POLICE LAUNCH CASH PROBE INTO BUST LAW FIRM
COPS GIVEN DOSSIER AFTER PARTNERS STRUCK OFF Unpaid clients hail new move
Craig McDonald An police investigation has been launched into the collapse of one of Scotland’s top law firms.
Ross Harper and Co, who had offices across Scotland, were shut down in 2012 after more than 50 years in practise.
It emerged that public cash claimed in Legal Aid fees was not paid to suppliers and experts hired by the Glasgow firm.
A leng thy probe by the Law Society of Scotland led to four partners being struck off and two more being censured.
We can reveal a dossier has now been passed to pol ice, who have launched a criminal investigation.
The Ma i l understandsds the initial focus is on formermer senior partner Alan Miller, 38, who was struck from the roll of solicitors last month.
One expert witness hired by the firm welcomed the probe. Forensic psychologist Ian Stephen, who’s owed £5000000 in fees, said: “I think it’s appropriate that police investigate. said:id “I ffeltlt bbadlydl llett downd by Ross Harper. You should be able to put your faith in a lawyer.
“I was always writing to them to ask why I was not being paid. I was shocked they were so blatant about it.”
Professor Hugh Pennington saw £ 4000 in fees go unpaid.
The bacteriolgoist said: “I was shocked to discover Ross Harper were withholding payments from me and others. There has been a betrayal of trust.”
Miller and Jim Price, also a senior partner, were struck off last month by the Scottish Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal for professionalmiscondprofessionalmisconduct.ct
Price was employed as general manager of Nottingham Forest in 2013 but left the football club within a year.
Two further partners, Paul McHolland and Joseph Mullen, were censured by the SSDT but are still able to practise.
Cameron Fyfe and Alan Susskind – also partners at the firm – were struck off in May.
The SSDT found Legal Aid cash lay in “a drawer”, the firm’s bank account, for up to two years. The cash was used to help them balance their books after the 2008 financial crash. Accounts also showed a cheque was can-cancelledlld andd reissuedidththree timesti before it reached its destination.
On at least two occasions, the same tactic was used to hold up payments of £300 to Pennington.
We told last month how legal watchdogs are facing more than £100,000 worth of claims from victims of the firm.
Any compensation would be paid from a Law Society client protection contingency fund.
Ross Harper had 12 offices in Scotland and were the country’s biggest earning Legal Aid firm, with 2006-07 earnings of £1.7million. They were founded in 1961 by ex-law professor Ross Harper.
A police spokeswoman said: “InquiriesIn are at an early stage.”
A Law Society of Scotland spokesman said: “Concerns were raised about the firm’s accounting record following one of our routine compliance inspections.
“This led to us going to the Court of Session to request the appointment of a judicial factor to the firm in April 2012 and, following investigation, we prosecuted all six former partners before the independent SSDT.
“We have a legal duty to report suspicious activity to the relevant authorities but cannot comment on whether reports have been made on specific cases.”
MISCONDUCT Former senior partner Price TACTICS Susskind was struck off TRIBUNAL Fyfe, above, was struck off and McHolland censured