Monday, May 18, 2009

Criminal records of lawyers : Scots public kept in dark over convictions while England & Wales get ‘right to know’

lawsoc_eng_walesLaw Society of England & Wales reveals statistics on lawyers with criminal records. The Law Society of Scotland have today been upstaged by their English counterpart, the Law Society of England & Wales, who, responding to a Freedom of Information request, have reported that in the rest of the UK there are some 90 solicitors in practice in England & Wales who currently have criminal records, with an estimated 50 of those solicitors still retaining their practising certificates, entitling them to continue representing the public in legal matters.

Law Society of England & Wales statement on criminal records of solicitors : "The Law Society is not notified, as a matter of course, when a solicitor is charged with an offence but we are notified if a solicitor is convicted. There are currently 92 solicitors who have been convicted of criminal offences."

"50 of the 92 have current practicing certificates and are therefore currently entitled to practice. A random check of some of the 50 indicate that the convictions in those circumstances mostly relate to driving offences."

This is believed to be the first disclosure of such details on UK solicitors, and even though the Law Society of England & Wales are not bound by Freedom of Information laws, they acceded to the FOI request in the interests of assisting journalism and keeping the public informed of matters of potential concern

Law Society of ScotlandLaw Society of Scotland refuse to reveal details of criminal records of solicitors. While members of the public in England & Wales now have such information to hand, to assist in their choice of legal representatives, people in Scotland will not have access to such radical disclosure of solicitors criminal history, after the Law Society refused to publicly disclose any such details of the criminal records of Scottish solicitors.

Ian Donnelly - Lawyer begs for sex with mum & girl of 11 - Daily RecordCriminal convictions of Scots lawyers relate to very serious offences and many with criminal records still practise law. A senior Law Society insider today spoke of his concern that revealing the types of criminal charges and criminal convictions of lawyers in Scotland may well put people in fear of choosing a lawyer, given that while in England & Wales, many of the convictions seem to relate to driving, or minor offences, criminal convictions in Scotland range from very grave criminal offences of rape, child abuse, assault, fraud, embezzlement, drugs running, and even accessory to murder, rather than being limited to driving offences and the mode mundane.

He said : "There wont be many within the Scots legal profession or the Law Society of Scotland who will feel inclined to follow the lead of our English cousins in disclosing statistics on criminal records, simply because the seriousness of some of the criminal convictions of solicitors in Scotland would probably make people run a mile from many a legal firm."

"There is an even greater problem in that the numbers of solicitors who are actually charged with a criminal offence is, to be expected, much higher than the figures showing the number of resulting convictions."

He went on : “I personally know of several solicitors currently practising who have been charged with very serious offences, one of rape, one of internet grooming of children, several charges relating to significant financial frauds, not only against clients, but also involving financial institutions, and several younger solicitors in Edinburgh who have recently been charged with drug abuse and possession of cocaine.”

He ended the interview by concluding : “If clients were entitled to this kind of information, the affected law firms would suffer financially from loss of business, but you do raise an intriguing point in that if I were a member of the public I might want to know if my solicitor had a criminal record and what he or she had been charged with or what offences they were convicted for."

Law Chief held with rent boy - Sunday Mail 3 May 2009 eRent boys are a popular theme in criminal charges of leading Scots lawyers. I am all too aware of the seriousness of criminal activity and convictions of solicitors in Scotland, where in recent years we have seen a raft of solicitors hit the headlines such as Angela Baillie, who transported drugs into prison and was herself sent to jail, a Glasgow solicitor who was charged with gun running, also sent to jail, countless solicitors who have been charged with fraud, against clients & banks, some of whom seem to escape with lenient sentences, solicitors who have committed perjury in open court, and of course, the ever popular list of criminal charges relating to offences of a sexual nature, where some of the Scots legal profession's most senior members have been caught with boy prostitutes in shopping centre toilets and other equally sordid cases of rape & abuse - all a far cry from a few ‘driving offences’.

