Law Society denies any political motivation in handling of Michelle Thomson property deals case
Law Society rejects idea there was any political motivation for seven month delay in sending Crown its full formal report on “alleged irregularities relating to property deals” which saw MP Michelle Thomson’s solicitor struck off for professional misconduct
The Law Society has rejected the idea there was any political motivation for the seven month delay in sending the Crown its full formal report on “alleged irregularities relating to property deals” which saw MP Michelle Thomson’s solicitor struck off for professional misconduct.
Thomson’s solicitor, Chris Hales, was suspended by the Law Society into 2011, before being found guilty of professional misconduct in ruling by the Scottish Solicitors’ Discipline Tribunal in May 2014 – a year before Thomson became MP for Edinburgh West – after carrying out property deals on behalf of the MP and her business partner.
The Law Society’s Guarantee Fund Sub-Committee decides if SSDT findings should be formally reported to the authorities. And while the Law Society twice notified the Crown Office “informally” of the case – once in December 2014 and again in April 2015 – there was a delay of over a year between the Tribunal which saw Hales found guilty of misconduct and the Crown receiving the Law Society’s formal report on the case, in July 2015.
The Crown then instructed Police Scotland to investigate “alleged irregularities relating to property deals” within six days.
The secretary of the Sub-Committee, Sheila Kirkwood, is a founding member of Lawyers for Yes and has endorsed Thomson on her Facebook page, forcing the Law Society to deny she had any influence on the case.
Law Society chief executive Lorna Jack said she had been assured by Kirkwood that she had been unaware of Thomson’s involvement in the property deals until reports surfaced in the press. But Jack said no internal investigation had taken place.
The 2014 discipline tribunal said it had “no hesitation” in finding Hales guilty of professional misconduct for his role in 13 property deals – all of which involved Thomson or her property venture M&F Property Solutions – and that Hales, “must have been aware that there was a possibility that he was facilitating mortgage fraud, whether or not this actually occurred”.
Thomson maintains that she has always acted within the law.
Denying that public confidence in the Law Society had been shaken by its handling of the case, Jack said: “I think the media are looking to pursue a line of political compromise which is absolutely categorically not the case.”
In a statement released to press, Jack said: “I want to stress that Law Society employee Sheila Kirkwood has not acted unprofessionally or inappropriately at any time. Shelia is a hard-working, dedicated colleague. She had no involvement in taking papers on the Christopher Hales case to the Law Society Guarantee Fund sub-committee and in no way delayed these papers being taken to the committee. Shelia’s role as secretary to the committee is to write the minute.
“The names of Christopher Hales’s clients were not included in any Law Society papers that Sheila handled. The first time Sheila realised Michelle Thomson was involved in the Christopher Hales case was from recent media reports.
“Sheila is entitled to her personal political views. The Law Society is a non-partisan organisation. However, we do not stop our staff from holding or expressing their own views in their personal lives. People in Scotland are legally entitled to express their personal opinions.
“I am confident there was no conflict of interest in relation to Shelia’s role at the Law Society.”
Explaining the delay in a previous statement, Jack 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.
She added: “We acknowledge that there was an internal delay in the report reaching the committee, this was due to staff workloads, however there was no delay once the committee had made its decision to report the matter to the Crown Office.”
A lawyer acting for Michelle Thomson has contacted Police Scotland to express her wish to assist the ongoing investigation into the property deals.
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