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Call for MacAskill appointments ‘sleaze investigation’ as revelations show Legal Complaints Commission member was subject of Police inquiry

14 Jan

Late tonight, calls were being made to First Minister Alex Salmond for a fully independent investigation into the appointments process of the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission, after it was revealed that former Lothian & Borders Police Chief Superintendent Douglas Watson, who was recently selected & appointed by Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill to the new independent commission which is intended to handle complaints against solicitors in Scotland, was the subject of a serious Police inquiry into appointments and conduct related matters as far back as 2002.

Insiders at the Scottish Government last night insisted they knew nothing about the “internal inquiry” into Mr Watson at Lothian & Borders Police which revolved around an alleged affair with a work colleague and claims of undue promotions.

From the Scotsman :

“Chief Superintendent Douglas Watson is facing an internal inquiry after he walked out on his wife to be with an officer he hand-picked for a specialist squad.

Allison Strachan was personally selected by Watson to be part of a 22-strong team which is carrying out a complete review of the way Lothian and Borders force operates.

Strachan, who had twice failed to win promotion, was plucked from an administration job at police headquarters and promoted to Inspector but senior officers are angry after it was revealed Watson has been having an affair with her.”

Last week, Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill who personally appointed Mr Watson, proudly announced that “Douglas Watson has been a police officer for 30 years and is currently an adult protection development officer for Edinburgh, Lothian and Borders Executive Group. Mr Watson has previously been a chairing member of the Child Protection Committee, Scottish Borders Council and Edinburgh Drug and Alcohol Action Team. He is currently a Committee member for the Law Society of Scotland and is a session inspector for the Social Work Inspection Agency.”

Amazingly, the Scottish Government received some 93 applications for the lay membership positions on the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission, but had to pick former Policeman Mr Watson, who is already a lay member on Law Society of Scotland Committees, and former Tayside Deputy Chief Constable Ian Gordon, who himself also has a law degree.

It seems Kenny MacAskill had to go out of his way to find currently serving lay members of Law Society Committees to slide them into the new Scottish Legal Complaints Commission … throwing out any notion there could be a degree of independence from the legal profession in the new ‘independent’ complaints handling regime for Scottish solicitors.

A Scottish Government spokesman said earlier today :

‘Appointments to all public bodies are made based on how well candidates meet the criteria set’.

Apparently the “criteria set” involved being asked one question – whether they had any conflict of interest or not …. no disclosures of the past, nothing … and sources at the Justice Department continue to insist the Law Society of Scotland have interfered too much in matters surrounding the formation of the new ‘independent’ complaints commission.

Mr Watson, who was former head of CID, was handpicked by Sir Paddy Tomkins, the current Chief Inspector of Constabulary, to head up a multi million pound project, which was to change the way Edinburgh is policed and create a single 1,000-officer super-division.

The cost of the project was put at over £1 million, including wages, computers, travel and cars and Watson was expected to be appointed commander of the new division at the time …

No excuse for the Justice Department not knowing anything about Mr Watson’s past then … or that may imply they aren’t doing their job …

Jane Irvine, the current Scottish Legal Services Ombudsman and the incoming Chairman of the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission, said last night she knew nothing of this Police inquiry into Mr Watson, insisting the appointments process was down to the minister concerned – that being Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill.

Jane Irvine said earlier today : “I know nothing about this. The appointment process was carried out by Ministers.”

Last night Mrs Irvine was asked if she may look into this matter when she takes over the position of Chairman of the new Scottish Legal Complaints Commission.

It should be pointed out that Jane Irvine was a past HM Lay Inspector of Constabulary for Scotland, and in her capacity, Mrs Irvine reviewed the manner of responses by Scottish Police forces to complaints by members of the public for three years between 2001 and 2004.

Given Mrs Irvine’s lack of knowledge of this matter, the details of ‘internal’ inquiries by the Police into Former Chief Superintendent Watson may have been concealed from Mrs Irvine in her capacity as Lay Inspector of Constabulary.

The Scotsman reports :

Inquiry into police chief who promoted his lover

By Stephen Rafferty

A POLICE chief has been accused of jeopardising a £1 million-plus project by having an affair with a female officer he promoted.

Chief Superintendent Douglas Watson is facing an internal inquiry after he walked out on his wife to be with an officer he hand-picked for a specialist squad.

Allison Strachan was personally selected by Watson to be part of a 22-strong team which is carrying out a complete review of the way Lothian and Borders force operates.

