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The polluter pays – Why cleaning up lawyers sins of the past would be good for the public & legal profession alike

03 Jun

The attempts by the Law Society of Scotland, and it’s sponsored political allies to stall moves to heel the public’s relationship with Scotland’s failing justice system & legal profession continue unabated, and despite moves by campaign groups, consumer organisations, and even myself to move the process along, the vested interests of injustice seem to have the edge for now, but what is this thing they fear most ?

A simple plan to say “I’m sorry”, and a move to bring redress, compensation, accountability and closure to the many cases of injustice of the past caused by the legal profession itself …

With the present levels of public disrespect of the legal profession & dissatisfaction of the abysmal quality of legal services & restricted access to justice in Scotland, it is now time for matters to be put right, for someone to come forth and heel the deep divisions between lawyer & client, which are damaging the legal profession and the very foundations of justice itself in Scotland.

It is a very easy step to take, and none too complicated a one, where simply the sins of the past must be acknowledged by the legal profession, and put right.

Complaints and scandals, some decades old, need addressed in the here & now, they must be reconsidered, given redress, and given the very closure which should have followed at the time of incident, which the Law Society of Scotland and the legal profession consistently failed to do, and still fail to do.

To understand the present and the future, one must first understand the past, where complaints were and still are regulated by the Law Society of Scotland in a lawyer regulates lawyer approach.

For the last couple of decades , complaints against lawyers have soared from two to three thousand a year in the early 1990’s to between five thousand to eight thousand a year after 1998. An almost minuscule percentage of those complaints ever see the client actually get back what was lost to the inaction, negligence, or incompetence of their solicitor.

Why is that ? It’s because the legal profession have, like many other professions, had the privilege of regulating themselves, and in a lawyer regulates lawyer world, nothing will ever be done against a lawyer now, will it …

Lawyers regulating lawyers, or “self regulation” as it is more commonly known .. has served the legal profession very well by keeping its dirty secrets locked away, and ensuring that clients have little or no rights of redress against their solicitors when things go wrong. The Law Society of Scotland’s “Client Relations Office” under the leadership of Philip Yelland, functioned perfectly in whitewashing lawyer after lawyer even in the most serious complaints with overwhelming evidence of wrongdoing or even criminal activity …

Philip Yelland – Director of Regulation and head of the Law Society’s “Client Relations Office” mishandling client relations …

Philip Yelland - Director of Regulation - Law Society of Scotland

The Law Society of Scotland, has spectacularly used self regulation over its decades of existence to ensure that very policy … complain against your lawyer, and you get nowhere, and just for good measure, are denied access to justice & legal services in the future.

While of course, many lawyers who have faced serious client complaints over everything from embezzlement to theft of property, even identity theft on a grand scale, have generally gotten away with it while the Law Society has sat there as the profession’s governing body ensuring the particular complaint gets binned and the client gets no redress for what happened.

Of course, throwing out complaint after complaint, many with genuine tales of severe wrongdoing, even negligence on the part of their solicitors, eventually builds up a great swathe of disgruntled clients, who genuinely have been wronged by solicitors, and further wronged by the legal profession’s regulator who has done nothing for them.

Thus with the great swathe of disgruntled clients, and members of the public who have read of scandal after scandal involving crooked lawyers, the Legal Profession & Legal Aid (Scotland) Act 2007 was born to ‘redress’ the public perception of Scotland’s legal profession, seen as dire, crooked, corrupt and generally a bad place to trust a lawyer do any kind of legal business for individuals or the corporate sector.

Such as things are with the LPLA Act, the legislators have failed entirely to restore any level of public confidence in the ability of anyone to impartially regulate lawyers and as things stand, it can only get worse, as the policies of the current although outgoing Law Society of Scotland Chief Executive Douglas Mill, continue to ensure stall after stall on both regulatory and access to justice reforms.

Douglas Mill – Law Society Chief Executive who would rather that lawyers regulate lawyers … whitewashing preferred !

Douglas Mill at the Scottish Parliament

You can read more about Douglas Mill’s exploits in his 11 year reign as Chief Executive at the Law Society of Scotland here : Douglas Mill – How to ruin the legal profession in eleven years

Even before the new Scottish Legal Complaints Commission takes its first shaky steps, revelations that Law Society staff who may have purposely mishandled tens of thousands of client complaints against lawyers in the past, have transferred over to the new commission, complete even with former “Lay Members” of the Law Society’s “Complaints Committee” circuit, have given the public a taste of things to come – which is basically ‘expect the same’ treatment as before.

