Scottish Solicitors' Discipline Tribunal
Reports relating to David John Armstrong; Ian Robert Clark
David John Armstrong
A complaint was made by the Council of the Law Society of Scotland against David John Armstrong, solicitor, of Neill Clark & Murray Solicitors, Greenock. The Tribunal found the respondent guilty of professional misconduct in respect of his breach of rules 3 and 5 of the Solicitors (Scotland) Practice Rules 1986.
The Tribunal considered that this was an unfortunate case. Although the Tribunal considered that the respondent had breached rules 3 and 5 (over a transfer of title, acting for both mother and son, where a conflict of interest arose), and that this was sufficient for a finding of professional misconduct, the Tribunal acknowledged that there was some confusion about the nature and extent of the rules and regulations. The Tribunal noted that the matter was a one-off isolated incident, that the respondent had co-operated from the outset, had shown remorse and insight, had no previous findings of misconduct against him, had produced appropriate references and had not done anything deliberate or premeditated.
The Tribunal did not consider that the respondent was any risk to the public and considered that a censure would be a sufficient penalty. The secondary complainer withdrew her claim for compensation.
Ian Robert Clark
A complaint was made by the Council of the Law Society of Scotland against Ian Robert Clark, solicitor, Turcan Connell, Edinburgh. The Tribunal found the respondent not guilty of professional misconduct.
In this case evidence was led over three days and the Tribunal found a number of facts established. The respondent had acted for the executors of an estate and at the same time for two daughters who were both executors and potential beneficiaries. There was a dispute in connection with ownership of certain valuable items of moveable estate. While there was a clear conflict of interest between the widow and the two daughters, the widow had been separately represented. The complaint was that the respondent had acted in the face of a conflict of interest between the executors as a whole (including a fourth executor, the secondary complainer) and the two daughters. The Tribunal concluded that in the whole circumstances no actual conflict crystallised.
In connection with potential conflict of interest, the Tribunal’s view was that whilst there might have been a potential conflict in the case, it could not be described as significant and the respondent had acted with the full knowledge and consent of the clients. It was also clear from the evidence that the respondent had exercised caution in continuing to act and had taken advice from a colleague and senior counsel. The Tribunal also considered that the respondent had considerable grounds on which to believe that all four executors were aware of the circumstances.
The Tribunal accordingly found the respondent not guilty of professional misconduct. It further considered that the conduct complained of did not meet the definition of unsatisfactory professional conduct and accordingly did not remit the matter back to the Society.