Thursday, November 12, 2009

Glasgow lawyer who covered up husband's £24k client theft gets slap on the wrist by Law Society tribunal, continues working

Law Society of ScotlandLaw Society of Scotland investigation found McFarlane covered up £24,000 client theft by her own husband. In yet another case which demonstrates the lack of effective regulation of Scotland's legal services market and poor consumer protection, solicitor CATRIONA MACFARLANE, 49, of Hasties Solicitors, Glasgow, has been found guilty by the Scottish Solicitors Discipline Tribunal of professional misconduct but allowed to continue working as a solicitor.

The findings reported by the Scottish Solicitors Discipline Tribunal (SSDT), said that Catriona Macfarlane’s actions had left her client in a vulnerable position and left them exposed to an unacceptable risk after it had been revealed she covered up her own husband's theft of £24,150 from a client who had approached Mrs Macfarlane to act for him in a house purchase deal.

Law Society of Scotland v Catriona Macfarlane 1aSSDT heard lawyer covered up husband’s massive theft from client after cash was handed over for mortgage. In August 2006, Mr. A approached a mortgage broker, identified as Ideal Mortgages, to arrange a mortgage, giving Mr Nigel Macfarlane £24,150 to be used as a deposit on a property, and approached Catriona Macfarlane of Glasgow Law Firm Messrs Hasties to act for him in the purchase. The client, Mr A, was not aware at this time, that Catriona Macfarlane was married to his mortgage broker, Mr Nigel Macfarlane, nor did Macfarlane disclose this relationship to her client. Problems with the mortgage caused the house purchase to be delayed, which prompted the client to call his solicitor, Mrs Macfarlane, informing her he had handed £24,150 to the mortgage broker, who Mrs Macfarlane had still not disclosed was her husband. The SSDT judgement reported that Mrs Macfarlane's only reply to her client's telephone call was "She said only that she would call him back".

The Tribunal decision further reported : "She (Mrs Macfarlane) called back a short time later. She said that, having spoken to the broker, she was able to confirm that Mr A's money was safe and could be returned to him at any time. By this stage, she was aware that her husband had misappropriated Mr A's money. On 19 February, Mr Macfarlane came to Mr A's house and confessed … that he had spent his money. He promised to 'sort things out'."

“Mr. A and his wife were by this time suspicious. Although Mr. MacFarlane and the Respondent referred to each other respectively as “the broker” and “the solicitor” they shared the same surname. Mr. A and his wife confronted the Respondent on 19 February 2007. She confirmed that she and Mr. Macfarlane were married. She said that she “would sort things out”.

“On 26th February 2007 the Respondent advised Mr. A that she could no longer act for him and that he should seek separate representation. Mr. A was thereafter represented by new Solicitors. The transaction was completed in April 2007. All additional costs including penalty interest due to the sellers of the property were recovered from Nigel Macfarlane. The sums misappropriated by him were repaid in full."

The SSDT’s verdict : availabe for download in pdf, here: Law Society v Catriona Margaret Macfarlane

Solicitor Catriona Macfarlane, of Loganswell, Newton Mearns, Glasgow, and employed by Glasgow Law Firm Messrs Hasties Solicitors of Lynedoch Crescent, Glasgow, who was enrolled as a solicitor on 4 October 1982 was found guilty by the SSDT of Professional Misconduct in respect of her failure to disclose to her client the extent of her knowledge of her husband’s actings and her failure to timeously advise her client to seek separate independent advice and her failure to withdraw from acting for her client, all in breach of the Code of Conduct for Scottish Solicitors 2002.

The Scottish Solicitors Discipline Tribunal issued punishment, censuring Mrs MacFarlane, and issued a fine of £2500 to be forfeit to Her Majesty and Direct in terms of Section 53 (5) of the Solicitors (Scotland) Act 1980.

Further, Mrs Macfarlane was informed that for a period of 3 years, her practising certificate shall be subject to such restriction as will limit her to acting as a qualified assistant to and to being supervised by such employer as may be approved by the Council or the Practising Certificate Committee of the Council of the Law Society of Scotland. Mrs Macfarlane was also found liable in the expenses of the Complainers and of the Tribunal.

A representative of one of Scotland's consumer organisations condemned the decision to allow Mrs Macfarlane to continue as a solicitor, also branding the fine & practising certificate reduction as "weak".

She said : "This case shows us nothing has changed. Weak punishments like this are no deterrent for rogue solicitors who have the ability to rip off their clients without fear of losing their jobs & livelihood. Cases like this show that the Law Society of Scotland and SSDT are not serious about consumer protection from rogue solicitors.”

