Severe penalties have been handed down by the Scottish Solicitors' Discipline Tribunal in the latest two cases of professional misconduct to come before the Tribunal.
In the first case, Philip Hogg of Kirkintilloch was suspended from practice for five years for a catalogue of accounts rules offences, including failing to ensure that his firm complied with the accounts rules, failing to supervise his office manager and cashier, failing to take steps to satisfy himself that fees being charged to executries were properly so charged, failure to ensure a sufficient balance at credit of the firm's client account, and continuing to draw from the firm while it was being financed by the overcharges to clients.
Mr Hogg had been in partnership with his sister in a Kirkintilloch firm, Alder Hogg, to which a judicial factor was appointed in 2012. His sister's husband had been the office manager and cashier; she had had significant health issues.
The tribunal described the supervision failures as "extremely serious". It was not expected that the respondent should personally carry out all the work in his firm, but if he decided to delegate any work there remained a duty of supervision and he had to accept responsibility for the improper actions which resulted from a failure of supervision. The accounting irregularities had taken place repeatedly over a long period, and any partner, particularly in a small firm, had to keep track of fees rendered. The respondent had been "reckless and naive" and a suspension was necessary to indicate the gravity of the misconduct.
In a separate case, Euan Terras of Ayr was censured and fined £8,000 for acting in a conflict of interest situation in a property purchase transaction with the ancillary execution of a minute of agreement and the drafting of a will, where his son was the residuary beneficiary the respondent had a personal and/or financial interest in both aspects of the transaction (his wife was lending the funds for the purchase); he did not insist that his client consult other solicitors when he could not discharge his professional obligations to solely look after her interests and his personal integrity and independence was called into question.
The tribunal noted that there was no allegation of dishonesty, and took into account that the relationship between the respondent and his client was akin to a close familial relationship. The incident was an isolated one which arose out of a particular set of circumstances in a transaction which took place 13 years ago. The respondent otherwise had an unblemished record. However there has been a serious and reprehensible departures from the standard expected of a competent and reputable solicitor and a substantial fine should be imposed in addition to a censure.