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Calls for full disclosure on legal complaints commission members as Justice Department ‘covers up’ conflicts of interest in appointments scandal

21 Feb

Calls seem to be growing for full disclosure of the backgrounds, previous work and investigations into certain appointees to the new Scottish Legal Complaints Commission, after my breaking the story earlier this week that the same Law Society of Scotland staff who have betrayed so many members of the public in complaints against rouge & crooked lawyers are to be migrated to the new ‘independent’ complaints body.

The Justice Directorate, in days reminding us of earlier times when Government was continually accused of stage managing appointments, covering up scandals, backgrounds and conflicts of interest so those with political affiliations could find their way to quango heaven, has embarked on the same path of cover up, in an attempt to thwart any proper investigation into the murky appointments scandal of members to the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission.

In a letter released today, the Justice Directorate fails to apply any transparency or accountability to the continuing furore over the appointment of lawyers and ex Police Chiefs to the new ‘independent’ SLCC, choosing only to continue the cover up over what many are viewing as a fairly successful attempt by the Law Society of Scotland to take over the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission for its own purposes – that of continuing to protect lawyers from any possibility of independent regulation and a fair hearing for public complaints.

Justice Directorate – Lawyer who was panel solicitor for corrupt insurance scheme and ex cop who was lay member of Law Society committees have no conflict of interest. What ?

Justice Directorate 20 February 2008

You ask whether Mr [David] Smith’s current firm, Shepherd and Wedderburn, are panel solicitors for Royal Sun Alliance as you consider this to be a conflict of interest. As you may be aware from their website Shepherd and Wedderburn are indeed panel solicitors. As with all holders of public office the Commissioners are required to act solely in terms of the public interest and display integrity, objectivity and honesty. I do not therefore anticipate any conflict of interest. Furthermore I understand that Mr Smith will be retiring from Shepherd and Wedderburn on 1 April.

You also express concern about the appointment of Douglas Watson. Mr Watson no longer sits as a lay member on the Law Society of Scotland’s committees.”

The Justice Directorate’s reply admits Mr Smith’s involvement with the Royal Sun Alliance after earlier revelations in this blog that David Smith is a panel solicitor for the Royal Sun Alliance, who are main insurers to the infamously corrupt Master Insurance Policy scheme operated by Marsh UK and the Law Society of Scotland to protect lawyers from negligence claims.

During the Parliamentary hearings on the Legal Profession & Legal Aid (Scotland) Act 2007, which created the ‘independent’ complaints body which Mr Smith, a lawyer, has been appointed to, the now Cabinet Secretary for Finance, John Swinney, revealed evidence that systemic and endemic corruption existed in all aspects of the Master Insurance Policy, culminating in a very public confrontation with Law Society Chief Douglas Mill, who lied in evidence to the Justice 2 Committee and to Mr Swinney the Law Society did not interfere in negligence claims – when in fact the secret memos revealed by John Swinney showed a culture of intervention and interference to protect crooked lawyers and ensure their continued practicing while clients got nothing.

Law Society Boss Douglas Mill lies to John Swinney & Justice 2 Committee on evidence of endemic corruption by the Master Insurance Policy and a culture of denial of access to justice

 

You can read more about Cabinet Finance Chief John Swinney’s confrontation with Law Society Chief Douglas Mill over corruption at the Master Insurance Policy here :

Law Society boss Mill lied to Swinney, Parliament as secret memos reveal policy of intervention & obstruction on claims, complaints.

The Justice Directorate, despite the fact of revelations that SLCC appointee Mr Smith is a member of the legal teams which support the Master Insurance Policy which Cabinet Finance Chief John Swinney exposed as being totally corrupt, claim in their letter that ” As with all holders of public office the Commissioners are required to act solely in terms of the public interest and display integrity, objectivity and honesty. I do not therefore anticipate any conflict of interest.”

Does anyone believe that ?

A lawyer who spends a career being part of the Master Policy Insurance team which Law Society Chief Douglas Mill’s memos reveal is totally corrupt, can change his ways and act solely in the public interest ?

Is it possible ? I don’t think so. Not after having learned first hand of what happens to clients at the hands of the lawyers who represent the Master Insurance Policy and the insurers … everything from your health records, bank records, title deeds, employment, the lot, all used to effectively wipe out someone who dares make a claim to the Master Insurance Policy against a negligent lawyer.

You can read some of my earlier coverage of the Master Insurance Policy and how it has been used as a weapon against the public and clients of solicitors here :

Lawyers negligence insurance branded corrupt, anti-consumer as evidence reveals only one per cent of clients get chance of payout

Law Society intervention in claims ‘commonplace’ as ex Chief admits Master Policy protects solicitors against clients

Lawyers complaints system thought to have caused intimidation of clients for years

There must now be a full investigation of Mr Smith’s work as a solicitor involved with the Master Policy insurers, which legal firms he and his own firm defended against negligence claims, what happened to those cases & claims, and the client’s access to justice and full public disclosure of all the facts to see that old habits and conflicts of interest wont be transferred to the new ‘independent’ SLCC – disclosure which must be in the public interest.

The other disputed appointee to the ‘independent’ SLCC, ex Policeman Douglas Watson – who suffered a series of internal investigations into personal conduct and other issues, reported in an earlier story I covered here : Call for MacAskill appointments ‘sleaze investigation’ as revelations show Legal Complaints Commission member was subject of Police inquiry

Douglas Watson also gets the same whitewashing treatment from the blundering Justice Directorate in today’s release with the following; “You also express concern about the appointment of Douglas Watson. Mr Watson no longer sits as a lay member on the Law Society of Scotland’s committees.”

