Last Tuesday, 23 May 2006, the victims of the legal profession in Scotland finally got to have their say at the Scottish Parliament`s Justice 2 Committee … but only in answering carefully crafted questions from Committee Members .. rather than actually being able to report the full horror of their dealings & experiences with the Scottish Legal Profession and the likes of the Law Society of Scotland …
See the following links for Injustice Scotland`s coverage of that meeting and the actual report from the Scottish Parliament itself, and go down about 3 quarters of the way in the report to read the actual testimony from some of the victims of the legal profession.
Summary minutes of meeting & attendence : http://www.scottish.parliament.uk/business/committees/justice2/mop-06/j2mop06-0523.htm
Minutes of the meeting & Official Report : http://www.scottish.parliament.uk/business/committees/justice2/or-06/j206-1501.htm
One of the best things I heard from the hearing was …. if a lawyer was being tried for murder, would it be acceptable that 4 members of the jury were lawyers ?
Well, would it ? of course, NOT …
So, why have we had to put up for decades with the Law Society of Scotland stuffing Complaints Committees with near majority lawyer membership, on the pretext that lay members might not be able to understand the intricacies of law and issues arising from client complaints ? .. and why, again, with the propsals contained in the “Legal Profession & Legal Aid (Scotland Bill” are we still faced with proposals to have a lawyer membership of Committes which are to consider client complaints ?
Lawyers should be completely removed from the regulatory process altogether, as many people, including myself, have said over the years … and the Law Society of Scotland – as crooked and corrupt as it is, should be left in the role only as some form of `trade union` – left to try and teach their members not to be crooks – if that is possible ….
For one thing – does everyone think that when the new Scottish Legal Complaints Commission comes along, there will no longer be crooked lawyers ? … no chance of that, I`m afraid … just in the same vein that just because there is a Police force, criminals don`t stop committing crimes.
if anything, lawyers will just become more imaginative in the way they rip off their clients …and of course their professional bodies such as the Law Society of Scotland, the Faculty of Advocates, Law Care, the Legal Defence Union, and the rest of the pack .. will come up with more rules, dodges, political arm twisting and other dirty tricks to get crooked lawyers off the hook ..
Mike Lloyd at the J2 hearing said that there should be no limit to the financial penalties which could be imposed on a crooked lawyer for what they did to a client – and this is something the Justice 2 Committee should look into carefully, with a recommendation that the currently proposed maximum financial penalty of ￡20,000 be replaced with a no limit maximum.
Mike Lloyd pointed out that the new SLCC would probably never award up to the maximum proposed figure anyway, which is quite true in comparison if you look at other regulatory bodies and court awards in the UK in comparable cases of client complaints … and since lawyers have been known in Scotland to ruin clients of hundreds of thousands of pounds … what use would a maximum fine of ￡20,000 be ? .. not much deterrent there if the crooked lawyer embezzles ￡800,000. from a client, knowing that they will only be fined a maximum of ￡20,000.
Another good issue which came up before the Justice 2 Committee, was the idea that the insurance scheme for lawyers – the Master Insurance Policy for Professional Negligence, should be replaced, or supplemented at least, by an equivalent insurance for the Client, so that any legal work the lawyer did for the Client, was insured.
This has to be one of the best ideas which have come out of the short public evidence hearings which the J2 Committee have allowed … just think of it .. if the lawyer is insured for professional negligence, and the client is insured for the quality and service of the work the lawyer has done – then if any claim arises from the client against the lawyer – the two insurance firms fight it out between each other for the compensation award.
This would certainly be much better than the current arrangement where a client has to get a lawyer to sue a lawyer .. which is impossible as we all know .. and also of course, there must be independent scrutiny of this process too … so that the insurance companies and the lawyers don`t try and cut deals .. which is also currently the case in the crooked world of the Master Insurance Policy, operated by Marsh UK, and Royal & Sun Alliance PLC Insurers.
The actual exchange at the Justice 2 Committee between Maureen MacMillan and Stewart MacKenzie :
Maureen Macmillan: … Would it help if the commission were to be given a power of oversight in relation to the problems that exist?
Stewart Mackenzie: Absolutely. There is no question about that. That was first identified by the ombudsman just over a year ago. She was of the view that an oversight role on the master policy is crucial. Much about the master policy has been hidden. For example, it has become known only recently that less than 1 per cent of claims actually get to court and that the policy paid out ￡10 million last year. That is what the Law Society has told the committee. It is my view that the policy has wrecked clients’ lives over the past 15 to 20 years.
Maureen Macmillan: Is that because of the delays?
Stewart Mackenzie: No. A Scottish solicitor wrote in The Herald in 1997 that the Law Society had set up a policy that protected solicitors at the expense of their clients. He then wrote in a subsequent article that he had been threatened with disciplinary action for speaking out and saying that. The policy protects the profession?it is abysmal consumer protection. Oversight would change a lot of that.
Maureen Macmillan: Thank you. That is helpful…
The hearing was quite good in that many issues were brought out by the members of the public who attended, but the length of the session and the way it was structured was very poor in comparison to the rights of audience given to the legal profession and it`s many allies over the course of the hearings so far … for instance … while the Law Society and it`s allies are allowed virtual right of way in terms of what they say and state – much of it having no basis in reality at all – members of the public weren`t allowed to read out any statements on their own cases and experiences – only to answer questions put to them by Committee members, and somehow, be able to get some points in on how they had been treated by the legal profession over the years … not good enough, members of the Justice 2 Committee.
Additionally, as we see today in the latest hearing at the J2 Committee, 30 May 2006, the legal profession have been allowed to put in a barrage of `supplementary submissions` … which are certainly anything but `supplementary` … ranging from quotes of legal profession sponsored experts with vested interests condemning the new legislation and the Scottish Executive, to critisisms of issues already raised and how the Bill is progressing … an almost interference one might say, in the Parliamentary Process …
You can read some of these `supplementary submissions`from the latest J2 Committee meeting here : http://www.scottish.parliament.uk/business/committees/justice2/papers-06/j2p06-16.pdf
So, will ordinary members of the public also be allowed to make `supplementary submissions` just as the legal profession have been allowed ? … well, I have asked the Justice 2 Committee that very question today .. and you can bet I will be making my own `supplementary submission` when the time comes …