“How can the public have any confidence in the legal profession if all solicitors get is a slap on the wrist and fine when they are caught in major wrongdoing such as this case where, according to the SSDT findings, the solicitor covered up for her own husband's theft of clients money."

She continued : "I'm sure the public expected a lot more after the LPLA Act (2007) came into force but as we can see, the legal profession are still looking after their own, with the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission making not one bit of difference to the rising levels of fraud against consumers by their legal representatives."

MacAskill tight lippedJustice Secretary Kenny MacAskill accused of being a soft touch on poor regulation of crooked lawyers. A member of the public who is experiencing huge problems with the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission and the Law Society of Scotland over his complaint branded the whole system of regulation of lawyers in Scotland as ‘a con against the public, and also condemned the Scottish Government for being soft on crooked lawyers.

He said : “Where is the long arm of the Justice Secretary when all these crooked lawyers are stealing to order from their clients ? I cant get a fair hearing with this useless SLCC or the Law Society, and writing to the Scottish Government has also done no good. Any lawyer who covers up a theft or steals from theri clients should be jailed because if I had done it, I would go to jail. Why the special dispensation for lawyers to steal as they like ?”

COPFSCrown Office silent on criminal charges against lawyers. The Crown Office were asked today if Catriona Macfarlane and her husband, Nigel Macfarlane, would face criminal charges for the cover up and theft of their client’s funds, which albeit were repaid, still rank as theft (which in most people’s book is still a criminal offence). So far, no response from the Crown Office, who are well known to have a soft touch against criminals in the legal profession itself, often apparently refusing to prosecute solicitors of even very serious crimes.

You can read an earlier article I wrote on how the Crown Office mishandle prosecutions against solicitors, here : Justice Secretary 'hush hush' on criminal records of lawyers as Crown Office claims its too costly to keep details on legal profession's crooks

A source at the Law Society of Scotland today alleged it had not passed on any details of any criminal activity detected during their investigation to the Crown Office, which is no big surprise, as the Law Society of Scotland usually cover up any details of criminal activity they discover during the course of their 'investigations' into crooked lawyers and I doubt the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission, had they been involved, would have done any different (another non-surprise).

SLCC squareAnti-client’ Scottish Legal Complaints Commission would have done no differently, issuing just another slap on the wrist. Trust in the Scottish legal profession will never be established until fully independent regulation (not the half-baked, half-house Scottish Legal Complaints Commission slap handed version) is enacted to protect consumers from thousands of cases of serious fraud, negligence and the poor handling of clients legal affairs which occur each year in Scotland.

Please support the implementation of fully independent regulation for legal services in Scotland.

26 comments:

Anonymous said...

sounds like another one of the Law Society's typical lawyers

and I certainly do support your campaign for independent regulation !

Good luck Peter !

Anonymous said...

Yep the SLCC would probably have given her an expenses chitty !

You must be getting under Irvine's skin with all that stuff about her beloved complaints quango !

Anonymous said...

Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill accused of being a soft touch on poor regulation of crooked lawyers.

YES BECAUSE HE IS A BLOODY LAWYER THATS WHY

Anonymous said...

http://www.heraldscotland.com/news/crime-courts/lawyer-fined-for-keeping-quiet-while-husband-took-cash-1.931988

Lawyer fined for keeping quiet while husband took cash

Brian Horne

Published on 12 Nov 2009

A lawyer who kept quiet when her mortgage broker husband misappropriated a client’s cash has been fined £2500 for professional misconduct.

The independent Scottish Solicitors’ Discipline Tribunal heard the man did not know that Catriona Macfarlane and Nigel Macfarlane were married. In conversations with the man, identified only as Mr A, she simply referred to her husband as “the broker”.

The tribunal ruled that Mrs Macfarlane, 49, of Loganswell, Newton Mearns, should have been more honest earlier, told the client to seek independent advice and withdrawn from acting.

The case was brought by the Law Society of Scotland, which regulates the professional conduct of the country’s solicitors.

It told the tribunal that in May 2006, Mr A wanted to buy a house and contacted Ideal Mortgages, where Mr Macfarlane worked. Between then and November that year, he handed over a total of £24,150 to be used as a deposit.

Soon afterwards, Mr A went to Hasties Solicitors in Glasgow’s Lynedoch Crescent where Mrs Macfarlane works. She acted for him during the purchase of a property and, when it emerged that there were problems with the loan, phoned her husband.

