Civil case against RBS abandoned

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The Independent Online

A former QC was today forced to abandon his legal action against the Royal Bank of Scotland.

Ian Hamilton, 83, had accused the bank's bosses of concealing the state of their finances.

He wanted the case to be heard in the small claims court in Oban, Argyll and Bute.

But Sheriff Simon Pender today ruled that the case should be heard in the higher Sheriff Court because of the legal difficulty and factual complexity.

Mr Hamilton said this would be too expensive for him and he abandoned the action.

He said outside court he was "disappointed".

Mr Hamilton said he was also disappointed he would not be able to question former RBS boss Sir Fred Goodwin over his £650,000-a-year pension.

He said: "It does disclose a great gap in our law because people should be able to protect their property in court and call people like the Royal Bank of Scotland to account for their actions.

"Furthermore, and probably on a more personal level, I am disappointed that I am not being able to cross-examine Sir Frederick on, among other things, his £650,000 pension.

"I'm not entirely surprised because the procedure which I was attempting to adapt to complicated legislation was going to be very difficult but not impossible."

Mr Hamilton, who took part in a famous Christmas Day raid to seize the Stone of Destiny almost 60 years ago, had claimed the bank was insolvent when it sold him shares and had hoped to claw back his investment.

Mr Hamilton alleged RBS concealed the true state of its finances when he bought stock worth £1,282 in a rights issue last year on his wife's behalf.

He bought 640 shares for £2 a share. RBS shares are currently valued at just over 28p.

The bank recently came close to collapse and is now 68 per cent owned by the Government after being given £20bn worth of state support.

During a hearing last Wednesday, Mr Hamilton argued that the case should be heard in the small claims court where ordinary people can afford to take action.

RBS argued it would be more appropriate for a higher court to hear the case because it involved difficult questions of law and facts of exceptional complexity.

If Mr Hamilton had won the David and Goliath-style battle it may have paved the way for similar cases from other investors.

The former criminal lawyer said he had wanted the case to be heard in the small claims court - the lowest court - rather than in the ordinary court of the sheriff court, in the interests of democracy.

He said that the outlook for small investors remained bad.

"Scots law favours the rich against the poor.

"If I had succeeded it could have lit a trail because I could not have pursued the action by myself.

"It is still open to people to raise an ordinary action. Whether they think it's worth doing or not is another question because the law is very, very complex. I would have expected to win this case."

Asked by reporters what he would say to Sir Frederick, he said: "I'm not thinking of my £1,282, I'm thinking of all those wee people who have worked so faithfully for the Royal Bank of Scotland and have done so right down the years and been paid bonuses of worthless shares.

"I would not speak to Sir Frederick and I hope that is an example that's followed by everybody that meets him."