Strachan, who had twice failed to win promotion, was plucked from an administration job at police headquarters and promoted to Inspector but senior officers are angry after it was revealed Watson has been having an affair with her.

The affair has been the talk of the force since Watson left his second wife Anne and Strachan left her police constable partner, John Donoghue.

Watson, the former head of CID, was picked by Chief Constable Paddy Tomkins to head up the Capital Project, which will completely change the way Edinburgh is policed and create a single 1,000-officer super-division.

The cost of the project is put at over £1 million, including wages, computers, travel and cars and Watson was expected to be appointed commander of the new division but senior sources say an inquiry into his behaviour is now inevitable.

Chief Supt Watson left his first wife 11 years ago when he began an affair with his current wife Anne, who was then a 19-year-old secretary at police headquarters.

A Lothian and Borders police spokesman refused to comment.

Amazingly, Mr Watson is also a Lay Member for Committees at the Law Society of Scotland … and one wonders whether they were paying attention to reports of inquiries into Mr Watson’s conduct at the time either …

Well, it didn’t take long for the legal profession to co-opted the appointments process of the new Scottish Legal Complaints Commission now, did it …

This is such a sad start for what was hoped to be a break from the past problems of regulation of Scotland’s beleaguered legal profession.

Earlier today, campaigners & critics of the legal profession condemned the scandal surrounding the appointments process involving the lawyers and lay members to the SLCC.

One client who has been waiting years for a resolution to his complaint against a well known legal firm said “There has been too much fiddling from the Law Society in what is supposed to be an independent body to take over complaints against lawyers. We are just getting another talking shop to save crooked lawyers again. Its a disgrace I didn’t think the SNP could give us”

Mr MacAskill, who is being blamed from all quarters for the appointments furore which has brought discredit to the new Commission, even before it begins its work, seems to have allowed the legal profession too long a hand in controlling the entire formation process of the ‘independent’ complaints commission which was designed to address significant levels of corruption by the Law Society of Scotland in its role as self regulator of the legal profession.

Late today, calls were being made to First Minister Alex Salmond for a fully independent investigation into the appointments & formation process of the SLCC and for the sacking of Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill over this highly public let-down to Scotland’s legal system.

For further reading : The Scottish Government’s Press Release on Kenny MacAskill’s appointments to the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission … more interesting in what it leaves out than what it leaves in …

Scottish Legal Complaints Commission

10/01/2008

Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill today announced the appointment of Jane Irvine to chair the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission (SLCC), the new independent legal complaints handling body. Jane Irvine is currently the Scottish Legal Services Ombudsman. Mr MacAskill also announced Alan Paterson, David Smith, Margaret Scanlan and David Chaplin as lawyer members and Douglas Watson, Linda Pollock, George Irving and Ian Gordon as non-lawyer members of the Commission. The SLCC will be a new, independent, complaints handling body which will receive and deal with complaints which could not be resolved at source. The Commission will be located in Edinburgh and is expected to be operational in October 2008.

Kenny MacAskill said:

“This Government is committed to modernising the legal complaints handling system to ensure that any complaints against the legal profession are resolved quickly and effectively. That is why we supported the setting up of this Commission.

“Jane Irvine and her fellow commissioners will have a strong remit to deal with complaints and I am confident that their independent scrutiny will safeguard the rights of both the profession and the users of legal services throughout Scotland.

“Complaints handling is not just about dealing with things that go wrong, but ensuring that things go right. The commissioners will help to build a culture of learning from complaints through their oversight and promotion of standards. This focus on the quality of service will undoubtedly benefit both consumers and the profession alike.”

Jane Irvine said:

“This new Scottish Commission is an important body. It will provide a modern system for resolving complaints about legal services that both the profession and public can have confidence in. I am delighted to have been appointed with such a strong group of commissioners who bring with them a diverse and exceptional range of skills and experience.”

Chairing member

Jane Irvine has been the Scottish Legal Services Ombudsman since April 2006. She is a specialist in consumer complaints having held a number of positions as a mediator, arbitrator and adjudicator of consumer complaints. Between 2001-05 she was HM Lay Inspector of Constabulary considering handling of complaints against the police in Scotland. She later prepared a report on modernising police complaint and conduct systems for the Justice Minister. She has sat on a range of disciplinary tribunals and currently sits on the Discipline Board of the Institute of Actuaries.

