A solicitor has been fined £2,000 by the Scottish Solicitors' Discipline Tribunal for professional misconduct by allowing the client he was defending on sexual offence charges to see detailed witness statements from the child complainers, and a defence medical report containing sensitive information, in breach of the practice rules and undertakings given to the Crown.
Glasgow solicitor Leon Kondol, of McBride Kondol & Co, admitted the charge of misconduct, which occurred between 2015 and 2016 when he was acting for a man accused of serious sexual offences against children including his grandchildren. The accused was remanded in custody.
While visiting the accused in custody Mr Kondol allowed the accused to retain copies of the statements by the various complainers, provided to the Crown, with certain details of the witnesses redacted but not their names. The accused made notes on the statements and wrote detailed letters to Mr Kondol replying to the allegations made. The matter came to light when the accused made a complaint to the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission following his conviction.
It was accepted that Mr Kondol had breached the Solicitors' Practice Rules (B1.2. B1.4 and B1.14), and also the Code of Conduct for Criminal Work (articles 11 and 12), as well as the undertakings given to the Crown. The tribunal noted that the code was a statement of good practice rather than a practice rule, but said that the risks of disclosure of sensitive material to an accused person were obvious. Circulation could lead to witness intimidation, and it could be used as a commodity within prison as a form of pornography. It did not matter that it was information already largely known to the accused.
Although it was said for Mr Kondol that the accused was a difficult client who had put him under pressure, competent and reputable solicitors had to be able to withstand those kinds of demands.
As regards the medical report, although it was not covered by the undertakings given to the Crown, the guidance attached to the code of conduct made clear that solicitors should not give copies of any documents related to the case, whether or not received from the Crown, to the client. There were exception, but material relating to sexual assaults was so sensitive that it should not come within these. The test for professional misconduct had therefore been met.
In deciding on the penalty, a censure and a fine of £2,000, the tribunal took into account that Mr Kondol, a sole practitioner, had shown remorse, cooperated with the investigation and taken training and other steps to avoid a similar situation in future, as well as positive references provided.