An angry client who was confronted with the fact their advocate has faced charges of serious sex offences today said : "This is an outrage we are not entitled to this kind of information in Scotland. Personally I am horrified at the revelations of what is going on inside the Scottish legal profession, and I think there has to be an immediate change in the law that all clients of solicitors know exactly who they are dealing with."

EXCLUSIVE Lawyer sued for 1millionJohn G O’Donnell has 21 negligence claims but no criminal charges, and is still practising – Your lawyer might have a similar record but no one will know until it is too late. I, of course, fully support the public's right to know whether or not their legal representatives have a criminal record, and also support the idea of full regulatory disclosure by all solicitors to clients, so that people can make up their minds whether the person or legal firm trusted with their legal affairs, is fit and honest enough to carry out the work entrusted to them.

It surely must be the right of clients to check out their solicitors first to see just how honest they are and how they have dealt with regulatory issues arising from perhaps, complaints from other clients. Also clients must of course be able to find out the conduct & negligence record of solicitors, which would in anyone’s mind certainly impact on their choice of legal representation.

I have written about full regulatory disclosure in an earlier article here : Disclosing the regulatory history of lawyers in Scotland to help give choice to the consumer and a more recent article here : Regulatory disclosure to solicitors clients 'a must' as legal ombudsman's report fails to name & shame rogue lawyers

SLCC squareSLCC currently hold no information on criminal charges or records of Scots lawyers. In view of the English Law Society's break from secrecy on the issue of criminal records of those in the legal profession, I asked the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission what they were doing about the issue north of the border, given the public interest would most definitely be served by clients being able to obtain both regulatory disclosure and also disclosure of criminal records or convictions of their solicitor.

I asked Jane Irvine, the SLCC Chair, whether the SLCC have any information regarding solicitors or advocates who are members of the Law Society of Scotland or Faculty of Advocates have criminal records, or are currently subject to criminal investigations or investigations from the Legal Aid Board or any other Government Department.

The Commission admitted it had no such information, despite a brief perusal of the newspapers showing plenty lawyers in the headlines for just about any criminal offence imaginable, and some which are too sordid to imagine.

Given the SLCC is now the sole gateway for complaints against the legal profession, one would think there surely exists a necessary role in collating such statistics relating to criminal activity within Scotland's 10,000 solicitors, given that such information may well be relevant not only to complaints investigations but also inquiries from members of the public who suspect or simply wish to enquire as to the honesty of their solicitors & legal firm.

Cash laundering link to law chief stabbing - Scotland on Sunday 29 January 2006Criminals from within Scotland’s legal profession staged a mafia hit on Law Society Chief in 2006. There amazingly seems to be no obligation on the part of solicitors or advocates to inform the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission, or the Law Society of Scotland that they are the subject of criminal investigations, or criminal charges or convictions. The only way the Law Society gets to know if a solicitor has been found guilty of a criminal offence, is from the Crown Office, and according to sources questioned on this issue today, the Law Society of Scotland does not always want to be told one of their solicitor members has been found guilty of criminal offences … unless the media asks first.

I asked the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission if they thought there should be such an obligation on the part of solicitors & those in the legal services market to report to them that they are facing or are the subject of criminal investigations, or criminal charges,or indeed have been convicted of a criminal offence.

The Commission responded by saying "We deal with complaints under our Act - Legal Profession and Legal Aid (Scotland) Act 2007. Under our legislation there is no obligation on the part of solicitors or advocates to report to the SLCC that they are facing or are the subject of criminal investigations or criminal charges."

Jane IrvineSLCC Chairman Jane Irvine. While the Commission's Chair, Jane Irvine recently supported the idea that the Law Society of Scotland should be brought within the scope of Freedom of Information legislation, which I reported on here : Legal Complaints Chief supports ‘consumer advantages’ of removing Law Society’s Freedom of Info immunity, there does seem to be a more pressing need for the public to be able to access all kinds of information relating to their legal representatives, to assist making a decision on who will represent their legal interests which often involve the most important parts of their lives, from buying a house, to making a will, to the defence of criminal charges or handling civil litigation of all types.

