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Scottish Legal Complaints Commission’s Eileen Masterman quits, questions remain on attempt to mislead Cabinet Finance Chief John Swinney over secret meetings with insurers Marsh

14 Apr

Eileen MastermanSLCC Chief Executive Eileen Masterman. In an eerie reflection of events two years ago which forced the resignation of former Law Society Chief Douglas Mill, EILEEN MASTERMAN, who was appointed Chief Executive of the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission by Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill in 2008 on a salary of £1,350 a week, is to resign after only one year of being in the controversial post at the scandal-hit regulator which deals with consumer complaints against Scottish solicitors. Ms Masterman has been absent from her post for six months, as I reported yesterday here : £70K Chief Executive ‘missing for 6 months’ at Scottish Legal Complaints Commission as Justice Secretary dodges questions on scandal-hit law quango

Insiders at the SLCC confirmed late yesterday evening Ms Masterman was leaving, apparently on grounds off “ill health” and that an official announcement would be made soon revealing Rosemary Agnew, the SLCC’s “Head of Investigations” as the new Chief Executive.

Margaret Scanlan - Called to the Bars - Sunday Mail  15 March 2009 emailEileen Masterman was caught in anti-client insults scandal at SLCC, reported in the press. During Ms Masterman’s tenure as Chief Executive of the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission, it was revealed through documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act she had slated consumer organisations & campaigners in bitter exchanges with SLCC board members including Glasgow Divorce lawyer Margaret Scanlan & the well known Law Professor Alan Paterson, from Strathclyde University, expressing resentment at campaign organisations who questioned the integrity of Scotland’s legal profession. I reported on that story in an earlier article, here : Insults fly at Scottish Legal Complaints Commission as Law chiefs launch bitter tirades against campaign groups & law reformers, later picked up by the national media as I reported here : MacAskill must clean up law complaints body as members ‘booze culture conduct’ reflects lack of discipline & will to investigate crooked lawyers

John SwinneyCabinet Finance Chief John Swinney revealed he felt Ms Masterman had mislead him over accounts of meetings. However, Eileen Masterman’s resignation leaves questions over increasingly bitter exchanges between the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission & the Scottish Government’s Finance Chief, John Swinney, on a matter which I have previously reported where further documents obtained under Freedom of Information legislation revealed the SLCC had clearly mislead Mr Swinney over secret meetings between its officials including Ms Masterman and officials from Marsh, the Law Society’s Master Policy insurers.

John Swinney 09032009 to SLCC 1Cabinet Secretary Swinney demanded explanations of SLCC’s minutes contradictions. Letters written by Cabinet Secretary John Swinney dated March 2009 to the SLCC’s Chief Executive Eileen Masterman brand her explanation ‘contradictory’ to details in the Commission’s own minutes : “In your response on the 12th of December to *** subsequent letter on the 2nd of December in which *** had stated ‘clearly you are saying that no date has yet been arranged for the Marsh presentation’. You indicated that a meeting took place with RSA (Royal Sun Alliance) in July 2008 but that no meeting had occurred with Marsh.”

Mr Swinney then went on to state : “*** has drawn to my attention the fact that the minutes of the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission dated 11th of March 2008 and 7th July 2007 indicated firstly in March 2008 that ‘Jane Irvine confirmed she had arranged an introductory session from Marsh’ and the minutes in July said that a meeting had taken place with RSA. I have to say that I feel there is a contradiction between the correspondence you have sent to *** dated 1st and 12th of December and the minutes of the SLCC meetings of March and July.”

The SLCC’s Chief Executive, Eileen Masterman, herself a former Law Society of Scotland Committee member, issued the following statement in response to queries over Mr Swinney’s communications : “As you know, the SLCC came into existence on 1 October 2008 and a few weeks later, in early November, I attended a meeting with the SLCC’s Head of Investigations and a representative from Marsh. I considered that it was necessary and entirely appropriate for us, as senior members of the SLCC’s team, to apprise ourselves of the nature and workings of the Master Policy and Guarantee Fund as these come within our area of responsibility. However, the meeting did not relate to the means by which SLCC would ultimately exercise its oversight function.“

John Swinney 03062009 to SLCCSLCC’s answers to Cabinet Secretary Swinney were far from clear. Ms Masterman’s responses to Mr Swinney’s allegations of contradictions in correspondence between himself, a constituent and the SLCC, to keep secret any meetings with the insurers, fell through after details of the secret meetings emerged in board minutes of meetings of the Commission, leading to further correspondence between the SLCC & Mr Swinney, who went onto brand Ms Masterman’s explanations as “far from clear” after Ms Masterman informed Mr Swinney in letters dated 15 January 2009 “The SLCC has not consulted with Marsh or the Royal Sun Alliance about the operation of the Master Policy” which was contradicted by emails from November 2008 between Ms Masterman & the then Head of Investigations Rosemary Agnew, which read : “We received our tutorial yesterday on the Master Policy from Marsh”.

