Wednesday, November 02, 2016

DISHONESTY RULES: Rogue solicitors guilty of fraud, embezzlement and theft from wills receive soft censures from pro-lawyer Scottish Solicitors Discipline Tribunal and courts

Consumers are not protected by lawyers regulating lawyers. SCOTLAND’S legal profession and anyone connected to it – including the judiciary -  often praise the system of self regulation where lawyers look after their own – to the point of taking over and closing any public debate on creating independent regulation of solicitors.

And, of course lawyers will continue to regulate themselves in Scotland - because self regulation is too protected by vested legal interests, because it allows a solicitor to rip off their client, to be judged by his colleagues and to walk away from it, no matter what was done to the client.

Time and again, lawyers look after their own, investigate themselves, appear in front of their friends at the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission (SLCC), and, at most, receive a censure, or slap on the wrist from the Scottish Solicitors Discipline Tribunal (SSDT).

Diary of Injustice recently reported on how the SLCC refuses to identify corrupt lawyers within determination decisions which are only published after being approved by the Law Society of Scotland, featured here: FROM ROGUES TO RICHES: SLCC refuse to identify corrupt solicitors in case findings.

The SLCC print lists of doctored histories of complaints against lawyers, and then refuse to identify the solicitors who ripped off their clients – how corrupt is that!

Compare this to England & Wales, where decisions made by the Solicitors Regulation Authority in relation to identified law firms and names of solicitors can easily be found here Recent Decisions - Solicitors Regulation Authority.

Striking's off rarely occur, only as a last resort for the members of Scotland’s legal profession must protect their own.

The slick SSDT website invites you, the public – to have confidence in the ways lawyers look after their own.

Yet in decision after decision, the extent of dishonesty during proceedings renders much of what is published in Tribunal ‘interlocutors’ as clever forgeries of the acts of wilful, determined and well practiced thieves - far more determined than will ever be told in public.

The noticeable lack of action by the SSDT to report solicitors to the Police & Crown Office for prosecution, does, as the years go by, verify the position that the SSDT seeks to protect solicitors from the full weight of criminal law – which applies to everyone else.

However, on that rare occasion where solicitors do appear in court, you just know they are not going to jail.

In a prime example of the above, earlier this week Scotland was meant to weep like a child after the Law Society sought to publicise the fact Paul O’Donnell – a solicitor from the law firm of Thorley Stephenson, in South Bridge – had sold his house to repay more than £21,000 he pled guilty to embezzling from the Edinburgh law firm Thorley Stephenson, in South Bridge .

O’Donnell, 35, had previously been warned he was facing jail for the embezzlement but the judge – Sheriff Frank Crowe - allowed him to remain free as he had repaid the £21,485 he had obtained dishonestly.

In court -  O’Donnell’s defence lawyer -  Murray Robertson told Sheriff Crowe that his client had sold his house, moved in with relatives, and the money had been repaid to Thorley Stephenson.

Sheriff Crowe was also told O’Donnell had been sequestrated, was declared bankrupt and is no longer practising as a solicitor.

In response, Sheriff Crowe told O’Donnell that cases of this nature usually involved a sentence of imprisonment but, as  O’Donnell had co-operated and admitted his guilt, arranged the sale of his house and returned the money to Thorley Stephenson, Sheriff Crowe avoided sending O’Donnell to jail and instead confined him to his current address from 9pm to 6am for six months.

You may be forgiven for thinking how amazing a lawyer who stole, avoided jail.

However, in the rare occurrences when solicitors do come before our courts, jail is always a last resort for the judge – who are themselves, lawyers.

So, with facts in hand that our courts take a shine to lawyers with tears in their eyes, it should be of little surprise the latest rulings by the Scottish Solicitors Discipline Tribunal offer mere censures and fines for executry and will fraud, theft and embezzlement - which are crimes to ordinary people in the real world.

Law Society-v-Euan Maxwell Terras

This case involved a solicitor in his writing and executing a Will in which his family were the Primary Beneficiaries. An amazing story, yet only punishment is a fine.

