Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Ex lawyers who were targeted by Law Society dirty tricks squad come back to haunt the legal profession once more

Gordon & Maria Thomson, the famous solicitors who were ruthlessly targeted by the Law Society of Scotland for removal over claims from more preferred legal firms they took too much legal aid business, are again back in the news with the launch of Maria Thomson's book, titled "Dark Angels"

While some within the legal profession enjoyed considerable financial benefits from the Law Society's ruthless pursuit of Gordon & Maria Thomson's legal firm, there are a few who saw the whole episode as a warning to anyone who would dissent from the line of Drumsheugh Gardens and the big legal firms with partners on Law Society Committees who dictate the course the Scottish legal profession must follow without question ...

The scandal of the Law Society's prosecution of Gordon & Maria Thomson before the Scottish Solicitors Discipline Tribunal saw the SSDT willingly accept any 'evidence', fabricated & otherwise, thrown at it with orders to strike off the legal duo, so that legal firms who had made complaints about their firm taking too much of the legal aid client share, would then be handed the Thomson's business on a plate.

Law Society of Scotland Chief Executive Douglas Mill, famous for his outbursts within the Scottish Parliament Committee rooms, interviews in newspapers speaking of suicide, and issuing the occasional legal threat against legislation, also featured heavily in the Thomson's case .. something of perhaps a vindictive pursuit perhaps ? my my .. and people wonder why the Law Society of Scotland has descended into such a corrupt institution ...

Still, Maria's book makes for interesting reading - an excerpt from the Press Release follows :

In 1976, a thirteen-year-old girl is held hostage in a wealthy Edinburgh townhouse while she gives birth. Handcuffed to a bed, the girl is rewarded with a lethal injection from the midwife and the baby abducted.

28 years later, when top-ranking lawyer Lord Arbuthnot is murdered outside an infamous gay haunt, his alleged killer is named as notorious dominatrix Kailash Coutts. Within minutes of her arrest, she demands the services of Brodie McLennan, rising star of the Scottish bar, who is bewildered by this request, due to the animosity between herself and Kailash from an earlier clash in court.

As the case progresses, Brodie cannot understand why her court appearances are watched over by Moses Tierney, enigmatic leader of the infamous Dark Angels.

She is dismissive when she is warned by journalist Jack Deans that darker forces than Kailash are involved in Arbuthnot's murder. However, when Brodie is attacked, and receives a chilling photograph dredging up memories of murders past, she realises that there is much, much more going on than she has even begun to realise.

She needs real protection, so turns for help to Glasgow Joe, a dear friend with a murky past. It seems a serial killer is on the loose and Brodie is next on the list…

For further information or to interview either Maria Thomson or Linda Watson-Brown, contact Katrina Power at Midas Public Relations on 020 7590 0802 or katrina.power@midaspr.co.uk and for more information go to http://www.gracemonroe.net

So, not too far from reality then as many an anonymous lawyer could tell you, particularly given the likes of who among the legal fraternity, especially some of the married types, haunt those particular haunts referred to in the book...

Here's the scoop from the Sun newspaper, followed by the venerable Scotsman's report, written no less by the same reporter who wrote Douglas Mill's embarrassing, almost sectionable as some would say, 'suicide rant' last year ...

Revenge is sweet - Maria Thomson's "Dark Angels" - The Sun

Revenge is Sweet - Gordon & Maria Thomson - The Sun November 23 2007

The Scotsman reports :

Will the pen prove mightier than the brief?


SHE was never one for doing things by the book, so perhaps it is not surprising to see Maria Thomson taking an opportunity to thumb her nose at the legal profession.

While a bookshop browser might not immediately realise that Thomson is one of the writers behind the nom de plume Grace Monroe, her dedication inside offers a big clue to a chequered past: "Thanks also go to the Law Society of Scotland, without which this book wouldn't have been possible."

This would be the same Law Society of Scotland that ensured that Thomson and her motorcyle-riding husband, Gordon – remember those adverts? – would never work as solicitors again.

Lawyers of more than ten or so years' standing will recall that the Thomsons made Scottish legal history after being struck off not once, but twice by the Scottish Solicitors Discipline Tribunal following complaints about their Edinburgh-based firm.

They were first struck off in 1995, but a protracted and increasingly bitter dispute ensued as they sought to clear their names of allegations of dishonesty after the then president of the Law Society suggested they deserved to be jailed. At one point, Maria Thomson went on hunger strike outside the society's Drumsheugh Gardens HQ.

