John O’Donnell receives prison sentence for holding himself out as a solicitor
John O’Donnell was sentenced today, 27 February 2015, to a three-month period of imprisonment without the possibility of early release for breaching a court order against him holding himself out as a solicitor entitled to practise.
The order has been suspended for two weeks to enable him to consider an appeal and the matter will call back in court in two weeks time.
The Law Society of Scotland first sought and was granted an interim interdict against John O’Donnell in August 2009 to prevent him holding himself out as a solicitor when he was not entitled to practice. It launched proceedings for a breach of the interdict in 2012.
Lorna Jack, chief executive of the Law Society of Scotland, said: “Today’s sentence reflects the seriousness of John O’Donnell’s offence. As Lord Stewart said today in court, ‘John O’Donnell engaged in a course of conduct that breached the court order and he flouted the Scottish Solicitors’ Discipline Tribunal and provisions of the statute that regulate the profession’.
“People often turn to a solicitor at critical times in their lives so to deceive people who need legal advice is a serious abuse of the trust that clients place in their solicitorand goes against every solicitor’s core principles of honesty and integrity.
“It is essential to protect members of the public seeking legal advice and ensure they can continue to put their trust in solicitors. We will always take action against individuals if we have good reason to believe they are misleading people in this way.”
Mr O’Donnell has not held a Law Society of Scotland practising certificate since 2009, which all solicitors require to describe themselves as a solicitor entitled to practice.
ENDS 27 FEBRUARY 2015
Notes to editor
John O'Donnell undertook to give up practice at John G O'Donnell & Co in Glasgow, following disciplinary proceedings in 2008, when he was restricted to practising as an assistant employed by an approved solicitor for a period of five years. No approval was ever sought, but in 2009 the Law Society of Scotland obtained interim interdict against him from holding himself out as entitled to practise as a solicitor, pretending to be a solicitor, or using any description which implied that he was qualified to act as a solicitor. Proceedings alleging breaches of the interdict were begun in 2012 and resulted in a three-day proof before Lord Stewart in July 2014. Lord Stewart decided that Mr O’Donnell was in breach of interdict on the basis that the matter was established beyond reasonable doubt, the standard of proof proposed by senior counsel for the Law Society.
Lord Stewart’s full opinion from 19 November 2014 can be read on the Scottish Courts website: http://www.scotcourts.gov.uk/search-judgments/judgment?id=7beab5a6-8980-69d2-b500-ff0000d74aa7
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