Read the ‘published’ details of the hearing here Council of the Law Society of Scotland v Euan Maxwell Terras

Edinburgh 29 August 2016.  The Tribunal having considered the Complaint at the instance of the Council of the Law Society of Scotland against Euan Maxwell Terras, Sprang Terras, 64 Kyle Street, Ayr; Find the Respondent guilty of professional misconduct in respect of his acting in the purchase of a property with the ancillary execution of a Minute of Agreement and the drafting of a Will where his son was the residuary beneficiary and found that in doing so (1) he acted in an actual conflict of interest situation in the purchase of the property and the execution of the Minute of Agreement where he had a personal and/or financial interest in both; (2) he did not insist that Miss MM consult other solicitors either in the purchase of the property or the execution of the Minute of Agreement when both were actual conflicts of interests; (3) he could not discharge his professional obligations to solely look after the interests of Miss MM both in the purchase of the property and the execution of the Minute of Agreement given the actual conflict of interest in both between him and Miss MM; (4) he called into question his personal integrity/independence in taking instructions and/or drafting the second Will which benefitted members of his family and in terms of which they would derive significant benefit; and (5) his advice, given the terms of the draft second Will, was not free from external influence and placed him in a conflict of interest; Censure the Respondent; Fine the Respondent the sum of £8,000 to be forfeit to Her Majesty; Find the Respondent liable in the expenses of the Complainers and of the Tribunal.

Law Society-v-Philip Simon Hogg

Philip Hogg was one of a two-partner Kirkintilloch firm - Alder Hogg. His co-partner was his twin sister Alison Hazel Margaret Greer. The case relates to massive overcharging of clients. – usually defined as fraud if not involving a solicitor.

The following is for one client: The Interlocutor final amount is that for £129K of legal work they charged £219K for £90K more than they should have. So, for this one client, in relation to Mr A's executry, it is accepted that £90K was overcharged, however the Tribunal does not explain why a staggering £129K of executry fees was deemed acceptable.

Read the full ‘published’ version of events in this shocking case here: Council of the Law Society of Scotland v Philip Simon Hogg

Edinburgh 25 August 2016.  The Tribunal having considered the Complaint dated 22 April 2016 as substituted by the Complaint dated 25 August 2016 at the instance of the Council of the Law Society of Scotland against Philip Simon Hogg, residing at 9 Crossdykes, Kirkintilloch, as amended; Find the Respondent guilty of professional misconduct in respect of his failure in his obligation to see that the firm in which he was a partner complied with the accounts rules, his failure in his duty to supervise the firm’s office manager and cashier, his failure in his duty to take steps to satisfy himself that fees being charged to executries were properly so charged, his failure to see that at all times the sums at credit of the client account exceeded the sums due to the clients and his continuing to draw from the firm while it was being financed by the overcharges to clients; Suspend the Respondent from practice for a period of five years and Direct in terms of Section 53(6) of the Solicitors (Scotland) Act 1980 that the suspension shall take effect on the date on which these findings are intimated to the Respondent;

Law Society-v-Jane Elizabeth Steer

Elizabeth Steer worked for a Falkirk firm RMS Law. She previously worked for Russell & Aitken and now works for Allan McDougall & Co.

Ms Steer was accused of falsifying an Affidavit. 

Affidavits MUST adhere to the following: 1. both parties must be physically present at the signing i.e. the solicitor (notary public) and their client 2.it must be signed at the locus specified in the Affidavit

The affidavit complied with neither of these tests, instead Ms Steer sent it to her client in England to sign and return.

Problems with the affidavit only came to light when the client gave evidence stating that she had not been in Scotland for a while - but when at Avizandum the Sheriff realised that the Affidavit was signed in Scotland at a time when the client swore she was in England.

To make matter worse, Miss Steer also tried to mislead the Law Society during the Investigation. Read the full published Interlocutor here: Council of the Law Society of Scotland v Jane Elizabeth Steer

Edinburgh 16 August 2016.  The Tribunal having considered the Complaint dated 31 May 2016 at the instance of the Council of the Law Society of Scotland against Jane Elizabeth Steer, Messrs Allan McDougall, 3 Coates Crescent, Edinburgh as amended; Find the Respondent guilty of professional misconduct in respect of her failure to act with trust and personal integrity in connection with the preparation of an affidavit which she purported to notarise on 29 October 2012, submission to the court for lodging an affidavit which contained false or misleading information on 5 November 2012 and subsequent failure on 29 June 2014 to provide a full and candid explanation to the Law Society in connection with the preparation of the affidavit and its sending to the Secondary Complainer; Censure the Respondent;

And remember, readers - wherever there is dishonesty, there is a Scottish solicitor, and the Scottish Solicitors Discipline Tribunal.

THE DISHONESTY FACTOR:

An investigation by BBC Panorama -  Lawyers Behaving Badly - featured the case of John O’Donnell, and went on to reveal the startling differences in how dishonesty in the Scottish legal profession is treated lightly compared to England & Wales – where dishonesty is automatically a striking off offence.

Alistair Cockburn, Chair, Scottish Solicitors Discipline Tribunal. Featured in the investigation was the Scottish Solicitors Discipline Tribunal (SSDT) Chairman’s attitude towards solicitors accused of dishonesty in their representation of clients legal affairs. During the programme, it became clear that dishonesty among lawyers in Scotland is treated less severely, compared to how English regulators treat dishonesty.