Mrs Macfarlane also got the settlement date put back a month to February 8, 2007, but, the day before the deal was due to be concluded, she phoned the seller to say that her client “had been badly let down by his broker” and was unable to complete the transaction.

By this time, Mrs Macfarlane knew that her husband had misappropriated the money he had received from Mr A, said the tribunal in its written ruling.

Two weeks later, Mr Macfarlane visited Mr A, confessed what he had done, and promised to sort things out.

By this time, Mr A had become suspicious because solicitor and broker shared the same surname and confronted, Mrs Macfarlane who admitted they were married.

The tribunal heard that a new solicitor took over acting for Mr A and the property purchase was successfully completed in April 2007. Mr Macfarlane paid back what he had taken and also paid the additional costs caused by the delay.

But they decided that Mrs Macfarlane, who has been a solicitor for 27 years, had acted “very irresponsibly” and that what she had done was “completely contrary to the standards of conduct expected of a solicitor”.

The tribunal also made an order that for the next three years Mrs Macfarlane could work only as an assistant, supervised by another solicitor.

Mrs Macfarlane did not contest the facts and was not present at the hearing.

Anonymous said...

and what of the husband ? after all he stole the money

doesnt matter he paid it back - a crime has been committed and he should be charged because he breached the clients trust as a mortgage broker so come on Crown Office stop sitting around

Anonymous said...

I know Hasties but wont be using them again after this.

btw This story is also in the Scotsman do you think their conscience has got the better and they had to write about it ?

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...

and what of the husband ? after all he stole the money

doesnt matter he paid it back - a crime has been committed and he should be charged because he breached the clients trust as a mortgage broker so come on Crown Office stop sitting around

5:49 PM

My sentiments exactly.
I wouldn't be wanting to go to some bank or mortgage firm and wind up losing the lot and nothing gets done.Doesnt matter about the paying back bit - bloody well charge him with theft and her too for covering it up and make the Law Society sit there and tell the whole thing in court!

Anonymous said...

Surely you cant write off an entire law firm just because of one bad apple ?

slap happy said...

The short version (still a slap on the wrist)

http://www.ssdt.org.uk/findings/finding_item.asp?LTfindingID=455

Law Society v Catriona Margaret Macfarlane

IMPORTANT DISCLAIMER: The findings available for download from this website are partially anonymised versions transcribed electronically from the original findings issued by the Scottish Solicitors' Discipline Tribunal ("SSDT"). They are intended to identify the Law Society of Scotland and the person against whom a tribunal action was raised, but not the other parties involved. SSDT has used its reasonable endeavours to ensure that the findings have been accurately transcribed and anonymised. However, due to the processes of electronic transcription used, SSDT cannot guarantee 100% accuracy. SSDT therefore provides these findings AS IS and does not warrant their accuracy, completeness nor that they are completely anonymised. SSDT shall not be liable for any loss, injury, damage, cost or expense arising from any inaccuracy in, incompleteness of or failure to completely anonymise any finding. By downloading any finding from this website, you agree to be bound by the terms of this disclaimer. In the event that you identify a possible inaccuracy, incompleteness or failure to anonymise, please draw this to the attention of SSDT so that SSDT may consider whether remedial action is required. You may contact SSDT at Unit 3.5, The Granary Business Centre, Coal Road, Cupar, Fife, KY15 5YQ
Solicitor(s) CATRIONA MARGARET MACFARLANE, Solicitor, Highfield Cottage, Loganswell, Newton Mearns, Glasgow
Tribunal Date 20/08/2009
Appeal Status
No Appeal
Downloads http://www.ssdt.org.uk/findings/findings/1480_MacFarlane.pdf

Interlocutor
Edinburgh 20 August 2009. The Tribunal having considered the Complaint dated 27 March 2009 at the instance of the Council of the Law Society of Scotland against Catriona Margaret MacFarlane, Solicitor, Highfield Cottage, Loganswell, Newton Mearns, Glasgow; Find the Respondent guilty of Professional Misconduct in respect of her failure to disclose to her client the extent of her knowledge of her husband’s actings and her failure to timeously advise her client to seek separate independent advice and her failure to withdraw from acting for her client, all in breach of the Code of Conduct for Scottish Solicitors 2002; Censure the Respondent; Fine the Respondent in the sum of £2500 to be forfeit to Her Majesty and Direct in terms of Section 53 (5) of the Solicitors (Scotland) Act 1980 that for a period of 3 years, any practising certificate held or issued to the Respondent shall be subject to such restriction as will limit her to acting as a qualified assistant to and to being supervised by such employer as may be approved by the Council or the Practising Certificate Committee of the Council of the Law Society of Scotland; Find the Respondent liable in the expenses of the Complainers and of the Tribunal including expenses of the Clerk, chargeable on a time and line basis as the same may be taxed by the Auditor of the Court of Session on an agent and client, client paying basis in terms of Chapter Three of the last published Law Society’s Table of Fees for general business with a unit rate of £14.00 and Direct that publicity will be given to this decision and that this publicity should include the name of the Respondent.

