Cheating Justice

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With the help of some Law Lords

And the Scottish media silence was DEAFENING

 

"Only a crooked Scottish lawyer could overturn such a secure conviction, using such trivialities, with such spectacular success" – Webmaster

The Lawyer Who Robbed a 100-year-old Lady – was sentenced to 7 years – but still walked free

In 2000, Solicitor Andrew Drummond, was jailed for seven years for stealing thousands of pounds from a dying centenarian. Drummond, 39, was supposed to be looking after the trust fund which paid Violet Cuthbert's nursing home bills. But instead he used his law firm's access to her bank accounts to siphon off £48,000 for his own purposes. Even when the old lady was virtually on her death bed in a Newport-on-Tay nursing home, Drummond was still taking her cash. The money was part of a total of nearly £84,000 which Drummond took from clients of Drummond, Robbie and Gibson, the law firm he ran from offices in Meadow Place Buildings in Dundee between March 1993 and June 1995.

Drummond took clients' money

Referring to Drummond's attempts to dodge embezzlement charges by producing bogus letters and loan documents, the original trial judge said he would be "well entitled" to add to the sentence – but considered that to be unduly harsh. The earlier trial heard how Drummond used some of Mrs Cuthbert's trust money to pay off massive rent arrears on his then boyfriend's debt-ridden gift shop. Drummond also used the old lady's cash to complete a pay-off to a former partner who had retired from the law firm.

He was previously convicted of illegal sharedealing relating to his involvement with Dundee FC and was fined £1,500. He bought a 30% stake in the Dens Park club from a millionaire property developer in 1991. But Drummond used companies he controlled to try to disguise the size of his holding and avoid a legal responsibility to make a cash offer to other shareholders. The offence also resulted in an £8,000 fine by the Scottish Solicitors' Discipline Tribunal for professional misconduct, but he was allowed to continue working as a solicitor.

Drummond's Appeal

FOUR months after being sentenced at the High Court, Drummond appealed against both sentence and conviction. This was despite his defence counsel's previous admission in mitigation that Drummond had not taken the money to "finance a life-style high on the hog". The court heard that instead of buying a Ferrari, he used the proceeds of his crimes to pay debts and rent arrears on his boyfriend's flower shop!

The basis for his appeal centered on his short absence from the dock during a 'legal debate' at his trial. The three appeal judges, in their wisdom, decided that this short absence amounted to a "miscarriage of justice" – and overturned his conviction and sentence. This was despite an acceptance by the Appeal Court that his momentary absence did not necessarily prejudice his right to a fair trial:

"In the end, therefore, we come back to, and reiterate, the view that where, as here, there is a fundamental irregularity in procedure arising out of breach of a peremptory statutory provision, a miscarriage of justice can be said to have resulted even without the demonstration of actual or imputed prejudice…. this appeal must be allowed."

In essence the Law Lords were 'persuaded' that his short absence from the dock appeared to be in breach of Section 92 of the Criminal Procedure (Scotland) Act 1995 and that this breach – irrespective as to whether or not it caused "actual or imputed prejudice" – meant that the appeal must be allowed.

So Drummond walked free. Many will say that only a crooked Scottish lawyer could overturn such a secure conviction, using such trivialities, with such spectacular success. Any ordinary citizen in the Court of Criminal Appeal has to jump through so many hoops you wouldn't believe, and that's just to stand any chance of even partial success.

Andrew Page Drummond and the Three Law Lords

A perfect day to bury bad news…

The Law Lords' judgment was released on Christmas Eve 2002 – a date that ensured the minimum publicity, as all news organisations run on a skeletal staff during the Christmas period.

BentJudges.com is still looking at potential links between Andrew Page Drummond and any of the three law lords. Drummond was well-known in Dundee and Lord Marnoch is also closely connected to that city, with many connections to several lawyers and firms (see Sheriff Muirhead). Marnoch is also notorious for getting other lawyers 'off-the-hook' when they are caught stealing from trusting clients.

Media Silence

The Herald and Scotsman newspapers, which fill their pages week after week with the usual positive spin from their friends in the legal profession, didn't write very much, if anything at all, on this colossal public interest story. The Herald's Chief Legal Correspondent at the time was Bruce McKain, who now works as Spin Doctor for the Faculty of Advocates.

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