Scottish Solicitors' Discipline Tribunal
Reports relating to Alan Susskind and Cameron Fyfe
Alan Susskind and Cameron Fyfe
A complaint was made by the Council of the Law Society of Scotland against (first) Alan David Susskind, The Ca’d’Oro, 45 Gordon Street, Glasgow, and (second) Cameron Stuart Fyfe, 65 Bath Street, Glasgow.
The Tribunal found the first respondent not guilty of professional misconduct in the respect that as an experienced court and family law practitioner and notary public, he countersigned and notarised an affidavit of his client that he ought to have known contained statements that were false, and which he would have known had he verified each answer to the questions on the form SP5 prior to placing the applicant on oath, thereby enabling false information to be given to the court by his client. The Tribunal did not consider that the first respondent’s conduct was sufficiently serious and reprehensible as to the meet the test for professional misconduct, but considered that his actions might amount to unsatisfactory professional conduct and accordingly remitted this matter under s 53ZA of the Solicitors (Scotland) Act 1980 to the Society.
It found the first respondent guilty of professional misconduct in that during his tenure as a partner and principal in the former firm of Ross Harper and in particular during the period of 4 April 2008 to 31 March 2010, he managed a policy whereby the business of the firm was improperly funded by payments due to third parties. By virtue of his status as a partner or principal of the firm and in his capacity as designated cashroom partner and managing partner, he knowingly contributed to the operation of that policy. Sums received from the Scottish Legal Aid Board were deposited in the firm bank account and cheques were thereafter drawn on those accounts purportedly in payment of third parties’ outlays which had been incurred on behalf of the former firm’s clients. Said policy resulted in the sums validly due to third parties not being timeously paid, in that corresponding entries were reflected in individual client ledgers but the cheques drawn on the firm’s account were not issued to the appropriate parties at the relevant time, with the funds thereby remaining in the firm account, all in breach of the Solicitors (Scotland) Accounts etc Rules 2001, the Code of Conduct for Scottish Solicitors, and the Solicitors (Scotland) (Standards of Conduct) Practice Rules 2008. The first respondent also submitted to the Society accounts certificates on 26 October 2009 and 10 May 2010, which he knew or ought to have known were inaccurate, and thereby the true financial position of the firm was not evident to the Society.
The Tribunal found the second respondent guilty of professional misconduct in respect that during his tenure as a partner and principal in the former firm of Ross Harper, and in particular during the period from 4 April 2008 to 6 May 2011, he permitted to be operated or acquiesced in a policy whereby the business of the former firm was improperly funded by payments due to third parties as described above in relation to the first respondent, and that by virtue of his status as a partner or principal of the former firm, he by his acquiescence contributed to the operation of that policy of funding. He also submitted to the Society an accounts certificate, dated 10 May 2010, which he knew or ought to have known was inaccurate, whereby the true financial position of the firm was not evident to the Society.
The Tribunal ordered that the names of the first and second respondents be struck off the Roll of Solicitors in Scotland.
The essential qualities of a solicitor are honesty, truthfulness and integrity. It is imperative if the public is to have confidence in the legal profession that solicitors comply with the Accounts and Professional Practice Rules. In holding funds for clients, a solicitor is in a privileged position of trust. The Accounts Rules are in place in order to provide protection to the public. The Tribunal found both respondents guilty of professional misconduct for allowing a practice to continue which involved the unconscionable delay in payment of third party accounts and the intromission with clients’ funds to the benefit of their firm. Both respondents knew that the accounts certificates were inaccurate, if not the extent to which they were inaccurate. The whole purpose of the system of certificates is to have two partners accepting responsibility for stating to the Society that the accounts of the firm are in order. The respondents at best took no steps to satisfy themselves as to how inaccurate the certificates were and at worst were well aware of the wrongful use of the client funds. Having regard in particular to the length of time the procedure prevailed and the submission of inaccurate certificates to the Society, the Tribunal was of the view that it could not avoid the ultimate sanction and accordingly struck the names of both respondents from the roll.
The second respondent appealed to the Court of Session against the decision of the Tribunal insofar as it related to the order that his name be removed from the roll. This appeal was refused.