Politicians & consumer groups feel SLCC is having a laugh at Scots public. THE SCOTTISH LEGAL COMPLAINTS COMMISSION, which is due to publish its first annual report in December, has been roundly condemned by politicians, consumer groups, and members of the public forced to approach it over complaints against ‘crooked lawyers’ as being an expensive, incompetent & anti-consumer quango which is focussed more on salaries & expenses than its once promised task of cleaning up mounting complaints of corruption in Scotland’s legal profession.
SLCC Chief Executive Eileen Masterman at 70K a year was named in a survey as one of the highest paid quango Chiefs in Scotland. While board members of the SLCC have raked in a staggering £135,000 plus in expenses claims over the past year, and its Chair, Jane Irvine nets £308 plus, a day, along with Chief Executive Eileen Masterman who gets a whopping £1350 per week, the complaints body has shown itself over the past year to be a very poor regulator of complaints against ‘crooked lawyers’, leaving many clients finding their complaints have been ‘whitewashed’ in a way reminiscent of the Law Society of Scotland’s Client Relations Office investigations, which are well known to have let thousands of crooked lawyers off the hook from even the most serious of complaints.
MSPs have been asked to assist consumers caught out by anti-client SLCC. While the SLCC has focussed on huge salaries and expenses claims, little by way of complaints victories for consumers have been achieved by the cash hungry quango. The public’s dealings with the SLCC have now reached such a low point that MSPs across Scotland have been called in by many constituents to help complainers get the SLCC to give them a fair hearing that Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill had promised would be routine with the failing SLCC, once styled as a ‘new broom’ but which has now lost its bristles, and it seems, the will to address public complaints against the legal profession.
This morning, an MSP spoke of being called in by a constituent to ask the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission why it had continually failed to address serious issues in a complaint made against a rogue solicitor and his law firm which now includes a complaint against the Law Society itself.
The MSP said : “A constituent who has become embroiled in a dispute with the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission and the Law Society of Scotland over a complaint made against a solicitor, asked me to write into the SLCC seeking to untangle the mess they had made of my constituent’s problem. The responses I have received so far from the SLCC demonstrate nothing has been learned from the failures of the Law Society’s complaints system.”
“Each time I received a response to my enquiry, they would seek to complicate the issue further to the point that matters became very unclear as to what was happening with my constituent’s complaint and what they intended to do about it. I was left with the distinct impression I was dealing with an organisation that has a very bad attitude towards the public. Clearly the SLCC has become unfit for purpose.”
A member of the public who has been waiting several months for his complaint to be investigated by the SLCC said today : “I have been writing letters back & forth for months to people at the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission and I feel they are just doing all this on purpose to lose me in a paper chase. I think the legal profession are just having a laugh at us consumers by using the SLCC to launder complaints made against crooked lawyers. I have lost all trust in the SLCC. They should be replaced with something that can help people with complaints not hinder them and there should be no lawyers on whatever replaces it in the future.”
The Scottish Legal Complaints Commission was asked for information on how many MSPs had contacted it over problems faced by constituents who had encountered difficulties with the law complaints body. However, the SLCC refused to hand over any information or documents on this subject, and tersely said that requests for such information would now be charged for.
Quango secrecy to maximum as SLCC website reveals lack of board meeting minutes and accurate information on its actual performance. While the SLCC was being secretive about its own difficulties and the lack of trust it suffers from public & politicians alike, the quango’s own website amazingly reveals today that up to today, 23 November 2009, it has failed to post any board minutes since July 2009, begging the question what has the Commission actually been doing all this time, while its members have been raking in huge expenses claims & salaries while complaints and the public have become its last priority. An insider commented on the lack of minutes information, claiming that due to poor media coverage which had revealed the SLCC to be unfit for purpose, the commission had now taken the decision not to release much information on its internal workings to the public, for fear that the details of its daily operation and board meetings would continue to portray it to be a pro-legal profession body, rather than an impartial regulator of consumer complaints against poor legal services.
SLCC’s July 09 report into Master Policy claims revealed client suicides but quango did nothing. A spokeswoman for a consumer organisation today rounded on the SLCC and agreed the quango needed to be reformed. She said : “While the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission may argue this has been their first year of operation, they have without doubt made a huge mess of handling complaints and attending to their duties.” She continued : “Probably the worst example I can think of from the SLCC’s first year would be their Master Policy investigation, which revealed so much, yet has still to see any action or reform of the horrendous claims process which clients are forced to use when claiming negligence or damages against their solicitors. I think that failure on its own, demonstrates the SLCC is too weak, too unwilling, and too close to the legal profession to be of any use to consumers as the impartial, independent regulator it claims itself to be.”
“We need to move on from this mistake and create a fully independent regulator that is able to do the job the SLCC was supposed to do, but cannot do due to overwhelming influence and control from the legal profession itself.”
You can read my earlier reports on how the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission handled their investigation into the Law Society of Scotland’s Master Insurance Policy, here : ‘Ground-breaking’ investigation into Law Society’s Master Policy insurance reveals realities of corrupt claims process against crooked lawyers and here : Suicides, illness, broken families and ruined clients reveal true cost of Law Society’s Master Policy which ‘allows solicitors to sleep at night’
Well, I can only agree with the sentiments expressed by others, that the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission is most certainly, unfit for purpose, and should be replaced with a fully independent body which operates under external oversight, and is free of influence & control from the legal profession, to ensure that consumers are fully protected from the many rogue elements of Scotland’s very poor, untrustworthy, legal profession.