Tribunal decision emphasises importance of co-operating with SLCC
The Scottish Solicitors’ Discipline Tribunal has found a solicitor guilty of professional misconduct for failing to provide a copy of a requested file to the SLCC for it to investigate a complaint against the firm. The solicitor was censured, fined £1,500 and found liable for costs.
In making the finding of professional misconduct the Tribunal decision stated,
“It is a source of professional embarrassment to the Respondent and the profession that an action had to be commenced at the Court of Session before the Respondent cooperated with his regulator. Resolution of complaints is delayed when Respondents fail to communicate with the SLCC. This is contrary to the public interest as well as the interests of the individual complainers.”
Commenting on the ruling, SLCC CEO, Neil Stevenson, said: “This is a lose-lose situation for everyone, but one which is all too common. In this case, it took as long for us to secure the file as it took to investigate the complaint. Had the practitioner responded when our request was made, this complaint could have been resolved or determined swiftly. As it was, the complainer waited six months for us to confirm we could even start to investigate the complaint as we spent unnecessary staff time, legal fees and court costs pursuing the file.
“Not only that, but the practitioner found themselves not just responding to a service complaint but facing a conduct investigation by the Law Society of Scotland, followed by prosecution in front of the Tribunal. Ultimately, their lack of timely compliance led to the complaint hanging over them for two and half years and ended in a censure, fine, expenses and a published disciplinary decision. That’s not a situation anyone wants to find themselves in.
“We’d urge practitioners to treat a statutory request from us with the importance and urgency it requires. We’re happy to discuss any concerns about providing the requested information but ignoring a regulatory request doesn’t help anyone. This case highlights the very serious implications that failing to respond can have for practitioners’ own disciplinary records and should provide a cautionary tale for the profession about the seriousness with which non-cooperation will be treated.”