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Clients must publicise complaints against solicitors ‘to name & shame’ or Law Society & ‘anti-client’ SLCC ‘will whitewash as usual’ say consumer groups

10 Jun

John G O Donnell Sunday Mail 19 April 2009Complaints against lawyers in Scotland ‘are whitewashed’ without media coverage. MEMBERS OF THE PUBLIC who are forced to complain about their solicitors were today reminded by consumer groups & law reform campaigners their complaints to the Law Society of Scotland and ‘anti-client’ Scottish Legal Complaints Commission, especially complaints involving the most serious issues such as fraud, embezzlement, theft, mishandling of wills etc.. stand a much better chance of being more thoroughly investigated if the media become involved and the case is well publicised, after a string of reports exposing crooked lawyers in the national media were reported to have helped along complaints made by clients of Scottish solicitors while also helping other members of the public fall victim to the same rogue lawyers.

The 4m Crooked Lawyer - Daily Record 1991Would you use a lawyer who stole £4million ? The Law Society did nothing until the media exposed the crooked lawyer. The publicity of naming & shaming ‘crooked lawyers’ – which has become common knowledge among many Scots who have been forced to deal with the extremely prejudiced anti-client complaints system operated by both the Law Society of Scotland and now the hapless Scottish Legal Complaints Commission has been held up as an example by consumer officials for all clients who register complaints against their solicitors or law firms, in the firm belief based on firm evidence that media interest in complaints against solicitors speeds up investigations against ‘crooked lawyers’ while also drawing attention to the endemic problems of corruption within Scotland’s legal profession, and the legal profession’s unwillingness to regulate its own members unless headline grabbing stories begin to appear in the national or online media.

REVEALED - Top Lawyer at the centre of 12 negligence claimsBanned solicitor John G.O’Donnell is one of many lawyers in Scotland facing multiple negligence claims – would you use such a lawyer the Law Society seeks to protect ? After continual media coverage relating to the case of the banned-for-now solicitor John G. O’Donnell, which revealed more of the lurid world of Scottish legal regulators & major insurers conspiring to prolong & defeat financial claims made by ruined clients against hundreds of crooked lawyers still allowed to practice in Scotland, an official from one of Scotland’s consumer organisations today urged anyone who has registered a complaint against their lawyer with the Law Society of Scotland or Scottish Legal Complaints Commission to come forward to the national media and publicise the details of their complaints, to protect themselves from any prejudice the legal profession show against investigating their complaint, and help protect others from falling victim to the same fate.

SLCC LAW SOCIETYLaw Society of Scotland & Scottish Legal Complaints Commission both branded prejudiced, anti-client by consumer groups & campaigners. The official said : “Both the Law Society of Scotland & Scottish Legal Complaints Commission have consistently demonstrated in thousands of complaints investigations they are too biased towards the legal profession to be of any benefit to members of the public who are placed in a position by their legal representatives of having to complain to either of these regulators.”

She continued : “I urge all those consumers who have made complaints to the Law Society of Scotland or SLCC to publicise their complaints along with the names of the solicitors & law firms involved to force the regulators to pay more attention to complaints rather than constantly seeking to cover up even the worst acts of their members against clients by doing nothing over the thousands of complaints made against members of the legal profession each year in Scotland.”

will photo stockFrauds against wills & executry estates are a favourite targets for lawyers who often get away with stealing from deceased clients after a Law Society ‘complaints whitewash’. A client whose complaint against his family lawyer has been with the Law Society for over two years with as yet no action after over £100,000 had gone missing from the client’s late mother’s will said the only way to get some justice against lawyers who steal is to go public and keep the pressure on the lawyer and the Law Society to do something.

He said : “Despite my complaint being watertight and the bank details showing the solicitor had taken the money which has now been shown to have ended up in his own law firm’s accounts to prop up his supposedly ailing law firm, nothing has been done two years later and I think the Law Society are just going to whitewash the whole thing. On top of that he has been allowed to practice all this time so god knows what he has been doing with other clients money.”

An individual who was formerly employed by an independent regulator of complaints against solicitors said he welcomed the call for members of the public to publicise their complaints against solicitors.

He said : “People who make complaints against their solicitors have no idea how biased & secretive the legal profession are when it comes to investigating their own.”

He continued : “Fully independent regulation of solicitors will only come with a steady stream of media attention to the issue highlighting the sheer numbers & similar types of complaints made by clients against identifiable solicitors & law firms. The Law Society & SLCC know this to be the case which is why both keep a lid of confidentiality on all complaints they receive.

