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Disgraced lawyer banned by Legal Aid Board after £560K claims returns to work, Law Society takes no action to protect Scots consumers

31 Aug

Law Society of ScotlandLaw Society of Scotland’s weak touch self-regulation allows ‘crooked lawyers’ to continue working for unsuspecting clients. THE LAW SOCIETY OF SCOTLAND’S self serving, self protecting system of lawyers regulating each other has once again demonstrated the Scottish legal profession is thoroughly unfit to regulate its 10,000 solicitors and protect the client’s best interests at the same time, as the Sunday Mail newspaper revealed this weekend yet another ‘disgraced lawyer’ solicitor Steven Anderson, has returned to work after the Scottish Legal Aid Board found him guilt of making ‘unjustified claims’, while the Law Society has taken NO ACTION to protect the public.

The Sunday Mail’s investigation into Steven Anderson came after Scottish Legal Aid Board issued an earlier Press Release stating an investigation had found non-compliance with SLAB’s Code of Practice for Criminal Legal Assistance. The SLAB Press Release identified solicitor Steven Anderson, stating “this non‐compliance included: holding unnecessary meetings with clients, and making inappropriate, multiple and repetitive grants of advice and assistance”. Curiously however, the Press Release from the Scottish Legal Aid Board contained no figures of how much money in terms of claims to the Legal Aid Board Mr Anderson had received, now revealed by the Sunday Mail to stand at a staggering £560,330.

SLAB_logoScottish Legal Aid Board also identified other ‘non complying’ solicitors. One can only wonder why Mr Anderson’s staggering legal aid claims figure was omitted from SLAB’s earlier Press Release, which also named Iain Robertson, director of Roberston and Ross Limited & solicitor, Alistair Gibb, stating they had overcharged the Board for travel to various prisons, which resulted in a massive £221,847 repayment to SLAB, yet no prosecution by the Crown Office. You can read more about the SLAB announcement in my earlier report on the matter, here : Justice for all ? Scotland’s Crown Office refuse to prosecute ‘crooked lawyers’ who ‘wrongly’ claimed £221K in Legal Aid funds

While the Law Society has this week been engaged in a force feeding of ‘good press’ to some newspapers over the ‘achievements’ (rolling in the cash) of some solicitors in the legal profession to paper over the weekend’s reporting of the latest slew of ‘crooked lawyers’ operating in ‘regulatory anonymity’ I thought I would close the month of Augusts’ coverage with a reminder of the true face of Scotland’s legal fraternity, along with a reminder of exactly what the Law Society did with regard to Mr Anderson’s apparently unnecessary legal aid claims. Nothing. The same nothing the Law Society of Scotland and the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission do time & again when faced with thousands of complaints from Scots against their solicitors, and the question of what to do about ‘crooked lawyers’.

For solicitors who feel like fiddling the taxpayer, there should be an automatic striking off of any solicitor who falsely claims legal aid, as well as automatic prosecution in the criminal courts. Read on for the Sunday Mail’s excellent investigation :

Disgraced lawyer returns at a new firm after bagging 560K in legal aid claims - Sunday Mail  29 August 2010Disgraced lawyer returns at a new firm after bagging £560k a year in legal aid claims

Aug 29 2010 Exclusive by Derek Alexander and Russell Findlay

A LAWYER banned from claiming legal aid after raking in more taxpayers’ cash than Scotland’s top QCs is back in business.

Legal aid investigators probed Steven Anderson after he pocketed £560,330 of public money in one year – eclipsing high-profile QC Donald Findlay’s £370,900 annual fees.

The Scottish Legal Aid Board found Anderson guilty of making unjustified claims and blocked £500,000 of pending payments. They also banned all future claims by the 52-year-old and his firm, Andersons Solicitors, in Springburn, Glasgow. The inquiry concluded that Anderson held unnecessary meetings with clients and made “inappropriate, multiple and repetitive” claims.

Anderson – whose ex-legal partner was jailed for storing guns for the McGovern crime clan – has been forced to close down his former firm. But Sunday Mail investigators have found it is business as usual for Anderson. Last week, he was working in the office of Lanigan Meechan & Co – where his old company were based. The firm even have the same phone number used by his old company.

Because of the legal aid ban, Anderson is only allowed to work for private clients who pay their own fees. Anderson, from Knightswood, Glasgow, said: “Every penny I claimed in legal aid can be justified and I have not obtained any payment by fraud. “I’d often work 16 hours a day and had two other solicitors working for me to spread the load. “I would regularly argue with SLAB about payments and I believe I’ve been deregistered because I was too much trouble. “They still owe me around £300,000 but they have offered to pay me less than 80 per cent of my submitted fees.”

Taxpayers last year forked out £150.4million in fees for those who couldn’t afford legal representation in Scotland.

In 2008-09, Anderson’s firm raked in £560,330 of legal aid. In that same year the top-earning firm in Scotland – Livingstone Brown, with around 20 lawyers and six offices – received £1.98million. The highest-earning QC was Donald Findlay, with £370,900 of legal aid, while Gordon Jackson QC got £314,100.

A SLAB spokesman said: “Where claims are inappropriate, these are not being paid. The outstanding sums claimed amount to around £500,000. “Mr Anderson has consistently failed to provide information necessary to support his claims and we await his response on a large number of cases. “The amount of staff resource required to deal with Mr Anderson’s accounts has been excessive.”

Anderson was previously cleared of a legal aid fiddle along with his ex-partner James McIntyre. The pair – along with a third partner – appeared before the Scottish Solicitors’ Discipline Tribunal in 1999 following a SLAB raid on their office. At the time, McIntyre was serving three years in prison for storing guns at his home in Linlithgow, West Lothian, for the Springburn-based McGovern family. He was later struck off.

Anderson is still registered at his old office address with the Law Society of Scotland. John Lanigan, a partner in Lanigan Meechan & Co said: “Steven Anderson has no connection with my firm but he’s based there.”

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