Simply, wouldn't you want to know if your lawyer has a criminal record ? or a negligence record ? or a poor complaints record ?

48 comments:

Anonymous said...

bloody hell !

Jail the lot of them they are all criminals !

lets out the crooks ! said...

Good point Peter and yes I think I'd want to know if my lawyer was a crook (although I now suspect he is after reading your blog !)

Anonymous said...

They could always become politicians,Oh wait they do become politicians !

I bet if you total up who among the big expenses fiddlers at Westminster are actually lawyers or were lawyers you will find plenty !

Anonymous said...

Good posting and I certainly would like to know if my solicitor has a criminal record.How do I find out ?

Anonymous said...

Why all the perverts & sickos in the Scottish legal profession ?

Is there some secret club or group up there that gets them in ?

As for the lawyer grooming the children on the internet - I hope he gets whats coming to him in jail if he ever gets put away.

Anonymous said...

Law Society of Scotland refuse to reveal details of criminal records of solicitors. While members of the public in England & Wales now have such information to hand, to assist in their choice of legal representatives, people in Scotland will not have access to such radical disclosure of solicitors criminal history, after the Law Society refused to publicly disclose any such details of the criminal records of Scottish solicitors.

WELL PETER WE MUST ASSUME THAT ALL SCOTTISH LAWYERS HAVE CRIMINAL RECORDS. THEY MUST HAVE A LOT TO HIDE.
LAWYERS YOU WILL FAIL TO KEEP HANDLING COMPLAINTS FROM CLIENTS. CRIMINALS THE LOT OF YOU.

Anonymous said...

I thought there were some retired cops on the SLCC.

Have they forgot to ask about criminal records too or did they just go deaf dumb & blind when they joined up to investigate lawyers ?

Anonymous said...

Criminal convictions of Scots lawyers relate to very serious offences and many with criminal records still practise law. A senior Law Society insider today spoke of his concern that revealing the types of criminal charges and criminal convictions of lawyers in Scotland may well put people in fear of choosing a lawyer, (WE HAVE A RIGHT TO KNOW) given that while in England & Wales, many of the convictions seem to relate to driving, or minor offences, criminal convictions in Scotland range from very grave criminal offences of rape, child abuse, assault, fraud, embezzlement, drugs running, and even accessory to murder, rather than being limited to driving offences and the mode mundane.
(NO SURPRISE THERE, CLIENTS HAVE A RIGHT TO KNOW, SCREW THE LAWYERS CAREER). THAT IS WHAT THIS IS ALL ABOUT, THEY SHOULD BE IN BARLINNIE, NOT A LAW FIRM'S OFFICE.
SCUM PROTECTING SCUM.

Anonymous said...

Simply, wouldn't you want to know if your lawyer has a criminal record ? or a negligence record ? or a poor complaints record ?

CORRECT PETER, CLIENTS MUST HAVE A STATUTORY RIGHT TO KNOW, THROUGH THE FOI ACT.

Anonymous said...

It seems odd the question has never been asked before.After all we've had surgeon's death rates Police criminal records crooked MPs etc

AND I wonder why it takes a Scotsman to ask the English Law Society for criminal records details when someone down here should have done it.

Keep up the good work, your blog is brilliant !

Anonymous said...

So.What are the qualifications for being a lawyer in Scotland these days ? Does promotion depend on how many rent boys they've been through ?

Next time I am anywhere near a lawyers office or have to shake their hands I will be taking some portable hand wash with me just in case I catch some nasties from their dirty habits.

Oh and if you can please get the details of those who were charged with cocaine possession.I've heard this before about quite a few lawyers in Edinburgh snorting the white stuff in between appointments with clients.

Anonymous said...

I bet the Law Society of Scotland were chuffed to bits to tell you to f*off with that FOI but now they look like idiots with the English disclosure !

Very good work Peter.Hope to see you in a newspaper or on television one day !

Anonymous said...

I agree this kind of information should be supplied to clients even though it may well reveal some terribly bad apples cloaked in ermine robes

Anonymous said...

90 seems a low figure for England & Wales considering how many lawyers there are in the UK.

