Scottish Solicitors' Discipline Tribunal
Reports relating to Vincent Cobb; Caroline McCallum; James Purvis
A complaint was made by the Council of the Law Society of Scotland against Vincent Cobb, solicitor, Glasgow. The Tribunal found the respondent guilty of professional misconduct singly and in cumulo in respect of (1)(a) his breach of the accounts rules by taking monies from clients for his own personal use and failing properly to record the sums received or pay them into proper clients’ accounts, and (b) his deliberate attempts to mislead clients in relation to his dealings with client monies; (2)(a) his failure to advise a client that he was not a client of the firm, (b) his failure to advise a client that he was no longer employed by the firm, (c) his taking into his possession and keeping client documents and failing to return them when requested, and (d) his acting outside the cover of the Master Policy; (3)(a) his failure to notify the Council of his change of address, leading to delays in him receiving correspondence or statutory notices sent by the Council to him on eight dates between January and May 2016, (b) his failure to respond timeously, accurately or fully to correspondence sent by the Council to him on 26 May 2016 and 3 June 2016, and (c) his failure to respond promptly and efficiently to correspondence or statutory notices received from the Council in its regulatory function.
The Tribunal ordered that the respondent be struck off the Roll of Solicitors in Scotland.
Of main concern to the Tribunal was the dishonest conduct on the part of the respondent. This raised issues of protection of the public and maintenance of public confidence in the profession. The Tribunal was also concerned that the respondent had failed to cooperate with his regulatory body in dealing with a complaint of dishonesty. These elements taken together were extremely damaging to the reputation of the profession and would inevitably undermine public confidence. The Tribunal concluded that the only disposal that would accurately reflect the seriousness of the conduct before it in a way which would protect the public and maintain confidence in the profession was to order that the respondent’s name be struck from the Roll of Solicitors in Scotland.
A complaint was made by the Council of the Law Society of Scotland against Caroline McCallum, solicitor, Leven. The Tribunal found the respondent guilty of professional misconduct in respect of her contraventions of rules B6.3.1, 6.7.1, 6.7.3, 6.8.1, 6.8.2, 6.13 and 6.15.1 of the Law Society of Scotland Practice Rules 2011. The Tribunal censured the respondent.
The respondent had admitted that for a period of 11 months she had continued to practise without keeping the required accounting records, as a consequence of which her client account had been in deficit for much of that time. The accounts rules, and in particular those relating to a firm’s client account, are there to protect the public. Solicitors are in a privileged position of trust when handling clients’ funds and it is extremely important that the public can have confidence that the profession can be trusted to do so. The deficits on the client account had been small and were explained by the lack of proper accounting, rather than misuse of client funds. No one had sustained any loss. The Tribunal concluded that the appropriate penalty was one of censure.
A complaint was made by the Council of the Law Society of Scotland against James Purvis, solicitor, Coatbridge. The Tribunal found the respondent guilty of professional misconduct in respect of his failure to communicate effectively with his client in breach of rule 9 of the 2008 Rules and rule B1.9.2 of the 2011 Rules to the extent that he failed to seek sufficient information from his client to allow him to lodge the application for restoration of a company to the register, and in respect of his failure to act in the best interests of his client in breach of rule 3 of the 2008 Rules and rule B1.4.1 of the 2011 Rules to the extent that he did not lodge the application for restoration of a company to the register before the time bar.
Through total lack of activity on the file the respondent allowed a case to become time barred. Although it was clear there were problems obtaining the drafted application from counsel, it was in the respondent’s possession in July 2013. Subsequently, he failed to gather the relevant information identified by counsel, which would have allowed the respondent to lodge the document at the sheriff court. His failure to get the required information from the client to complete the application was a breach of his obligation to communicate effectively with his client. By failing to take any steps to obtain the information and lodge the application, the respondent breached his obligation to act in his clients’ best interests. These failings breached the relevant rules and represented a serious and reprehensible departure from the standards expected of competent and reputable solicitors.
The Tribunal considered the appropriate sanction was a censure. Compensation was awarded to the secondary complainers in the sum of £150 each.