A legal probe into property deals involving the former SNP MP Michelle Thomson was not subject of any “political interference” to keep it under wraps, the Law Society of Scotland has found.
But the society says “improvements” have been identified in the way it co-operates with other bodies amid claims it was too slow to pass the case of former lawyer Christopher Hales on to the Crown Office.
Mr Hales was struck off as a lawyer four years ago over his involvement in a series of property deals involving Ms Thomson’s firm. The row led to the MP withdrawing from the SNP whip and being suspended from the party earlier this year. An ongoing police investigation has since been launched.
An internal review into the society’s handling of the case has now concluded. It has not been published, but a statement by the organisation yesterday said there was no “formal protocols” agreed with the Crown Office about passing on the full Hales case file after prosecutors had been earlier informally notified about the probe.
Christine McLintock, president of the Law Society said: “We said we would examine the issues raised as a result of this case to determine what lessons could be learned. We have now identified where operational improvements can be made and are taking these forward in conjunction with other organisations. This work will be overseen by the Society’s Regulatory Committee, which comprises both solicitors and non-solicitors.”
The case took a political twist when it emerged that Sheila Kirkwood, who was linked to the Lawyers for Yes independence group, was secretary to the guarantee fund sub-committee that scrutinised the activities of Mr Hales. Ms Thomson had been a key figure in Business for Scotland, with both pro-independence organisations set up during the referendum.
Today’s statement from the society adds: “Allegations that staff members had interfered with the handling of the case for political reasons were not only completely unfounded, but there was no scope for such interference.”
A suspicious activity report was submitted to the then Serious and Organised Crime Agency in 2011, the review finds.
Ms McLintock added: “We took swift action after identifying the issues at Christopher Hales’ firm in 2011, which included rapidly suspending Mr Hales from practice and making a suspicious activity report.
“Following our investigation we prosecuted him before the SSDT, which resulted in him being struck off.”