Anonymous said...

Quite shocking to read what has become of Scotland's legal profession.

I hope there is someone brave enough to clean it up but reading deep into your blog suggests not.

Anonymous said...

yuk.
I'm beginning to think that all lawyers should be locked up.They are disgusting.

Anonymous said...

so what do you think the numbers are in Scotland ?

I'd guess over the 100 at least and then what about paralegals etc ?

Anonymous said...

Basically as I see it the Law Society of Scotland has turned into the kiddie fiddler Society.

We must be rid of such filth masquerading as justice.

Peter Cherbi said...

Thanks for all your comments and emails tonight regarding this article.

The comments which include names of solicitors and information supplied will be acted on, I can assure those of you who posted them.

For those of you asking what more can be done, I think the word must be spread to clients to ask, or demand regulatory disclosures from their solicitors before they trust them with their legal business, otherwise many will fall into the trap of using a bad lawyer with a long history of not only poor service, but also multiple claims and complaints from clients, as well as in some cases, serious criminal records.

Its your money, your most important parts of your life you trust to a solicitor so make sure you know all about them before you engage their services.

Anonymous said...

I think we need some kind of register of crooked lawyers similar to the sex offenders register.

By the looks of things there will be a few lawyers on that anyway !

Great stuff keep up the good work mate !

Anonymous said...

I dont think its good enough the Law Society isnt aware of solicitors being charged with an offence.They should be aware of what is going on within the membership and in any case Fiscals are still members of the Law Society as are half the employees at the Crown Office so what's to stop someone telephoning in with a tip ?

Wilful and convenient ignorance is what that is.

Correct it.

Anonymous said...

Here's something for you to look at Peter :

How many lawyers with criminal records are earning legal aid fees ?

Now that really would be criminals defending criminals with taxpayers money !

Anonymous said...

A timely reminder of crooked lawyers in today's Scotsman!
http://thescotsman.scotsman.com/scotland/Pillar-of-community-to-prison.5278875.jp

Pillar of community to prison – downfall of a crooked lawyer

Published Date: 19 May 2009
By Campbell Thomas

A LAWYER who took nearly £90,000 from unsuspecting clients has been jailed for a year.

William Rennie, 56, traded on his image as a respectable family solicitor and upstanding member of the Ayrshire community.

But he secretly siphoned off cash from the proceeds of divorce cases and family wills after his business collapsed.

Jailing Rennie yesterday, Sheriff Alistair Watson told him: "A solicitor has a special place of trust in the lives of people and the abuse of that trust is always extremely serious."

In one case, Rennie banked £30,000 which was intended to pay off a mortgage following a divorce, writing on the cheque stub that it had been used to settle the mortgage.

On another occasion, £15,000 was paid into his account but was disguised on the stub as a bequest to a friend of the deceased person.

One divorcing couple had asked Rennie to keep the money from their house sale, which was to be split between them, until they needed it.

But instead Rennie paid himself £10,000, writing on cheque stubs that the husband and wife had each received £5,000.

The crimes came to light in July 2004 when Rennie used clients' money to pay a VAT bill in a bid to avoid legal action.

He ceased trading in November 2004 after the Law Society became involved. Rennie told police: "I must have been crazy."

He admitted embezzlement from his firm, Rennie and Co, in High Street, Irvine, between June 2002 and September 2004.

He was originally charged with taking nearly £140,000, but the Crown reduced the amount when he agreed to plead guilty.

Rennie, of Kilmaurs, was cleared of failing to obey a court order relating to earlier bankruptcy proceedings after his guilty plea.

Sarah Livingstone, defence advocate, said Rennie got into financial difficulties after his partnership with another solicitor dissolved in the 1990s. He faced rising staff costs and diverted money from clients' accounts to keep the business afloat.

Miss Livingstone told Kilmarnock Sheriff Court: "As serious as this is, and he knows it is, he has lost everything. Nothing was hidden and it was obvious he was going to be caught. He just buried his head in the sand."

Rennie was suffering serious health problems because of the offence, Miss Livingstone said, adding: "He was not living the high life."