Sam Poling asks: The Scottish Solicitors’ Discipline Tribunal hears all serious conduct cases against solicitors. Last year they struck off nine of them. But is this robust enough?

Alistair Cockburn Chairman, Scottish solicitors discipline tribunal replies: It is robust in the sense that it doesn’t just give convictions on the basis that somebody’s brought before us charged by the Law Society.  We are mindful, particularly when reminded of the lay members, of a duty to the public.

One is always concerned when there is deception but you can have a situation where solicitors simply lose their place. They make false representations in order to improve their client’s position, not necessarily their own. And you would take that into account in deciding what the penalty was but there’s no suggestion that such conduct wasn’t deemed to be professional as conduct. 

Sam Poling: So there are levels of dishonesty which sit comfortably with you, satisfactorily with you?

Alistair Cockburn: No it’s not a question of saying sitting comfortably with me.  I’ve told you…

Sam Poling: OK that you would accept?

Alistair Cockburn: No I’d be concerned on any occasion that a solicitor was guilty of any form of dishonesty.  One has to assess the extent to which anyone suffered in consequence of that dishonesty.  You have to take into consideration the likelihood of re-offending and then take a decision.  But you make it sound as if it’s commonplace.  It isn’t.  Normally dishonesty will result in striking-off.

English QC’s agree ‘dishonesty’ is a striking off offence. The SSDT Chairman’s comments on dishonesty compared starkly with the comments of the English QC’s - who said dishonesty was undoubtedly a striking off offence.

Andrew Hopper QC: “I cant get my head round borrowing in this context. Somebody explain to me how you can borrow something without anyone knowing about it. That’s just taking.”

Andrew Boon Professor of Law, City University, London: “They actually say in the judgement they would have struck him off but the client hadn't complained.”

Andrew Hopper QC “We’re dealing with a case of dishonesty and that affects the reputation of the profession. I would have expected this to result in striking off.”

Andrew Boon, Professor of Law: “The critical thing is the risk factor. If somebody has been dishonest once the likelihood is that they are going to be dishonest again unless they’re stopped.”

As Sam Poling went on to report: “but he [O’Donnell] wasn't stopped. The tribunal simply restricted his license so that he had to work under the supervision of another solicitor.”

Previous reports on the Scottish Solicitors Discipline Tribunal can be found here: Scottish Solicitors Discipline Tribunal - Pro-lawyer protection against client complaints

24 comments:

Anonymous said...

Wills are fair game because the clients are dead and those left behind are easy targets for corrupt lawyers

Anonymous said...

The SLCC print lists of doctored histories of complaints against lawyers, and then refuse to identify the solicitors who ripped off their clients – how corrupt is that!

EXACTLY!TOTALLY CORRUPT!

Anonymous said...

1000 complaints against lawyers in a year?What gets me is people still go back to the same lawyers who rip off other people and throw money at them.This is just asking for trouble and yes I know the Law Society in Scotland refuse to name crooked lawyers but it just cant be no one has a gut sense the lawyer they are using is stealing or whatever.Anyone who says they went to a lawyer and blindly did as he asked because they thought the complaints system will take care of it does not really deserve any help because they are ignorant fools with all this information now available on the internet.I am not saying the crooked lawyers should be let off what I am saying is the people using them have to get responsible with their legal problems instead of ruining their own lives because they want to brag to all their friends about using lawyers.

Anonymous said...

Yes in a nutshell - when lawyers investigate themselves there is dishonesty from start to finish.

Anonymous said...

"Fine the Respondent the sum of £8,000 to be forfeit to Her Majesty"

haha I laughed a lot.How exactly does this work do they pass 8 thousand over the table to a portrait of the queen and he gets it back under the table when the meeting ends?

haha really funny you guys the laws of Scotland r so full of crap to protect corrupt lawyers and why is the queen taking a forfeit when the victim should be paid you gotta admit this is kinda crazy Scotland bends over so much for lawyers

Anonymous said...

Yes I saw the sympathetic headline on the solicitor who stole money from clients then allegedly sells his house.what about the hardship of the victim after their lawyer or a lawyer fleeces them for every penny?You yourself have written about clients committing suicide after their lawyer stole everything they had and the Law Society did nothing.Why do the press forget to mention cases like this but slobber all over a lawyer and a judge just because the Law Society tells them to?I suppose when they are all giving each other medals and awards no one wants to write about some father of a family who commits suicide after what their lawyer did to them because whoever is doing the writing will be looking for tips from lawyers to get on and make their name.Tough life although I wont be buying any rags who keep glorifying the legal profession and not paying more attention to clients who are being swindled right left and centre.

