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Law Society of Scotland threatens Court challenge against Scottish Executive over LPLA legal reform Bill

04 Oct

 A legal challenge seems to be on the cards against the Legal Profession & Legal Aid (Scotland) Bill, from Scotland’s client hating legal establishment, the Law Society of Scotland.

Desperate to keep regulation of complaints against crooked lawyers to themselves, the Law Society of Scotland has conducted an intense media campaign against the planned pro-consumer reforms of Scotland’s legal profession, using lawyers posing as journalists to write anti-LPLA articles, bringing out retired wealthy Judges to defend their crooked cause, and shamelessly lying in front of Parliamentary Committees as to how complaints & claims against lawyers have been managed over the years by the legal profession.

However, the tactics of the legal profession in their campaign against the LPLA Bill are about to change, according to an interview in the Herald newspaper, with Douglas Mill, Chief Executive of the Law Society of Scotland, who now threatens a Court challenge against the Executive & the Parliament over LPLA Bill.

Mill, the Law Society’s client hating Chief, believes the LPLA Bill is incompatible with ECHR … because of course, it takes away the right of the Law Society to control complaints against their members, but the many victims of crooked lawyers in Scotland must be asking themselves (as am I), how on earth it can be against ECHR to have an independent complaints system for lawyers.

Dougas Mill tells the Herald “The inability of civil servants to engage with the society, and their lack of trust in the society, has been stunning,” said Mill. He accuses them of “not understanding” how professional indemnity insurance and specifically the society’s “master policy” works. “Talking to them on these subjects is like having a dialogue with the deaf,” says Mill.

The Herald article quotes Mill further “The civil servants seem incapable of distinguishing between the master policy (which is negotiated annually on behalf of all solicitors with insurers by the insurance brokers Marsh) and the wholly separate guarantee fund,” he adds. “They want to look at claims (against the master policy) and how these are handled. But they cannot do that. If they do try to do this, I believe the insurers and the Financial Services Authority will tell the Scottish Parliament to take a hike.”

Funny thing is, that is just how it is when a claimant tries to speak to the Law Society of Scotland or the Master Policy Insurers over claims against the Professsional Indemnity Insurance of solicitors .. it really is just like having a dialogue with the deaf … because of course Douglas Mill, is deaf to any charges that his vast membership of lawyers could be anything other than honest.

Dealing with the Master Insurance Policy has been a nightmare for claimaints – with cases stretching over decades .. and many claims have never reached any measure of success …. I know this myself, when I faced a vast array of dirty despicable tricks from Douglas Mill himself, and the Director of Client Relations, Phillip Yelland, when I tried to make a claim for damages against well known crooked Borders solicitor Ansrew Penman of Stormonth Darling Solicitors, Kelso.

The dirty tricls from Douglas Mill extend to other cases though – he was famously caught out at the Justice 2 Committee hearings with memos he had sent to Alistair Sim, the Director of the Master Insurance Policy, where Mill was intent on collating information against Mr Stewart MacKenzie and was obviously orchestrating an attempt to delay their claims, on cases which have now run 20 years or so .. a far cry from the testimony of Mil himself before the Justice 2 Committee that he had never become involved in negligence claims against lawyers .. even stooping to swear on his dead granny’s life ! .. which I covered here :The Corrupt Link Revealed – How the Law Society of Scotland manages client complaints & settlements.
& here : Law Society of Scotland claims success in gagging the press over Herald newspaper revelations of secret case memos
& here : Scotsman responds to Peter Cherbi and the Herald with a living eulogy of Douglas Mill

The best comparison the Law Society could come up with, against an independent complaints sytem for lawyers, was to warn us that Scotland would be heading for dicatorship, Mugabe style, if lawyers were not able to regulte complaints against their colleagues. Mill continues his rant about Zimbabwe in his Herald interview … “There is no modern democracy where the executive controls the legal profession,” he warns. “That sort of thing is more likely to happen in a place such as Zimbabwe than in a modern democracy.”

Mill’s fixation with this rather ill advised line, was also supported by of the ‘guests’ to a recent conference at the Law Society was the ex-head of Zimbabwe’s Law Society .. testified as to his own experiences under Robert Mugabe, and that Scotland was heading into the same dictatorship if they forced solicitors to face an independent complaints system !

