The portentous Latin quoted Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? “who is watching the watchers?” jumps to mind in any consideration of the conduct of the Law Society of Ireland in its treatment of one-time member, solicitor Colm Murphy since it appears to show that the Law Society itself does not adhere to the standards that it imposes on its members.
Readers may remember serial articles that appeared in this magazine before (see Village February/March 2014, June/July 2014, October 2014, April 2015 and December 2015) detailing how Kenmare-based Murphy was struck off from the Roll of Solicitors in 2009 on the back of complaints from another solicitor, Fergus Appelbe. Murphy took a case against the Law Society which failed to investigate Appelbe until last year when he was finally restricted as to how he can practise. Appelbe is a former member of the Law Society Conveyancing Committee and was the subject of two ‘Today Tonight’ investigations in 1997/8 into his conduct. He and his various companies are now also in overwhelming debt – to a sum in excess of €100m much of which will inevitably have to be borne by the State.
The principal reason that Colm Murphy was struck off was for breaching an undertaking allegedly given to the High Court. The only evidence against him was that of a Solicitor of the Law Society, Linda Kirwan, who has subsequently admitted that she was not even in Court on the day in question. It was only after Murphy was struck off that she admitted, on af davit and in a letter to Murphy in 2010, that she was not in fact in the court when the supposed undertaking was made. No such undertaking is recorded in the order from the court issued on the day in question and the hapless Murphy had denied its existence for ten years, but Kirwan was believed.
Another contributing factor was that the Society relied on a forged document presented by Frank Fallon who subsequently got two seven year jail terms for fraud and forgery. Colm Murphy always believed that the Law Society realised that the document was forged some time after embarking on the proceedings against him and simply failed to inform the Courts of this. Documentation received under the Data Protection Act and seen by Village show that it was in fact much more sinister. On the day Joan O’Neill of the Law Society was maintaining in Court that Murphy had somehow cheated Fallon she sent the documents in relation to the land Fallon was wrongfully claiming to the rightful owner and thus she could not have believed the position she was maintaining before the Court.
O’Neill subsequently swore that she had got the documents for Frank Fallon, had given them to him, and that was the end of the matter. Of course the documents seen prove that she had not done this but rather had given the documents to the person who was entitled to them. This action taken by Joan O’Neill and the Law Society and their maintaining of the position in relation to the forged document presented by Fallon prompted scathing comments from the then President of the High Court about Colm Murphy based on the fact that Colm Murphy had, we now know rightfully, stated that the document was a forgery.
It seems that Colm Murphy sued the Society for defamation and abuse of power in 2004. Colm Murphy served the Summons on the Law Society and it seems that on receipt of the document Joan O’Neill wrote to John Elliot, Director of the Law Society’s Regulation Department, saying that “It is my view that Mr Murphy should not be a Solicitor. Linda Kirwan shares this”.
The Supreme Court has ordered that Colm Murphy is entitled to a full trial on all the matters. O’Neill’s explanation of what has happened was eagerly awaited but it seems that the Law Society is now maintaining that O’Neill is “not medically fit to participate in these proceedings”.
Colm Murphy had maintained since 2011 that the then High Court President had said he was entitled to a plenary hearing (full hearing of all matters). The Law Society went before Judge Hanna and denied that this was intended or indicated. It also maintained this position in it’s submission to the Supreme Court. A memo from the Law Society’s external solicitor shows that it was aware in June 2011 that “the President of the High Court made it clear that these matters should proceed to plenary hearing”. However, the Law Society has managed to frustrate this so far.
Whatever happened to its elusive one-time motto “veritas vincet” (“Truth shall prevail”)?
The Law Society seems to be trying to keep the real story here from even its own Council and has told its members not to contact Colm Murphy. You can see why.