[Pounds Sterling]300,000 Legal Aid Lawyer's Court Ban

Article excerpt

Byline: JIM MCBETH

A LAWYER who earned [pounds sterling]323,600 from legal aid in only two years has been banned from claiming any more money.

The Scottish Legal Aid Board confirmed it has removed the Lanarkshire firm of Paul McGowan from its list of solicitors registered to provide criminal legal assistance.

The removal, due to poor bookkeeping, follows an investigation by the board, carried out after a routine compliance audit.

Mr McGowan, sole partner in the Hamilton-based practice, cannot now provide criminal legal aid or criminal advice and assistance.

According to the board, the solicitor received criminal legal aid payments of [pounds sterling]159,200 in 2005-06 and [pounds sterling]164,400 the previous year.

A spokesman said: 'In our code there are various rules solicitors have to keep, some of them relating to accounting and record keeping. To simplify it, it was down to the quality of record keeping for the sums earned from legal aid.' In all cases, the board reserves the right to submit reports to the Crown Office, but it is understood this will not happen with regard to Mr McGowan.

This is only the fourth time the board has used its powers to stop a firm and solicitor from doing criminal legal assistance work since the Code of Practice for Criminal Legal Assistance came into effect in October 1998. …