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Suicides, burglaries, tampered mail, Police raids, benefits & tax inquiries, & financial ruin for clients : Will SLCC’s latest Master Policy report deliver a ‘pro-consumer’ solution to Law Society ‘pro-crooked lawyer’ insurance scheme ?

03 Jul

SLCCSLCC to announce second Master Policy & Guarantee Fund report after 2009 report tied Master Policy to client deaths. SUICIDES, ill health, death, family break-ups, personal threats, repossessed homes, unsolved burglaries, tampered mail, spurious Police visits or raids on your home with following arrests & charges withdrawn, benefits cheat investigations, Inland Revenue investigations, losing your job, DVLA inquiries, TV license inquiries, even RIPSA surveillance by local authorities, actions all apparently instigated by aggrieved lawyers out to discredit troublesome clients, are now known to form a catalogue of common experiences in varying combinations which keep cropping up with clients who attempt to pursue ‘rogue Scottish solicitors’ through the courts by claiming against the Law Society of Scotland controlled Master Policy, the Professional Indemnity Insurance scheme which protects solicitors from damages claims from clients for negligence and other rip-offs.

However, the latest soon to be announced research by the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission (SLCC) into the infamously corrupt Master Policy, linked by a 2009 Manchester University of Law report to suicides and many other conveniently catastrophic events suffered by clients of ‘crooked lawyers’ may say very little about any of it, if Marsh UK, the SLCC and Law Society of Scotland have their way for a second time.

According to insiders close to the SLCC, the attitudes of the SLCC’s Board members who earlier, in bitter hate fuelled email rants branded participants in the original 2009 report as “Frequent Flyers” and “complete chancers”, have hardened attitudes against the SLCC becoming involved in any substantive monitoring of the Master policy as laid down in the Legal Profession & Legal Aid (Scotland) Act 2007. The issue of the Master Policy and how it handles  damages claims against the legal profession, without any independent monitoring, is widely acknowledged as the ‘most corrupt protection mechanism for rogue lawyers’ affecting regulation of the legal profession in Scotland today.

John SwinneyJohn Swinney revealed memos between Law Society & Marsh sought to interfere in Master Policy claims, undermine a client’s access to justice. Marsh UK, a subsidiary of the US Insurance giant MMC, who pled guilty to charges of bid rigging in the United Stats, administer the Master Policy which is backed by insurers such as Royal Sun Alliance, for the Law Society of Scotland. Marsh were identified in memos released by Cabinet Secretary John Swinney during a Justice Committee meeting at the Scottish Parliament, which revealed the Law Society of Scotland & its insurers were engaged in interference in clients legal representation and were also actively blocking damages claims & court cases against crooked lawyers from entering the Scottish courts.

Mr Swinney also revealed the text of a secret memo where a Director of Marsh UK discussed secret moves with the then Chief Executive of the Law Society of Scotland, Douglas Mill, to spy on members of the public by collating information on clients & their claims against the Master Policy.

To illustrate the extent to which the Scottish legal profession will go after clients who attempt to recover funds stolen by their solicitors or sue for damages on issues such as poor legal services, a failed court case or outlandish legal fees, a document seen by Diary of Injustice titled “How to protect yourself” and obtained from one of the ‘representative bodies’ for Scotland’s legal profession suggests ways for solicitors to protect themselves against a client complaint or a claim against the Master Policy.

While some text from the document has been reworded in certain instances to protect the source, the questions in the document may read to many outside the bubble world of a ‘crooked lawyer’ like a set of directions for taking revenge against clients who have complained about their solicitors. The document asks such questions of solicitors :

What do you know of your clients background? Does your client or any family members have a criminal record? You can establish their relationship with the Police through contacts. Information on criminal records can undermine your client’s position and any evidence they may give in court.

Have you contacted colleagues in the area to find out what other professional services your client uses?

Financial details of your client may prove a key factor in how far a client can pursue any legal action against you e.g. does your client have a mortgage? are they overdrawn at the bank? credit checks?

If your client has a business, local accountants may be able to provide information on their current financial state or matters such as Income Tax irregularities which can be acted upon in your interests.

Does your client receive any state benefits? Anonymous information even if false can suspend their benefits for an indefinite period and undermine your client’s will to pursue any complaint to an outcome in court.

Do you have knowledge of or access to your client’s medical history? This could prove useful to your position if it can be obtained.

