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Frank Maguire 19/09/2011 Former President of the Society, Frank Maguire died on Saturday at the age of 55

Frank Maguire

I expect many of you will have heard that my partner and colleague, and former President of the Society, Frank Maguire died on Saturday at the age of 55. He had been suffering from cancer for over 18 months and had fought the illness as hard as any campaign he had been involved in during his professional life.

In 1993 he was one of the first solicitors to be awarded extended rights of audience in the Court of Session, following the bringing into force of the Law Reform (Miscellaneous Provisions)(Scotland) Act 1990. He believed strongly that solicitors could be every bit as capable as members of the Faculty of Advocates in representing clients before the superior courts but he recognised that advocacy was a skill which required total commitment and preparation. He was one of the first, therefore, to re-organise his practice to allow him to focus on delivering the advocacy part of the whole legal service which Thompsons strove to provide to its clients.

As President of the SSA he brought new energy and purpose to the Society. He was particularly concerned that solicitor advocates should strive for excellence. He did not want there to be any excuse for those, whether judges or other members of the Faculty of Advocates, who saw solicitor advocates as interlopers, to be able to point to incompetence or sloppiness as indicative that solicitor advocates were not worthy to stand alongside them. He persuaded the then Lord President, Lord Cullen, to appoint a liaison judge for solicitor advocates to try to ensure problems of conduct or etiquette were ironed out rather than becoming contentious. He was instrumental in the SSA running the first courses in Scotland for solicitor advocates under the auspices of NITA and in linking up with solicitors in Ireland and Northern Ireland to provide further training opportunities. Within Thompsons he championed the practice model which he had begun and many of the partners and others have followed and obtained extended rights.

He was also instrumental in achieving significant law reform especially in the area of damages on death. As his practice for those injured by asbestos developed from the 1980s he realised that people suffering from mesothelioma in particular were seriously disadvantaged by the law as it was laid down in the Damages (Scotland) Act 1976. Claims for solatium died with the pursuer leading to the realisation there was an interest to defenders in spinning out the handling of such claims until the pursuer’s death. Along with Clydeside Action on Asbestos he managed to achieve reform in the Damages (Scotland) Act 1993 which allowed executors to continue claims for solatium after the victim’s death. Since the Scottish Parliament has come into being further reforms have followed, which have assisted asbestos victims and their families, as well as others with claims for fatal injuries. The passage of the Damages (Scotland) Act 2011, though based on a Scottish Law Commission report, was in no small measure due to the assistance and encouragement he provided to Bill Butler MSP, who introduced the bill. Frank also used his rights of audience to argue successfully for improvements in the damages to be awarded to family members under section 1(4) of the 1976 Act, first in 1999 with the case of McManus’s Executrix and then again with the case of Murray’s Executrix, which reached the Inner House in 2004.

It was my good fortune 10 years ago to be invited to join his team to support him and to give him more opportunities to devote time to the various campaigns which he was pursuing on behalf of his clients. He has fought a long and tireless campaign on behalf of those injured by defective blood products, which finally resulted in the setting up of the Penrose Inquiry. He successfully applied pressure to the Westminster government to sort out the messes left by the collapses of Chester Street Insurance and T&N plc and continued to represent the interests of former employees of the latter. The Rights of Relatives (Mesothelioma)(Scotland) Act meant that relatives’ claims under section 1(4) of the 1976 Act could still be made even where the victim had settled his own damages claim in life. Even during treatment in the later stages of his illness he was following the debate in the Supreme Court on the insurers’ challenge to the Damages (Asbestos Related Conditions)(Scotland) Act and sending notes to senior counsel representing the individual respondents.

We must not forget Frank was a devoted husband and father, brother and son. I am sure you will join me in extending deepest sympathies to Fiona, Calum, Matthew, Luke and John as well as to the rest of his family.

Tom Marshall
Society of Solicitor Advocates

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