Acquitted Scots partners slam 'groundless' fraud prosecution

TWO partners from the Scottish office of leading personal injury and trade union firm Robin Thompson & Partners were acquitted of fraud charges by the Edinburgh Sheriff's court.

Partners David Stevenson and Lawrence Lumsden had both denied accusations of overcharging other solicitors when recovering litigation costs after successful cases.

The prosecution alleged they had overcharged 13 times from December 1985 to May 1992 to a total value of u2,673.

Three weeks into a trial expected to last at least four, sheriff Andrew Lothian last week ruled the two lawyers had no case to answer. The defence was not required to give evidence.

In a statement, the two lawyers attacked the “groundless prosecution based on the spurious allegations of a disgruntled former employee”.

The former employee gave evidence for the prosecution early in the trial. The court had heard allegations that such overcharging is standard “local accounting practice” among Scottish law firms.

Counsel for the solicitors accepted that bills sent out by the firm did include what were termed “notional items”, including items showing that advocates had been paid for certain work when they had not.

Those sums stated as paid to advocates were also not necessarily the same as sums charged to the firm. The jury heard that such billing methods were not strictly proper, but were widespread and not considered illegal or constituting professional misconduct.

Law Society of Scotland deputy secretary Bruce Richie says the society has no guidelines on settling litigation costs because it is an issue between parties involving the court.