An appeal to the Court of Session finally led to the Law Society publicly acknowledging in 2001 that the Thomsons had not been guilty of dishonesty. A settlement was reached, wiping out £190,000 in costs, but it did not restore their practising certificates.

In the 12 years since her legal career crumbled away to nothing, Thomson has worked variously as a hypnotherapist, a stage hypnotist, badminton coach and fertility counsellor "among other things." She can now add writer to the list, with the publication of her first novel, Dark Angels, a fast-paced crime novel set in Edinburgh and peppered with murdered lawyers.

So why not be content to write under the nom de plume with her co-writer, her friend Linda Watson-Brown, and keep her head under the parapet? Thomson shrugs and smiles and says there is no point in trying to escape her past: "It's about dealing with it and laughing about it. If I didn't speak about it, it would have had power. The most powerful thing for me was when I went on hunger strike, because up to that point, I treated them with complete disrespect. I didn't realise how powerful they were, naïvely.

"Afterwards, when I lost everything it was like the rug had been pulled out from under me. I couldn't drive past Drumsheugh Gardens without actually wanting to vomit."

As far as Thomson is concerned, she and her husband won their battle when they reached the out-of-court settlement with the Law Society. Her take is that they apologised, though the society might take issue with that, as their 2001 statement about the settlement certainly did not include the word "sorry".

"Yes, they did apologise," she insists. "That was a huge thing for them. It all gets really technical, but we took them to the nobile officium. They opposed it although they knew that what they had said was wrong. Lord Rodger said they had to give publicity to the fact that there was no dishonesty involved in our case. They wouldn't do that, so I felt I had no other option. That's when I did the hunger strike."

But questions of dishonesty aside, two sittings of the tribunal found enough evidence to strike the pair off. Surely Thomson cannot argue that they were innocent victims of a conspiracy to oust them? "What I accept of the tribunal is that there were administrative errors, which is what we pled to," she says.

Thomson adds that their faces didn't fit; the TV ads, their leafleting outside courts, their informal style with law cafés, and their lack of shame about trying to run their practice as a business all ruffled feathers, she says. "It was just that we grew so quickly and because we had annoyed the legal profession so much," she says. "It is like a cake, it doesn't get any bigger, so if someone else is taking a bigger share of the cake, that means you are bringing home less to your family.

"That was very threatening to them. They came from a time when they had a client for life. What they were faced with was just an entirely different way. We believed that people had freedom of choice."

She adds: "I would never accept that we were not good lawyers. Gordon, in particular, was fantastic. The reason I can't accept it is your fundamental training as a lawyer is to be dispassionate about it. At the time I just couldn't understand it. Then I came to see their side of it, which was that they were threatened economically. It wasn't a way that they wanted to go."

Thomson claims it was suggested they could resolve the issues if they agreed to merge with a bigger firm. But they decided to fight their case, believing that if they admitted having made "administrative mistakes", the slate would be wiped clean. "I thought that meant we would get to start again, but in practice it meant they would strike us off."

Listening to Thomson talking about what must be one of the worst experiences any solicitor can face, she is so upbeat that it often sounds like she is talking about events that happened to someone else. Surely this was her darkest hour?

"The day they said they were going to strike off us off, it was a big blow," she concedes, suddenly turning serious, before adding, with a smile: "One of the things I am most proud of is the photo of me and Gordon as we walked out because it actually looks as if we've just got married and not just had the most devastating blow. What I said was, 'We've just been drummed out the Brownies'. I make no bones about it, I'm into positive thinking and you have to minimise any disaster that happens to you."

After their case hit the headlines, the Thomsons met other solicitors who had fallen foul of the complaints process. Some had their lives ruined, she says, but insists: "I would never allow that to happen to me."

So don't the couple miss their careers and the trappings of a lucrative income, including their big house in leafy Bonaly, the two cars and the Harley Davidsons?

"We do not have anywhere near the disposable income that we had," admits Thomson. "It was forced upon us, so we had to think, 'Isn't it great to have a simple life? It would be horrible to always be hankering after having lots of money.'"

Thomson recalls that one journalist who interviewed her ten years ago gave her a medal of St Jude, the patron saint of hopeless causes. Perhaps it worked because she certainly gives the appearance of having no regrets. "Our marriage went through the worst circumstances, yet we stayed together," she says. "Believe it or not, anyone who knows us would say that we are very happy."

• Dark Angels by Grace Monroe] is published by Avon priced £6.99

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