Non-lawyer members

Douglas Watson has been a police officer for 30 years and is currently an adult protection development officer for Edinburgh, Lothian and Borders Executive Group. Mr Watson has previously been a chairing member of the Child Protection Committee, Scottish Borders Council and Edinburgh Drug and Alcohol Action Team. He is currently a Committee member for the Law Society of Scotland and is a sessional inspector for the Social Work Inspection Agency.

Linda Pollock has had a broad based career in the NHS with clinical, teaching, research and management experience. She has been in leadership roles since 1989, an Executive Nursing Director until 2006, and interim Board Nurse Director (2002-2003). Her last role, before leaving the NHS, was a full time secondment as the Chief Nursing Officer’s Advisor for Nurse Prescribing. Dr Pollock was a part time nurse member of the Mental Welfare Commission (1997-2005) and is currently a registrant member of the Nursing and Midwifery Council Appointments Board

George L Irving CBE was Director of Social Work North Ayrshire Council and during the period 1999-2000 he served as President of the Association of Directors of Social Work (Scotland ). From 2001-2006 he was Chair of NHS Ayrshire and Arran. He led the National Support Team, Management of Offenders 2005-2007 and is currently a Visiting Professor to Glasgow Caledonian University School of Health and Social Care.

Ian Gordon OBE, QPM, LL.B (Hons) is a retired Deputy Chief Constable of Tayside Police. He is currently an associate professor in policing for Charles Sturt University (Australia). He was Chair of the Association of Chief Police Officers in Scotland (ACPOS) Professional Standards Business Area and Vice-Chair of ACPOS General Policing Business Area.

Lawyer members

Alan Paterson is Professor of Law and Director of the Centre for Professional Legal Studies at Strathclyde University, an independent “Think Tank” on the Scottish Legal System. He has researched in, and published on, the regulation of lawyers and the provision of public legal services for over twenty years. Although he is qualified as a solicitor in Scotland, Professor Paterson has never practised. He is currently a research adviser to the Scottish Legal Aid Board, a lay member of the Judicial Appointments Board and a co-opted member of the Council of the Law Society.

David Smith has been a partner in Shepherd and Wedderburn for 33 years. He has spent over 20 years as part of the firm’s management board and was Chairman between 1999-2005. Mr Smith is a senior commercial property lawyer. Since 2004 he has been the Client Relations Partner within Shepherd and Wedderburn and since 1998 he has chaired the firm’s Compliance Committee which monitors professional indemnity claims, client complaints and risk management issues.

Margaret Scanlan is an accredited specialist in family law at Russells Gibson McCaffrey. She has also tutored in family law at Glasgow Caledonian University. Mrs Scanlan was a member and latterly Deputy Chair of the Scottish Legal Aid Board between 1997-2007. She has also been Director of the Legal Defence Union between 1998-2002. Mrs Scanlan was a founder member of both Strathkelvin Women’s Aid and the Family Law Association. She held the post of Chair of the latter between 1992-93.

David Chaplin has been a senior partner in Anderson Fyfe for the last 15 years and is a specialist in insolvency law. He has been the Client Relations partner for his firm for ten years. Mr Chaplin advises in pre litigation resolution of commercial disputes for clients. He was a member of the Education Committee of the Royal Faculty of Procurators in Glasgow during 2004-05.

The SLCC is established by virtue of the Legal Profession and Legal Aid (Scotland) Act 2007. Its main functions are to resolve complaints alleging inadequate professional service or negligence by legal practitioners, to refer complaints which allege professional misconduct or unsatisfactory professional conduct to the relevant professional body and to promote good practice in complaints handling.

The chairing member has been appointed for a five year term from 1 January 2008 to 31 December 2012. The lawyer and non-lawyer members’ appointments will be for four years, from 1 January 2008 – 31 December 2011.

The posts are part-time and attract daily fees of £302 for the chairing member for a time commitment of four-six days per month and £205 for the lawyer and non-lawyer members with a time commitment of four days per month. Jane Irvine holds one other public appointment, that of the Scottish Legal Services Ombudsman, with remuneration of £56,746 for 37 hours a week. All the other members do not hold any other Ministerial appointments.

These Ministerial public appointments were made in accordance with the Commissioner for Public Appointments in Scotland’s Code of Practice.

All appointments are made on merit and political activity plays no part in the selection process. However, in accordance with the original Nolan recommendations, there is a requirement for appointees’ political activity (if there is any to be declared) to be made public. Within the last five years members have not been involved in any political activity.

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