Scottish Solicitors' Discipline Tribunal
Reports relating to Norman Alexander Fyfe Banski; Gordon G McNab; Ian Smith Watson
Norman Alexander Fyfe Banski
A complaint was made by the Council of the Law Society of Scotland against Norman Alexander Fyfe Banski, solicitor, Laurencekirk. The Tribunal found the respondent guilty of professional misconduct. He had a deficit on the client account on various occasions, he failed to keep written-up books of his practice so as to show all dealings with clients’ money, failed to maintain the firm’s books so as to show the true financial position of the firm, charged grossly excessive fees and failed to render fee notes.
The Tribunal ordered that the name of the respondent be struck off the roll of solicitors in Scotland.
The complaint detailed six cases where the respondent had taken fees far in excess of those to which he was entitled. The Tribunal was satisfied that the respondent’s conduct was dishonest. The overcharging in this case was repeated and of a gross nature. The respondent must have known that he was not entitled to these fees.
Further, the accounts rules breaches were unacceptable. A solicitor had to retain responsibility for the books and records of his/her firm. The absence of a cashier was not an excuse for failing to do so. It was essential that books and records were properly kept and that the Law Society of Scotland could ascertain the true financial position of the firm at any time. The public had to have confidence that the profession would comply with the accounts rules and could be trusted with their money. Solicitors had also to render all fees to clients. Failure to do so demeaned the trust the public placed in the profession.
The essential qualities of a solicitor were honesty, truthfulness and integrity. It was imperative if the public were to have confidence in the legal profession that solicitors maintained the standards of conduct expected of competent and reputable solicitors. The respondent’s conduct included serious and reprehensible departures from those standards at the most serious end of the scale. Accordingly, the Tribunal found him guilty of professional misconduct.
Gordon G McNab
A complaint was made by the Council of the Law Society of Scotland against Gordon G McNab, Stevenson Kennedy Solicitors, Oban. The Tribunal found the respondent guilty of professional misconduct in respect that he unduly delayed or failed to fully comply with mandates and failed to respond to correspondence. The Tribunal censured the respondent.
The respondent had failed to implement mandates over a 14 month period. He also failed to communicate effectively with the secondary complainer by failing to respond timeously to telephone calls and letters. The Tribunal had regard to previous decisions regarding mandates. Clients can terminate their solicitor’s agency at any time and subject to any matter of outstanding fees, it is the former solicitor’s duty in such circumstances to comply without question and as soon as practicable with any request or instruction by that client for the delivery of papers which might be regarded as belonging to that client. The respondent did not claim any lien in this case. The respondent’s failures in this case were a serious and reprehensible departure from the standards of a competent and reputable solicitor. Therefore, he was guilty of professional misconduct.
Ian Smith Watson
A complaint was made by the Council of the Law Society of Scotland against Ian Smith Watson, solicitor, Glasgow. The Tribunal found the respondent guilty of professional misconduct in respect that he (a) wrongly withheld from the secondary complainer the sum of £4,993.75 received in December 2011 until July 2017; (b) failed to account to the secondary complainer for all sums paid to him by her and for all sums paid out by him on her behalf; (c) failed to communicate to the secondary complainer the basis for the deduction by him of the sum of £3,793.75 from the recovered judicial expenses due to be paid to the secondary complainer; and (d) failed to retain a client ledger for the secondary complainer.
The Tribunal censured the respondent and fined him £2,000.
The respondent had a duty to act in the best interests of his client, communicate effectively with her, keep properly written-up accounting records to show his dealings with clients’ money and retain for the required retention period all accounting records. If solicitors are to continue to enjoy the public trust in regard to their financial affairs, they must have careful regard to all the requirements and obligations incumbent on them as contained in the accounts rules. Maintaining detailed records allows the solicitor to demonstrate that he or she can account for all funds held by clients. The management of clients’ funds is an essential part of the administration of a solicitor’s practice. Clients entrust funds to a solicitor in the expectation that such monies are in safe hands. Solicitors are privileged to enjoy this degree of trust. The Tribunal accepted that the respondent’s conduct had not been dishonest. However, the accounting failures had a detrimental effect on his ability to fulfil his duties to his client. His conduct was likely to damage the reputation of the profession, and represented a serious and reprehensible departure from the standards of competent and reputable solicitors.