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Year in review – Scots consumers end up worse off under MacAskill’s complaints quango as Law Society still calls the shots on crooked lawyers

29 Dec

2008 started off on a mixed note, with revelations of sleaze in the Justice Secretary’s appointments to the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission, which of course, Mr MacAskill carefully brushed aside with no explanation but you can read about the SLCC’s progress to date here

As January progressed, Scotland received a rare treat at the end of January with was probably the best announcement in years from the Law Society that it’s notorious Chief Executive, Douglas Mill, would resign from his post, a rare event, which occurred not long after the posting of the video coverage of Mill’s confrontation with Cabinet Secretary John Swinney over memos which detailed a policy of intervention to protect crooked lawyers. You can view the career ending video of Douglas Mill HERE

Sadly however, the year did not turn out as the promised ‘sea change’ in dealing with complaints against the legal profession or cleaning up some of the Law Society of Scotland’s horrors the past.

In fact, as 2008 draws to a close, it looks increasingly like consumers & clients of Scottish solicitors have been sold a ‘pig in a poke’ with the ‘independent’ Scottish Legal Complaints Commission, which has so far chosen to focus on giving its members pensions benefits, private insurance deals, and a pledge to keep members faces anonymous for fear of the general public realising just how sits on the fat salaried quango’s Commission, where members get over £300 just for showing up for a day’s ‘work’ looking at complaints against crooked lawyers …

Jane Irvine’s SLCC also made the questionable declaration it would not investigate any complaint arising from legal work instructed before 1st October 2008, which conveniently for this new Complaints Commission, ensured literally thousands of complaints would be excluded from its books, while also allowing the Law Society of Scotland, to go on ‘investigating’ complaints against crooked lawyers (and stitching up investigations) for at least another five or more years !

Never fear of course, the shiny new Scottish Government, which sadly now is starting to sound much like any other administration, would protect consumers & those suffering injustice ? Wrong.

If anything, ordinary consumers are now less protected in Scotland than the rest of the UK, thanks to Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill’s pledge to protect lawyers at seemingly any cost whatsoever from any idea of external independent regulation which might just prevent the levels of corruption in the legal profession & poor service which has recently brought down the global financial markets.

Looking at some of the cases I looked into over the past year, I find the likes of the following :

A solicitor at one of Edinburgh’s so-called ‘finest’ legal firms, according to clients who enquired as to the slow progress of their cases, found their famous solicitor to be nothing more than a cocaine addict, and probably a drug dealer as one of his firm’s ex-employees now allege.

This solicitor currently represents some 11 clients on major medical negligence cases, backed up by his legal firm which touts itself as an expert in the field of medical negligence but the partner is now so hooked on narcotics, he feels the need to ‘inhale’ in the presence of staff & clients.

Anyone feel like using his services for legal representation ? .. or his firm who seem to know all about ‘the problem’.

If that’s not bad enough, just think what might happen to his client’s cases if the ‘other side’ know of their solicitor’s cocaine habit …. but maybe that might already been in play as it seems the average wait time of his 11 clients seems to be about 5 years before anything gets near a court .. with cases strangely collapsing or descending into stalemates lasting months or even years, despite all his claims to clients of ‘win win win’, which has of course generated huge legal fees for himself and his firm for years …

Another solicitor from a legal firm in Glasgow apparently threatened a client saying over the telephone he “would have his brains blown out” if the client dared complain about a loan transaction which went wrong (in the lawyers favour of course).

Another solicitor who I was notified about, this time from the Scottish Borders, seems to spend a lot of his time fiddling opposing clients legal aid applications, and hatching out plots to take over deceased’s clients properties in wills & estates his legal firm acts as executor to.

This particular solicitor, who is well known at the Scottish Legal Aid Board for submitting false allegations against opposing counsel’s clients financial status, seems to have his name, the name of his firm, and a “holding company” he created, on several properties he ‘acquired’ from deceased clients his firm represented, in the Scottish Borders.

