Lawyer should have come clean earlier

David Nightingale was criticised for staying silent about latest charge
David Nightingale was criticised for staying silent about latest charge

A disgraced lawyer has been criticised by a sheriff for not owning up to a fraud charge earlier.

David Nightingale (34), from Cumbernauld, could be jailed for stealing £8,000 from a client. He claimed the cash would help her avoid prosecution.

He stole the money in 2011 but it was only in 2015 that the crime came to light and only this year that he faced court.

However, in 2014 Nightingale appeared at Hamilton Sheriff Court on separate charges. He was ordered to do unpaid community work and pay compensation after he admitted pocketing £12,500 from clients and his boss at an Airdrie law firm.

In the latest case Morag McLintock, prosecuting, said Nightingale was working for a Hamilton company and handled the case of a woman who was being investigated by the Department of Work and Pensions for alleged benefit fraud.

Nightingale told the woman to have all DWP correspondence sent to him. A relative handed over £5000 in cash after the lawyer explained this would put an end to any prosecution. He then asked for another £3000 which he got.

However, the DWP wrote to the woman four years later, in 2015, to say she still owed them more than £11,000.

She contacted the legal firm who said there was record of £8000 ever being paid to them.

Sheriff Ray Small, who did not deal with the 2014 case, said the court was faced with a dilemma because Nightingale was effectively being treated as a first offender since this charge dated back to 2011.

Had the sheriff known about this one in 2014 the sentence then might well have been prison rather than unpaid community work.

Sheriff Small said: “The only person who knew about this case back in 2014 was the accused. I’m not suggesting he actively misled my colleague, but he sat there with his head down and allowed my colleague to deal with him as a first offender when he knew this earlier case would bubble to the surface sooner or later. He hadn’t been caught at that point.”

Sheriff Small also expressed concern that Nightingale has not been paying compensation to victims on a regular basis and faces a charge of embezzlement not related to legal work at Glasgow Sheriff Court later this year.

However, a defence agent said his financial situation has improved and pointed out he completed the community service in the earlier case.

Sheriff Small told Nightingale, who has been struck off the solicitors’ register, there are “unanswered questions” and continued the case until October 2 for more information on his finances.