council of the Law Society of Scotland against Paul Thompson, solicitor, Skelmorlie. The Tribunal found the respondent guilty of professional misconduct in respect that (a) between 4 February 2011 and 28 October 2013 he repeatedly failed to co-operate with the Society in the exercise of its regulatory functions and in particular failed to respond to communications, to provide accounts certificates on time or at all, and to produce accounting records and information to ensure an adequate standard of record keeping and demonstrate the financial position of the firm; (b) between 20 January and 8 May 2014 he repeatedly failed to reply to the reasonable enquiries of the Society in its investigation of his failure to respond to the financial compliance team and to comply with notices served upon him; and (c) between 9 July 2014 and 26 January 2015 he repeatedly failed to co-operate with the Society in the exercise of its regulatory functions and in particular failed to respond to letters in connection with the complaint of a client, or to comply with notices served upon him
The Tribunal suspended the respondent for a period of two years.
The behaviour described in these complaints amounted to a lengthy course of conduct involving the respondent’s complete failure to co-operate with his regulatory body. He had failed to co-operate with the accounts process. He then failed to respond to the complaints process following thereon. Finally he had failed to co-operate with the process relating to a separate complaint raised by a client. The Tribunal had on many occasions emphasised the importance of the duty of a solicitor to co-operate with the Society exercising its role as the regulatory body of the profession. The Society exercised this function to protect the public. It could not do so effectively without the co-operation of the members of the profession. Its supervisory capacity with regard to solicitors’ accounting practices was patently and obviously an important part of the protection of the public. This extensive and lengthy course of non-co-operation on the part of the respondent amounted to behaviour falling well below the standard to be expected of the reasonably competent solicitor, to a degree that could only be considered serious and reprehensible. The Tribunal considered the respondent’s conduct to be at a high level of seriousness on the scale for such misconduct. His lack of co-operation with the regulation of his accounting practices caused the Tribunal particular concern. Whilst it was accepted that the respondent did not deal with clients’ funds, one of the reasons the accounts certificate and inspection processes existed was for the Society to confirm that in fact a solicitor did not handle client money or that they did so appropriately. His complete failure to answer a client complaint represented conduct undermining confidence in the profession and damaging the reputation of the profession. The Tribunal concluded that the appropriate disposal was one of suspension and that the relevant period should be two years.