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Talk of limitations on power & lack of independence cloud appointment of Scottish Human Rights Commissioner

05 Oct

Earlier this week the Scottish Parliament advertised for the position of Chair of the Scottish Human Rights Commission – yet another ‘Ombudsman” brought to bear at the taxpayer’s expense on issues which the public should really not be suffering …

Does Scotland require a Human Rights Commission ?

Certainly Yes. There is currently no one organisation for anyone to go to in the event of a breach of Human Rights or a failure to comply with ECHR.

Yes, of course, one can go to a solicitor – but what happens if the legal profession don’t want to take the case ? That means you have no access to justice therefore no avenue to redress the issues of Human Rights and since there is currently no other service on offer to look into or represent those whose Human Rights have been breached, that’s it.

If a Human Rights Commissioner is to be put in place by the Scottish Parliament, it should be an effective independent, and even accountable regulator for people to turn to when Human Rights issues are breached or are up for debate.

Strong powers of enforcement of recommendations and the will to tackle serious and controversial issues against any & all parties in terms of Human Rights violations would be expected of such a Human Rights Commissioner, rather than simply fall back into the usual habit of making long rambling reports full of non-binding recommendations

A good example of a somewhat failed attempt at an Ombudsman service, has been the Scottish Legal Services Ombudsman, whose office was created in the Law Reform (Misc Provisions) Act 1990.

Only allowed to make reports on cases where a complainer had exhausted the very corrupt complaints process of the Law Society of Scotland, the office of the SLSO could only make non-binding recommendations on complaints brought to it’s attention, had limited powers of publishing it’s findings against lawyers in the media (which were hardly ever used) and most people who went to the Ombudsman’s office usually got the feeling it was an attempt at being an apologist for the legal profession’s lack of proper regulation .. which is in fact what it was.

Here follows an example of a complaint report from the Scottish Legal Services Ombudsman on one of my own complaints against a solicitor, Mr David Reid, formerly of Morisons Solicitors & Messrs Campbell Smith WS, both of Edinburgh.

Scottish Legal Services Ombudsman’s report on Law Society of Scotland handling of complaints against David Reid, Solicitor

The lawyer, who once I thought of as a wise & reliable solicitor, Mr Reid took a sickie when I discovered he had been a lot less than honest in dealings on my legal work, and is now unbelievably a Law Accountant adjusting bills for client service.

Mr Reid never bothered to apologise for what happened, or put matters right after he left me high and dry – in typical true legal profession style – something which certainly needs to be stamped out. Anyone familiar with reports from the Scottish Legal Services Ombudsman will see a few familiar patterns in the SLSO report on the David Reid affair

So we are back to the issue of a Human Rights Commissioner for Scotland – which will be as much use as no use if the office is only allowed to follow along the lines of the much vaunted Police Complaints Commission for Scotland, which has already come out in the press and called for stronger powers since effectively, they have none.

Yes, we do need a Human Rights Commissioner, independent, accountable, and with effective strong powers and the will to use them. We don’t need another limited powers Ombudsman just to prolong the long held culture of injustice in Scotland which too many organisations and public bodies have become used to.

Of course, if we were going to be sensible about it, we could tackle the issues of Human Rights abuses directly at source, and either terminate those organisations which continually abuse the public’s Human Rights, or impose massive fines on them, limiting their services or even criminalising the issue and packing the Human Rights offenders off to jail. Sadly we know that won’t happen .. but it would be much more effective than an ombudsman …

Story follows from the Scotsman on some MSPs calling the Human Rights ‘tsar’ a waste of money. It’s easy seen the Tories don’t want one – is that because they are too busy supporting the professions who regularly breach the public’s human rights & control access to justice ?:

http://thescotsman.scotsman.com/scotland.cfm?id=1139322007

Human rights tsar plan ‘waste of money’

MSPs last night demanded that Holyrood abandon moves to appoint a £75,000-a-year human rights “tsar”.

The calls came after advertisements were published for a full-time chairman of the Scottish Human Rights Commission, who will head a panel of four part-time members and have an annual budget of £1 million.

Opposition MSPs said that the creation of the body – which will be charged with promoting human rights – was a waste of taxpayers’ money.

Derek Brownlee, the Tory spokesman on finance, said: “This will be a glorified talking shop and a complete and utter waste of money.”

Mr Brownlee called on the Scottish Executive to abolish the commission.

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Posted by on October 5, 2007 in Law

 

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