In 2006, Rennie was found guilty of professional misconduct after allowing a house to fall into ruin. The Scottish Solicitors' Discipline Tribunal (SSDT) heard he had been asked to handle the estate of a couple who left no wills after dying just weeks apart.

But he took no action for nearly three years, then refused to co-operate with a Law Society of Scotland probe.

After the ruling, Rennie was placed on restriction and banned from practising without supervision. He was struck off as a solicitor in December 2007.

Rennie's victims had been repaid through a fund contributed to by all Scots solicitors, the court heard.

He refunded £70,000 of the money after selling his home and cashing in endowments.

Passing sentence, Sheriff Watson told Rennie he recognised he was a "broken man" who had shown contrition.

Anonymous said...

A fine measure of a profession this bunch are ! and we are constantly told by the Law Society that we shouldn't complain against lawyers because they spent so long in university working hard to get where they are today ?

Nothing but a bunch of crooks twisters and pedophiles - they should all be locked up or marooned on an island away from the rest of us

Anonymous said...

Simply, wouldn't you want to know if your lawyer has a criminal record ? or a negligence record ? or a poor complaints record ?

Obviously YES !

Anonymous said...

Doubtless the Law Society of Scotland will have to release a figure at some stage probably on the low side.Maybe 4 lawyers in Scotland have criminal records and they all happen to be deceased !

Anonymous said...

I am reminded of the Leonardo Da Vinci painting stolen in 2003 from the Duke of Buccleuch, allegedly with the assistance of two solicitors - Calum Jones, a partner at HBJ Gateley Wareing in Glasgow, and Marshall Ronald a solicitor from Manchester.

Needless to say the hearing at Dumfries Sheriff Court was held in private, and little has been heard since - just the way the Law Society of Scotland prefers it no doubt.

Anonymous said...

For Scotland :
121 still in practice 92 not currently on the roll
82 paralegals still working
1 Fiscal (4 in the past 4 years)
charges (varying in severity) dropped against 258 solicitors (2005-2008)
Dont take these figures as final.
Cant find out anything about Advocates, sorry.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...
Why all the perverts & sickos in the Scottish legal profession ?

Is there some secret club or group up there that gets them in ?

As for the lawyer grooming the children on the internet - I hope he gets whats coming to him in jail if he ever gets put away.

4:21 PM

THE SICKOS ARE THERE BECAUSE THEY KNOW THEY HAVE THE GREATEST LEGAL PROTECTION WITHIN THE LEGAL CLUB, LAWYERS LOOK AFTER THEIR OWN, EVEN LAWYERS WHO ABUSE CHILDREN, SCUM THE LOT OF THEM.

Anonymous said...

I agree Peter.The slcc must have a facility to be informed of a solicitor being investigated,charged or convicted of a criminal offence.
To argue otherwise shows the slcc doesnt want to do its job

Anonymous said...

This is really shocking reading.
There is another story in the Scotsman today where a solicitor from MacRoberts (weren't they the firm who dumped on the SACL website ?) now says the Law Society is useless and should halve the annual subscription.

http://thescotsman.scotsman.com/scotland/Solicitor-says-Law-Society-.5278567.jp

Solicitor says Law Society is ineffective and run by bureaucrats

Published Date: 19 May 2009
By Christopher Mackie

A SCOTTISH solicitor has launched a withering attack on the Law Society of Scotland and called for the cost of membership to the professional body to be reduced.

David Flint, a partner at MacRoberts in Glasgow, accused the Society of failing to uphold its members' interests, despite the increasing cost of the solicitor's practising certificate, which currently stands at £665.

In a letter to all lawyers in Scotland, Mr Flint said: "The Society has over the past two decades shown a signal inability effectively to represent the interests of its membership whilst at the same time growing a bureaucracy with an ever increasing cost. At the same time, the interface with the membership has been negligible."

He questioned how the Society could justify its current budget, claiming: "For the bulk of the profession ... members would be hard placed to say what the Society did for them, or to their benefit – or at the very least, what the Society did which justified its cost."

