John O'Donnell appeal hearing
Former solicitor John O’Donnell was admonished at an appeal court hearing today, 1 July 2015. He was appealing a three month prison sentence, passed down on 27 February 2015, for breaching a court order banning him from working as a solicitor. The appeal regarding the breach itself was not overturned.
Lorna Jack, Chief Executive of the Law Society of Scotland, said: “By holding himself out as a solicitor permitted to practice, John O’Donnell engaged in a course of conduct that breached a court order and flouted the Scottish Solicitors’ Discipline Tribunal and provisions of the statute that regulate the legal profession’
“The Law Society did all it could and should have done in relation to protecting the public and reputation of the profession by taking breach of interdict action against John O’Donnell. Mr O’Donnell had breached an order of the court and it is therefore for the court to determine what sanction is appropriate.
“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 solicitor and 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 by holding themselves out as a solicitor when they are not entitled to do so.”
John O’Donnell has not held a Law Society of Scotland practising certificate since 2009. All solicitors require to hold an up to date practising certificate to describe themselves as a solicitor entitled to practice.
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 by Mr O’Donnell to be able to practice. 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.
Mr O’Donnell lodged an appeal after being sentenced to three months’ imprisonment on 27 February 2015.
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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