Law Society of Scotland staff 'did not interfere in struck off solicitor case'
A review into the handling of a case involving a solicitor who was struck off has found no wrongdoing by Law Society of Scotland staff.
Christopher Hales was found guilty of professional misconduct over property deals linked to MP Michelle Thomson.
She was elected an SNP MP but withdrew the party whip after the case emerged.
The Law Society found that claims staff might have deliberately halted progressing the case until after the election were "completely unfounded".
Mr Hales had carried out work for M&F Property Solutions, a firm businesswoman Ms Thomson was a partner of.
Following a hearing in May 2014, the Scottish Solicitors' Discipline Tribunal said Mr Hales failed to provide mortgage companies with key information used to prevent fraud and must have been aware that there was a possibility he was facilitating mortgage fraud, whether or not it occurred.
The deals he was investigated for had been carried out on behalf of M&F Property Solutions, a firm businesswoman Ms Thomson was a partner of.
She remains an MP at Westminster and has strenuously denied she did anything wrong.
After the link between Mr Hales and Ms Thomson came to light, the Law Society undertook a review of its handling of the case.
It concluded that;
- the initial Law Society financial inspection of Christopher Hales' firm in 2011 worked effectively
- there was no formal protocol, including timescales, agreed with the Crown Office regarding the society carrying out the passing on the full case
- allegations staff had interfered with the handling of the case for political reasons were "not only completely unfounded, but there was no scope for such interference".
Christine McLintock, president of the Law Society, said: "We took swift action after identifying the issues at Christopher Hales' firm in 2011, which included rapidly suspending Mr Hales from practice and making a suspicious activity report. Following our investigation we prosecuted him before the the Scottish Solicitors' Discipline Tribunal (SSDT) , which resulted in him being struck off.
"We said we would examine the issues raised as a result of this case to determine what lessons could be learned.
"We have now identified where operational improvements can be made and are taking these forward in conjunction with other organisations.
"This work will be overseen by the Society's Regulatory Committee, which comprises both solicitors and non-solicitors."
Timeline on solicitor Christopher Hales case
- 18 December, 2014 - The issue of solicitor Christopher Hales was raised "informally" with the Crown Office. Neither the clients nor properties were named.
- 28 April, 2015 - The issue was raised again and it was noted that the matter of referral to the Crown Office was still under consideration by the Law Society. Neither the clients nor properties were named.
- 1 July, 2015 - The Crown was advised by the Law Society that it was required to obtain authorisation from its Guarantee Fund Sub Committee to formally refer the case.
- 3 July, 2015 - Referral was received by the Crown following the required authorisation. Documents were handed over to the Crown Office and in those documents the names of clients and properties were disclosed.
- 9 July, 2015 - A formal referral was made to the Crown Office and instructions were issued to Police Scotland.