A currently serving Sheriff, Paul Reid, who was appointed to the bench by Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill in 2009 and may be better known to some as one of the many ‘Fiscals’ for the Law Society of Scotland whose job it is to prosecute crooked lawyers (HaHa – Ed) before the courts or the Scottish Solicitors Discipline Tribunal, has been drafted in by Advocate Desmond Cheyne QC to represent him against claims reported in the media of money owed to two builders on work carried out on Mr Cheyne’s French holiday home.
The Sunday Mail newspaper recently reported that “A plumber and joiner are chasing a leading lawyer for £22,000 for work they did on his French holiday home. George Thomson and Scott Johnstone spent 12 days renovating the farmhouse of advocate Desmond Cheyne.”
In pursuit of money owed to the pair of builders, complaints were filed at the Faculty of Advocates regarding Mr Cheyne although the Faculty dismissed the complaints, as it normally does against its members when a complaint is made.
A letter was subsequently sent from Sheriff Reid’s law firm, Flemming & Reid, of Glasgow, threatening an interdict and action for “non-harassment” if the builders continued to ask for monies claimed to be due to them.
It appears after the two builders pressed their point they should be paid for their work, a letter was sent from Sheriff Paul Reid’s law firm, Flemming & Reid, of Glasgow, threatening an interdict and action for “non-harassment” if the builders continued to ask for monies claimed to be due to them.
The two builders were then contacted by a Police Officer from Gorbals Police station in Glasgow, who had evidently been provided with copies of exchanges of letters between Mr Cheyne, the Faculty & the builders. The Police Constable, apparently a probationer then went onto threaten the builders with arrest if they contacted Mr Cheyne again, claiming they would be charged with extortion.
In communications seen by the media, Carole Fergusson Walker, a solicitor for the Faculty of Advocates was told by the builders : "Mr Cheyne decided to involve a Solicitor who sent us a letter using words like Harassment, Extortion and will start proceedings if we persist with our "vendetta". He also instructed a third party to contacted Strathclyde Police regarding the content of an email. (letters & email attached) PC [name redacted] contacted us on Sunday 17/4/11 and repeated these words to us. We decided to visit Gorbals Police Station on Tuesday 19/4/11 and speak to PC [name redacted]. Due to him being off duty we spoke to Sergeant [name redacted] for over an hour. He was alarmed his PC had used these words and would deal with the matter. We also discussed the police's involvement, he said it was a civil matter, and there has to "criminal intent in order for a crime to be committed" he did not see any intent. If you read Mr Cheyne's letters over the last couple of years, you will see he has changed his story again, named Victor McGinley as his "main contractor" but more importantly admits he never gave Mr McGinley any monies for us."
A legal insider said it sounded like the Police officer had overstepped the mark as it was clearly a civil case, and should face an investigation over his comments and or links to persons in this case. He said : “The Police did not exist as a service to scare off creditors.”
The two builders are currently considering whether to pursue the matter in court. The report from the Sunday Mail and a copy of Mr Cheyne’s letter to the builders, follows below :
Apr 3 2011 Russell Findlay, Sunday Mail
A PLUMBER and joiner are chasing a leading lawyer for £22,000 for work they did on his French holiday home. George Thomson and Scott Johnstone spent 12 days renovating the farmhouse of advocate Desmond Cheyne.
They drove the 2300-mile round trip from Scotland to Agen and toiled for 10-hour days in the summer heat on the luxury home, which has its own swimming pool. But when they asked for payment, Cheyne referred them to painter Vic McGinlay who he said was the "main contractor". Now two years on, George and Scott, from Torrance, near Glasgow, have still not been paid for their work.
Before taking the job, George met the lawyer at his home in Pollokshields, Glasgow, to discuss the work. And despite later telling them to seek payment from McGinlay, Cheyne paid the pair over £10,000 directly for materials.
George, 53, said: "If McGinlay was the main contractor, why did he need me present at the meetings with Cheyne? Also, why did Cheyne pay money for materials into my account and Scott's account and not via McGinlay? We were led to believe we were working for Cheyne as self-employed businesses and therefore should have been paid direct by him."
The pair returned to Scotland towards the end of the job to attend George's brother's wedding. While away, they were told by McGinlay not to return and were later accused of walking off the job and threatening Cheyne.
Scott, 47, said: "I resent his accusation that he was threatened. I believe George did swear at him but, in his defence, being spoken to in an arrogant manner by Cheyne would make a saint swear."
George and Scott complained about Cheyne to the Faculty of Advocates but their case was kicked out after they ruled it was a personal matter.They have also enlisted the help of their MSP David Whitton. He said: "I contacted the Faculty of Advocates and I have to say I was very disappointed at their attitude.
"Mr Cheyne is a professional man and he knows the work has been done by my constituents and he knows they haven't been paid for that work. Unfortunately he has made no effort to try to resolve this situation and I would hope he would attempt to do so."
When contacted by the Sunday Mail, Cheyne said: "Were these two wearing cowboy hats when they spoke to you?"
He earlier told the faculty: "They were employed by the contractor. His account was paid in full. "I believe I have dealt with the complainers in as helpful a manner as possible. But they have sworn at me and threatened me."
Vic McGinlay, from Townhead, Glasgow, was unavailable for comment.