Scotland's Faculty of Advocates, the equivalent of the Bar Council in England and Wales, is investigating whether disciplinary action should be brought against one its members, after he was alleged to have made anti-catholic comments, including, “Fuck the Pope and the Vatican.”
Donald Findlay, a senior defence QC, resigned as vice-chairman of Glasgow Rangers Football Club last week after being caught on video singing sectarian songs associated with Ulster Loyalists at a private party following the club's victory over arch-rivals Celtic in the Scottish Cup final.
Celtic has predominantly Irish Catholic supporters and Rangers are followed predominantly by Protestants.
There are fears that Findlay's impartiality could now be questioned and that his actions could damage the reputation of the Faculty.
The dean of the Faculty Nigel Emslie QC was out of the country until last Thursday and was said to be considering the case on Friday as The Lawyer went to press.
“The faculty is looking seriously to determine whether its reputation has been impugned,” says spokesman Quentin Jardine, “and whether there are any grounds for disciplinary action [against Findlay].”
The Guide to Professional Conduct of Advocates includes a clause which covers private behaviour under which Findlay's case may be considered.
It says: “It [the code] may also apply to an advocate's non-professional activities since his conduct there may affect the trust others have in his professional capacity.”
The faculty's range of disciplinary measures stretches from a reprimand to public censure, a u5,000 fine or, if the offence is seen as more serious, it also has the option of referring the case to a disciplinary tribunal.
The tribunal, in turn, has the power to suspend the offender, fine them up to u10,000 or even expel them from the Bar. But in 12 years of operation, the tribunal has only met twice.
The Commission for Racial Equality (CRE) said that Findlay's comments would not fall within the Race Relations Act and that the incident was a “matter for the profession rather than the CRE”.
But its spokesman Chris Myant added: “It has always been our attitude that it is important that the criminal justice system as a whole, and the individuals working in it or for it, are seen to uphold the highest standards of behaviour, probity and language.”
When he resigned from Rangers last week, Findlay issued a statement saying that “even in a private party my conduct was not acceptable.”
He was unavailable for comment when The Lawyer tried to contact him on Friday.