Kirsteen Keyden
Vice Chairman

Anonymous said...

Anyone who covers up a theft like that is not fit to be in a position of trust and what about the firm she worked for ?
Did they stand by her at first or what ?
If the complaint was made so long ago why has it all just been decided on now ?

Seems to me like the Law Society et all wanted to drag it out as long as possible and you are also spot on about MacAskill being soft on crooked lawyers.

Anonymous said...

A similar story to this happened to someone I know who lives in Kelso and he still hasnt received a penny back.You'll never guess which firm of solicitors was involved !

Anonymous said...

6:12pm

Wise move

Anonymous said...

Well yes she did cover up what her husband did etc so ultimately she got what she deserved BUT playing devils advocate here, if you went to a lender and a lawyer and they both had the same surname and were in the same geographical area wouldn't you just be a little bit tempted through common sense to ask if they at least knew each other,never mind were related ???

Anonymous said...

self regulation at its WORST and Mr A ? should have went straight to the Police

If this had been an ordinary person stealing the money they would be off to jail by now and wifey would be charged with attempting to pervert the course of justice.

Anonymous said...

Macfarlane is small fry compared with some who are under investigation with no hope the Law Society will do anything for their clients.This was just a little sacrifice and the 2,500 fine will ultimately be paid for by clients again many times over.

Do yourselves a favour folks and avoid using a Scottish lawyer.

Anonymous said...

7.50pm

Really ? I think she should have let on it was her husband a lot earlier than she did and NOT cover up for his stealing.

Also agree the handcuffs should be out here so why nothing from the Crown Office ?

Anonymous said...

seems like lawyers get a license to do as they want

any chance of that ending soon ? I don't think so with lawyers investigating lawyers

Anonymous said...

Yes people normally go to jail for this but lawyers as always get off the hook.Disgusting.
Oh also congratulations on using your brain (unlike the newspapers) and getting some extra comment from the consumer crowd about poor regulation by the Law Society etc
It really makes the difference to see someone actually troubles themselves do put a story together instead of lazy gits who slavishly post what the profession want us all to read.

Best wishes to the best Law blogger of Scotland !

http://sacl.info said...

Anonymous said...

Surely you cant write off an entire law firm just because of one bad apple ?

6:54 PM

OH YES WE BLOODY CAN !

I DONT HEAR MUCH PROTESTING FROM HASTIES ABOUT THIS JUST THE USUAL STONE DEAD SILENCE CLOSING RANKS TO PROTECT CROOKED LAWYERS ONCE AGAIN !!!

Anonymous said...

The tribunal handed out the least available punishment and that restriction on her pc is as we all know not a barrier to ripping someone else off.
Anyway she wont have to even tell anyone what she did so clients are going to go to her not knowing she covered up what her husband did which is a total disgrace.

Anonymous said...

Good stuff.So the Crown Office dont prosecute thieving lawyers then but if I did that they would be on me like a ton of bricks and I'd be headed for jail.

Sick bastards.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...

Yep the SLCC would probably have given her an expenses chitty !

Yes I bet they would and probably rolled the red carpet out for Macfarlane too !

Anonymous said...

I will also avoid Hasties in the future so thanks for the tip!

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...

Surely you cant write off an entire law firm just because of one bad apple ?
=====================================
Good evening Peter,

The person who left the above comment cannot have dealt with this profession.

I would not write only Hasties off, in my view Scotlands 10,000 lawyers should be hung drawn and quartered, they are all criminals.

fi21 said...

I AM MR A WHO WAS STUNG BY CATRIONA & NIGEL MACFARLANE. AM DISCUSTED THAT SHE IS STILL EMPLOYED BY HASTIES, WHO KNEW OF THE THEFT I WAS TOLD BY I THINK 'DAVID GORDON' NOT TO USE THEIR OFFICE AS A SOAP BOX AND LOOKED FORWARD READING IT IN THE PRESS OR TELLING THE LAW SOCIETY.THIS WAS NOVEMBER 2007

Peter Cherbi said...

fi21 @ 12.18am

"Mr A" - if you could provide some contact details in a comment marked "DO NOT PUBLISH" I will see your side of the story is well publicised ...