Reports relating to Ajaz Mohammed Hussain; John Gerard O'Donnell

Ajaz Mohammed Hussain

A complaint was made by the Council of the Law Society of Scotland against Ajaz Mohammed Hussain, solicitor, 12 Albany Terrace, Dundee (“the respondent”). The Tribunal found the respondent guilty of professional misconduct in respect of his repeated failure to respond to correspondence from the Society, his failure to obtemper statutory notices and his misleading his client as to the status of his application.

The Tribunal censured the respondent and directed in terms of s 53(5) of the Solicitors (Scotland) Act 1980 that any practising certificate held or issued to the respondent shall be subject to such restriction as will limit him to acting as a qualified assistant to such employer or successive employers as may be approved by the Council or the Practising Certificate Committee of the Council of the Society and that for an aggregate period of at least 10 years and thereafter until such time as he satisfies the Tribunal that he is fit to hold a full practising certificate.

The Tribunal considered it unfortunate that the respondent had not attended the Tribunal to put forward any mitigation on his own behalf. The Tribunal was particularly concerned with regard to the respondent misleading his client. Clients are entitled to expect that solicitors be truthful and provide them with the correct information. Misleading of clients brings the profession into disrepute and undermines public confidence in the profession. The respondent also failed to respond to enquiries made by the Society, thereby hampering the Society in the performance of its statutory duties. The Tribunal noted that the respondent had recently been before the Tribunal in respect of other matters and had been censured and had his practising certificate restricted for an aggregate period of at least five years. The Tribunal considered that there should be an extension of the period of restriction on the respondent’s practising certificate, this restriction to run concurrent with his existing restriction.

John Gerard O’Donnell

Two complaints were made by the Council of the Law Society of Scotland against John Gerard O’Donnell, solicitor, 15 Clarkston Road, Glasgow (“the respondent”). The Tribunal found the respondent guilty of professional misconduct in cumulo in respect of his repeated failure between 14 July 2000 and 22 March 2007 to settle counsel’s fees, his delay and/or failure to record heritable deeds with the Registers of Scotland on behalf of his clients, his breach of rules 6, 8 and 24 of the Solicitors (Scotland) Accounts etc Rules 2001 and his unreasonable delay in responding to the reasonable enquiries of the Society. The Tribunal censured the respondent, fined him £500 and directed in terms of s 53(5) of the Solicitors (Scotland) Act 1980 that the respondent’s practising certificate be subject to a condition that the books and records of the respondent’s practice be inspected by the Council of the Society no later than 30 June 2008 and thereafter at nine-monthly intervals on two further occasions, the last of which to take place no later than 31 December 2009, all such inspections to be at the expense of the respondent.

The Tribunal noted that there were numerous instances of long delays in recording deeds. The respondent had also not been maintaining proper records and operated without having proper systems in place to ensure compliance with the Accounts Rules and Money Laundering Regulations. This is damaging to the reputation of the legal profession. Solicitors have a professional responsibility to recognise that they should not continue working if they are unable to operate satisfactorily due to illness. The Tribunal however accepted that all the issues in both complaints arose during the period when the respondent was suffering from depression. The Tribunal also noted that the respondent had previously worked without incident in the profession for 30 years. The Tribunal was impressed that matters had been resolved and that the respondent was willing to have further inspections. The Tribunal considered that in order to ensure protection of the public, the respondent’s records should be inspected by the Society on a regular basis over the next two years. This would ensure that if there were any further difficulties they would be picked up immediately. The Tribunal imposed an additional fine of £500 in respect of the delay in paying counsel’s fees. 

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