A woman who filed a complaint against one of Scotland’s top criminal defence advocates has welcomed a ruling which found him guilty of misconduct, but worries her attempts to “ensure vulnerable people are protected” have not been fully addressed.
Following a disciplinary tribunal in December, the Faculty of Advocates ruled that Brian McConnachie KC’s conduct represented a “serious and reprehensible” departure from the expected standard.
The complaint regarded a series of WhatsApp messages sent to the woman.
One, sent from the toilets at the High Court in Livingston on the day he had been working on a rape trial, was a sexually explicit photograph of himself.
Another said he might “sh*g Sandy Brindley [the chief executive of Rape Crisis Scotland] just to have something over her. But I would not enjoy it”.
The disciplinary panel said of that message: “We regard such conduct, involving the suggestion of a willingness to engage in something amounting to blackmail, as plainly serious and reprehensible.”
Another message saw Mr McConnachie make abusive statements about a client, suggesting that he was a liar.
The panel viewed that as a breach of the basic duty of confidentiality between an advocate and client.
Speaking to STV News following the ruling, the woman, whose anonymity must be maintained for legal reasons, said of the verdict: “It still doesn’t address the fact that the reason I made a complaint was to ensure vulnerable people dealing with lawyers and advocates are protected.”
The woman, who is a victim of rape, had contacted McConnachie through Twitter to ask a question about a case she was involved in.
She says he provided an answer however his messages then became more frequent.
She received thousands of messages over a short period of time before he provided his phone number and suggested moving onto WhatsApp.
She said: “Then the messages were just quite persistent. Looking back on it now I felt it was like grooming. And I think that’s the word I used when I first put the complaint in.”
At the time of the messages, the woman had never met McConnachie in person.
During the hearing, McConnachie’s lawyer said the case was about whether a consensual, personal, sexual relationship between two adults is something the faculty should be involved with.
However, the woman told STV News she rejects that characterisation of the case.
She said: “I say it was exploitation of a vulnerable adult for his own sexual gratification.”
The lawyer will now face a hearing at a later date where a decision will be made over what action should be taken against him.
He could be suspended from practising for up to five years.
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