Seven solicitors were struck off the roll out of 25 against whom findings of professional misconduct were made in 33 cases decided, according to the latest annual report from the Scottish Solicitors’ Discipline Tribunal, published today.
The report states that in a further case where the solicitor had already been struck off, his conduct was regarded as so serious that the tribunal prohibited his name from being restored to the roll. A further three solicitors were censured and had their practising certificates restricted, requiring them to work under supervision, two for three years and one for two years; six were censured and fined; and eight simply censured. Compensation was awarded in four cases.
While those struck off had generally committed acts of dishonesty, in one case the tribunal found that the solicitor’s conduct and record showed that his attitude towards his clients and regulator was incompatible with him remaining a solicitor.
Of the two tribunal decisions appealed to the Court of Session during the year, one was abandoned and the other dismissed by the court for want of insistence.
The tribunal received 34 new complaints during the year, up from 27 in 2017, and had 20 cases outstanding at the end of the year.
The main grounds for solicitors’ misconduct included failure to comply with the accounts rules and/or practice rules (15 findings), dishonesty (six), and failure to reply to the Law Society of Scotland and/or clients (11). Among other findings were four of conflict of interest, three of money laundering, three of misleading the Society, three of overcharging and two of excessive delay.
Four solicitors were found not guilty. In three of these, the tribunal remitted the complaints to the Society under s 53ZA of the Solicitors (Scotland) Act 1980. One complaint was withdrawn by the Society. The tribunal also dealt with three appeal cases under s 42ZA of the Act against unsatisfactory professional conduct decisions of the Society.
In his introduction, the chairman, Nicholas Whyte, states that the tribunal is now taking "a more proactive approach" to protecting personal data. "However," he adds, "it is obliged by paras 14 and 14A of schedule 4 to the 1980 Act to publish its decisions in full and it is only allowed to refrain from publishing any names or other details if these would damage or by likely to damage the interest of persons other than the solicitor or their partners or families".
He also discloses that during 2019 the tribunal will start the process of redrafting its procedural rules.