I think most people seem to regard Douglas Mill’s ‘Zimbabwe defence” line now as being slightly over the top .. even some of Mill’s stooges now balk at that arguement .. one of them who writes in the Scotsman privately calling him a “nutter” (how true) … but as I have said before, cynically using the suffering of a people under a dictator to try to justify keeping a well known corrupt complaints sytem in place so that lawyers can cover up for lawyers .. is, to say the least, an astounding departure from common sense, but, quite indicative of the desperate tactics employed by Mill & his bunch to thwart any chance of reform to their cosy business model which has seen tens of thousands of clients ripped off over the years by Scotland’s uncontrollable legal profession.

I emailed the Scottish Executive on whether they knew of a pending legal challenge to the LPLA Bill .. just for the record of course .. they said nothing had come in yet .. and the Justice 2 Committee are refusing any comment on the matter whatsoever, but, I have ‘volunteered’ my services as a witness to the Executive, should it be named as a defender in any action brought against the LPLA Bill by the legal profession .. and I encourage anyone else who has had problems with lawyers or submitted evidence to the J2 Committee LPLA Bill inquiry to also volunteer as witnesses to defend the planned legislation which we have fought for so long.

I wonder how Douglas Mill & his merry band of crooked lawyers & retired judges would fair against Peter Cherbi & the many other victims of the Scottish legal profession being paraded before the Court of Session to defend the LPLA Bill ?

How would the Law Society of Scotland be able to argue it is against their Human Rights not to be allowed to fiddle complaints against their fellow crooked lawyers .. when such a parade of victims of badly handled complaints could be brought to the Court by the Executive to testify as to just how crooked & corrupt the system of complaints handling at the Law Society of Scotland is, and not forgetting of course, how corrupt & prejudiced the claims handling process of the Master Insurance Policy is towards those who try to make claims against negligent and crooked lawyers.

I, for one, would like to see this all played out in a Court – and covered in the media – it would show just what we have been up against for so long – a dirty, corrupt, insideous system of self regulation operated by the Law Society of Scotland, which has been used to ruin the lives of clients & save the practising certificates of lawyers who would in many other walks of life, be condemned as criminals for their depraved, deceitful fraudulent & scandalous actions towards their clients.

Douglas Mill It is time clients of Scottish lawyers have their rights improved – the right not to be ripped off by their lawyer, the right not to have their funds embezzled, the right not to have their lvies ruined, the right not to have their homes taken away because of the crooked dealings of your solicitor membership – and, having an independent organisation to regulate the legal profession will go some way to keeping a closer eye on your colleagues who have been getting away with murder for years under your own fiddling administration of complaints.

Read on for the article, from the Herald, at : http://www.theherald.co.uk/business/73203.html

Holyrood in solicitors’ sights
IAN FRASER October 30 2006

Douglas Mill, secretary and chief executive of the Law Society of Scotland, has the politicians of Holyrood and the civil servants of Victoria Quay firmly in his sights.

However, his tactics are about to change. It appears that the rather gentlemanly opening skirmishes are over and warfare is about to break out.

The issue that has precipitated hostilities is the “independent” complaints body MSPs are currently piecing together.

Mill and many solicitors believe it will undermine the Scottish legal profession and make it more difficult for Scottish clients to access a solicitor at relatively low cost. The Scottish Executive begs to differ, of course.

Mill concedes that entrusting the handling of “service” complaints against Scottish lawyers to an independent, government-funded body does makes sense, even though he thinks the society’s record is more than acceptable in this regard.

At present, the society handles both service and conduct complaints about solicitors, a system of self-regulation which has attracted fierce criticism.

“That (conceding that service complaints should be independently handled) is a big concession for us, but we are utterly pragmatic about it,” says Mill, speaking in the library of the society’s Victorian headquarters in Drumsheugh Gardens.

“Unlike the advocates, most solicitors are entirely happy with the idea that their professional body should no longer be responsible for handling service complaints. If we no longer have responsibility for service complaints, our members might even start to love us again,” he jokes.

