Thursday, November 10, 2016

Questions over stalled probe of Borders solicitor Andrew Penman accused of allegations of dishonesty, missing files & funds, investigation continues two years after suspension

Probe of Andrew Penman & ruined clients continues. QUESTIONS are being asked about why investigations into a well known Borders solicitor who was suspended over two years ago have not resulted in further action by the Law Society of Scotland and Scottish Legal Complaints Commission.

Andrew Paterson Penman -  a solicitor based at the now closed firm of Stormont Darling Solicitors in Kelso – remains suspended by the Law Society of Scotland in movember 2016, yet complaints in relation to his activities at the Kelso law firm are still being investigated over two years later.

Earlier reports by SLR revealed Andrew Penman was previously accused by Law Society investigators of faking up evidence in executry files, deceiving banks including the Royal Bank of Scotland and the Inland Revenue (now HMRC).

Penman’s suspension was published in the Gazette: Notice is hereby given that the practising certificate of ANDREW PATERSON PENMAN, solicitor, Stormonth Darling, Bank of Scotland Buildings, 8/9 The Square, Kelso, TD5 7HQ was suspended under Sections 39a and 40 of the Solicitors’ (Scotland) Act 1980 with effect from 2 October 2014.

The order publishing Penman’s suspension was signed by James Ness, Deputy Registrar.

Records also reveal Ness - a partner at Austins Solicitors, Dalbeattie, Dumfries & Galloway - represented Penman at secretive Law Society complaints hearings.

An investigation concluded Ness launched personal attacks on former clients to alter a decision already taken to prosecute Andrew Penman before the Scottish Solicitors Discipline Tribunal in the 1990s.

It was also reported last year Penman was ‘signed off sick’ to protect him from ongoing investigations and court litigation.

After a period of weeks leaving clients unable to contact Mr Penman or gain control of their legal affairs, the Law Society of Scotland closed down Stormonth Darling.

The law firm’s business was then taken over by another Kelso based law firm – Cullen Kilshaw.

It was then reported the Law Society of Scotland and the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission were investigating serious complaints made by clients against Mr Penman and his former law firm.

Legal insiders claimed there were allegations of significant amounts of money “gone missing”, allegations relating to fraud and the collection or payments of rents, and allegations relating to the misuse of trusts, wills and executries – with significant sums involved.

It has also been claimed the names of a number of other firms and businesses located in the Scottish Borders have cropped up during investigations into Penman’s conduct.

These include one firm of Borders accountants who appear to have been used to conceal client’s affairs, and two other law firms, one also based in Kelso – who both appear to have facilitated “transactions unauthorised by clients”.

Allegations have also emerged clients who complained about Penman’s conduct in the past experienced personal intimidation by parties - after they had lodged complaints about Penman with the Law Society of Scotland.

One former client of Stormonth Darling described how in a previous case, Mr Penman had falsified documents in a bid to thwart an earlier investigation into allegations of fraud and missing funds.

Of the current situation, the former branded the Law Society & SLCC as protective of solicitors, telling SLR: “The Police should be brought in to investigate Penman and his activities.”

Another former client told how the wording of wills had been suspiciously altered, and how property titles “had disappeared without trace”.

During 2014, Penman was linked to a case in the Court of Session - A398/14 Ladykirk Estates Ltd v Stormonth Darling WS :

Ladykirk Estates Limited, Academy House, Shedden Park Road, Kelso, (Ledingham Chalmers Llp) Roxburghshire AG V Stormonth Darling W.S. Solicitors, Drew Penman, Terry Mcnally and Craig Wood, Bank Of Scotland Buildings, The Square, Kelso, Roxburghshire

Court staff indicated the case was one of a significant financial claim against Penman and other solicitors based at Stormonth Darling in Kelso.

Andrew Paterson Penman was employed as a Director (SOLICITOR) at LADYKIRK ESTATES LIMITED from 01 June 2007 to 17 September 2012 , Company address: LADYKIRK ESTATES LIMITED ACADEMY HOUSE, SHEDDEN PARK ROAD, KELSO, ROXBURGHSHIRE, TD5 7AL

Andrew Paterson Penman was also employed as a Director (SOLICITOR) at S.P.C. BORDERS from 31 January 2006 to 30 November 2014 Company address: S.P.C. BORDERS 27 MARKET STREET, GALASHIELS, TD1 3AF

It has also been revealed Penman and his law firm are being investigated by the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission & Law Society of Scotland in connection with a number of complaints made by clients where substantial sums of money into hundreds of thousands of pounds along with queries regarding unpaid rent and disappeared funds are alleged.

Late last year, Solicitor Craig Wood - the only remaining solicitor at Stormonth Darling ‘took ill’ leading to the Law Society closing the firm down.

Wood – who was named in a writ against the law firm at the Court of Session - has since died from his illness.

It is not known whether Mr Wood gave any statements to clients or the Law Society regarding the problems at Stormonth Darling.

In an update to the report, as of 23 October 2015, SLR has been approached by several individuals from Kelso and around the Scottish Borders who have provided documentation on their dealings with Penman and Stormonth Darling.

In one case, a client alleges he received visits from officers from the former force of Lothian & Borders Police after he raised questions with the Law Society over significant sums of missing funds & assets under the control of Stormonth Darling.

Solicitors based at Stormonth Darling and an accountant caught up in accusations of hundreds of thousands of pounds gone missing from a will – appear to have used their influence with public services based in the rural Borders backwater to cause difficulties in the lives of clients whose funds and assets were being systematically stripped by the now defunct law firm.

The names of two former LibDem politicians, one from Holyrood, another from Westminster - have also been connected to the difficulties at Stormonth Darling.

In 2009, Scottish Law Reporter covered a story relating to Ladykirk Estates & Andrew ‘Drew’ Penman – after both lost a legal challenge in Scotland’s Land Court. LadyKirk Estates objected to the transfer of a farm tenancy from an elderly tenant to his younger nephew. Ladykirk had also claimed their ECHR rights had been in breach. Full report HERE


Penman – Originally from Hawick then moved to Kelso to work at Stormonth Darling Solicitors, has been subject to numerous complaints from local clients in the Scottish Borders over the years, One investigation carried out by the Law Society of Scotland issued reports finding Penman had deliberately rearranged evidence before investigating officers took possession of the files in an attempt to prevent the Law Society’s own reporter from investigating the circumstances of the losses. The Law Society investigating reporter found “there was also evidence of what appeared to be a bungled and unsuccessful attempt to put the file into order”

The Law Society investigator recommended a prosecution of Andrew Penman, saying : “In respect of the extraordinary delays and the repeated failures to respond to correspondence and the apparent, deliberate attempt to mislead the Royal Bank the reporter was of the view that the professional misconduct was such that it would warrant prosecution before the Scottish Solicitors Discipline Tribunal The reporter was or the view that there had clearly been an inadequate professional service but in the, event of a referral to the Scottish Solicitors Discipline Tribunal this would be incorporated into the complaint.”

Neither the Law Society of Scotland or Scottish Legal Complaints Commission could not be reached for comment.

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