Monday, April 03, 2017

CASHBACK, QC: Investigation reveals Scotland’s 'top' Planning QC demanded cash payments & cheques from clients in Court of Session case linked to serious judicial conflicts of interest

John Campbell QC – Faculty rules breached by payments from clients. A MEDIA investigation has revealed a senior Scots Queen’s Counsel who claims to be at the top of his field in Planning law – demanded and collected cash stuffed envelopes from clients involved in a Court of Session case now linked to serious failures of the judiciary to declare conflicts of interest.

An investigation by the Sunday Mail newspaper has revealed John Campbell QC (67) of Hastie Stable & Trinity Chambers - sent emails to his clients demanding the cash be handed over “in any form except beads” to pay for legal services provided to his client – the well respected former National Hunt jockey & trainer – Donal Nolan.

Campbell QC then collected the cash stuffed envelopes from clients in locations such as restaurants, a garage specialising in servicing Bentley cars, and on a site at Branchal in Wishaw.

The Branchal site became the subject of a court case against Advance Construction Ltd - who later admitted in court they dumped highly contaminated material at the North Lanarkshire site.

John Campbell QC emailed his demands for cash. “I'm writing to confirm that we agreed at our meeting on Friday that we will meet in Dalkeith on TUESDAY morning, when you will give me £5000 towards the fees of your legal team” … “Please let me know if it's OK to meet at the Mulsanne Garage, which is at 137 High Street, and what time would suit you?”

The reference to the “legal team” within Campbell’s email confirms other legal figures who were part of the same team received payments from the cash collected directly by Campbell.

One member of that team is ad-hoc Advocate Craig Murray – of Compass Chambers. Murray has previously refused to answer any questions on his role, or disclose how much cash he received from John Campbell.

Another email from Campbell QC to his clients, seeking another £5K - reads: “Tomorrow, I am looking forward to a serious talk with you and John, but I need to collect £5000 from you, in any form (except beads!)”

However, the demands for cash payments by the QC are a direct breach of rules of the Faculty of Advocates who forbid their members from demanding cash and bungs for legal services – even though the practice is well known to occur in both criminal and civil cases.

Section 9.9 of the Faculty of Advocate’s Code of Conduct states: “Counsel should not under any circumstances whatever discuss or negotiate fees with or receive fees directly from the lay client.”

Further rules from the Code of Conduct state clearly that fees to QCs and Advocates acting as counsel can only be collected by solicitors, and then paid over to clerks and Faculty Services.

“Normally Counsel’s fees are negotiated between the clerk and the solicitor. All fees should be paid to Counsel’s clerk.”

Additional guidance designed to cover over any direct payments ‘collected’ by Advocates states: “If any fee happens to be paid direct to Counsel, Counsel must account for it forthwith to his or her clerk.”

However, an ongoing investigation into a series of invoices issued by the Faculty of Advocates has since revealed at least one of the invoices – which had no date - was sent to the client’s solicitor.

The move by the Faculty to issue an undated invoice is now subject to allegations this is an attempt to cover up the dates of a cash collections by John Campbell.

It can also be revealed some of the payments to Campbell in cheque form were made out to to Oracle - a firm founded and co-owned by John Campbell QC and John Carruthers.

Mr Campbell and solicitor advocate John Carruthers set up Oracle Chambers in the mid 2000’s in order to create – as they claimed at the time - “a more modern, commercially responsive organisation” than they felt was provided by Faculty Services Ltd, the service company of the Faculty of Advocates.

Former Cabinet Minister Alex Neil MSP (SNP Airdrie and Shotts) – who is backing his constituents in their quest to obtain justice, has now called for a full probe into the allegations against Campbell.

The Sunday Mail Investigation report on John Campbell QC:

 'We gave top QC £5000 cash in an envelope four times' Couple claim law expert broke guidelines as MSP calls for probe

By Craig McDonald Sunday Mail 2 APR 2017

A couple claim one of Scotland’s leading QCs breached strict guidelines and asked for legal fees to be paid direct to him in cash.

Melanie Collins and partner Donal Nolan said they made the unusual payment after John Campbell told them he needed “£5000 from you in any form”.

Melanie said she and a friend met Campbell, who once represented Donald Trump’s Scottish business, in a restaurant in Dalkeith where she handed over the sum in banknotes.

She said she paid the QC – one of Scotland’s top planning law experts – three further sums of £5000 in cash at other meetings.

The method of payment is a breach of strict guidelines issued by the Faculty of Advocates – the ­professional body all advocates and QCs belong to.

The couple’s MSP last week called for a probe into the payments.

