A solicitor has been censured and fined £10,000 for failing to progress a client's divorce action over a period of years.
Quinton Muir, of D & J Dunlop, Ayr, was found by the Scottish Solicitors' Discipline Tribunal to have failed between October 2013 to October 2017 in his obligation to proceed with the instruction within a reasonable time, including a failure to communicate effectively with his client between January 2015 and February 2017; failed to instruct sheriff officers or tracing agents to attempt to trace the client's husband in 2014 and thereafter failing to act in the client's best interests; failing to advise her that the instance had fallen in October 2014 so he could not serve the action; and failing to serve the divorce action by exhibition on the walls of court and therefore failing to act in her best interests.
Due to periods of inaction by Mr Muir, he had failed to raise and proceed with a divorce action for a period of four years. The tribunal decided that this period of time, taking into account all of the contributory factors, amounted to a departure from the standard to be expected of a competent and reputable solicitor that could only be classed as serious and reprehensible. This in itself amounted to professional misconduct. His failure to communicate with his client was also professional misconduct in itself.
Where Mr Muir had two previous findings of unsatisfactory professional conduct and one of professional misconduct, in 2018, the tribunal could not accept that this was an isolated incident; it had serious potential consequences for the reputation of the profession. There were no outstanding matters and it accepted that there was no requirement for supervision, but it was appropriate to impose the fine as well as the censure.