Solicitor guilty of ‘extremely serious’ professional misconduct struck off
A solicitor responsible for a litany of failures has been found guilty of professional misconduct and struck off by the Scottish Solicitors’ Disciplinary Tribunal.
The Tribunal, having considered the amended Complaints at the instance of the Council of the Law Society of Scotland against William Meechan, Campbell & Meechan, 19 Waterloo Street, Glasgow, found the Respondent guilty of professional misconduct in respect of numerous failures, including: his failure to communicate effectively with his client, the Secondary Complainer; his failure to respond to the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission; his failure to respond to the Law Society of Scotland; his failure to provide an explanation to his client or to the Law Society in connection with the source of £25,000 purported to be a settlement sum and his failure to issue an invoice prior to taking a fee of £3,750.
In addition: making cash payments to the client, and brokering a loan arrangement with another client, all serving to conceal the first client’s financial position when she was in receipt of state benefits, in breach of Rule B1 of the 2011 Practice Rules; his delay or failure to confirm to the Financial Compliance Department that funds provided to the firm were returned to the original sources in breach of Rule B6 of the 2011 Practice Rules; his drawing down of lender/client funds in the absence of written authorisation and breach of Rule B6 of the 2011 Practice Rules; his failure to maintain an appropriate audit trail and his recording of incorrect narratives within the firm’s accounts in breach of Rule B6 of the 2011 Practice Rules;
The conduct admitted by the Respondent was “undoubtedly extremely serious”. The Respondent himself had conceded that the Tribunal was likely to consider a striking off as an appropriate disposal. In recognition of that he himself had begun to wind down his business.
The Tribunal was faced with a whole catalogue of misconduct, some of which called into question the honesty and integrity of the Respondent.
The Respondent had admitted giving false information to a client suggesting that he had raised court proceedings when he had not. He had then paid over a sum of money suggesting that his had come from the defender when it had not. When questioned about these matters by the client, the SLCC and the Law Society he had failed to provide information and only provided his file after being threatened with legal action.
His honesty was also called into question in relation to the steps taken in the case of the executry to conceal the client’s true financial position.
Additionally, whilst the Tribunal accepted that at the time the Respondent gave his evidence in connection with the affidavit he believed it to be true, very shortly thereafter he learned that the evidence was incorrect and he took no steps to correct the situation. In fact, before the Tribunal the Respondent had suggested that it had not occurred to him.
There were significant aggravating factors involved in this case. The behaviour was a course of conduct over a long period of time, involving a large number of transactions, and involving many different aspects of misconduct. Elements of the misconduct disclosed dishonesty. The Respondent had previous Findings of unsatisfactory conduct in analogous matters where he had been ordered to retrain and yet he had still become involved in the current matters. He had a previous Finding of misconduct from the Tribunal. The conduct admitted in many respects suggested that the Respondent was a danger to the public. Likewise, in many respects his conduct was likely to seriously damage the reputation of the legal profession.
The Tribunal accepted that the Respondent had cooperated with the Tribunal proceedings to a large degree. He expressed remorse and understood the seriousness of his conduct.
The Tribunal could not accept that a fine, no matter how large, would address the serious nature of this conduct. The nature of the conduct significantly called into question the honesty and trustworthiness of the Respondent to the extent that it demonstrated that the Respondent was not a fit person to be a solicitor.
The Tribunal unanimously concluded that the appropriate disposal was to strike the name of the Respondent from the Roll of Solicitors in Scotland.