Solicitor to sue Law Society

 

A solicitor subjected to an illegal investigation by the Law Society confirmed last night he would be seeking substantial damages after his eight-year fight to prove the society wrong.

The Supreme Court ruled the society engaged in illegality, deceit and a "hidden agenda" in investigating the firm of Mr Giles Kennedy, Eccles Street, Dublin, which it suspected of handling bogus compensation claims.

The court ordered the society to disregard the information it gathered in the investigation and quashed its decision to refer Mr Kennedy to a disciplinary tribunal which has the power to strike off practitioners.

Mr Kennedy said he was "very pleased to be vindicated" and called on the Law Society to investigate its own conduct. He confirmed he would proceed with a High Court action for damages.

The society already faces the threat of legal costs exceeding £1 million. A decision on costs was reserved to the new year after the society asked for time to prepare an argument as to why it should not have to foot the bill.

The Supreme Court ruling followed an eight-year dispute between the society and Mr Kennedy which began when the society appointed an accountant to examine the company accounts.

This was ostensibly a routine process which the society is authorised to carry out to ensure correct accounting procedures. But the society also briefed the investigator to search for evidence that the firm was processing bogus claims, in particular those involving Mr Rossi Walsh.

In 1999 the High Court found against Mr Kennedy, ruling that the society had acted within its powers. The Supreme Court, however found the society had no authority to conduct such an investigation under legislation existing at the time, and that, by denying any investigation was taking place deprived Mr Kennedy of his right to challenge it in court.

Mr Justice Fennelly said: "The Law Society engaged in a policy of deliberate concealment of its intentions . . . the concealed intention related to material which it was not authorised to investigate."

The director general of the Law Society, Mr Ken Murphy, said he could make no comment while there were outstanding matters to be determined.