Former SNP MP loses legal bid over misconduct fine

Tasmina Ahmed Sheikh was fined £3000 alongside fellow lawyer Alan Mickel.

Court: Former SNP MP Tasmina Ahmed Sheikh was fined for misconduct.
Court: Former SNP MP Tasmina Ahmed Sheikh was fined for misconduct.

Former SNP MP Tasmina Ahmed Sheikh has failed to convince a judge that she shouldn’t hand over an enhanced expenses payment to a legal watchdog.

Ms Ahmed Sheikh launched proceedings at the Court of Session after the Scottish Solicitors Discipline Tribunal ordered her to pay expenses in a professional misconduct case.

The ex-politician was fined £3000 alongside fellow lawyer Alan Mickel with whom she ran a law firm called Hamilton Burns, which is no longer in business.

The case brought before the tribunal centred on her handling of a trust fund.

The tribunal found her guilty of professional misconduct and ordered her to pay expenses on an agent and client basis.

This means that people have to pay a higher rate than normal expense claims.

It is awarded in circumstances in which a court believes there has been conduct capable of criticism and it wishes to shows its dissatisfaction.

Ms Ahmed Sheikh didn’t follow the normal appeals procedure.

She instead instructed lawyers to launch a judicial review at the Court of Session.

On Friday, in a written judgement, judge Lord Ericht ruled that Ms Ahmed Sheikh’s appeal must fail because she didn’t follow the established procedure.

He wrote: “The petitioner has failed to exhaust her statutory remedy and this judicial review is incompetent. That is sufficient to dispose of this judicial review.”

Ms Ahmed Sheikh was found guilty of professional misconduct after a two-day hearing before the tribunal in Perth in January.

The SSDT said Ms Ahmed Sheikh and Mr Mickel showed “disregard for the rules”.

But it also accepted that the pair’s actions had been “genuine and erroneous” and it was agreed there was no suggestion of dishonesty or personal benefit.

The tribunal concluded that the pair had failed to keep proper accounts of a trust that was set up in May 2012 on behalf of Mr Mickel’s sister, which he believed to be a “private, family matter” but in legal terms was considered a client of the firm.

They also borrowed sums of money from the trust when it was not in the practice of lending money.

The tribunal concluded that this action amounted to a conflict of interest and risked undermining public confidence in the legal profession.

Ms Ahmed Sheikh, who lost the Ochil and South Perthshire seat in the 2017 general election, now works on the Alex Salmond Show on Russian broadcaster RT.

The judgement issued on Friday tells of how Ms Ahmed Sheikh didn’t follow established procedures in appealing the expenses award.

Lord Ericht concluded that a judicial review would have only been available to Ms Ahmed Sheikh upon the exhaustion of established procedures.

He added: “Judicial review proceedings and appeal proceedings challenge a decision.

“The opportunity to make submissions before a decision is made is not a challenge to the decision itself.

“A decision can be challenged only after it is made.

“I shall sustain the first plea in law… and dismiss the petition as incompetent.”