“Having spent some of my employed life in the field of complaints regulation I would advise anyone making a complaint against a solicitor to seek media interest when they submit their complaint to the Law Society or Scottish Legal Complaints Commission.”

Ian Donnelly - Lawyer begs for sex with mum & girl of 11 - Daily RecordEven complaints which involve criminal allegations of a sexual nature against solicitors are buried by the legal profession unless media attention ensues. As media reports have already revealed, complaints or scandals involving members of the legal profession are not limited to financial matters as revelations of some complaints to the Law Society show members of the public have been forced to complain against inappropriate conduct of their solicitors, where in one shocking instance now coming to light, a married solicitor & father of two began pestering the young son of a client to attend clandestine meetings with a sexual intent. In this particular case, as yet unreported in the media, it appears the allegations have not been reported to the authorities by the Law Society, even though the solicitor concerned – a ‘leading partner’ in a famous Scottish law firm used by many of Scotland’s top businessmen, has faced similar allegations in the past of seeking inappropriate contact with children.

Scotsman coverage of some of the stories relating to Andrew PenmanMedia exposure of the Law Society’s efforts to protect crooked Kelso solicitor Andrew Penman led to long road to reform of complaints against Scottish solicitors. Admittedly in some cases, media coverage can take years to have any effect on a case, where in my own particular complaint, the Scotsman’s (of old) exposure of the Law Society of Scotland’s efforts to protect crooked Borders lawyer Andrew Penman of Stormonth Darling Solicitors, Kelso from a prosecution before the Scottish Solicitors Discipline Tribunal, eventually led to many reforms of regulation of complaints against solicitors in Scotland.

james_nessLaw Society Council member James Ness prevented SSDT prosecution of Andrew Penman. While the media coverage in my own case did not change the Law Society’s cover up of the Penman case, nor did it resolve the issue of the senior Law Society Council members who halted the prosecution of Mr Penman before the Discipline Tribunal on everything from deceiving the Inland Revenue to Banks, the publicity on Andrew Penman & Stormonth Darling helped publicise many other serious complaints against rogue lawyers in Scotland, also helping a few members of the public to avoid publicly identified lawyers & law firms associated with complaints & corrupt practices, a lesson which should be learned by all.

MacAskill tight lippedJustice Secretary Kenny MacAskill compromised SLCC & legislative reforms to complaints against solicitors. Lessons on reforming complaints against solicitors must also be learned, after witnessing the mess of the Legal Profession & Legal Aid (Scotland) Act, considered by the Scottish Parliament in the summer of 2006, and eventually passed at the end of that year. The regulatory aims & reforms of the LPLA Act sadly now lie in dust, after the SNP minority administration which came into existence in May 2007, completely compromised most of the planned reforms of the LPLA Act, with the Justice Secretary, Kenny MacAskill going onto appoint Law Society stooges to what was to have been an independent Scottish Legal Complaints Commission. The SLCC as we all now know, has turned into little more than an anti-client front company for the Law Society itself, demonstrating well that lawyers cannot be involved in regulatory role against themselves in the future if reforms to regulation are to succeed in giving the public unrivalled consumer protection from Scotland’s notoriously poor legal services sector.

Scottish GovernmentThe Scottish Government are planning to approve the Law Society to continue regulating complaints in the new Legal Services Bill. Despite the infamous history of corrupt self regulation of the legal profession in Scotland, where lawyers have covered up for lawyers for decades, the Scottish Government are planning to allow the Law Society of Scotland as an ‘approved regulator’ to oversee complaints against even non-lawyers in Scotland’s ‘expanded’ legal services market to be ushered in after the passage of the Legal Services Bill, once aimed at expanding access to justice in Scotland but now viewed as little more than a bill aimed at consolidating the legal profession’s grip on Scots access to legal services. Such plans will only increase the cover ups associated with lawyers regulating themselves, while it is likely the non-lawyers will face more harsh treatment in an attempt by the legal profession to quash any competition in the legal services sector.

So to all those seeking advice on whether it would be best to publish your complaints against your solicitors before going to the Law Society of Scotland & Scottish Legal Complaints Commission, the answer is a firm YES .. however, if you do, seek out a newspaper with a decent circulation who will investigate and report on the story. If readers want recommendations on which newspaper to approach, please ask questions in the comments section.

Remember readers, wider publication of your complaint against your solicitor will help the progress of your own complaint as well as help to prevent others from falling victim to the same actions taken against you by your own solicitor, who may well have done the same to many other clients … You can all help end the cycle of ‘crooked lawyers, crooked self regulation’ by wider publication of complaints against solicitors.

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