Scottish Legal Complaints Commission in crisis amid funds shortage & resignation threats over lack of insurance protection

04 Nov

SLCC squareAmid the mass of problems plaguing the beleaguered Scottish Legal Complaints Commission, it has been revealed through documents the SLCC’s Board members appointed by Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill threatened to resign en mass unless the Government provided Indemnity Insurance which the Justice Secretary had staggeringly failed to include in the Commission’s formation process.

MacAskill tight lippedJustice Secretary’s gaffe on insurance against threatening crooked lawyers : Mr MacAskill’s appointees to the Commission, a collection of ex Police officers, ex (or serving) public service employees and lawyers, felt their personal assets may be put in danger during the course of their ‘duties’ in considering complaints against crooked lawyers and other sinister elements of Scotland’s notoriously corrupt legal profession.

Members threaten to resign from SLCC 7&8 April 2008 meetingLeaked : “Members expressed concern that the indemnity paper previously produced by Colin Mackay (Deputy, Department of Justice) made the Commission look like a commercial body and stated they would resign rather than risk their personal assets. Members stated that they would like the risks they undertook from 1st October 2008 assessed. Colin Mackay said he was not in a position to advise on the position of a statutory body being covered by indemnity but agreed to attain legal advice for the Members on personal liability and the Commission’s liability from Anderson Strathearn.”

The much coveted Indemnity Insurance sought by the SLCC’s board members relates to their own fears over being sued in the courts by both crooked lawyers and clients who feel their decisions in complaints have either misrepresented issues or not been effective in resolving the difficulties caused by lawyers, or (laughably) relate to handing down too strong penalties against rogue lawyers in respect of their poor service to clients.

One leading solicitor last night condemned the shambles surrounding the Complaints Commission, claiming “This Commission was forced on us by the Scottish Government and Parliament.It is for them to pick up the bill and give both the public and the legal profession the regulation which everyone wants”.

However, a Scottish Government spokesman said today “Indemnity insurance is a matter for the Commission as this is an ongoing operational cost which we do not consider is part of the start up costs. Funding has not therefore been provided for this.”

Thus, the Scottish Government will not be injecting any extra public funds solely for the purpose of the indemnity insurance craved by the SLCC’s Board members, leaving the Commission to fend for itself and try to find the extra money to cover its official’s backs in the event lawyers and clients join forces to sue the SLCC.

A client with standing complaints against several firms of solicitors said last night of the SLCC “If this is independent regulation its a joke. Everyone knows the quango is packed with lawyers, former Law Society staff, and ex Law Society Committee members who must know plenty about how crooked lawyers have been protected for years and now they are telling us they are afraid to work without the same insurance protection which protects crooked lawyers from compensation claims.Disgusting”

As I have reported in the past, Indemnity Insurance for lawyers in Scotland (otherwise known as the Master Insurance Policy) is a very corrupt insurance framework, to say the least, and is nothing more than a policy for protection of rogue lawyers against the clients they ruin.

Read more about the woes of Indemnity Insurance for the Scottish legal profession and consumers here : Lawyers insurance – a policy to protect the cooked

The importance of Indemnity Insurance to the legal profession and those around it is so great the issue became the subject of a sensational confrontation between Cabinet Secretary John Swinney and the then Law Society Chief Douglas Mill over claims fixing memos, which ultimately claimed Mill’s career at the Law Society, which you can read more about here : Law Society Chief Executive Douglas Mill who lied to Parliament, pursued ‘personal vendetta’ against critics – to resign

However, the problems at the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission only get worse, as further revelations show the Law Society of Scotland is failing in its duty to collect and hand over the annual levies of around £300 from each solicitor in Scotland, which are required to keep the SLCC going.

If the levies are not collected, public funding will have to be injected yet again by the Scottish Government to keep the Commission functioning, while methods of recovery, which laughably include legal action against the Law Society and its members for failing to pay up, will have to be considered !

SLCC difficulty in obtaining levy money from Law Society 4 August 2008Document on Levies Jane Irvine, the SLCC’s Chairman, reported during a meeting the following : “Jane Irvine informed members that the Law Society of Scotland had reported difficulties collecting all levies. Members agreed that they should check with Ministers what the chargeable interest rate would be and suggest that it might be 3% or 4% above base rate and that this might be non-changeable once set. This will be raised as part of Framework agreement discussions.”

However, the Scottish Government today announced it would not intervene in the problems of the Law Society’s failure to collect the operating levies, and oddly denied Ministers even knew about the matter, an assertion which the SLCC’s own memos contradict.

A spokesman for the Government said : “Collection of the levy is between the Commission and the Law Society of Scotland. The Commission has not asked us for extra funding to cover any shortfall and we are not aware of any difficulties in this regard.”

The Commission’s board members now feel so unsafe in their positions due to the inadequate funding arrangements, they are now demanding a staggering additional £700,000 of public funds from the Scottish Government to continue functioning at present due to the amateurish arrangements by the Justice Secretary’s Department, which have left Commission staff having to be engaged in continuing work from the previous Scottish Legal Services Ombudsman office while performing their new duties at the SLCC at the same time.

However, the Justice Department’s representative, Colin Mackay who attended recent meetings of the Legal Complaints Commission, was amazingly unable to answer questions put to him on what would happen if the money ran out …

Leaked : “Members asked if when the Commission is open, and money runs out due to having more complaints than anticipated, would the Commission then levy the professions or ask the Scottish Government for assistance? Colin Mackay (Deputy, Scottish Government Justice Department) unable to answer these points.”

Jane Irvine, the Commission’s Chairman could not be contacted for comment on the SLCC’s difficult situation … but the blame for the SLCC’s woes fall on the Law Society of Scotland, the Scottish Government and the Justice Secretary himself, who have all failed to see the organisation get on with the promised job of independently regulating Scotland’s legal profession and protecting consumers from rogue lawyers …


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