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Paid Pipers Required : MacAskill & Scottish Legal Complaints Commission seek extra quangocrats, lawyers, ex-Police for ‘cash happy’ law complaints quango boardroom

06 Jul

SLCCMore stooges sought for board of anti-client Scottish Legal Complaints Commission. FRESH from a recent recruitment drive which took in one parachuted-in advocate who happened to be a Scottish Government lawyer, and three ‘lay’ members which included yet another ex senior Police Officer, a barrister and an NHS Orkney official who resigned her post “for personal reasons”, the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission (SLCC) and Scottish Government are again on the hunt for more quangocrats & members of Scotland’s legal profession to fill the SLCC’s bursting at the seams £150k+ expenses claiming boardroom, this despite the hapless anti-client law complaints quango being told to save money and downsize its costs in the face of falling complaints numbers & dwindling public confidence.

The new posts at the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission , which include at least two non lawyers, and a further two lawyers, all of whom will be personally appointed to the SLCC by Scotland’s Justice Secretary, Kenny MacAskill, will enjoy exquisite salaries, perks & expenses claims, with a basic remuneration of £212 per day for a meagre time commitment of up to 6 days per month. a basic The term of appointment is 5 years.

While the advertisements for the latest positions have just gone live today, it is already rumoured more retiring Police officers & quangocrats, who, having unexplainably been forewarned of the new posts, are already showing tentative interest in the well paid positions at the SLCC. It has also been revealed this afternoon certain members of Law Society committees are being encouraged to apply to join the SLCC, doubtless to keep the Law Society in their now familiar position as a fly on the wall during SLCC board meetings.

The latest round of appointments come in the face of mounting criticism of the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission which has failed to make any inroads into its expected duties including monitoring of the controversial Law Society controlled client compensation schemes, the  Master Policy & Guarantee Fund, as defined in the Legal Profession & Legal Aid (Scotland) Act 2007, which itself struggled to pass through the Scottish Parliament in 2006 after threats from the then Chief Executive of the Law Society of Scotland, Douglas Mill to block Holyrood’s attempt at legal complaints reform with court action on Human Rights grounds arguing that it was a lawyer’s ‘Human Right’ to regulate cover up for their own colleagues.

So far, the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission in its three years of existence, has managed to uphold only one single complaint against an unidentified solicitor, having passed most complaints it received back to the Law Society of Scotland, after its board members took a controversial decision not to investigate any cases where instructions to solicitors began prior to 1st October 2008, the official start date of the SLCC.

Law Society & Scottish GovernmentConsumer Unfriendly : Scottish Government & Law Society intervened with a new law to block any attempt to use SLCC to look at historic complaints. The SLCC’s decision to refuse to look at any pre 2008 cases was taken after Petition PE1033 was lodged at the Scottish Parliament in January 2007 calling for the SLCC to investigate & adjudicate on long running cases of injustice caused by the highly prejudiced nature of the Law Society of Scotland’s regulation of complaints against solicitors. However, the Scottish Government, with the quiet support of the SLCC & Law Society of Scotland introduced a legislative amendment to the LPLA Act, the Legal Services Act 2007 (Transitional, Savings and Consequential Provisions) (Scotland) Order 2008 which included a section on the SLCC’s investigation of historical complaints. The law was presented by the Scottish Government to the Justice Committee in September 2008 and passed by the Scottish Parliament to block any further attempts to use the SLCC to investigate how poorly the Law Society had treated Scots over the years.

The official line being put out today on the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission’s latest recruitment drive for new board members is that with many of the current board members terms coming to an end, their positions need to be filled.

A Scottish Government spokesman commenting on the new recruitment round, which will see Scotland’s Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill appoint a new group of like minded individuals to the SLCC’s board, said : “The four appointments being advertised are to replace members due to step down at the end of their normal service period.  Four members are due to demit office in six months having served their allotted time.”

However, rumours are rife in the legal world that much of the current board membership of the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission who had been expected to remain in position for at least two terms, want out of the controversial law complaints quango, which, rather than repaying a staggering two million pounds of public money received from the Scottish Government, board members recently decided to reduce its vast £1.8 million cash surplus by giving back a whopping £1 million back to Scottish lawyers by way of a complaints levy cut.

An insider close to the SLCC commenting on the latest recruitment drive for new board members said “Had it not been for the barrage of online analysis of the SLCC, highlighting the poor performance of the organisation to live up to public expectations, much of the SLCC’s current board may well have remained in place for another term.”

The insider continued : “Lets be clear about this. When you have reports in the media of board members exhibiting such vile anti consumer sentiment within emails and  other venues, many people will rightly question their ability to remain impartial and independent when making policy decisions or dealing with complaints against the legal profession. Little wonder no one is choosing to renew their terms on the board.”

A senior solicitor speaking this morning on the SLCC’s hunt for new board members called for the quango to be scrapped and replaced with a Legal Ombudsman & Legal Services Consumer Panel style organisation as in England & Wales, a proposal I wholeheartedly agree with.

He said : “Even if the SLCC had fifty board members the organisation has managed to prove only one solitary thing in the past three years, that it has no credibility whatsoever as a regulator. If everyone took three years to get up and running to do their job, the country would be a shambles. This is exactly what has happened to regulation of the legal profession in Scotland, and quite frankly, the SLCC is now just an expensive embarrassment.”

He continued : “If there is to be any real attempt at cleaning up the image of the Scottish legal profession & the complaints regime, I put to you the SLCC should be scrapped, the Law Society should have all its regulatory & disciplinary functions removed, allowing it to be a representative of the profession only, and a Legal Ombudsman style office should be created along with a Legal Services Consumer Panel as exists in England & Wales. This way consumers will have their voice and representative in legal services, as will the profession, while regulation & discipline will be removed from both camps.”

