TWO former miners from West Fife face a fight to recover thousands of pounds owed to them, after claiming their cases were seriously mishandled by their solicitor.

The men, both suffering from the painful industrial injury, vibration white finger (VWF), now have to take legal action against AWOL lawyer Paul McConville, who they can no longer contact, and the Law Society of Scotland is taking proceedings to establish if he is guilty of professional misconduct.

For several years, MP Willie Rennie has been looking into the case of two ex-miners Andy Hunter (46, pictured), of High Valleyfield, and William Forrest (65), of Dunfermline.

The men have missed out on large compensation payments they should have already received under a Government scheme for the sufferers of the painful VWF condition, caused by using hand-held power tools over long periods.

It causes numbness and discolouring of the fingers, makes gripping objects difficult and can cause painful throbbing, especially in the cold winter.

Having been let down originally by the health and safety regime in the mines, the men claim they have now been let down by the legal system and many others may be in the same predicament.

Mr Hunter, of Dunimarle Street, said, "My case has been going on since 2003 and I've never had a penny." The scheme's claim handlers, Capita Insurance Services, have confirmed that £12,600 was paid out to Mr Hunter's solicitors in April 2008 but he says he has still received nothing and claims he has had no communication from the Glasgow-based McConville O'Neill firm in years.

Mr Hunter, who worked in the mines for 17 years at Castlehill then Castlebridge, said, "I became suspicious after not hearing from the solicitors for two years.

"When you phone you don't get past the receptionist. That's when I got in touch with my MP." And he claimed, "It turns out that there was an offer made to the solicitors of £26,000 but I wasn't told about it.

"The paperwork would have taken no time to complete but because they didn't act in time that payment offer lapsed.

"Then there was an offer of £12,000 which was paid to the solicitors without me knowing anything and I've never seen any of it.

"I'm an angry man. It's unbelieveable the way this has been handled and I just wonder how many others are affected.

"This could be just the tip of the iceberg.

Mr Forrest, of West Baldridge Road, who worked in the mines for 38 years at Comrie, Longannet and Monktonhall, said, "This case has been going on for eight or nine years now.

"I was given an interim payment of £6000 and then I heard nothing more.

"Twice I even went through to Glasgow to see the solicitor and he was always as nice as ninepence but never told you anything.

"This whole thing has been a shambles.

"You're told you have to leave it to the solicitor and the insurance company to sort it out.

"In my case, the solicitors made a mess of it, missed the cutting off date and I'm having to carry the can.

"It was money that I thought I was entitled to but it hasn't happened.

"Now I've been advised to hire another solicitor to try to get the money back from McConvilles.

"It was only through the work of Willie Rennie that I even found out my case had been closed down because the cut-off date had been missed.

"Otherwise nobody would have told me." Mr Rennie said, "Andy and William have been badly let down by the legal system.

"They trusted their lawyer to do the right things but are still waiting several years later.

"It is an outrageous betrayal of two hard working miners and I will keep fighting on their behalf and would like to hear from any others who have been treated in a similar way." The Law Society of Scotland wrote to Mr Rennie following a hearing in September to inform him, "The council, acting through its committee, considers that the allegations may justify prosecution before the Scottish Solicitors' Discipline Tribunal.

"The society has appointed a solicitor, known as a Fiscal, to investigate and, if appropriate, prosecute the complaint." Paul McConville has not only been incommunicado to his unhappy clients and Mr Rennie but failed to respond to the Law Society correspondence on the matter.

The society decided that this "appeared to amount to a serious and reprehensible departure from the standard of conduct to be expected of a competent and reputable solicitor; that it appeared to be capable of being proved beyond reasonable doubt and could thus amount to professional misconduct".

Ciaran O'Neill and Paul McConville founded McConville O'Neill in 2001.

Their website boasts, "As experienced personal injury solicitors they combine approachability and friendliness. Their priority is to obtain financial compensation on behalf of their clients." However, the telephone number on the website is unobtainable.