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DISASTER REPORT : Scottish Legal Complaints Commission study of Law Society “Guarantee Fund” suffers 13% turnout, finds clients ‘treated as criminals’

16 Sep

13% response disaster for SLCC report on Law Society’s crooked Guarantee Fund. A REPORT carried out by the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission (SLCC) into the notoriously corrupt “Scottish Solicitors Guarantee Fund”, a ‘client protection’ scheme operated by the Law Society of Scotland to compensate clients who have lost money because of theft by dishonest crooked lawyers & their staff has been hit by an ABYSMALLY low response of only NINETEEN replies from ONE HUNDRED & FORTY FIVE questionnaires (13%) after the Law Society refused to hand over client contact details to the SLCC & its selected research company who were investigating claims against crooked lawyers in Scotland. One client who did reply to the survey said claimants “were made to feel like a criminal” at Guarantee Fund hearings.

THE REPORT, carried out on behalf of the SLCC by Progressive, a research company based in Corstorphine Road, Edinburgh, claimed the Law Society of Scotland had REFUSED to hand over a detailed contact list of members of the public who had contacted or submitted claims to the Guarantee Fund over the past 5 years. The company & SLCC were left with NO CHOICE other than to leave the Law Society of Scotland to distribute the forms to clients that it felt should be provided with a questionnaire.

Jane IrvineJane Irvine, SLCC Chair left out critical mentions in report announcement. In its announcement publicised online, the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission DID NOT mention the low turnout of NINETEEN PARTICIPANTS in its Press Release, available HERE, nor did the SLCC publicise the fact the Law Society of Scotland distributed the forms themselves after REFUSING to hand over Guarantee Fund claimant details to the company preparing the report or the SLCC itself. Legal insiders have commented today the survey was badly handed by the SLCC who were branded by one official from a Scottish consumer organisation as “too close to the Law Society for comfort” and “unwilling at best to get to the truth”. I reported on just how badly this latest SLCC survey was being handled in an earlier article, here : CENSORED : Scottish Legal Complaints Commission’s secret new Master Policy & Guarantee Fund research ‘shuts out’ real victims of crooked lawyers

Progressive, the firm conducting the survey on behalf of the SLCC said in their now published report : “Progressive was not able to receive a database of contact details from the Law Society of Scotland. As such the questionnaire packs were sent to LSS for labelling and distribution.”

“There were two categories of respondents on the Law Society of Scotland’s database and therefore two methods of distribution. For the first category, LSS had contact details for the claimant themselves so packs were sent directly to them. For the second, LSS’s database only contained details for the names of the claimants’ solicitors. In order to account for this, the questionnaire packs included an additional letter asking the solicitor to forward on to their client named on the front of the envelope.”

“In total, 145 questionnaires were distributed; 85 that went directly to claimants and 60 that went to claimants via their solicitor. In order to optimise the response rates to the survey reminder letters were sent to respondents halfway through the fieldwork period. The fieldwork period was also extended to give maximise the opportunity for claimants to respond.”

“Questionnaires were returned directly to Progressive in freepost envelopes. In total 19 completed questionnaires were returned for analysis, denoting a 13% response rate.”

It had been hoped to send questionnaires out to 250 people although for unexplained reasons and doubtless due to the fact the Law Society of Scotland were controlling distribution, only 145 eventually went out.

The company were further critical of the Law Society’s methods of distribution, stating “A large proportion of questionnaires were not sent directly to claimants. Sending questionnaires first to solicitors to pass on to their clients would have affected the likelihood of the questionnaires reaching them and also their likelihood of completing them.” Progressive further warned : “This is likely to impact response rates.”

The report also claims : “Missing information on labels. A few solicitors fed back that there was no client contact on the packs they were sent so were unable to forward these on, again, affecting the final response rate (at least 4 reported this to be the case)” and that some clients who were sent questionnaires by the Law Society of Scotland could not be traced because they had moved address.

The report went onto state all of those who eventually responded to the survey (NINETEEN PEOPLE IN FIVE YEARS) were suspiciously successful in their claim “to some extent” but even among those, there was still evidence of some dissatisfaction with the outcome and the decisions behind it. Clearly the Law Society of Scotland had chosen clients it thought would give the Guarantee Fund a better write up than others with more horrific experiences.

The report states : “Ten of our respondents were successful in their claim, all of whom were satisfied with the outcome. Six were partially successful and of these, four were dissatisfied.”

From the comments provided as to the reasons why, one respondent’s dissatisfaction stemmed from the perception that they were not provided with direct answers for the decision. Three comments related to respondents not receiving full compensation and feeling that the decision made and the reasons for it were not clearly explained to them.

One respondent to the survey stated : “It seemed as if the Scottish Solicitor’s Guarantee Fund were trying to pay as little as possible and were looking after their own interests. Again you were made to feel like a criminal at the hearing.” Another respondent said : “I was not fully compensated for a fraud that was not my fault but my solicitor’s, who was now in jail and yet I had to suffer financially and with stress.”

Comments from the five people who provided reasons for their satisfaction expressed relief that the process had come to an end and they perceived that the Fund had worked well for them.

One respondent said : “Achieved desired outcome although would have preferred not to have gone through the process at all.”Another respondent said : “[Because] I felt that I could move forward and bring closure to the whole affair [as] I had felt very let down by the solicitor involved in my particular case.”

