There was no political interference, nor any scope for such interference, in the processes surrounding the reporting for possible prosecution of solicitor Christopher Hales, the Law Society of Scotland has concluded.

Mr Hales was suspended by the Society in 2011 and prosecuted before the Scottish Solicitors’ Discipline Tribunal (SSDT), where he was struck off for misconduct in 2014 in relation to a series of mortgage transactions, by failing to report circumstances that might give rise to mortgage fraud. Some of these involved a company run by Michelle Thomson, who was elected as SNP MP for Edinburgh West at the May 2015 general election.

The case was not formally reported to Crown Office for possible prosecution until July 2015, though "informal" notification had been given in late 2014, and it later emerged that the secretary to the relevant committee at the Society was involved with the Lawyers for Yes independence campaign group, which gave rise to the accusation of interference.

Ms Thomson denies any wrongdoing but was suspended from the SNP after resigning the party whip pending the police inquiries.

A review by the Society into its own handling of the case has now concluded:

  • The initial financial inspection of Mr Hales’ firm in 2011, followed by his suspension within 21 days of that inspection and subsequent prosecution before the SSDT, worked effectively.
  • A suspicious activity report was submitted to the then Serious and Organised Crime Agency (now the National Crime Agency) in 2011, in keeping with the Society’s statutory obligations, shortly after the initial financial inspection.
  • There was no formal protocol, including timescales, agreed with the Crown Office regarding the Society carrying out the additional step of passing on the full case file after the SSDT finding,
  • Allegations that staff members had interfered with the handling of the case for political reasons were not only completely unfounded, but there was no scope for such interference.

Recommendations for future procedures have been approved by the Society's Audit Committee, which comprises both solciitors and non-solicitors, and its governing Council.

Christine McLintock, President of the Society said: “As the professional body for Scottish solicitors for over 60 years we take our statutory responsibilities towards the profession and the public very seriously. Through our regulatory committees and the staff team at the Society, we work very hard to uphold the high standards expected of solicitors and to protect members of the public who rely on the advice and services they provide.

“We took swift action after identifying the issues at Christopher Hales’ firm in 2011, which included rapidly suspending Mr Hales from practice and making a suspicious activity report. Following our investigation we prosecuted him before the SSDT, which resulted in him being struck off.

“We said we would examine the issues raised as a result of this case to determine what lessons could be learned. We have now identified where operational improvements can be made and are taking these forward in conjunction with other organisations. This work will be overseen by the Society’s Regulatory Committee, which comprises both solicitors and non-solicitors.”