Revelations from Scottish Legal Complaints Commission show no register was kept until August 2008. Documents released today under the Freedom of Information Act from the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission reveal that strangely, no register of interests had been kept at the joint taxpayer-legal profession funded law complaints body until August 2008, this despite the quango being in receipt of millions of pounds of taxpayers money while it awaited the eventual collection of the Penman complaints levy from the legal profession to keep the commission ‘ticking over’.
Jane Irvine, the SLCC’s Chair is the only board member to have declared any hospitality in the newly released register of Members Gifts & Hospitality. The papers released today from the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission show that only one member, the SLCC Chairman, Jane Irvine, has received (and declared) hospitality from the legal profession and organisations connected with it. However, the register did not reflect hospitality received by one of the SLCC’s lay board members, Dr Linda Pollock, who, the SLCC today confirmed, had alongside her husband, attended a ball given by an Edinburgh law firm.
In responding to queries on actual hospitality, the SLCC said today : “ In searching for the information requested I have ascertained that no Register existed prior to August last year. I have also sought the Members’ recollection as to whether they had received gifts or hospitality and they have all responded that they have not.”
“In clarification of my request regarding hospitality Dr Pollock informed me that she had declared an invitation to the Chair who ascertained that the invitation was for Dr Pollock’s husband to attend a Ball on 30 May 2008 by the law firm Gillespie Macandrew LLP. Dr Pollock attended as his partner.”
A legal insider earlier today commented on the revelations, saying : “The lack of a register being drafted for the start of members paid work at the SLCC, which began in January 2008 raises questions over what has been going on all this time, especially after the revelations that not even a members code of conduct existed until just a few weeks ago, and that only came about after the newspapers began to take an interest in the SLCC.”
He continued : “It all seems a bit of an amateur set-up at the SLCC, although a costly one at over 4 million pounds to solicitors and the taxpayer. Everyone knew what was needed to get this organisation going so why couldn’t all this have been in place when the money started pouring in ?”
Hospitality rules at Scottish Legal Complaints Commission. While there are no particular horrors contained in today’s disclosures from the SLCC, there are certainly some interesting organisations revealed to be keen to keep the SLCC ‘on side’, such as the Institute of Chartered Accountants, itself a self regulator, well known by many to have protected crooked accountants from serious complaints over the years, and also, perhaps a surprising note to some of an invite from the Medical Protection Society, who describe themselves as “… the leading provider of comprehensive professional indemnity and expert advice to doctors, dentists and health professionals around the world” which sounds almost familiar to how Marsh UK describe themselves, as the leading provider of professional indemnity to the legal profession. Others who regularly invite the SLCC over for bouts of socialising are the Law Society of Scotland, the Faculty of Advocates, and, dare I say .. the usual suspects.
Since there appear to be some issues of hospitality which are not indicated in the actual register itself, which the SLCC do not publish, I decided to publish this information today, which perhaps might give a clearer impression of the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission to those who may have to deal with it at some stage in relation to complaints about the legal profession.
Perhaps as there is so much hospitality on offer from the legal profession and those connected with it to the ‘independent’ SLCC, there should be a rolling register of interests kept updated regularly … hopefully without too much of the forgetfulness that has marked the SLCC’s previous attempts at transparency …