In a further paragraph it is suggested the solicitor ask his office staff to collate all local information on the client and submit it. A final suggestion, which clearly aims to deny the client any access to legal representation reads : “Contacting other solicitors in the area or your local bar association, alerting colleagues of your opinions of the client is to be encouraged.”

Sources claimed the SLCC is determined not to go out of its way to look for such controversial material as described above, “for fear of upsetting the Law Society & Marsh”.

A client of a solicitor who is currently waiting on the completion of an investigation by the SLCC into his complaint commented on the document, describing it as “a wish list for criminals”.

He said : “This is a shocking set of discussions about how to get out of ripping someone off. If this is how solicitors react when a client raises a complaint about their service, we would all be better off staying out of lawyers offices for good.”

Insiders commenting on the latest SLCC survey on the Master Policy have previously revealed tips, confirmed by Freedom of Information disclosures that Marsh UK, were themselves allowed by the SLCC to hand out the questionnaires for the ‘independent’ research into the Master Policy. I reported on these revelations earlier in April, here : CENSORED : Scottish Legal Complaints Commission’s secret new Master Policy & Guarantee Fund research ‘shuts out’ real victims of crooked lawyers where material obtained under Freedom of Information legislation revealed : “SLCC to arrange for hard copies of the 657 questionnaires to be given to Marsh to send out to claimants.”

2011 05 16 board minutes_Page2The SLCC’s long running debate on monitoring the Master Policy & Guarantee Fund has become tame, say insiders. In the latest board meeting minute available from the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission, of 16 May 2011, it was revealed the “draft report” on the Master Policy and Guarantee Fund research projects from Professor Stephen had been discussed and a timetable agreed to publish, although with regards to the Master Policy research, the meeting reflected that “Further clarification to be requested on data and some of the wording in the draft report”, indicating according to insiders, board members were unhappy with some of the wording & reporting of matters revealed in the research. The Master Policy research was further discussed at the SLCC’s 20th June board meeting, where the SLCC’s current Chief Executive, Rosemary Agnew, was to “bring back final reports of both reports to the Board alongside the accompanying draft letters to the LSS and what is proposed to be published on the SLCC website” although the minutes of the June meeting will not be revealed for sometime yet, unless of course the SLCC reads this report via its £10K a year media monitoring service and decides otherwise.

The SLCC board meeting also heard the research into the Guarantee Fund, also being carried out by Professor Stephen had suffered from a poor response. The Board discussed the draft report on the Guarantee Fund at its May meeting, pondering whether the response rate was sufficient for findings to be concluded. The Guarantee Fund is Law Society’s own infamously corruptly operated compensation scheme which allegedly covers claims for issues such as a solicitor stealing money from clients.

I reported earlier on the Guarantee Fund’s problems and client’s attempts to claim from it here : Law Society’s ‘Guarantee Fund’ for clients of crooked lawyers revealed as multi million pound masterpiece of claims dodging corruption

The minutes of the SLCC’s May Board meeting further stated the Law Society of Scotland should have sight of the report and the opportunity to comment before the report is published alongside a note from the SLCC while Board members would seek further clarification on the following points of the Guarantee Fund research :

•  Detail to be added regarding what Progressive did to boost the response rate;
•  The impact on the draft findings of the group of respondants;
•  To clarify whether the response rate is sufficient.

An official from one of Scotland’s consumer organisations who passed the published board papers to Diary of Injustice said : “Are we going to be treated to a report on the Master Policy and Guarantee Fund every two years which results in little or no action by the SLCC as happened after publication of their first report in 2009 ?”

She continued : “The fact is the SLCC is populated by people who have been associated with, or have worked in regulation of the legal profession for years and know full well the Master Policy & Guarantee Fund fail to serve any useful purpose other than protecting solicitors from financial claims for negligence & other acts of loss of client funds. Nothing will change as long as the SLCC is effectively controlled by the Law Society who are clearly the root of the problem.”

Marsh UK are known to provide insurance services to many Scottish Government & local Government departments & services, including almost all enforcement services across the justice sector including the Police, also banks & the financial sector, and even local housing associations across Scotland. It was established in January 2007 the then Labour-LibDem Scottish Executive were paying the same company, Marsh UK around £157,000 a year for insurance services.

It is difficult to see how any credible research or investigation into the Master Policy, administered by Marsh UK can properly investigate the Law Society of Scotland & the insurers now well accepted corrupt practices can take place and arrive at any credible pro-consumer solutions to bring to an end this policy for protection of crooked lawyers as long as the arrangement appears to have influence with, or protection from politicians at all levels.

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