I reported on the SLCC’s disastrous attempt to beef up the anti-consumer law quango in a series of reports, starting in November 2010, here : Quangocrats wanted : Scottish Legal Complaints Commission seek ‘non-lawyer’ board members with legal & ‘consumer’ backgrounds at £209+ a day.

In early February of this year, I revealed how the take-up of the lawyer position had been so poor, Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill was forced to appoint one of his own Scottish Government counsel to the ‘lawyer only’ position, reported here : Poisoned Chalice : MacAskill forced to parachute Government’s own lawyer onto Scottish Legal Complaints Commission after Advocates shun job offer.

Later in March, the new non-lawyer recruits to the SLCC’s Board, which, bizarrely for ‘non lawyer’ positions included a qualified Barrister, a third retired senior Police Officer, and an NHS Orkney official who resigned her post “for personal reasons”, covered here : One more ex-cop for anti-client Scottish Legal Complaints Commission as Justice Secretary hands out five year quango jobs at £212 per day

Margaret Scanlan - Called to the Bars - Sunday Mail  15 March 2009 emailNo more tequila nights or frequent flyers for now – Many consumers will wonder what changes if any will occur with new recruits at anti-client booze fuelled Scottish Legal Complaints Commission. An investigation by Diary of Injustice into the SLCC’s board recruitment methods, using sources & Freedom of Information legislation revealed in May of this year at least eighty nine applications from a plethora of senior Police officers, quangocrats already enjoying multiple positions on other organisations, individuals linked to the Law Society & legal profession & other like minded individuals tried to get onto the notoriously anti-client lawyer watchdog, reported here : CALLED TO THE BOARD : Documents reveal 89 applications from quangocrats to join £2 MILLION cash stash Scottish Legal Complaints Commission

The initial recruitment round to the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission, was covered during 2008 in the following reports :

Call for MacAskill appointments ‘sleaze investigation’ as revelations show Legal Complaints Commission member was subject of Police inquiry

Law Society staff secretly migrating into ‘independent’ complaints commission will ensure continuing problems of regulating Scottish lawyers

Calls for full disclosure on legal complaints commission members as Justice Department ‘covers up’ conflicts of interest in appointments scandal

The SLCC were asked for comment on the latest round of Board member recruitment, however no statement was received by time of publication. Interestingly the SLCC is also looking to hire an Information Officer, a position which seems to replace the role of its Head of Communications, who is no longer replying to emails or Freedom of Information enquiries.

JOBSEEKING FOR GREEDY QUANGOCRATS & ‘LAWYER GROUPIES’ KEEN ON £15k A YEAR EXPENSES :

Today, the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission has advertised for two lawyers & at least two non lawyers, on the appointed for Scotland website, in the following terms :

The main functions of the Commission are to resolve complaints alleging inadequate professional service or negligence by legal practitioners, to refer complaints which allege professional misconduct or unsatisfactory professional conduct to the relevant professional body and to promote good practice in complaints handling.

The Role involves:

• Working with the Chairing Member, other Commission Members and the Chief Executive to provide strategic direction to the SLCC.

• Chairing Determination Committees, manage oral hearings and provide final, reasoned decisions. 

• Using objective and impartial judgement in adjudicating and resolving disputes about complaints. 

• Working with the Chairing Member, other Commission Members and the Chief Executive to contribute to the development of the organisation and its effectiveness, including oversight of financial and resource management.

• Accepting responsibility for decisions of the Commission, ensuring that they are implemented and ensuring appropriate standard of corporate governance in the work of the SLCC.

• Contributing to an effective team to achieve results by providing mutual support to colleagues, to challenge and to respond to challenge constructively. 

• Assisting the Chairing Member in overseeing the promotion of standards within complaints handling and agreeing the annual report.

For lawyers, the successful Candidates must either be : a solicitor, a conveyancing or executry practitioner or have acquired rights to conduct litigation or a right of audience by virtue of section 27 of the Law Reform (Miscellaneous Provisions) (Scotland) Act 1990.

Amongst other essential skills, the successful lawyer Candidates will have : The professional standing and experience to provide strategic direction in an organisational capacity, The ability to chair meetings leading to dispute resolution, The ability to achieve high standards in performance in an organisational environment.

For non-lawyers (former Police, quangocrats, relatives of lawyers, even their pet poodles & gerbils with a taste for £15K a year plus in expenses may apply etc), the SLCC are looking for at least two lay members, for appointment in October, and for any other lay member vacancy which may arise within 6 months of the interviews.

Amongst other essential skills, the successful Candidates will have : The ability to apply objective and impartial judgement to the resolution of disputes, the ability to  work collaboratively to achieve a positive outcome. Specialist experience of one or both of the following : Driving organisational performance with a customer focus preferably in a private sector environment or Experience of ethics in a regulatory environment.

These “essential skills” do not exist and never have existed in regulation of the legal profession in Scotland. They never will, as long as the Law Society of Scotland effectively controls regulation of the legal profession in Scotland.

The Scottish Legal Complaints Commission is thoroughly incapable of delivering “Customer Focus” to consumers, however it is certainly capable of delivering “Customer Focus” to the legal profession as it continues to do in the model of the “Front company for the Law Society” which it was always planned and turned out in the end, to be.

As Scotland’s Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill recently said in his criticism of the UK’s Supreme Court rulings which did not suit his political viewpoint, “He who pays the piper, as they say, calls the tune.” Clearly the new recruits to the SLCC’s board, like those before them, will be required to be paid pipers who will dance to the Law Society and Mr MacAskill’s tune, rather than the tune of ordinary Scots who expect better quality and more honest legal services.

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