Simply because Mr Watson “no longer sits as a lay member on the Law Society of Scotland’s committees” is not a good enough reason prevent any investigation of his appointment.

When did Mr Watson resign anyway ? This seems to be new information. Did it come as a result of him recognising there may be a conflict of interest or was it because of public exposure of his previous position ?

Indeed, the fact remains that both Douglas Watson and David Smith will inevitably face issues involving legal firms and lawyers who have been before the Law Society committees during their respective terms in Mr Watson’s case as a ‘lay member’ of a complaints committee and in Mr Smith’s case as a panel solicitor for the insidious Master Insurance Policy.

What particular aspect of being a lay member of a Law Society complaints committee qualifies Mr Watson to be migrated into what was supposed to be the new ‘independent’ complaints body to resolve the problematic, corrupt self regulation of the legal profession carried out by the Law Society of Scotland.

Along with the 34 members of staff who have helped countless crooked lawyers escape any punishment over serious client complaints such as embezzlement, theft of property, theft of deceased client’s wills and even re-writing them, negligence to the nth degree, altering case evidence and faking up clients files, falsifying clients accounts and accounts for work, to name but a few of the habits of the legal profession, what qualifies ex Law Society committee members for transfer to a body created to be a ‘break from the past’ ?

There should now also be a full disclosure and investigation of all Mr Watson’s work as a lay member of the Law Society complaints committees, and also full disclosure of all the internal investigations by Lothian & Borders Police into Mr Watson’s conduct, in investigations reported in the media, which seem also to have escaped the appointments process.

You can read more about Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill’s favoured SLCC appointee ex-Police Chief Douglas Watson from the Scotsman newspaper here :

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

Anyway, this is an interesting turn of events, as earlier this week, the Justice Directorate had continued to refuse any explanations over the SLCC appointments scandal, insisting somewhat unbelievably, that ex police and lawyers constituted an ‘impartial’ appointments process to a body which was to consider complaints against lawyers.

Just how bad things are with the Government’s blunders surrounding the SLCC was indicated to me this morning when a source connected with events commented that no one could really trust the disciplinary records of any of these people, even those appointed to the Commission themselves, as they were the work of the Law Society staff who are well known to falsify complaints files and disciplinary issues to protect lawyers.

He said : “Would you trust any of these papers from the Law Society after your own experience ?”. I, would certainly not – particularly after what happened in the Andrew Penman investigation, where the entire senior staff of the Law Society decided to fiddle my complaint against well known crooked Borders lawyer Andrew Penman of Stormonth Darling Solicitors, Kelso – which you can read about here :

My source then went on to comment that details on appointments he had seen “could not be independently verified in any way whatsoever as the Government were having to solely rely on the Law Society to provide these papers due to the old system of self regulation of the legal profession, the lack of accountability to FOI and very poor oversight powers of the Scottish Legal Services Ombudsman”

So, the new Scottish Legal Complaints Commission will be anything but independent.

It will be staffed mostly by Law Society staff who have had orders for the past twenty years to get lawyers off the hook at any costs, and the Commission itself is full of lawyer and ex Police appointees, some of whom even sat on Law Society committees themselves.

This sounds like a bad deal for Scots, a bad deal for justice, a bad deal for independence, accountability, transparency and honest, all being presided over by bad management of the Justice Secretary Mr MacAskill who is of course a lawyer and has indicated many times he favours the legal profession’s priorities over that of the public interest.

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2 responses to “Calls for full disclosure on legal complaints commission members as Justice Department ‘covers up’ conflicts of interest in appointments scandal

  1. gravemaurice

    February 21, 2008 at 10:52 pm

    What has who Douglas Watson is having an affair with got to do with his capabilities to work or hers?

    As the article states the female was promoted prior to him having the affair with her and the promotion would certainly not been solely Watson’s doing.

    Senior Police staff always get huffed about others’ promotions. What a lot of sour grapes and nonsense.

    Next you’ll be complaining about what a waste of time and money any enquiry is, and you’d be right. What a lot of tosh. Get you priorities in order.

     
  2. petercherbi

    February 25, 2008 at 1:44 am

    #gravemaurice

    If you read my piece you will see I am not interested in Douglas Watson’s love affairs, I am interested in the investigation into it, and the investigation into other matters surrounding Mr Watson which were held by Lothian & Borders Police and as yet, not publicly disclosed.

    The fact the story was published in the Scotsman and no result of the inquiry was ever disclosed is of interest in this matter, given Mr Watson’s transfer to an ‘independent’ complaints commission which is to replace the Law Society of Scotland.

    I am also interested in Mr Watson’s record as a lay member of the Law Society of Scotland complaints committee system – yet another thing which has not been publicly disclosed.

    As evidence is now emerging of Mr Watson’s involvement on particular cases of complaint against solicitors, his record at the Law Society and any investigations into his conduct during his time as a Policeman are relevant – even the Justice Directorate says that … it’s just a matter of disclosure – so, lets have disclosure.

    There won’t be a need for an inquiry if all the records were disclosed to begin with, which they were not … so get your own priorities in order before criticising others.

    If we are to have a new complaints body which is supposedly transparent and accountable – full disclosure on its staff and members is a priority, wouldn’t you say ? if it is to resolve the problems created by the very organisation Mr Watson was a lay member of and seems to have made his ‘contribution’ to problems of regulation in the legal profession …

     

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