Several complaints exist against this particular solicitor, from families who have seen their bequeathments unexplainably disappear into his pockets .. and yes, the Law Society know all about it, but are as usual covering the whole thing up, at least, for now …

Interestingly, there are two other firms of Borders solicitors who also seem to have done the exact same thing as their above colleague, with properties they ‘acquired’ from deceased clients in circumstances which are less than transparent … and while complaints have also been made to the Law Society, those who were to receive the properties as a legacy are facing the usual brick wall of silence as the legal profession closes ranks to protect the crooked …

Other ‘leading lights’ of Scotland’s legal profession who have been brought to my attention this year include a solicitor who was found to have destroyed his client’s file while a complaint had been made to the Law Society after evidence surfaced he had embezzled over £67,000 of clients funds (a remarkably common event, happens almost every day by the sounds of it) … a female solicitor, yet another who works with one of Edinburgh’s ‘famous named’ legal firms who is working as a prostitute in her spare time and who apparently claims a member of the j*******y as one of her clients, and then there’s the fairly well known Scottish solicitor who runs a ‘simulated rape & bondage club’, which counts among its members many from the legal profession, teachers, and other professionals it would probably make you sick to read about.

How would you feel sitting in the same room as some of that lot ? Even worse probably, knowing that some of them are in fairly senior positions in our Justice system and other walks of life which one would think may be closed off to the likes of such …

I couldn’t possibly fail to mention the case of a solicitor who sent round several of his ‘thuggish’ clients to threaten another client who had decided to complain about him to the Law Society (also a remarkably common event) … the Police apparently now involved in that one, and also a flood of emails & complaints regarding the raft of solicitors who are now sending out demands to clients for fictitious work allegedly done years ago, at their instruction, but which of course, there is no proof of, no success story to show for, and not even a court record of in many cases.

Anyone feel like approaching any of these ‘highly qualified professionals’ for legal services ? They are all still practicing despite complaints records as long as your arm … so the Law Society must know what its doing, allowing such people to practice law …

Do I have your attention ? Is your confidence rising or falling in the Scottish legal profession’s ability to keep control of itself and ‘standards’ ?

Now do remember – this is the same profession which Kenny MacAskill is actively promoting to attract legal business to Scotland …. but that promotional exercise doesn’t seem to have worked, so maybe, just maybe those prospective foreign clients have their heads screwed on the right way and know when to avoid a crooked lawyer, by not using a Scottish lawyer … or a Scottish jurisdiction, where the client may end up at the dead end of the stick …

So as you see, this past year, 2008, has produced no promised sea change in complaints against lawyers, and no promised sea change in standards of legal service in Scotland, or access to justice, or help from the Scottish Government against professionally protected crooks who are fleecing the public and getting away with it.

All the while, the Law Society of Scotland can keep secret the identities of lawyers who have criminal records, lawyers who steal & embezzle from their clients, lawyers who are drugs users & dealers, lawyers who destroy or falsify files & information, lawyers who engage in just about any imaginable or unimaginable activity simply for financial gain … and the public who approach them for legal services have no idea who or what these people are.

Scots are still forced into accepting what has become a draw of the ‘crooked lawyer lottery’ where prospective clients get to know less about their solicitor than what goes into a can of baked beans, ensuring Scottish consumers are left little protection, while the Scottish Government, which is currently engaged in piling on the multi million pound gifts to the legal profession’s new complaints ‘front’ organisation, the SLCC, says it will defend lawyers to the very end .. at least, so says Kenny MacAskill …

Kenny MacAskill in a staggering quote from 2008 admits his mission is to protect lawyers, not the public !


What does 2009 hold for consumers of legal services in Scotland ?

Well, unless the Scottish Government get off their backsides and pull up the ‘independent’ Scottish Legal Complaints Commission, wipe it clean of Law Society influence, and maybe even .. start afresh .. the answer is not much really … unless as some of you seem to be indicating, “clients stop getting sucked into the lawyer controlled complaints process” and start seeking alternatives to recover their lost funds, livelihoods, even lives, which have been decimated by very greedy and dishonest solicitors ….

Of course, the Scottish Government could surprise us all, bring in something like “Truth & Reconciliation” to the issue of historic complaints against the legal profession, and produce the clean slate which the LPLA (Scotland) Act 2007 was meant to give us in the first place … but is that a step too far for politicians who are too deeply in bed with the legal profession ?

I hasten to add that not all lawyers are crooked, but why don’t the honest ones take the initiative and clean up their profession ?

The Law Society isn’t the powerful behemoth it once was … so why no action from within ? Is it just not profitable enough to clean up one’s own profession ? Is there nothing to be gained from giving the public a more trustworthy, competitive legal services market we can depend on ?

Perhaps consumers should ask themselves the following :

Do you want to use a Scottish lawyer ? Do you really NEED to use a Scottish lawyer ? Financially, how hurt are you going to end up when inevitably, your lawyer turns against you simply to fleece you for money on a case they will say you will win, but you know will probably take years and result in nothing other than demands for large sums of money you could better do to keep for yourself & your family’s needs, especially in what promises to be a recession the UK has not seen for many decades.

