Police have launched an investigation into financial discrepancies linked to the collapse of one of Scotland’s leading law firms.
Ross Harper and Co. dominated the legal landscape for five decades but shut down in 2012 amid concerns over financial irregularities and the misuse of clients’ funds.
It later emerged that public money claimed in Legal Aid fees was not paid to suppliers and to experts who had been hired by the Glasgow-based firm. The money was instead used to prop up the firm’s bank balance.
An investigation by the Law Society of Scotland resulted in four of the firm’s partners being struck off, and two more being censured.
Police have now confirmed they have received a dossier related to the firm, and an investigation focused on its financial dealings is under way.
A spokesman said: “Information has been passed to Police Scotland regarding concerns about the firm Ross Harper.
“Police inquiries are at an early stage to establish if any criminality has taken place.”
Among the specialists claiming to have been left without payment is forensic psychologist Ian Stephen, who is said to be owed £5,000 in fees.
The former senior medic at the State Hospital at Carstairs told the Sunday Mail: “I felt badly let down 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.”
Leading bacteriologist Professor Hugh Pennington, who chaired the Pennington Inquiry into the 1996 E.Coli outbreak, is understood to be owed £4,000.
The police probe comes after two of the firm’s leading solicitors – managing partner Alan Miller and cashroom manager Jim Price – were both found guilty of professional misconduct and struck off the roll of solicitors last month.
The Scottish Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal had heard of an ongoing course of dishonest conduct over a significant period of time, which involved overcharging clients and Scottish Legal Aid Board funds which should have been passed to expert witnesses being used instead to prop up the firm’s cash flow.
According to the SSDT findings, book entries were made to conceal what was happening and the pair jointly signed accounting certificates that did not reflect the firm’s true financial position.
Lawyers Cameron Fyfe – one of the country’s highest profile lawyers with a string of headline cases – and Alan Susskind, both partners at the firm, were struck off in May.
Both were found guilty of professional misconduct related to the use of Legal Aid funds being used to prop up the firm’s own bank account.
Mr Fyfe, who was declared bankrupt in 2013 following the firm’s collapse, appealed the decision to the Court of Session, but was refused.
Two other partners in the firm, Paul McHolland and Joseph Mullen, were censured by the SSDT but are still able to practise.
Lorna Jack, chief executive of the Law Society of Scotland, said: “Concerns were raised about the firm’s accounting record following one of our routine financial 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 Scottish Solicitors’ Discipline Tribunal.”
“It’s essential that people can continue to place their trust in the legal profession.”