Mill’s concern is that the legislation, the Legal Profession and Legal Aid (Scotland) Bill, will give rise to a Frankenstein’s monster of a complaints-handling body.

Not only does he believe that the proposed Scottish Legal Complaints Commission will be slow, rule-based, bureaucratic and expensive – his biggest fear is that it will not be properly independent, as appointments to it and pay levels for commissioners will be set by Scottish ministers.

It is partly for this reason that the eminent Queen’s Counsel, Lord Lester of Herne Hill, recently said the body as proposed will be incompatible with the European Convention on Human Rights.

Mill says: “The proposed body will cost about four or five times more than the current system – and it is inevitable firms will pass those costs onto clients.”

Mill does have one nuclear option up his sleeve. He told The Herald that the society will probably take Scottish ministers to court after the bill is enacted, if it is enacted in its present form.

Mill is particularly worked up by what he claims is the lack of understanding of the machinations of the law displayed by bureaucrats and politicians.

“The inability of civil servants to engage with the society, and their lack of trust in the society, has been stunning,” said Mill. He accuses them of “not understanding” how professional indemnity insurance and specifically the society’s “master policy” works. “Talking to them on these subjects is like having a dialogue with the deaf,” says Mill.

“The civil servants seem incapable of distinguishing between the master policy (which is negotiated annually on behalf of all solicitors with insurers by the insurance brokers Marsh) and the wholly separate guarantee fund,” he adds. “They want to look at claims (against the master policy) and how these are handled. But they cannot do that. If they do try to do this, I believe the insurers and the Financial Services Authority will tell the Scottish Parliament to take a hike.”

He also believes the parliamentary time and the Justice 2 Committee time that has been allocated to piecing the bill together is inadequate, particularly in view of the number of amendments tabled. “It’s an absurdly short timescale,” said Mill. “They have four 90- minute sessions to deal with around 550 amendments.”

Mill further opines that the lack of a revising chamber at Holyrood, with powers to rein in the Executive, has made it possible for what he sees as a shoddy and ill-thought out piece of legislation that will undermine the independence of the legal profession to near the statute books.

The society also believes the Executive is being unrealistic in its proposed time frame for getting the new complaints-handling body up and running. “I don’t believe the new body will be ready to start handling service complaints before January 2009 at the earliest,” he says.

Another controversial subject which has divided the profession is that of alternative business structures (ABSs), proposed in the landmark Clementi report south of the border. One reform involves giving non-lawyers the ability to hold equity stakes in law firms, though only at present in England and Wales.

Mill cannot understand how such things would work in practice.

“I can see the business argument for ABSs. The problem is no-one has come up with any workable proposals as to how such things might be regulated. There is also the issue of why non-solicitor owners of law firms – for example fund managers, estate agents and tax planners – should be exposed to unlimited liability for the conduct of their solicitor colleagues. ABSs are totally inconsistent with the current collegiate approach to fidelity.

“There is not much of an appetite for ABSs in Scotland, apart from around six firms,” he claims. “However if Westminster does introduce ABSs we acknowledge that we will be unable to hermetically seal Hadrian’s Wall.” Mill also alleges that “the potential for fraud would be infinite” if non-lawyers are to be allowed to own firms of solicitors.

Mill returns, finally, to his fears that reforms to complaints handling will jeopardise the very independence of the legal profession. “There is no modern democracy where the executive controls the legal profession,” he warns. “That sort of thing is more likely to happen in a place such as Zimbabwe than in a modern democracy.

“We do welcome change, but we want the new body to be workable, independent and accountable. That is a long way from what we appear to be getting.”

Some lawyers back Mill’s uncompromising stance. Douglas Connell, joint senior partner of leading private client firm Turcan Connell said: “While I am in favour of an independent complaints handling body, I think the notion that any law firm that has a service complaint made against them should be made to pay a levy of hundreds of pounds before a case is even heard, is iniquitous, indefensible and hugely open to abuse.”

However Kirk Murdoch, senior partner of McGrigors said: “The mood of the country is no longer in favour of independent regulation. The decision has already been taken on this, so in my view Douglas Mill is pushing water uphill.”

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Posted by on October 4, 2007 in Law

 

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