Campbell wrote in an email to Melanie on October 10, 2012: “Tomorrow, I am looking forward to a serious talk with you and John but I need to collect £5000 from you in any form.”

The man referred to is solicitor advocate John Carruthers, who assisted in the case.

Four days later, Melanie received another email from Campbell which said: “I’m writing to confirm that we agreed at our meeting on Friday that we will meet at Dalkeith on Tuesday morning when you will give me £5000 towards the fees of your legal team.”

Melanie, 62, a former land developer, of Bonkle, Lanarkshire, said: “I and a friend met with Mr Campbell at a restaurant in Dalkeith where I gave him an envelope containing £5000.

“There were three other ­occasions when I paid him £5000 cash in envelopes.

“One was at the Dakota hotel in Lanarkshire, one was at my home in Bonkle and one was a site in Cambusnethan in Wishaw relating to the court case. Looking back it might seem odd – but I had never had any dealings with a QC before and just assumed this was the way they worked.

“I paid two further cheques, one to Mr Campbell and one to a law firm, of £5000 and £4000. The total was £29,000.”

The payments related to a civil case Donal initially planned against a construction firm in 2011. The case was heard at the Court of Session in 2013.

Melanie said: “We won the case but were awarded £20,000. Our total legal fees were in the hundreds of thousands.”

She reported the cash payments claims to the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission in 2014.

The SLCC said at the time: “The complaint has been considered carefully by the SLCC. It has been decided … will not be investigated as it has not been made within time limits, for the reasons set out in the attached determination.”

The couple’s MSP, Alex Neil, the SNP member for Airdrie and Shotts, said: “All these allegations have to be investigated.

“If there has been malpractice at any stage this has to be dealt with by the appropriate ­authorities. Donal and Melanie’s problem up until now is that they’ve not been listened to when they have made the complaints.”

The SLCC could not be contacted for comment.

The Faculty of Advocates’ guide to conduct states: “Counsel should not under any circumstances whatever discuss or negotiate fees with or receive fees directly from the lay client.”

Their disciplinary tribunal can hand out fines of up to £15,000. A member can also be suspended or expelled from the faculty.

The Faculty of Advocates refused to comment last week.

Campbell, 67, said: “I have no comment to make.”


John Campbell QC:

The case in which Campbell represented Mr Nolan is that of Nolan v Advance Construction Ltd, a high value damages claim in the Court of Session.

A media investigation recently revealed Inner House judge Lord Malcolm (Colin Malcolm Campbell) sat on the case no less than eight times while his son held an interest and represented the defenders – Advance Construction Ltd.

There is no recorded recusal by Lord Malcolm in the case, even though he stood aside during 2012 after he ‘realised’ his son may have been a ‘potential witness’.

Court papers obtained by journalists have since revealed alarming inconsistencies in hearings which cast doubt on the conduct of legal figures in the case – spanning eight Court of Session judges – one (Lord Malcolm) a member of the privy Council, several Sheriffs, high profile QCs and Levy & Mcrae  – the Glasgow law firm now subject to multi million pound writs in connection with the £400million collapse of a Gibraltar based hedge fund - Heather Capital.

At the time the case began, during late 2011, Advance Construction Ltd were represented by a judge – the now suspended Sheriff Peter Black Watson, and the son of a judge – Ewen Campbell – who both worked for Levy & Mcrae.

It was only discovered well into hearings in the case that Ewen Campbell was the son of the judge Lord Malcolm, who sat on the case a total of eight times, and unprecedently returned to the case after stepping aside, to hand over £5K lodged by a third party for an appeal.

And, it can be revealed a recent key ruling in the Court of Session delivered by the same Lord Malcolm – scrapped a 30 year policy of regulating service & conduct complaints against members of the legal profession by the Law Society of Scotland & post 2008 – the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission (SLCC).

The 2016 ruling by Lord Malcolm, reported here: CSIH 71 XA16/15 - appeal against a decision of the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission conveniently allowed the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission to scrap 700 complaints against lawyers, advocates and QCs, and shattering the hopes of clients poorly served by their legal representatives.

Among the complaints to be taken advantage of by Lord Malcolm’s ruling and subsequently closed by the SLCC was the complaint against John Campbell QC – which included evidence presented to investigators in relation to Campbell’s demands for cash payments.

The complaint against Campbell also included allegations and evidence in relation the QC’s conduct and service in the proof heard by Commercial judge Lord Woolman.

During the second last day of the proof, Lord Woolman stated the pursuer – Mr Nolan – had a claim as the he had lost the use of his gallop and grazing.

