Saturday 16 November 2019

Some solicitors 'going to great lengths to conceal dishonesty'

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Stock photo
Shane Phelan

Shane Phelan

Some solicitors have gone to extraordinary lengths to hide dishonest acts, a leading figure in the Law Society of Ireland has said.

The comments from the society's director of regulation, John Elliot, came as new figures reveal six solicitors were struck off and nine were suspended between July 2017 and June 2018.

Writing in the society's annual report, Mr Elliot said: "The investigation of solicitors' practices is increasingly resulting in hard-fought litigation, with some solicitors going to extraordinary lengths to conceal dishonesty. It continues to be necessary to bring some solicitors to the High Court to ensure co-operation with the regulatory process."

Despite these difficulties, the report reveals complaints against solicitors are actually down.

A total of 1,113 complaints were made in the past year, 253 of which were deemed inadmissible.

This was a drop of 294 complaints on the preceding year.

Paul Egan, chairman of the society's complaints and client relations committee, said the proportion of solicitors against whom an admissible complaint has been made is at a 20-year low.

The society currently functions as both a representative and regulatory body for solicitors.

Responsibility for dealing with complaints is set to be taken over by an independent body, the Legal Services Regulation Authority, next year.

The report said the society was obliged to report any suspicions that money laundering or an offence of terror financing has been committed by a practicing solicitor to An Garda Síochána and the Revenue Commissioners.

It said five such reports were made during the past year.

Action was also taken in relation to so-called "claims harvesting", with High Court orders secured to take down one prominent website.

The society also secured a list of solicitors who received referrals from the site.

This led to 17 solicitor firms being investigated.

Five new claims of harvesting websites emerged from the CervicalCheck controversy.

The society plans to investigate these by way of secret shopper and forensic IT expertise.

Irish Independent

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