Eileen Masterman then wrote to John Swinney in a letter dated March 2009 claiming “I have not met with Marsh”, clearly contradicting the course of events where SLCC officials including Ms Masterman had in fact met Marsh.

The increasingly bitter exchanges on the issue of the SLCC’s involvement with Marsh continue between the SLCC, Mr Swinney and his constituent where legal insiders who have read the documents already available through FOI disclosures agree there appears to be a clear intention to mislead inquiries made by Cabinet Secretary Mr Swinney.

SLCC report headerScottish Legal Complaints Commission report on Master Policy revealed clients had committed suicide over conduct of ‘crooked lawyers’ & Marsh. The disputed ‘secret meetings with Marsh’ were held prior to a survey commissioned by the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission into the Master Policy & Guarantee Fund, which are ‘managed’ by the Law Society to compensate clients of negligent and crooked lawyers, but which in reality never pay out financial compensation for terrible loss inflicted on clients by rogue lawyers. The results of the report, conducted by the University of Manchester’s Professor Frank Stephen, and Dr Angela Melville, revealed that : Suicides, illness, broken families and ruined clients reveal true cost of Law Society’s Master Policy which ‘allows solicitors to sleep at night’

Douglas Mill 4Douglas Mill resigned as Law Society Chief Executive after revelations of secret ‘anti-client’ dealings with insurers Marsh. Ms Masterman’s resignation, while officially over ‘ill health’ almost identically mirrors a similar chain of events after Mr Swinney revealed a set of Mr Mill’s own memos, showing secret communications & meetings between the Law Society of Scotland & its Master Policy insurers, Marsh UK which eventually led to the resignation in January 2008 of the then Law Society Chief Executive Douglas Mill, after video footage of the confrontation between John Swinney & Douglas Mill before the Scottish Parliament’s Justice Committee was posted to You Tube. I reported on Douglas Mill’s own resignation, here : Breaking News : Law Society Chief Executive Douglas Mill who lied to Parliament, pursued ‘personal vendetta’ against critics – to resign

The memos, written by Mr Mill and his associates at the Law Society depicted a sequence of events where officials including Mr Mill were apparently engaged in operations to target and deny clients any access to legal representation in cases involving the recovery of financial claims against ‘crooked lawyers’. The costs of claims against ‘crooked lawyers’ are met by the Master Policy, operated by Marsh and funded by insurers Royal Sun Alliance PLC.

Cabinet Secretary Swinney was asked for comment on Ms Masterman’s resignation and the discussion between his office & Ms Masterman over the meetings between the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission & Marsh. His spokeswoman said in response : “John Swinney has no comment to make on this matter.”

The Scottish Government & Scottish Legal Complaints Commission were both asked for comment today on Ms Masterman’s resignation. A spokeswoman for the Scottish Government said : “We do not comment on individual staffing cases.”. The Scottish Legal Complaints Commission did not give a comment at the time of publishing.

Scottish Legal Complaints Commission - Eileen Masterman steps down  as Chief  Executive 19 April 2010SLCC statement on CEO Eileen Masterman. In an update to the original article, the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission issued a public release on 19 April 2010 regarding Ms Masterman’s position, stating : “The SLCC has now informed its staff and stakeholders that after a period of illness, Eileen Masterman, Chief Executive Officer of the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission (SLCC) has left the organisation. The Commission wishes her well for the future. Jane Irvine, SLCC Chair, confirmed that Rosemary Agnew, the SLCC Head of Investigations, will continue in her role as Accountable Officer and Acting Chief Executive until further notice. The position of Chief Executive is filled through the Public Appointments process run by the Office of the Commissioner for Public Appointments in Scotland (OCPAS). The recruitment process will commence in due course.”

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