Campbell then acted on his own - and significantly altered Mr Nolan’s claim in the Court of Session – removing Mr Nolan’s £4m head of claim. Unusually, John Campbell also removed a claim for legal and professional expenses.

There is no trace of any legal instruction from Mr Nolan to undertake this course of action in court, nor was there any consultation with Mr Nolan’s solicitor – who would have to had provided Mr Nolan with legal advice in relation to any proposed alteration of the claim by John Campbell QC. Similarly there is no trail of any communications between Mr Nolan’s solicitor, the Edinburgh Agents and Mr Campbell.

When a complaint against John Campbell QC was lodged with the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission, enquiries established the legal regulator heavily relied on a letter from Craig Murray to exonerate the aging QC.

However, enquiries by journalists have established two versions of Craig Murray’s letter now exist. Both versions of the same letter were used by legal regulators to exonerate Mr Campbell from investigations by the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission and the Faculty of Advocates.

Refusals by Murray to clarify the two separate versions of his letter have raised questions and concerns over his status as a prosecutor working for the Crown Office & Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS), amid claims he enjoys success prosecuting criminal trials in the High Court of Justiciary.

Lord Advocate James Wolffe has yet to act on the allegations involving Campbell and Murray.

James Wolffe is now caught in a conflict of interest situation given  his role in the matter of the Faculty of Advocate’s investigation of Campbell and their failure to act after evidence of the cash demands were presented during Wolffe’s time as Dean of the Faculty of Advocates.

Investigations into the case are set to continue amid growing calls for a full probe of Mr Campbell’s activities, and demands for Lord Carloway to act to preserve public confidence in the judicial and legal system in relation to decisions taken by members of the judiciary and certain events which took place in the Court of Session.

Has your solicitor, advocate or QC demanded cash payments from you at any stage of a civil or criminal case? Tell us more about it in confidence, by email to


Anonymous said...

The well known John Campbell

High-profile QC kicked out of disputes body

5 Feb 2012 / Paul Hutcheon, Investigations Editor

ONE of the country's most respected QCs has been expelled from a professional body after being found guilty of misconduct.

John Campbell, who was counsel to the Holyrood inquiry, was kicked out of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators (CIA) following his "inexcusable" handling of a commercial row.

The high-profile lawyer was president of the organisation at the time of his "egregious disregard of proper professional standards".

Campbell, who was called to the Bar in 1981 and took silk in 1998, was the star QC picked to quiz witnesses during Lord Fraser's inquiry into the Scottish Parliament costs fiasco.

On top of his work as a QC, Campbell was also a fellow of the CIA who helped resolve disputes.

However, this part of his career appears to have hit the buffers following a brutal report into his professional conduct.

Disciplinary charges were brought against him arising from a delay in him reaching a decision in a commercial arbitration between two parties, which are anonymised in the report.

Campbell is said to have told the parties concerned that the decision, formally described as the "award", would be delivered by Christmas 2005. It was eventually made in February 2010.

The huge delay led to the CIA alleging various breaches of its by-laws.

This included behaviour that was "injurious" to the good name of the Institute and which was "likely to bring the Institute into disrepute".

Another charge states that the lapse "was of such gravity as to render you [Campbell] unfit to be a member of the Institute".

The report, from last year, added that the delay was "on any view inordinate and inexcusable".

In the tribunal's decision, Campbell is said to have "expressly confirmed to us at the hearing that he admitted the charges".

The QC also described his own conduct as "inefficiency, failure to prioritise and really almost wilful ignoring of the rules".

In the report's conclusions, the tribunal stated that Campbell "deliberately" chose other activities ahead of prioritising the award, such as taking a holiday.

He was also judged to have "compounded the situation by repeatedly making promises which proved to be empty and meaningless", and of treating the interests of the parties "with contempt".

In another section, the report stated: "His dereliction of duty was without reason or excuse. His behaviour amounted in our judgment to an egregious disregard of proper professional standards."

An aggravating factor, according to the report, was the "hypocrisy" of Campbell being CIA president at a time when he mishandled the case.

In explaining the expulsion, the tribunal decision noted "it is common ground that the delay for which he was responsible was misconduct of such gravity as to render him unfit to be a member of the Institute".

Along with being expelled, Campbell was ordered to pay £3000 plus VAT towards the body's costs.

The report also contained remarks made by Campbell at the hearing: "I can't say expulsion is not merited."

According to Campbell's online CV, his areas of specialism include agriculture, building and construction, and planning. In 2010, Campbell and a conservation architect offered their services as mediators to bring the warring sides together in the Edinburgh trams debacle.

Following publication of the Fraser report, Campbell laid in to the quality of decision-makers on the Holyrood project: "I contend there were not sufficiently well-qualified people in that team to make the slightest difference."