Anonymous said...

Your viewers should read through every word of the Euan Terras interlocutor.A shocking if typical series of events which should be in court not some tribunal run by the legal industry.

Anonymous said...

Sam Poling: So there are levels of dishonesty which sit comfortably with you, satisfactorily with you?

Alistair Cockburn: No it’s not a question of saying sitting comfortably with me. I’ve told you…

Sam Poling: OK that you would accept?

Alistair Cockburn: No I’d be concerned on any occasion that a solicitor was guilty of any form of dishonesty. One has to assess the extent to which anyone suffered in consequence of that dishonesty. You have to take into consideration the likelihood of re-offending and then take a decision. But you make it sound as if it’s commonplace. It isn’t. Normally dishonesty will result in striking-off.

SSDT boss caught smartly - dishonesty is commonplace lawyers lie as soon as a complaint is made about them and the majority of complaints involve dishonesty

Anonymous said...

Points well taken Mr Cherbi.As always another good write up of issues some want put on the back burner.

Anonymous said...

I covered an ssdt decision and next day called into editors office 2b told card marked.
Later t0ld well connected Law Society shit seen @ Holyrood demanded my head. Driven out after fw weeks Conclusion editor as sleazy a shit as bloke who told him to sack me. Sympathies 2 any journalist who stand up to Lawscot thuggery.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...

Your viewers should read through every word of the Euan Terras interlocutor.A shocking if typical series of events which should be in court not some tribunal run by the legal industry.

3 November 2016 at 10:14

Yes.Also note Elaine Motion represented the Law Society..

Diary of Injustice said...

@ 2 November 2016 at 21:18

This occurs in hundreds of cases every year, surprising given the weight of information now in the public domain relating to solicitors treating wills and executries as their own private banks.

@ 3 November 2016 at 15:27

Thanks. Did you do anything about this or report incident to NUJ ? If you want to share details please contact the blog.

Anonymous said...

I found out the hard way there is no complaints system as you said Peter consumers are not protected by lawyers regulating lawyers. It is the same with the medical profession, corrupt housing officers within councils. Offices are simply weapons to cover up wrong doing and all you end up in is a letter writing drawn out process that goes no where in terms of highlighting those responsible for your situation. The SLCC is doing what they intended it to do, all a smokescreen to create the illusion there is a complaints system. They hate our guts, they want lawyers to ruin clients because it is profitable for them all. I don't vote now for the same reason I don't complain, it is a complete waste of time. Politicians are another bunch mendacious crooks. The people who argue the most strongly there is a robust complaints system are the ones who benefit from it. It is so corrupt I would not even lift the phone to the Law Society or SLCC, or download a complaints form. People have no chance against these crooked vermin.

Anonymous said...

Alistair Cockburn Chairman, Scottish solicitors discipline tribunal replies: It is robust in the sense that it doesn’t just give convictions on the basis that somebody’s brought before us charged by the Law Society. We are mindful, particularly when reminded of the lay members, of a duty to the public. YEAH RIGHT.

One is always concerned when there is deception but you can have a situation where solicitors simply lose their place OF COURSE THEY DO. They make false representations in order to improve their client’s position, not necessarily their own. BULLSHIT. And you would take that into account in deciding what the penalty was but there’s no suggestion that such conduct wasn’t deemed to be professional as conduct. NO COMPLAINTS SYSTEM EXISTS, DO THEY THINK WE ARE IDIOTS?

Anonymous said...

I told an official at Hamilton Sheriff Court the system was corrupt and Sheriffs and Judges would protect their own lawyers. He was shocked and protested so much I knew I was right. They are all the same as if they were controlled with one brain. Self regulation is simply a license to steal and be exonerated by your colleagues, a disgrace it is.

Write to the SSDT, the SLCC ot the Lawless Society of Scotland but never expect them to destroy your crooked lawyer, it is all a stitch up with the clients robbed of their assets and then robbed of any rights of justice. Whatever you do do not believe the propaganda on their web sites, it is all lies.

Anonymous said...

ty 4 reply willdo or via sowk btw new place like ur blog

Anonymous said...

The tribunal (SSDT) is a con always has been always will be so is the Law Society of Scotland and SLCC you taught us all about these shameful creatures over the years and if no one understands this by now well they really do not deserve to be helped.

Now, please write some more about the judiciary because they head the entire system.You know the rest.Any time the Law Society feels threatened they can always point to a friendly judge to assist just as happened in the recent SLCC snafu on hybrid complaints.More on judges please.

