Crooked lawyer struck off after conning aunt out of £269,000

Dundee Sheriff Court
Dundee Sheriff Court

A lawyer who was jailed after swindling money from his aunt has been struck off after a disciplinary body found that if he continued in practice it was likely he would be "a danger to the public".

William Walls was sentenced to eight months imprisonment earlier this month after embezzling more than £269,000 when he was given power of attorney over the bank accounts of an elderly aunt, May Brown.

Sheriff Alastair Brown told him at Dundee Sheriff Court that he recognised his conviction would be "catastrophic" but he could not avoid imposing a custodial sentence.

Walls (62) of Muir Gardens, St Andrews, had also been the subject of a complaint to the Scottish Solicitors' Discipline Tribunal which has found him guilty of professional misconduct.

It ruled that he had charged grossly excessive fees, taken fees without rendering fee notes or obtaining authority from clients and misappropriated funds held for clients to his own use among other breaches of conduct.

It said: "The tribunal considered that the professional misconduct in this case was very serious. His dishonest conduct involving a significant number of transactions was likely to damage the reputation of the legal profession."

"If the respondent continued to practice, it was likely that he would be a danger to the public," it said in its findings.

The tribunal said it was a fundamental principle that the client account was "sacrosanct" and decided that the only appropriate sanction was to order that Walls name be struck of the Roll of Solicitors in Scotland.

It said: "As a result of the misappropriation of funds and falsification of records, the respondent's records did not accurately show all dealings with clients' money and failed to show the true financial position of the firm."

"Moreover, as a result of the misappropriation of funds the respondent's client account was continually in deficit at least from April 30 2012 until the cessation of the respondent's practice," said the tribunal.

Walls was previously a partner at the Cupar law firm McQuittys and was previously suspended from practice. He was latterly working as a golf tourism driver.

The tribunal found that Walls had overcharged for fees while acting in the administration of dead people's estates and in trust.

The trust had been set to look after the needs of a man's son during his lifetime. Between June 2009 and October 2012 Walls took fees totaling £13,428.

But an auditor established that the fee properly due for the work he carried out was £2910 for the period between June 2008 and November 2012.

Solicitor advocate Simon Collins told the tribunal that Walls had inherited a firm which was struggling, but did not appreciate the extent of the financial difficulties.

He said the conduct had represented his efforts to prevent the firm going down. He said that the monies referred to in the complaint had been repaid through a trustee in bankruptcy.