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Peter Cherbi asks the Lord Chancellor to refuse authority for Scottish accountants to handle wills & probate services.

04 Oct

Here is my letter to the Lord Advocate, Lord Falconer, raising objections against the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Scotland’s application for their members in England & Wales to gain authority to handle probate services including wills.

Why am I objecting ? well, ICAS have tabled an amendment to the Legal Profession & Legal Aid (Scotland) Bill, because Scottish accountants want in on the business of handling wills – which only lawyers can handle under current legislation, and there is no device contained in the forthcoming LPLA Bill for accountants to get in on the ac of robbing the dead.

See my earlier posting on this issue here : http://petercherbi.blogspot.com/2006/07/scottish-accountants-try-to-amend-lpla.html

ICAS and their accountants want in on the probate & executry business, because it is such an easy way to rip people off – lawyers have been ripping off clients for decades by handling wills – just look what they did to me, and I woulc quote hundreds of other cases I have heard of where, for instance, lawyers in the Scottish Borders have cherry picked antiques, jewelry, and many other items from dead client’s houses for their own offices & residences .. not to mention also ripping off the investments left to the family, and giving favoured Banks fat overdraft payments in accounts organised to drain estates of funds to further the lawyers own ends.

Now of course, we will have Scottish accountants doing the same – although as you can see from other posts in this blog, Norman Howitt, a crooked Borders accountant did this to our family a long time ago … it’s just that ICAS want to change the law so they can rip us off legally.

Additionally, since I have campagned for so long to bring independent regulation to the legal profession, why now should ICAS, a well known crooked self regulatory body, be able to push through amendments to the legislation bringing independent regulation to the legal profession, so that their own accountant members can get in on some legal business, under the self regulatory set up of the accountancy profession ?

Clients will have no protection whatsoever inder the current corrupt system of self regulation for accountants, if they get their accountants to handle wills, rather than having a lawyer handle it under the new system of independent regulation for the legal profession planned in the LPLA Bill … just go back to the example of Norman Howitt and think about that … ICAS went all out to absolve Howitt from his crimes …. so they will do the same for all their other crooked accountant members … and there are many in Scotland.

My letter to the Lord Chancellor :

By email to: lordchancellor@dca.gsi.gov.uk

The Lord Chancellor, Lord Falconer of Thoroton,Department of Constitutional Affairs,Selborne House,54–60 Victoria Street,London, SW1E 6QW
11 July 2006

Dear Lord Chancellor,

Institute of Chartered Accountants of Scotland application to DCA for full probate services

I have noted ICAS application to the Department of Constitutional Affairs for their members to handle full probate services, and having had experience in this matter, and therefore being an interested party, I wish to lodge objections to ICAS application, along with information relating to my experiences with their members handling probate services, which I would like you to consider.

I noted that after recommendations by the Office of Fair Trading, statutory instruments introduced well over a year ago implemented in England and Wales two sections of the Courts and Legal Services Act 1990 which allowed financial institutions and members of bodies authorised by the Secretary of State for Constitutional Affairs to perform a key part of winding up an estate, providing the papers for probate, for a fee.

However, the Law Reform (Miscellaneous Provisions) (Scotland) Act 1990 broke the effective monopoly by solicitors by allowing licensed executry partners and banks and building societies also to charge a fee for conducting the equivalent process, preparing papers to apply for confirmation of an executor through the Sheriff Court but it remains an offence for anyone else, including chartered accountants, to charge a fee for this.

There is no specific measure to change this in the current Legal Profession and Legal Aid (Scotland) Bill, which is now finally going through the Scottish Parliament – which I have personally campaigned for so long to be introduced (see included coverage of my case and campaign). However, ICAS has submitted a proposed amendment to the LPLA Bill to seek a change in the draft legislation in the interests of their own member accountants to achieve parity with English law.

It would seem evident to an observer that ICAS are publicly using their application to the DCA concerning their members who reside in England & Wales, as a bully tactic with the Scottish Executive, to get their amendment to the Legal Profession & Legal Aid (Scotland) Bill passed.

At least from what I have read in the Scottish media, particularly “the Herald” newspaper at : http://www.theherald.co.uk/business/65567.html, ICAS state …”But our hope is that the Scottish Executive will recognise the very fact that we can apply south of the Border means that there is no reason why an amendment cannot simply be inserted in the Legal Profession and Legal Aid Bill to enable the same up here.”. I would say, on balance, such a public statement by ICAS is certainly designed as a ‘persuasive gesture’ in their lobbying on this matter with the Scottish Executive, and of course, the DCA.

However, if the DCA grant ICAS application in this matter, or if the Scottish Executive agree to the ICAS amendment, this will produce a significant imbalance against the public interest, in that while a client of a solicitor would have the increased safety of independent regulation of the legal profession (as proposed in the LPLA Bill) if their solicitor were to mishandle executry services, clients of accountants would have to use the self regulatory process of the accountancy profession currently administered by the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Scotland, which I can say from my own personal experience, is thoroughly corrupt and biased, almost worse, one could say, than the current system of self regulation operated by the Law Society of Scotland, which I have campaigned against for so long.

