A former MP was branded “amateurish” as she appeared in Perth to defend charges of professional misconduct.
The SNP’s Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh, who lost the Ochil & South Perthshire seat in 2017, faces accusations she broke strict solicitors’ rules while administering a trust fund while working at a now defunct legal firm before she was elected.
Ms Ahmed-Sheikh, who now works with Alex Salmond in his broadcasting company Slainte Media, appeared with her former legal partner Alan Mickel in front of the Scottish Solicitors’ Discipline Tribunal in Perth Concert Hall on Monday.
Ms Ahmed-Sheikh and Mr Mickel both became trustees of a fund set up to benefit Mr Mickel’s sister in 2012.
The Law Society of Scotland began an investigation after the balance in the fund plunged from more than £145,000 to only £159.
Grant Knight, representing the Law Society of Scotland, argued Mr Mickel broke the profession’s rules by borrowing from the fund to help his legal practice Hamilton Burns, which went bankrupt in 2017, owing at least £600,000.
Both were also accused of a conflict of interest created by the loans and Ms Ahmed-Sheikh was singled out for not putting the deals under greater scrutiny.
The pair admitted proper accounting practices were not followed, which was Ms Ahmed-Sheikh’s key area of responsibility as “cash flow partner”.
Mr Knight said there was “no suggestion of dishonesty or impropriety” but described the pair’s approach as “amateurish”.
“Both of these respondents should have known what these rules were. This is not a misfortune.
“This a disregard of the rules set down by the solicitors’ regulatory body as regarding how you manage clients’ funds. They have to take recognition of that.”
He said both had proceeded on the “erroneous but honestly held view” the trust fund was not a client of Hamilton Burns and therefore not subject to the rules governing solicitors’ behaviour.
Dorothy Bain QC, representing Ms Ahmed-Sheik, conceded her client had “failed to keep proper written records” of the fund’s transactions but that did not equate to professional misconduct.
“She understood it to be Mr Mickel’s money which he was using to assist the firm in the difficulties it was facing.
“There was a genuine misunderstanding as to the source of the funds.”
Ms Bain said Ms Ahmed-Sheik now accepted she should have inspected the accounts “with more vigour” but hadn’t done so as she had believed the trust was not a Hamilton Burns client and, in performing her role as trustee and cash flow partner, was simply helping a colleague and his family.
Neither Mr Mickel or Ms Ahmed-Sheik were accused of profiting personally from the transactions and Mr Mickel has now repaid the loans in full.
The hearing continues.