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Last Updated: Wednesday, 10 October 2007, 15:39 GMT 16:39 UK
False claim solicitor disciplined
Hamilton Sheriff Court
Many of Mr Kirk's cases were heard at Hamilton Sheriff Court
A solicitor has been found guilty of professional misconduct for making fake and inflated legal aid claims.

Paul Kirk, 48, from Uddingston, South Lanarkshire, made thousands of pounds by double-charging and claiming false expenses.

The Scottish Solicitors' Discipline Tribunal, who looked at the case, fined Kirk the maximum of 10,000.

However, because he was no longer registered as a praticising solicitor it could take no further action.

The disciplinary tribunal said it lacked the power to properly discipline the lawyer.

It wants legislation which would create tougher penalties for rogue solicitors.

Mr Kirk, a solicitor since 1981, became one of the five highest earners in a league of one-man firms in Scotland after setting up in business on his own in 2002.

The Tribunal wishes to place on record its concern that it lacks the power to impose a penalty which it would regard as appropriate
Written ruling
SSDT

He worked mainly in Hamilton and Glasgow Sheriff Courts.

In 2003 he was paid 311, 000 by the Scottish Legal Aid Board (SLAB).

An investigation into his accounts by the SLAB suggested that a 10th of what the lawyer was claiming was fraudulent.

Lawyers doing criminal work for clients eligible for legal aid are paid a fixed fee for minor cases at sheriff court level.

When handling more serious charges they can claim for travel expenses and waiting around in court, as well as billing for preparation time and consultations with clients.

SLAB officials were curious that Mr Kirk seemed to be doing a lot of "time and line" cases and "few fixed fee" cases.

An investigation concluded there had been "a massive amount of overcharging."

Mr Kirk was censured by the disciplinary tribunal but because he had already taken his name off the Law Society of Scotland's list of praticising solicitors it could take no further action.

A written judgement in Mr Kirk's case said: "The tribunal again wishes to place on record its concern that it lacks the power to impose on the respondent (Kirk) a penalty which it would regard as appropriate in the circumstances of the case."

The tribunal has called for legislation which would give it the power to prevent rogue solicitors ever applying to be re-admitted to the profession.

A spokesman for the Scottish Legal Aid Board said Mr Kirk was barred from doing criminal legal aid cases in 2005 when the fraud initially came to light.

The solicitor has since paid back the money he falsely obtained.

SEE ALSO
Legal aid bill increases to 150m
01 Oct 07 |  Glasgow, Lanarkshire and West

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