Crown first became aware of Michelle Thomson’s involvement in property deals case in July 2015
Scottish Labour calls for “an immediate inquiry into the communication between the Law Society and the Crown Office about this case”
The Crown Office first became aware of Michelle Thomson’s involvement in “alleged irregularities relating to property deals” on July 3 2015, according to the Lord Advocate.
Lord Advocate Frank Mulholland was today called to the Scottish Parliament to answer questions over the Crown’s handling of an investigation into Thomson’s former solicitor, Chris Hales, who was struck off by the Law Society for professional misconduct after carrying out property deals on the MP’s behalf.
Speaking in Parliament Mulholland said he did not believe there should be an investigation into the Crown’s handling of the case.
The Law Society had twice informed the Crown it was considering formally referring the case – first in December 2014, and then again in April 2015.
But the Crown only instructed Police Scotland to investigate “alleged irregularities relating to property deals” on 9 July 2015, seven months after first being notified informally of the case.
Following Mulholland’s appearance, Scottish Labour MSP Jackie Baillie called for “an immediate inquiry into the communication between the Law Society and the Crown Office about this case”, saying “the pressure is now on the Law Society to come clean about who knew what and when”.
Mulholland said the Crown had been unaware of the identities of Hales’ clients during the meetings with the Law Society in December and April.
Asked by Murdo Fraser under what circumstances the Crown would investigate anyone else involved in the case, Mulholland said the investigation was into property transactions carried out by Hales, but that “Police Scotland have a duty to follow the evidence”.
He said that if any other individual was implicated then he had “complete faith” Police Scotland would act.
Mulholland said the Crown had not taken action under the Proceeds of Crime Act, describing such a move as “premature”.
Scottish Labour's Public Services Spokesperson Jackie Baillie said: “The Lord Advocate inferred that he thought the blame for the delay lies with the Law Society.
“We need an immediate inquiry into the communication between the Law Society and the Crown Office about this case, given the opportunities there were for further alleged fraud against vulnerable families during the delay.
“It took a year after the lawyer was struck off for the Law Society to properly inform the Crown Office, but just six days for the Crown Office to order a Police Scotland investigation. Something doesn’t add up.
“The pressure is now on the Law Society to come clean about who knew what and when. We need full transparency about why it took so long for the Law Society to pass on information about this case. Without full transparency it will look like the establishment is closing ranks to protect one of its own.
“The Lord Advocate is right not to rule out action under the Proceeds of Crime Act. Vulnerable families have lost out because of the alleged actions of people trying to make a quick buck. In the interests of justice it's only right that those who allegedly profiteered from vulnerable families don't get to enjoy the benefits of their immoral actions."
A lawyer acting for Thomson has contacted Police Scotland to express her wish to assist the ongoing Police Scotland investigation. The MP insists she always acted within the law.
Thomson’s legal advisor, Aamer Anwar, released a statement on behalf of the MP, saying the SNP and First Minister Nicola Sturgeon knew nothing of “the detailed nature of Michelle Thomson’s business dealings several years before she became an MP”.
In a statement the Law Society said: “The case itself presented us with an unusual set of circumstances - it is rare for a misconduct case against a solicitor to have to be taken further following tribunal proceedings.
“We will examine our processes to see if there are any improvements we can make in how we report findings from the SSDT to the Crown Office where there are concerns that there may have been criminal activity. We plan to work with the SSDT and the Crown Office in particular to improve how information of this nature can be shared more quickly if and when required.”