If you want to change the way you are treated in 2009, its time to choose a different path away from the likes of crooked professionals who so easily will take your money, your livelihoods, your home, even, your lives away simply to make more money for themselves …

And finally, as if to remind us all that lawyers are not all they crack themselves up to be .. here is a short tale from the pages of the Scotsman in a stark reminder to us all … trying to recover damages from lawyers in Scotland, no matter who you are, is more difficult than pulling hen’s teeth …

The Scotsman reports :

Marquess sues estate lawyers for £700,000

Published Date: 24 December 2008
By JOHN ROBERTSON
Law Correspondent

AN ARISTOCRAT is suing lawyers for £700,000 after he was landed with a huge tax bill to prevent the break-up of one of his estates.

Alexander Gordon, the 7th Marquess of Aberdeen and Temair, claims negligence by Edinburgh-based Turcan Connell led to him having to form a “rescue plan” to stop some of his wealth passing to relatives he did not want to benefit.

The Court of Session yesterday heard the “Aberdeen Gordons”, who have held land in Aberdeenshire for more than 500 years, owned the Haddo and Tarves estates.

In 1984, the current marquess, also known as Lord Aberdeen, consulted with his then solicitors, not Turcan Connell, about the best way of passing the Tarves estate to his children without incurring tax.

A trust was set up but Lord Aberdeen had only one child at the time, Lord Haddo, and it was decided the best course was to include other child relatives, those of his sister, Lady Emma, and of his adopted cousin, Andrew Gordon.

By the 1990s, Lord Aberdeen had four children. He made it clear to his lawyer, the court heard, that Haddo was to go to his eldest son, and Tarves was to pass to one or more of his other three children.

“He had made it plain that it should only be if none of his immediate family survived him that any of his sister’s children should receive the Tarves estate, and on no account should any of his adopted cousin’s children receive it,” the court heard.

Turcan Connell became his solicitors in 1997 and reviewed the trust, and Lord Aberdeen confirmed that his wishes remained the same.

There came a deadline under the rules of the trust when beneficiaries had to be nominated but, according to Lord Aberdeen, it was realised the date had passed and an urgent meeting was called in 2006.

“Robert Turcan explained he had made a mistake and apologised for it … each of the (nine) children had or shortly would have an interest in an equal share in the assets of the Tarves Estate Trust,” the pleadings in the damages action said.

“This would result in the break-up of a substantial part of the ancestral landholding associated with the Gordon family for hundreds of years.”

A “salvage operation” was formed under which the Tarves estate was advanced to Lord Haddo. But the move also triggered liability for capital gains tax. The full extent had yet to be assessed, the court was told, but Lord Aberdeen said an interim payment of £500,000 had been made.

Lord Haddo took a bank loan to fund the payment, and Lord Aberdeen guaranteed the loan. As well as interest, there would be substantial professional fees to pay.

In her judgment, Lady Smith said: “(The marquess) offers to prove that no ordinarily competent solicitor would have failed to advise him timeously of the need for the trustees to exercise their discretion in favour of one or more of his children if the break-up of the Tarves estate was to be avoided.

“(Turcan Connell] deny that, in the circumstances of the case, they had a duty to tender the advice that he avers they were under a duty to give.”

Lady Smith said the test for dismissing the case at this stage was whether the marquess’s claim would necessarily fail. He insisted the mistake by Turcan Connell amounted to negligence.

“I recognise his case is not without difficulties (but) I cannot be satisfied that the action will necessarily fail,” she said.

No date was fixed for another hearing.

PROFILE

THE Most Hon Alexander George Gordon, 53, was educated at Harrow and pursued a career as a property developer in London before becoming the 7th Marquess of Aberdeen and Temair six years ago.

He married Joanna Clodagh Houldsworth in 1981 and the couple have four children, George, Earl of Haddo, 25, Lord Sam, 23, Lady Anna, 20 and Lord Charles, 18.

He made headlines in 2004 with plans for tank-driving courses at the family’s Haddo Estate at Methlick.

However, the current marquess would have to come up with something much more outlandish to rival the “colourful” tag given to his father, Alastair Ninian John Gordon, who died, aged 82, in 2002.

An artist and art critic, he listed his recreations as “wine, women and song”, and not long before his death, he wrote a magazine article, The Good Whore Guide, in which he charted his adventures as a “sex-starved subaltern” during and after the Second World War.

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