Today, Friday, 30 June 2006, the Justice 2 Committee of the Scottish Parliament will release their report into their consideration of the “Legal Profession & Legal Aid (Scotland) Bill”, giving backing for this piece of legislation which will bring about an end to self-regulation of Scottish lawyers by the infamous Law Society of Scotland.
Since 1999, clients who have been maligned by corrupt and crooked Scottish lawyers, have tried to bring this issue to the attention of the Scottish Parliament, with now 3 Justice Committees considering this issue.
In 1999. the first Justice & Home Affairs Committee of the Scottish Parliament threw out the proposal to have the issue raised … and even placed an embargo on prominent campaigners such as Peter Cherbi from communicating with members of the Justice & Home Affairs Committee.
In 2001, Phil Gallie MSP worked to gain an inquiry on behalf of constituents such as Peter Cherbi, and along with strong efforts and support from the Scottish Consumer Council and protest groups such as Scotland Against Crooked Lawyers, succeeded in having the issue of self-regulation of the legal profession considered by the then Justice 1 Committee, Chaired by Christine Grahame MSP.
However, the Justice 1 Committee banned victims of the legal profession actually testifying before them, heavily censored their written submissions of their experiences at the hands of crooked lawyers and an even more crooked Law Society of Scotland, and undermined the issue of victims problems at the hands of the Law Society so much, the legal profession was able to use the conduct of the then Justice 1 Committee as a support for it`s crooked form of self-regulation of the legal profession.
Now, finally, in 2006, the Justice 2 Committee, some seven years later after the issue was first raised at the Scottish Parliament, has realised the extent of the corruption within the Scottish legal profession and is finally supporting independent regulation of solicitors and advocates in Scotland – and about time too.
This inquiry has of course not been without it`s problems, but at least true victims of the legal profession have had a chance to address the Justice 2 Committee, giving a full and frank account of their experiences with crooked lawyers and how their complaints against them were handled to J2, which it seems, has made all the difference.
The Law Society of Scotland, has heaviy lobbied the J2 Committee for limitations to some of the proposals contained in the LPLA Bill .. particularly the extent of fines which could be imposed on lawyers who fleece their clients – current limit is ￡1000, proposed limit in the LPLA Bill is ￡20,000 – but of course, why should there actually be a limit at all ?
If a client has been fleeced of ￡4million, are they to get ￡20,000 compensation ? because we all know how torturous the claims system for negligence is with the crooked professional indemnity insurance scheme known as the Master Insurance Policy – operted by Marsh UK and Royal & Sun Alliance PLC, which currently requires all solicitors to subscribe to it to cover the legal profession – but which seems to pay out more in bonuses to crooked lawyers and even more crooked defence teams appointed to defend the crooked lawyers from clients who have been ripped off.
The Law Society of Scotland has also lobbied the J2 Committee on the point of conduct complaints versus those of service.
The Law Society dearly wishes to retain some role as self-regulator – and one of the hooks it wishes to retain over regulation of Scottish lawyers – is that of conduct complaints. However, everyone else except the legal profession has protested this point – as the differences between conduct and service complaints can often be very blurred – and no doubt, the Law Society would exploit this point in many cases – particularly those it sees as having the possibility to succeed against a member solicitor or legal firm, even going on to a large financial claim for compensation .. so the J2 Committee has asked the Scottish Executive to look again at this matter … but I hope this isn`t going to be used as a delaying tactic by the Executive …
I can just hear the Law Society now – `oh – please give us more time to study this … we`ve only had a few decades to rip off clients and fiddle client complaints against our members, we need to do another impact study or hire some other luminary from the legal profession to attest as to why we should retain regulation of conduct matters` …
Of course, they could just try the arm twisting game instead – threating legal challenges against this legislation on concocted ECHR grounds – using points of ECHR legisltation they don`t even treat the actual complainants with !
The Executive would be forced to use Scottish lawyers and QCs – members of the same legal profession to defend the LPAL legislation … and … maybe .. some of their legal team would purposely allow a defeat … after all – they are all members of Scotland`s legal profession at the end of the day .. and increased rights of the Client – the FEE paying client – is something the Scottish legal profession certainly DON`T want to see – EVER.
Of course, there remains the question of what happens to all those previous victims of crooked lawyers and the Law Society of Scotland, AFTER complaints become independently regulated by the proposed Scottish Legal Complaints Commission.
The cases of the past, like mine, like yours, like so many others, cannot be laid to rest as some “Honest mistake” of allowing Scotland`s legal profession to run ramrod over our rights for years .. so in my view, there certainly needs to be time given to reviews of the past cases which have imposed serious injustices on our lives – just because we have complained against crooked lawyers who ripped us off.
I urge all of you, the victims of the Scottish legal profession, never to give up campaigning on this issue, and never to give up exposing the affairs and records of crooked lawyers, until we all see a measure of justice – to which we are entitled after what we have endured.
Link to the Scottish Parliament website, where the report on the LPLA Bill will be announced later today, and a links to “The Herald” and “Scotsman” articles on this subject.
Written Evidence submissions on the LPLA Bill available at : http://www.scottish.parliament.uk/business/committees/justice2/inquiries/lpla/j2-lpla-evid.htm
My submission to the Justice 2 Committee at : http://www.scottish.parliament.uk/business/committees/justice2/inquiries/lpla/549_LB549_PeterCherbi.pdf
Herald article :
Backing for new legal watchdog
PAUL ROGERSON June 30 2006
A cross-party committee of MSPs will today voice its backing for legislation introducing an independent system for handling complaints about Scotland’s 10,000 lawyers.
In a report, Holyrood’s Justice 2 Committee will stress that it is vital for complaints about solicitors and advocates to be handled independently The proposed Scottish Legal Complaints Commission will comprise a majority of non-lawyers and end centuries of self-regulation by the Law Society of Scotland and the Faculty of Advocates.
Under the bill, Scots who receive poor service from their lawyers will be able to claim up to ￡20,000 in compensation, which is four times the present maximum.
Committee members’ endorsement is contained in its Stage 1 report on the executive’s Legal Profession and Legal Aid (Scotland) Bill. The bill’s proposals have attracted fierce opposition from the Law Society, which alleges that parts of the country could become “legal advice deserts” if solicitors are forced to fund a costly new regulator.
Justice 2 has taken this argument on board by expressing concern over plans for a complaints levy. Lawyers should only have to pay a levy when a complaint is upheld, the committee recommends.The commission will deal only with complaints about poor service.
Scotsman version :
MSPs back shake-up on legal complaints
PLANS to shake up the way complaints against lawyers are handled will pass a major parliamentary hurdle today when they are endorsed by a key Holyrood committee.
The justice 2 committee is to publish a report giving its backing to the Legal Profession and Legal Aid Bill. But MSPs on the committee are asking ministers to revisit a few provisions to make sure the reforms deliver the Scottish Executive’s aims.
Under the terms of the bill, law firms will have to pay up to ￡20,000 compensation to members of the public if they fail to look after their interests.
The bill will also change the way the profession polices itself. It will strip lawyers of the ability to investigate complaints themselves, handing that power to a new independent body.
MSPs on the justice 2 committee have endorsed this principle but are asking ministers to look again at the division between inadequate professional service and the conduct of an individual lawyer, because they believe it may be hard to divide complaints up in this way.
Ministers want to fund their proposals partly from a complaints levy, which would be payable whether or not the complaint was upheld.
However, MSPs are calling for the levy to be paid only by those found to have broken the rules.
David Davidson, the committee convener, said: “We welcome the reforms set out in the bill.”