Irish News

Saturday 12 July 2014

Law watchdog probed activities of 200 solicitors

Dearbhail McDonald Legal Editor

Published 05/12/2013|01:00

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Thomas Byrne: former solicitor was jailed for fraud

THE Law Society, the ruling body for solicitors, referred almost 200 solicitors to the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal last year.

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Another 173 complaints about solicitors failing to honour undertakings, mostly relating to property transactions, have been referred to the independent body.

But a stay, or postponement, has been placed on the undertakings referrals to allow solicitors to meet their obligations and facilitate delays at the Land Registry.

The society, which has come under fire in the wake of the jailing of former solicitor Thomas Byrne, will retain its right to regulate solicitors' accounts and investigate complaints of fraud under plans by Justice Minister Alan Shatter to reform the legal sector.

The society has confirmed to the Irish Independent that an accountant engaged by Byrne was a second cheque signatory until June 2006, but then resigned from this function.

The second signatory, ordered by the society as far back as 2002 following an investigation into Byrne's practice, resigned months before Byrne embarked on a spree stealing properties and monies from friends and clients.

Overall, complaints investigated by the Law Society dropped by 13pc, from 2,746 to 2,116.

The Independent Adjudicator of the Law Society, which investigates the handling of client complaints, has welcomed the fall in new complaints received by the society's complaints and client relations section.

Carol Ann Casey, the Independent Adjudicator, described the level of complaints about solicitor's undertakings as "acerbic" in her annual report, which has just been published.

"Undertakings, whilst reducing, still feature highly on the aggregate complaints to the Law Society," said Ms Casey in the report.

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"I am pleased to see that some banks are amenable to constructive discussion with solicitors about undertakings affecting them.

"This, in turn, possibly alleviates some of the correspondence and investigation through the Law Society".

Members of the public can apply to the Independent Adjudicator if they are unhappy with the way the Law Society has dealt with complaints about a solicitor.

Irish Independent

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