The full report by Progressive on the Guarantee Fund can be read here : Progressive Guarantee Fund Report 2011 (pdf) or online here : Progressive Guarantee Fund Report 2011

Bearing in mind the turnout for the report is so small, its findings & recommendations are very limited, due mostly to the notably poor advertising of the survey by the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission (who apparently wanted as small a number of participants as possible) and the fact the Law Society of Scotland were allowed to distribute the forms on their own, rather than identification & distribution be handed over to the report’s authors or an independent body.

Margaret Scanlan - Called to the Bars - Sunday Mail  15 March 2009 emailChancers Calling – SLCC Board Member Margaret Scanlan branded Guarantee Fund claimants as “chancers”. It should also be borne in mind SLCC Board Members have already expressed anti-client sentiment against claimants to the Guarantee Fund, where in one publicised incident, SLCC Board Member Margaret Scanlan raged against claimants to the Guarantee Fund, branding them “chancers” in a series of bitter emails revealed to the public by Freedom of Information legislation, revealed here : Officials pull FOI disclosures as Guarantee Fund “chancer” emails show Law Society anti-client bias has migrated to Legal Complaints Commission & here : MacAskill must clean up law complaints body as members ‘booze culture conduct’ reflects lack of discipline & will to investigate crooked lawyers

THE second piece of research carried out by University of Manchester was a statistical analysis of data from claims. The research analysed the statistical data to establish if there were any relationships between different aspects of claims made. What the research did not do was explore or look into the detail of individual claims or seek to establish if there were underlying reasons for any findings.

The statistical analysis identified a relationship between the number and total value of claims received in the same year as an individual claim and the level of payment made on an individual claim. The University’s conclusion was that the outcomes of individual claims on the Guarantee Fund are statistically related to factors beyond the ‘merits of the individual claim’. The SLCC said it “noted this conclusion but has not drawn any conclusions about underlying reasons, as they could be subject to many different factors, not all of which would be within the control of the LSS.”

The University of Manchester ‘statistical analysis’ of claims data, can be read here : University of Manchester Guarantee Fund Report 2011 (pdf)

SLCCSLCC statement is short on detail or accuracy of how Guarantee Fund survey actually turned out. The SLCC concluded in its announcement : “The SLCC is keen to take this work forward. Following on from the two pieces of research we are using the results from the Progressive research as a baseline for ongoing monitoring. The questionnaire used in the research will be issued by the LSS to all claimants at the end of the claims process. These questionnaires will be returned to and monitored by the SLCC. We will share information with the LSS and publish findings periodically will carry out an audit of a sample of the actual claims from which the University of Manchester took the statistical data. During the first half of 2012 we will examine the actual cases, the processes followed and the records of decisions to explore whether there are identifiable reasons for the statistical relationship.”

Two earlier articles featured the initial findings of the University of Manchester 2009 report into the Guarantee Fund & Master Policy, here : ‘Ground-breaking’ investigation into Law Society’s Master Policy insurance reveals realities of corrupt claims process against crooked lawyers and here : Suicides, illness, broken families and ruined clients reveal true cost of Law Society’s Master Policy which ‘allows solicitors to sleep at night’

Page 8 - Consumer Focus Scotland refused cooperation from Law SocietySuicides, illness, family breakdown, loss of homes, loss of livelihood were all identified by interviewees as being directly associated with members of the public’s dealings with the Law Society & Master Policy. During the research team’s investigation of claims against the Master Policy, team members were told of suicides which had occurred due to the way in which clients of crooked lawyers had been treated by the Law Society of Scotland and the insurers who operate the Master Policy protection scheme for solicitors against negligence claims. Quoting the report : “Several claimants said that they had been diagnosed with depression; that they had high blood pressure; and several had their marriages fail due to their claim. Some had lost a lot of money, their homes, and we were told that one party litigant had committed suicide.”

Further excerpts from the Manchester University report into the Law Society’s Master Policy & Guarantee Fund show the intolerable strain clients who attempt to claim against their ‘crooked’ solicitor have to endure : Claimants “described being intimidated, being forced to settle rather than try to run a hearing without legal support, and all felt that their claims’ outcomes were not fair. Some claimants felt that they should have received more support, and that this lack was further evidence of actors within the legal system being “against” Master Policy claimants. Judges were described as being “former solicitors”, members of the Law Society – and thus, against claimants. Some described judges and other judicial officers as being very hostile to party litigants.”

Law Society & Scottish GovernmentScottish Government have been promoting use of Law Society Guarantee Fund for new entrants to legal services market. Attempts by the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission to avoid portraying the Guarantee Fund too badly may be linked to the reliance of the SNP Scottish Government in using the Guarantee Fund as a compensation vehicle for clients of new entrants to Scotland’s supposedly expanded legal services market. I reported on this ludicrous idea in an earlier article here : Legal Services Bill vote by MSPs will force all victims of ‘crooked lawyers’ to use Law Society’s corrupt ‘claims dodging’ Guarantee Fund

As far back as March 2009, I revealed in an article : Law Society’s ‘Guarantee Fund’ for clients of crooked lawyers revealed as multi million pound masterpiece of claims dodging corruption

Yet after THREE YEARS, this latest attempt by the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission to investigate the Law Society of Scotland’s Guarantee Fund has resulted in yet another failure. There is noticeably no mention in the announcement of how the latest survey into the Master Policy is progressing, if at all.

Clearly as long as the Law Society of Scotland control both the Guarantee Fund and the Master Policy, there will be no “ultimate client protection” for consumers of legal services in Scotland and clearly as long as the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission remains as cowardly and ineffective as it is, there will be no such thing as independent effective regulation of the legal profession in Scotland and therefore no protection for clients from ‘crooked lawyers’.

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