Mr Flint has tabled a motion to be discussed at the Society's AGM in Edinburgh next week. In it, he calls for the cost of the practising certificate to be capped at £400 to reflect the economic situation and the costs now borne by lawyers to pay for the new Scottish Legal Complaints Commission.

In response, the Law Society claimed its membership cost was lower than most other European jurisdictions. Its treasurer, Jamie Millar, added: "We gave a commitment last year to look at the cost of the practising certificate for solicitors for 2009-2010. Last year we froze the cost of the practising certificate and we are confident that we can reduce the costs this year."

Anonymous said...

To the comment at 1131am

WHY WERE CHARGES DROPPED AGAINST 258 SOLICITORS ????

COVER UP BY THE OLD BOYS NETWORK AT THE LAW SOCIETY AGAIN ??? DISGUSTING !

Anonymous said...

Good afternoon Mr Cherbi,

The speaker is standing down. MP's hope to restore public confidence in parliament which now resembles a House of Parasites. Like Douglas Mill, he is out for the same reasons, standing in the way of reform and cover ups.
No wonder, Martin's wife used £4000.00 of taxpayers money on taxis, he claimed expenses for his Glasgow home, dispite living in the Speakers sumptious apartment etc.
Like a Prime Minister who does not have the support of MP's Martin will resign to restore public confidence. I do not believe the latter will happen as a result of this, many more heads will have to roll.

Anonymous said...

was just reading the Leslie Cumming story in the picture.Douglas Mill blames protestors for the attack ! What a load of rubbish.Why has no one been arrested for that ? They must have traced it back to someone by now ..probably one of Cummings office colleagues at the law society did it or arranged it to get public sympathy

Anonymous said...

A few weeks ago I read the newspapers stories on the Police officers with criminal records and all the fuss that caused.Here again we have pepole working in the law who are nothing more than criminals themselves and that is just not acceptable.

I support your campaign to make sure clients get to know if their lawyers have criminal records or not.I for one will not use a lawyer who has a criminal record and after reading your blog I feel we all must have a right to know.

Well done and keep up the good work Peter

Anonymous said...

I am very supportive of your idea Peter but I think it will have to be some independent register kept to show criminal convictions etc
The Law Society cannot be trusted to admit to the real figures of criminals who are also solicitors and individual solicitors can never be trusted to admit their wrongdoings to clients.

Anonymous said...

Not good enough from the Law Society of England & Wales.

I live in London and I'd like to know exactly which of these crooks have criminal records.I think I'm entitled to that because I will have to hand over money for their services.

Really shameful and anyway I don't believe the figure of 90.It has to be way more than that if you consider the numbers of solicitors in England & Wales which is about 60,000 +

Anonymous said...

Lawyers get bad press because they are bad people, simple as that.
Trust a law firm at your peril.

Anonymous said...

Finally someone revealed that lawyers like the rest of us,have criminal records too.I think you should look into this a bit more though Mr Cherbi because 90 lawyers out of 60000 seems a bit odd.
If you take a town of 60000 there will be a lot more than 90 in it with criminal convictions and that goes for any other group of people.
Just look at how many MPs have criminal records and theres less than 700 of them so I think there will be more than 90 as another person has already disputed.

Keep up the good work !

Anonymous said...

I am a solicitor Mr Cherbi and I'm pleased to say I do not have a criminal record.

On the other hand, many of my clients do have criminal records and find it almost impossible to gain work after they leave prison, resulting in a cycle of offending which everyone talks about but no one seems to want to address effectively.

I accept that employers should (& do) have the right to know whether someone working for them or applying for a job has a criminal record. Accordingly I may find it difficult to argue against clients right to know if their solicitor has a criminal record.

I for one would be happy to inform my clients (should they ask) I do not have a criminal record and have only ever had two complaints made against me, both of which I settled with the clients concerned to our mutual satisfaction.

Quite apart from being honest, giving clients this information may well bring in some much needed business !

Anonymous said...

I tested this out yesterday and called the Law Society to ask about a solicitor I know was convicted of drink driving.
They said they wouldn't give me any information and angrily banged down the phone !

