In 2001 solicitor Thomas Byrne, now serving 12 years for theft and fraud, removed over €500,000 from a client’s account without the client’s permission.
The Director General of the Law Society Ken Murphy described this sum as ‘not a huge amount’ and proceeded to defend what Byrne had done (The Pat Kenny Show, 6th minute).
It wasn’t a huge amount, it was made good immediately, there was no client loss; it was down to poor book keeping by Byrne.
To my knowledge, no action was taken against Byrne.
In 2012 postmaster Derek Tierney removed €4,000 from a client’s account without the client’s permission (Irish Independent).
Tierney claimed he took the money to cover shortfalls in the daily cash flow. The full €4,000 was returned, there was no client loss.
The full force of the criminal justice system was brought to bear on Tierney for his crime. He was quickly brought to court, sentenced to four months jail, lost his job and is publicly disgraced.
The judge in the case said Tierney had been in a position of trust and he had breached that trust.
In 2005 solicitor Byrne removed €1.7 million from a client’s account without the client’s permission.
The Director General of the Law Society, Ken Murphy, made the following excuses for Byrne’s actions.
His bookkeeper had died, his records were in a mess, the loss was made up immediately, there was no loss to the client.
On this occasion the Law Society decided to act, presumably because Byrne had moved on from removing ‘small’ half-million sums from his client’s accounts to somewhat larger amounts.
Byrne was not dragged through the public courts as postmaster Derek Tierney was.
Instead he was brought before the Solicitor’s Disciplinary Authority. This ‘court’ is, effectively, a private ‘justice system’ for solicitors and is, effectively, conducted behind closed doors.
Byrne was fined a paltry €15,000 for illegally removing the €1.7 million from a client’s account.
Remember, postmaster Tierney got four months jail and lost his job for illegally removing a mere €4,000.
The Director General of the Law Society, Ken Murphy was asked did he expect Byrne to be struck off for his actions.
There would need to be evidence of dishonesty and theft really before somebody would be likely to be struck off, to lose their livelihood.
Independent of the Disciplinary Authority, the Law Society appointed a forensic accountant to keep an eye on Byrne.
This accountant was required to report to the Law Society on Byrne’s activities every two months.
Apparently, under the ‘watchful’ eye of this forensic accountant Byrne went on to rob and defraud his clients of €54 million.
The Director General of the Law Society is a past master in waffle and the art of doublespeak but neither he nor his fellow solicitors can deny the disgraceful reality:
The Irish Law Society is, to a large extent, a discredited entity and as such its members should not be trusted.
The Irish Law Society