I therefore respectfully submit to you that ICAS application to the DCA for their members to be able to handle full probate services, should be refused, on the grounds that such an imbalance of the rights of consumers, not having access to fully transparent and independent regulatory services for accountants is against the public interest and contrary to the spirit of the LPLA Bill, which itself, brings independent regulation to the legal profession.

If accountants wish to be able to handle full probate services, then they should only be allowed to do so when they too, as a profession, have a fully independent regulatory structure, similar to what is proposed in the LPLA Bill with the formation of the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission.

My own experiences with a member of ICAS, are now a matter of record in the media and at the Scottish Parliament, in terms of the dual role of an accountant in the Scottish Borders, who actually did charge for his services to wind up an executry and prepare confirmation documents – contrary, it seems, to the terms of the Law Reform (Miscellaneous Provisions) (Scotland) Act 1990 – where the accountant concerned, should have been held to have committed an offence.

The particular accountant in question, Mr Norman Howitt, of Welchs Accountants, Galashiels, did, as I say, charge for his services in winding up an executry, but amended the charge to be that of a personal nature, rather than a professional nature.

However, he had his firm bill the estate of my late father for his services, and the money was paid to his firm – a profession charge then, you would think – but no, even though I complained about that matter, in the investigation which was carried out personally by Tom McMorrow, the ICAS Director of Legal Services, Howitt was exonerated and the matter of the charge billed by Howitt for executry services and subsequently the bill being paid to his firm, was talked away in a complaint which was handled with the utmost prejudice against me – even to the point that when I asked the Financial Services Agency for an independent investigation into the matter, ICAS made particularly hostile submissions to the FSA against my complaint, and more worrying, against my person, so much that the FSA decided it would be against the public interest to assist me, as ICAS felt it may reveal an issue with regulation in the accountancy profession which could undermine public confidence.

I submit to you copies of the complaints investigation into Mr Howitt by ICAS, and my response to it, along with material from my submission to the Scottish Parliament on the Legal Profession & Legal Aid Bill, for your perusal.

I would ask you to note the particularly disgraceful conduct of Mr Howitt, a member of ICAS – and now even a member of ICAS Committees, who ransacked my late father’s estate and got away with it, while, as you can see from the investigation into my complaint against him, ICAS actually covered up for his actions, and made certain I would not be able to claim any compensation for his actions.

The documents I attach show my late father’s accountant, even taking control of my late mother’s finances, in complete conflict of interest in terms of his role as executor of my late father’s estate, and then subsequently spinning a web of theft and control against my late mother’s finances for personal gain to such an extent he stole my late mother’s pension book, and sought to control her affairs even after death, again, seeking payment for his services.

I respectfully submit that such a thing cannot be allowed to happen to other members of the public using accountants to handle probate services, as I have experienced, therefore ICAS application should be denied.

I am copying this letter to the Deputy First Minister and Enterprise Minister Nicol Stephen, for his information and consideration of my objection to ICAS amendment to the LPLA Bill, until such times as the accountancy profession is independently regulated and consumers are given increased safety and assurance via such independent regulation as is currently proposed for the legal profession in the forthcoming piece of legislation.

I would of course, ask you for your comments on what happened to me at the hands of ICAS and Mr Howitt, and how I could resolve it, but with the fact that I cannot get any legal representation at all, due to intense discrimination against me by the legal profession in Scotland, there is not much I can now do to raise any kind of claim for the serious damage and destruction that Mr Howitt and ICAS have caused to my family and my life.

However, just because ICAS have tried to ‘take me out’, in more ways than one, and that their member even once used the local Police to try to cover his tracks of ripping off my family and selling my late father’s car to his next door neighbor, family friend and sometime business partner, does not mean that they should be allowed to get away with this kind of conduct again in the future.

While my case was heavily publicised at the time, material from my case and campaign is widely published on the web, and in my own personal site “A Diary of Injustice in Scotland”, at http://petercherbi.blogspot.com

The particular links to my experiences with the accountancy profession and ICAS are at : http://petercherbi.blogspot.com/2006/03/norman-howitt-crooked-borders.html &
http://petercherbi.blogspot.com/2006/07/institute-of-chartered-accountants-of.html

My submission to the Justice 2 Committee of the Scottish Parliament on the Legal Profession & Legal Aid (Scotland) Bill, is located at : http://www.scottish.parliament.uk/business/committees/justice2/inquiries/lpla/549_LB549_PeterCherbi.pdf
My submission to the Justice 1 Committee Inquiry into Regulation of the legal profession in 2001 : http://www.scottish.parliament.uk/business/committees/historic/justice1/inquiries-02/j1-lps-pdfs/lps-066.pdf

I’m not asking for the world. I’m asking for justice, transparency, accountability, and the public’s right to receive transparent and honest services for their money to be maintained. Such a request would be served by keeping accountants out of legal and probate services until such time as they have independent regulation.

I look forward to hear from you

Yours sincerely,
Peter Cherbi

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Posted by on October 4, 2007 in Law

 

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