Campbell made no comment last night.

Anonymous said...

and another you may be interested in re the conflict of interest angle

Silly mistake by QC in not disclosing his friendship

By Alan Cochrane

12:01AM GMT 29 Nov 2003

Living and working in a small country definitely has its advantages. Everyone knows everyone else and, furthermore, knows everything about everyone else. However, as is fast becoming clear, there are undoubted deficiencies, too, to life in cuddly Scotland.

This newspaper revealed yesterday that eyebrows were being raised throughout the political world by the news of the long-established friendship between John Campbell QC, counsel to the Fraser inquiry into the cost of the Holyrood building project, and Kirsty Wark, the journalist and broadcaster.

In that Miss Wark has already given evidence to the inquiry about her role as a member of the panel that selected Holyrood as the site for the new Scottish Parliament this is hardly surprising.

However, Miss Wark's production company and BBC Scotland are also refusing to hand over to the inquiry tapes of interviews with Donald Dewar and Enric Miralles to the inquiry.

We understand Mr Campbell, on behalf of Lord Fraser of Carmyllie, the inquiry chairman, has been conducting a vigorous campaign to have the tapes released.

But what price that vigour now, politicians are asking, in the light of the news that Mr Campbell and his wife, Marion, are friends of La Wark and that she was a bridesmaid at their wedding?

So far as I am aware, no one is suggesting - in public at least - that this friendship would mean that Mr Campbell would go easy on Miss Wark when she returns to give evidence, as return she must, on her refusal to hand over the tapes. Or that he gave her an easy ride when she was in the witness box on Wednesday.

To do so would be to impugn his professional integrity and no one, so far as I know and certainly not this correspondent, is going down that road.

Mr Campbell was exceedingly prickly on the subject yesterday. He should get off his high horse.

An advocate as experienced as Mr Campbell should know how significant an affair it is in which he is a leading player. It is the most important inquiry, in political terms, that this country has seen for many years.

He should also be aware that this is a matter of public perception. It is how Mr Campbell is perceived to be doing his job that is the important thing.

Of course, in a small country such as this it is inevitable that people in public life will make friends with each other and will then bump into each other in the course of their professional duties. And the fact of these friendships should not of themselves debar such professional relationships.

However, what becomes galling - and this is increasingly the case in Scotland - is when people who have these personal relationships do not reveal them.

Why, for instance, did Mr Campbell not declare that he was a friend of Miss Wark's before examining her.

To those who say that such a declaration would not only be unnecessary but insulting to someone of Mr Campbell's standing, should consider the parallel of the Fraser inquiry and that conducted by Lord Hutton into the circumstances surrounding the death of David Kelly.

Can you imagine the fuss if it had been discovered, for example, that James Dingemans QC, counsel to the London inquiry, had had a personal relationship with any of the witnesses he was examining?

What if Susan Watts, the BBC journalist who gave evidence to Hutton regarding David Kelly, had been a bridesmaid at Mr Dingemans' wedding? Would we not have expected him to declare that relationship?

And if not Mr Dingemans, why not Mr Campbell?

The latter made a silly mistake - but potentially an important one - in not making public his friendship with Miss Wark.

Whether he can continue to examine her is a matter for Lord Fraser but a great deal more frankness would not go amiss.

Anonymous said...

The murky world of cash collections by lawyers and advocates finally exposed because some qc felt so comfortable he put it in writing!

Anonymous said...

this is totally disgusting that this man appears to be above the law of the land what chance have people got going to court looking for justice,I do not think he could spell it never mind try and get it for his clients. He should be disbarred and sent to jail for what he has done along with the rest of them.

Anonymous said...

The insert picture of the advocate's library - Been well known for years a bung behind every book.

Anonymous said...

Did the rule of law suddenly become vacant in Scotland just enough to protect lawyers and their ilk from anything and everything? and where the hell are the inland revenue?they should be all over this!If this were some small business owner hmrc would already be in the front door tearing up the floorboards for the cash so why the hell is nothing being done about this guy and anyone else in the legal mob who take cash off their clients?

Anonymous said...

btw can I just say there is something wrong with your comments captcha platform I was forced to rewrite my comment perhaps someone is making life difficult to prevent free speech against legal thuggery

Anonymous said...

Campbell QC should be struck off the roll immediately, but of course in Edinburgh where the legal profession - not least the judiciary - is allowed to 'regulate' itself nothing of the sort will happen.

And these conspicuous abuses of privilege will continue AS LONG AS MSPs CONTINUE TO LOOK THE OTHER WAY!