Citizens Advice Bureau in Hamilton investigated allegations over their in-court adviser Gilbert Anderson. AN INVESTIGATION into Gilbert Anderson (53), a publicly funded ‘in-court’ adviser based at Hamilton Citizens Advice Bureau who’s salary is paid for by the Scottish Legal Aid Board (SLAB) is due to be completed today, Friday 13 July, several weeks on after allegations were made he had referred clients with legal difficulties to a solicitor who was already struck off and was using the identities of colleagues in the legal profession to fool his victims.
Diary of Injustice reported on the allegations in an earlier article made against Gilbert Anderson (53), here : Crooked lawyer impersonates DEAD COLLEAGUE to lure clients in fraud scam as Law Society of Scotland’s self regulation of solicitors fails yet again detailing a letter of complaint submitted to Hamilton Citizens Advice by client Elizabeth Campbell, who challenged discrepancies in claims from Citizens Advice and the Scottish Legal Aid Board that there was no case to answer regarding Anderson’s actions.
In the letter to Hamilton CAB’s Chairman, Mushtaq Ahmed, Mrs Campbell said in reference to earlier reports in the media, that “Mr Anderson is quoted as saying he did not refer me to Colin Davidson, but merely gave me a list of Solicitors. It seems Hamilton CAB Manager has investigated the matter (incidentally, without referring to me) and has given assurances to CAB’s Tony Hutson, and to SLAB, that Gilbert Anderson has done nothing wrong in this matter.”
Mrs Campbell further wrote : “On the Client Record Sheet produced by Mr Anderson (which I found in Davidson Fraser’s file) it clearly states on two separate occasions that he would endeavour to recommend a Legal Aid Solicitor to me. Also, on the back of this Client Record Sheet is a handwritten note “possibly in my mind a cash for Colin £3000”. I have enclosed a copy of this Record – the original is with Elaine Motion who is acting the the Law Society.”
The letter went on to inform Hamilton CAB that Mrs Campbell “could not have have got Davidson Fraser’s name from a list of Legal Aid Solicitors as they didn’t do Legal Aid. Mrs Campbell goes on to detail a number of points regarding Mr Anderson’s referrals to the already struck off O’Donnell, who was posing as Colin Davidson, who has since died.
It later became worrying to Mrs Campbell that the “Colin Davidson” she had been referred to by Gilbert Anderson was none other than struck off solicitor John G O’Donnell. Mrs Campbell told the Citizens Advice Chairman in her letter : “I asked Gilbert Anderson about why people kept calling Colin Davidson “John” and voiced my other concerns about his identity and he said there was a reason for this which he was not prepared to divulge to me. I have now discovered that the Solicitor to whom Gilbert Anderson sent me, was not in fact Colin Davidson, but a struck-off solicitor, John O’Donnell, who between them conspired to deceive clients – John O’Donnell lost his licence because he had over 20 cases of negligence proved against him and the insurance had to pay out hundreds of thousands of pounds. The real Colin Davidson (whom I never met) has since died, and John O’Donnell has disappeared.”
Maureen Chalmers, manager of Hamilton Citizens Advice Bureau has since issued a statement to Diary of Injustice on complaints made against Mr Anderson, saying : “Given the level of detail included in Mrs. Campbell’s letter of complaint it is taking some time to work through all the issues. We shall not therefore complete our investigations by Friday 29th June. For clarification, the 20 day period referred to in our Complaints Policy is working days and this did not include the two Public Holiday days in early June. We are dependent on responses from external bodies over which we have little control but we anticipate our investigations shall be completed by Friday 13th July. We have informed the complainant in writing of the above.”
Mrs Chalmers continued : “Please be assured that any complaint about our service is treated very seriously indeed and we are keen to conclude this matter as quickly as possible. We shall not be making any further comment until our investigations have been completed.”
Scottish Legal Aid Board ‘continue to monitor the situation’ on Gilbert Anderson. A spokesperson for the Scottish Legal Aid Board said in response to enquiries : “We cannot comment on a specific complaint which is the subject of an investigation by an external organisation. However, we have been informed by Hamilton Citizens’ Advice Bureau that a complaint has been received in relation to the Hamilton In-Court Advice Project based at Hamilton Sheriff Court.
“We have had assurances from Hamilton CAB that it is investigating the allegations in line with its procedures and the requirements of the project agreement. We have also received assurances that we will be informed as soon as any outcome is reached. In the meantime, we will continue to monitor the situation to ensure that all the necessary steps are taken to satisfy the requirements of a Board-funded project.”
