SSDT clears Kilmarnock solicitor of alleged threat to journalist
The Scottish Solicitors’ Discipline Tribunal (SSDT) has dismissed an appeal from a journalist who complained that he was threatened by a solicitor.
The tribunal upheld the determination of the Law Society’s professional conduct subcommittee (PCSC), which cleared Kilmarnock solicitor Neil McPherson of wrongdoing.
Freelance journalist Campbell Thomas alleged that Mr McPherson had “acted in a threatening manner” towards him outside Kilmarnock Sheriff Court in September 2016, and had personally attacked him in comments to other members of the press.
The complaint included the allegation that Mr McPherson had said to him: “You’d better be careful Campbell, you’d better be very careful.”
The PCSC concluded in July 2020 that the solicitor had said the words in question, but disagreed that the behaviour could be categorised as professional misconduct or unsatisfactory professional conduct because the words in themselves were not threatening.
The SSDT said the PCSC’s determination included “some factual inaccuracies” but considered that these “did not affect the central issue to be determined, namely whether the PCSC had erred in its decision-making in terms of the tests in Hood and ultimately whether [Mr McPherson] was guilty of unsatisfactory professional conduct”.
The tribunal, whose decision was handed down in May but published this week, said the PCSC’s analysis of the alleged threat “was not unreasonable” and the alleged comments to other members of the press “at worst were a poor joke”.
“It is a counsel of perfection to say that solicitors must interact perfectly with others at all times,” the tribunal added.