Anonymous said...

"Fine the Respondent the sum of £8,000 to be forfeit to Her Majesty"

haha I laughed a lot.How exactly does this work do they pass 8 thousand over the table to a portrait of the queen and he gets it back under the table when the meeting ends?

haha really funny you guys the laws of Scotland r so full of crap to protect corrupt lawyers and why is the queen taking a forfeit when the victim should be paid you gotta admit this is kinda crazy Scotland bends over so much for lawyers

2 November 2016 at 23:30

[][][][][][][][][][][][][][][][][][][][][][][][][][][][]

The truth is actually far worse.

The SSDT is Instructed by the Law Society of Scotland to Sanction the crooked lawyer, whether it is a fine or suspension.

This is the only part the SSDT has in the process i.e. They pass the Sanction on the crooked Scottish solicitor that they are told to.

The SSDT have no interest in what then happens to the crooked Scottish solicitor, i.e. They do not record or have any interest in whether the crooked lawyer pays the fine, pay's costs, pays compensation or observes a suspension.

i.e. There is ZERO compliance and ZERO accountability

The SSDT could-not-give-a-hoot as to whether their pronouncements are adhered to or indeed if they are ignored.

Incredibly, the Law Society of Scotland are the sole enforcers of compliance and they keep their records a secret from the public.

This means that we have the unpalatable reality that all of the Sanctions, Fines and Suspensions presided over by the Law Society's SSDT are completely irrelevant, non compliant with the Solicitors Scotland Act 1980 and are simply a paper-exercise to make the Scottish Public think that crooked Scottish lawyers are being weeded-out and brought to justice, which could not be the furthest from the truth.

The Law Society of Scotland are laughing at us, as they and the Scottish Government have colluded so that the Law Society of Scotland are the crooked lawyer's adviser, supporter, sifter, defender, prosecutor, deal-partner and then are responsible for compliance....

Eh...what a crooked set-up.


God

Anonymous said...

The tribunal (SSDT) is a con always has been always will be so is the Law Society of Scotland and SLCC you taught us all about these shameful creatures over the years and if no one understands this by now well they really do not deserve to be helped.

Now, please write some more about the judiciary because they head the entire system.You know the rest.Any time the Law Society feels threatened they can always point to a friendly judge to assist just as happened in the recent SLCC snafu on hybrid complaints.More on judges please.

3 November 2016 at 19:21

😑😑😑😑😑😑😑😑😑😑😑😑😑

The SLCC is the Law Society of Scotland's left hand.

The SSDT is the Law Society of Scotland's right hand.

It is a commonly held belief that the Law Society of Scotland is a criminal organisation, who break the law with a pernicious zeal and who are allowed to be above the law.

Anonymous said...

Whenever possible boycott lawyers, give your children money, don't leave money with a lawyer in control or it will vanish because no matter how much evidence of the theft you have no chance of justice. They are all thieves, liars and what is self regulation? I will tell you what it is. It is persecution by law because of the Act that made self regulation possible. Oh they will say laypersons are too dumb to understand the legal intricacies. But they know people do understand when they have been robbed. A lawyer who steals is breaking no laws because in the world of self regulation there is no legal enforcement. They are their own power base. A bit like Orwell's 1984 where Winston had to rewrite history to suit the requirements of Big Brother. Lawyers you all know you are free to plunder client accounts because you will never be punished. It's one big scam which is why they tenaciously protect it.

Anonymous said...

Having direct experience of several SSDT hearings relating to the same solicitor I can happily report the entire process is rigged and decisions clearly arranged beforehand.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...

Having direct experience of several SSDT hearings relating to the same solicitor I can happily report the entire process is rigged and decisions clearly arranged beforehand.
4 November 2016 at 18:48
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Just like many civil court cases, rigged in favour of the financial backers of the judiciary. One of the reasons a Register of Interests horrifies them. Corporation X lining Judges pockets to kill off litigation cases from the public. The politicians and judges and lawyers all bought by big business interests that is the way the courts and parliament work.

Anonymous said...

Boon professor of law states " lie once will lie again!" the highest rank of queen is a liar and oath breaking parasite and leach along with her family

Anonymous said...

my lawyer didnt seem intrested incase infact despite it being an illegal case from start to finish he wasnt intrested in proving this he wasnt bothered at all as either way he was getting paid and after trial i was told no point in appealing just let it go hes been investigated before for misconduct /malpractise in 2005 but only had to be supervised for 5 years ? hes also the only lawyer i know who wouldnt give his own client full disclosure of the evidence told me it would be dangerous in the wrong hands is that the hands who can prove it was all lies ?