Solicitors group dismayed at DPP stance on cases

 

THE SOLICITORS Disciplinary Tribunal has said it is “extremely disappointed” that no action appeared to have been taken by the Director of Public Prosecutions in relation to three cases of suspected fraud referred to him by the President of the High Court at the tribunal’s request.

The tribunal is an independent statutory body dealing with allegations of misconduct against solicitors. It can impose certain sanctions and refer serious cases to the president of the High Court.

In his annual report, tribunal chairman Francis Daly said it had made recommendations in three cases that the papers be referred by the president of the High Court to the DPP. This had been done.

“The papers furnished by the Law Society are usually prepared with the assistance of forensic accountants and particularise in detail, with the appropriate back-up documents, the allegations of fraud. One would have thought it would be relatively easy for the Director of Public Prosecutions and/or the Garda Síochána to take the matter from there,” he said, adding that nothing appeared to have happened.

Responding, the DPP, James Hamilton, told The Irish Timesthat when a judge directs papers be sent to his office they are forwarded to the gardaí, who must investigate. “Civil proceedings in the courts do not obviate the need to go over the case again to mount a criminal prosecution,” he said.

On cases where the person might be out of the jurisdiction, he said there was no power to arrest abroad and bring a person here for questioning. This was insisted upon by Ireland in its negotiation of the European Arrest Warrant. A person could only be arrested under the European warrant when a full case had been prepared.

The tribunal report, for 2009, showed a slight fall in applications to 100 from 110 in 2008, but this was above the 84 cases in 2007, itself up from 59 in 2006.

The tribunal made 70 findings of misconduct, and referred 40 cases to the president of the High Court – ahead of the 35 in 2008.

Most of the complaints (64 per cent) related to conveyancing, with 28 per cent relating to irregularities in solicitors’ accounts.