Complaints Commission ‘unfit for purpose’ as secret meetings with insurers & pensions take focus over consumer protection against crooked lawyers

22 Dec

SLCC squareScotland’s legal complaints quango, otherwise known as the somewhat less than ‘independent’ Scottish Legal Complaints Commission, which recently received a £2 million gift of taxpayers money from Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill, has spent more time arranging pensions & insurance protection for its members than doing any of the oversight or complaints work it was originally tasked to do.

I reported on the £2 million taxpayer gift to the lawyers complaints quango here : MacAskill silent on taxpayers £2million ‘write off’ to lawyers quango as Complaints boss reveals Law Society defaulted on levies

Kenny MacAskillKenny MacAskill – ‘£2 million was just a gift to lawyers quango’. Mr MacAskill has now declared he will not seek to recover the millions of pounds of public funds which have in effect been wasted on setting up the less than independent Commission which is more interested in itself than the job at hand.

However, there are now revelations the SLCC is demanding the Scottish Government hand over even more taxpayer funds into the SLCC’s pension scheme and further public funds for the SLCC’s website, despite the commission claiming to have received £2.4 million from the Law Society of Scotland as payment for solicitors annual complaints levies to fund the quango.

Pensions junkets at the Scottish Legal Complaints CommissionLegal Complaints quango’s pensions must come first before the work of investigating crooked lawyers or protecting consumers : “It was agreed that the pension benefit will be available from 1st October.There was further discussion around whether staff employed prior to 1st October should qualify for pension benefit prior to the 1st October and whether this would be provided by the Scottish Government. Members clarified that there would be no added increase in SLCC pension contributions for senior staff“.

Secret meetings with lawyers insurers & SLAB appointed auditors - SLCCAlso revealed in recently released papers was the fact the Commission held secret meetings with the Master Policy insurers Royal Sun Alliance and Marsh UK, well known for their roles in obstructing consumers access to justice in attempts to sue crooked lawyers, actions which have resulted in countless headlines over the years culminating in the resignation of former Law Society Boss Douglas Mill for his part along with Marsh UK in protecting corrupt solicitors, which you can read more about here : Mill, Marsh & RSA – a recipe for corrupt lawyers insurance

Now, despite meeting the insurers & the Law Society of Scotland in an ‘attempt to understand the Master Policy’, the Legal Complaints Commission is still dithering on whether it will fulfil its designated “monitoring role” over both the Master Policy and Guarantee Fund, the two financial arrangements put in place by the Law Society of Scotland which are supposed to (but never do) pay out in the event that lawyers embezzle, lose or steal clients funds in well practiced habits which seem to be spiralling out of control with the current credit crunch.

Amazingly, the Commission’s well salaried Chief Executive Eileen Masterman grudgingly admitted after enquiries, the Legal Complaints Commission does not currently have a copy of the Master Policy, and might not even ask for a copy !

Eileen Masterman SLCC Chief Executive Eileen Masterman didn’t even bother to obtain the Master Policy papers which the Commission is supposed to oversee  : “I am unaware that the SLCC Hold a copy of the Master Policy. Whether or not we seek to obtain such is a matter yet to be decided.”

One must ask oneself how the Commission proposes to monitor and oversee the Master Policy and the Guarantee Fund if they don’t even have copies of what the actual policy is, what it does, and how it works.

A source at the Scottish Government’s Justice Department condemned the SLCC’s lack of will to even obtain the Master Policy papers “Probably the Commission and the Law Society are worried if the Master Policy ends up in Masterman’s office she will be forced to release it under Freedom of Information if requested to do so”

If the Master Policy is actually released to the public, it will also allow solicitors to see the documents for the first time, as it transpires hardly any Scottish solicitor has actually seen the terms of Master Policy – the Law Society arranged Professional Indemnity Insurance which all solicitors must pay an annual subscription to maintain.

Jane IrvineJane Irvine, the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission’s Chairman was asked for a comment on why the SLCC had not even yet bothered to secure a copy of the Master Policy for its study, despite already having met Marsh, Royal Sun Alliance and the Law Society of Scotland in meetings which were kept from the public.Irvine however, refused to reply over fears the Commission is in such disarray it cannot do its assigned task.

Given the Commission seems unwilling even to ask for a copy of the Master Policy, I have asked Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill to explain the shocking lapses of his ‘Ministerial creation” after being officially informed earlier by his Justice Department the SLCC would be attending to its Master Policy ‘oversight’ role.

Amid the bleak revelations showing the SLCC to be more interested in protecting itself than protecting consumers, the Cabinet Secretary for Finance, John Swinney MSP has waded into the debate on the poor performance of the Commission so far, expressing concerns to constituents of dissatisfaction with the SLCC’s performance to-date.

John SwinneyCabinet Secretary for Finance John Swinney expressed his fears over the lack of the Commission’s will to look into Law Society’s ‘sins of the past’, commenting “It is of great concern that the SLCC are not to look at historic complaints”.

Well, Mr Swinney, there is a plan afoot to look at historical complaints, but alas the SLCC are not the people to do it, having too much involvement with the Law Society which clearly prevents them from being impartial in any way whatsoever.

My Petition PE1033, which sought to bring a touch of Truth & Reconciliation to historical complaints against crooked lawyers was of course, killed off by the Law Society of Scotland at Parliamentary stage, so if you could revive that, and help bring an end to the worst era of Scotland’s legal profession, that would be just fine by just about everyone …

Perhaps Mr MacAskill should ask the Commission to return the public money, now they have been paid by the Law Society, and Mr Swinney should take steps to inject motivation into the game of complaints against lawyers. This seems to me, a more sensible, honest, truthful & good governance approach to the issue, doesn’t it ?

So it will be a Merry Christmas for some this year – the members of the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission are receiving an outrageous £300 + per day for appearances, and each member has on average at least two pensions from their previous positions of employment before even getting down to business at the SLCC … so, everyone, think of all that public money getting lavished on ex-cops, lawyers & the like just to mishandle complaints against lawyers in the same way the Law Society has been doing for years … while everyone else in the country is living in fear of being repossessed ….

Finally .. Seasons Greetings to all my readers, friends & colleagues, and especially to all of you who suffer from injustice not only in Scotland, but all around the world.

Hopefully 2009 will ease the plight of some, if the willingness is truly there on the part of politicians to serve the community and bring an end to injustice caused by our discredited legal system. Those same politicians who have the power to help people would do well to remember that coming at least half way to meet the victims of injustice is a step in the right direction.


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