You can read more in my earlier report on the problems & scandals of the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission here : Scottish Legal Complaints Commission – protecting the public or protecting the legal profession ?

The Law Society are simply able to get away with this, as the Justice Department of the Scottish Government under Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill, seems not to have a clue about how to effectively independently regulate lawyers, or even show a willingness to do so, with the Justice Secretary himself coming out with the occasional outburst of pro-lawyer anti-public statements …

Kenny MacAskill – SNP owes Law Society a big debt .. but who voted who in last May ?

As things stand, only a madman would trust a lawyer who has 25 negligence complaints made by clients against them, but at present, the public are not allowed to know such statistics or information, so madmen are aplenty.

This happens only because clients don’t know what they are getting into .. but clients would know what or who they were getting into if a solicitor’s full regulatory disclosure was required for client-solicitor agreements, as I have reported on in the past.

You can read my earlier report on regulatory disclosure to clients here : Disclosing the regulatory history of lawyers in Scotland to help give choice to the consumer

However, there is a good ‘first step’ the legal profession, and the Government could take to heal the public’s relationship with the legal profession. That simple step, is : Truth & Reconciliation.

Truth & Reconciliation doesn’t have to mean that vast swathes of the legal profession end up jobless over the many clients they have ruined over the years, but it does mean that those clients and members of the public who had their finances or lives ruined all just because of a lawyer, must be fully and compassionately compensated for the terrible wrongs made upon them, which should never have occurred.

Accountability must too be apportioned if those wrongs are to be righted, and professionals must answer for their actions in some way or another, but the overwhelming aim of this move is to heal the public’s mistrust of a legal profession which uses every twist & turn, every deceit, cuts every corner and fiddles as it goes, to get off the hook from a complaint or scandal which has ruined a life.

I have of course suggested a way that Truth & Reconciliation can progress on this issue, with the following petition to the Scottish Parliament :

Petition PE1033 – A proposal of Truth & Reconciliation for the public & legal profession to heal the client – solicitor relationship.

PE1033 Page 1PE1033 Page 2PE1033 Page 3

Regrettably, as I reported before, my parliamentary petition was silenced on the orders of the Law Society of Scotland itself, who sent one of their well known number to the Parliament, by way of letter … Mr Michael Clancy.

Michael Clancy orders the closure of Petition PE1033 at the Scottish Parliament .. by letter rather than attendance …

Law Society of Scotland PE1033 Page 1Law Society of Scotland PE1033 Page 2

Michael Clancy – The Law Society’s ‘Director of Law Reform’, but it seems, no friend of Truth & Reconciliation in the public interest

Michael Clancy - Director of Law Reform - Law Society of Scotland

I am sorry there are those who feel the need to constantly step on the public and victims of their colleagues, to the point they must intervene at every single turn in life to ensure that reforms, which are clearly in the public interest, fail … to protect their vested interests in the continuation of injustice …

I am indeed sorry that Mr Clancy, again, typically enforces the Law Society’s widely held belief that members of the public who dissent from the Law Society’s policy on regulation must be hunted down in every way imaginable .. but it is nevertheless time that moves are put forward for a fairer deal of those who suffer from the legal profession’s sins of the past.

It could achieve so much for Scotland, by doing not too much … and it would be good for everyone to finally lay the sins of the past to rest, properly and compassionately to show Scotland the legal profession, and the legal system itself is capable of recognising and putting right the wrongs it has committed.

Now if that were to happen .. people might just show a little more much needed respect for both the legal profession and Scots Law … and perhaps more importantly, clients will have a sense of security & trust to use Scots legal services again, which at present, cannot really be trusted to perform adequately.That has to be good for everyone !

How about it everyone ? A little Truth & Reconciliation to help Scots Justice and legal services get back on track by getting the polluter who caused the problem to put it right .. with a little leadership in this area shown by Government and political representatives ?

Surely not too much to ask or expect … and I see the First Minister is getting into the Truth & Reconciliation mood himself as Scottish Law Reporter reports … so things might just be looking up ? First Minister orders study of truth & reconciliation commission after law lords refuse abuse cases

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