Oh judging by his clientelle he will get a lot of legal aid work too so how come a criminal can receive public money for defending other criminals ?

Anonymous said...

I understand the figure is actually well over 200 for solicitors who have been convicted of criminal offences in Scotland.

Anonymous said...

Yes I agree with this also.
We are forced to pay thousands for crappy legal work and we are entitled to know everything there is to know about our lawyers before we hand over the money or accept their work

Anonymous said...

That story about the lawyer trying to have sex with a kid is disgusting.I hope the other prisoners sort him out and all his kind.

Sick perverts and I bet there are a lot more in the Law Society where he came from.

Anonymous said...

Dont get too pally with the English Law Society.They are as bent as their Scottish cousins;

looky here :


http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2009/may/24/law-society-investigation-michael-napier

Law Society 'lost control' of investigation into top solicitor

The Law Society has been accused of "systematic failure" in its handling of a complaint against a close ally of the attorney general, the Guardian can reveal after a court injunction was lifted last week.

The society "ceased to be objective" in its investigation into Michael Napier, a former Law Society president, and "failed at the outset … to enable a full and fair consideration of the complaint", a report claims. Napier is a senior partner at law firm Irwin Mitchell and the attorney general's special envoy on pro bono, as well as being a member of the Legal Services Board, which has overall responsibility for regulating the legal profession.

He is being investigated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA), amid allegations of dishonesty – which he denies – after he was officially reprimanded in 2005 and warned of a potential conflict of interest following a complaint by a former client, Michael Ford, in 2003. Napier had represented Ford in a long case against Exxon Mobil, but Ford discovered that Napier's firm had also been acting for Esso, a wholly owned subsidiary of Exxon.

Initial findings by an appeal panel appointed by the Law Society said it was "inconceivable" that Napier could not have known about the conflict of interest, calling it a "serious matter". The case was then referred to the Scottish Legal Complaints Commissioner to ensure impartiality. In a report last December that raises questions about the Law Society's independence in investigating Napier, the SLCC said the society had treated the findings as little more than a technical breach.

"All that followed is, in the view of the SLCC, a systematic failure to investigate the complaint in a fair and reasonable manner," the report says, calling the failings "significant and fundamental". It accuses the Law Society of a "loss of control" of the inquiry, stating that key papers were missing in its files and that it failed to take statements from relevant parties.

The revelations raise questions about the Law Society's procedures for investigating complaints relating to its office-holders, amid continuing controversy over the relationship between its representative and regulatory functions.

The regulation of solicitors is now handled by the SRA, which the court of appeal heard has reopened the investigation into the allegations against Napier. The court, which lifted an injunction against Private Eye, heard that the SRA would "reconsider what sanction should be imposed on the solicitor … where there was significant risk of a conflict of interest".

Napier was unavailable to comment but in a written statement Irwin Mitchell said: "We expect the decision will be a surprise and of concern to the legal profession and to other regulated professions and businesses which might have thought information provided to their regulator would be treated as confidential, especially in the sensitive area of complaint investigation and processing."

Anonymous said...

Very well written Peter but I can't help wondering why out of 60million or so only one journalist (you) had the guts to ask how many lawyers have criminal records.

Is it a fear thing or just the usual run of the mill threats & intimidation by the legal profession against anyone who might ask the BIG question ?

Keep up the good work :)

Anonymous said...

Some people get criminal records through doing silly things ( we all make mistakes) and I don't think people should stop practicing law because they made a silly mistake

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...

Some people get criminal records through doing silly things ( we all make mistakes) and I don't think people should stop practicing law because they made a silly mistake

7:36 PM

Well ordinarily yes but it depends on the charges old chap,for instance quite a few lawyers tend to get into more serious bother than a hovver.
How would you deal with say criminal records for sexual assault and drug dealing or causing death by dangerous driving ?
We have a few lawyers in Scotland who are still practicing while having those kinds of criminal records (oh and lets not forget rape, attempted rape and kiddie fiddling).

Any of those qualify for still practicing law in your book ?