Diary of Injustice will report on the results of Hamilton CAB’s ‘investigation’ of Mr Anderson when developments are available, meanwhile readers can refer to the Sunday Mail’s investigation of Mr Anderson’s referrals of clients to John G O’Donnell, and the Law Society of Scotland’s lack of ability to take the matter in hand, here :
COLIN YOU A LIAR
Client's fury at identity fraud
By Russell Findlay, Sunday Mail 22 April 2012
A banned solicitor has been accused of conning a client by impersonating another lawyer in an elaborate fraud. The client also claims that John O'Donnell, 61 cost her 50,000 by botching a land deal and that he failed to turn up to defend two small claims for her.
Widow Elizabeth Campbell, 69, believed that the solicitor working for her was called Colin Davidson. But she discovered "Colin" was actually O'Donnell - who is serving two five year bans from working as a solicitor and is bankrupt - when she saw his photo in the Sunday Mail.
Elizabeth, from East Kilbride, said : "I met "Colin" in his office many times between March and September last year. I was stunned when I came across a Sunday Mail story about O'Donnell which carried his photo. I recognised him as the man I knew as Colin. I was shattered."
Elizabeth claimed that O'Donnell botched a land deal dispute by allowing it to be sold for less than its true value, costing her 50,000. And she also accused him of lying by saying that he defended two small claims cases at Hamilton & Glasgow Sheriff Courts.
Elizabeth, who suffered from depression after her husband's death four years ago, said she had trusted "Colin" when they first met.
She said : "He said that he understood as he had also suffered. I thought to myself, I've got a soul mate here" Then I discovered that he had failed to represent me at Hamilton and Glasgow Sheriff Courts for small claims and two decrees were awarded against me. Debt collectors began chasing me yet he continued to lie and say that he had been in court. I've been able to recall the Glasgow case but the Hamilton case is still against me."
O'Donnell was given a five year ban in 2009 and another five-year ban in 2010 due to his appalling track record of professional misconduct. His bankruptcy also disqualifies him from practising.
In March last year, the Sunday Mail warned the Law Society of Scotland that O'Donnell was allegedly working for the real Colin Davidson’s firm Davidson Fraser. Former Bankrupt Davidson - who has since died - told us then : "He's not employed here."
Elizabeth believes she was targeted because she was vulnerable. She said : "He only took around 210 from me. I think the long- term aim was to get my house." She added that staff at the law firm's office in Clarkston Road, Glasgow seemed aware of the deception, making excuses when she asked why people called him John.
She said : "I was so angry that I was going to attend Davidson's funeral. I wish I had done just for O'Donnell's reaction. I find it incredible that he has been able to get away with this, especially given that the Law Society was warned what was going on."
Law Society chiefs have refused to say if other clients were also duped and declined to comment on the case. A senior legal insider said that O'Donnell could now face criminal prosecution for working as a solicitor without a practising certificate.
BID TO BEAT BAN AT LEGAL BODY'S CHRISTMAS PARTY
Another lawyer tried to strike a deal for O'Donnell at a Law Society Christmas party in 2009. A Scottish Solicitors' Discipline Tribunal report said Steven Gold asked Law Society prosecutor Elaine Motion to consider dropping complaints against O'Donnell if he agreed to surrender his practising certificate.
Motion met O'Donnell as the Society considered five more complaints. But because he was not struck off by the SSDT, Motion decided that O'Donnell "may be hearing from her again".
LINKS TO SOLICITOR PAID BY OUR TAXES
Elizabeth was referred to Davidson Fraser by taxpayer funded lawyer Gilbert Anderson.
Anderson is a Citizens Advice Bureau adviser at Hamilton Sheriff Court whose wages are paid by the Scottish Legal Aid Board. He said yesterday : "I gave her a list of firms and she asked if I knew of any particular firm. Davidson Fraser were not specified."
However, Anderson's name appeared as an employee on the firm's letter headed paper in July 2011.
He said : "The moment Mrs Campbell brought that to my notice I was down to Davidson Fraser to find out exactly what they were doing. Mr Davidson said he was under the impression I was going to work for them. But I said no, I said I would consider. It was agreed that he was to remove my name."
Davidson also used a room to meet clients at the volunteer-run South Side Advice Centre in Glasgow. But he was kicked out in October due to a number of complaints.