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Law Society demand Justice Secretary MacAskill intervene over SLCC report claiming ‘improper’ influences in Guarantee Fund client claims

18 Dec

Law Society SLCC MacAskillBully required, Urgent : Law Society of Scotland demand Justice Secretary intervene in SLCC ‘Guarantee Fund’ row. FIDDLING & MEDDLING by Law Society of Scotland officials in financial damages claims to the Scottish Solicitors Guarantee Fund made by clients who have been financially ruined by their ‘crooked lawyers’ have prompted the Law Society of Scotland to issue a stern rejection of statements made in the latest annual report of the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission for 2011, published Friday, that the outcome of compensation claims made by clients to the Guarantee Fund are influenced “by factors other than the merits of the claims” such as corruption, intervention by Law Society officials to halt claims going ahead, and an institutional prejudice against consumers trying to recover money stolen by Scottish solicitors.

The Law Society is ‘so upset’ by the allegations, they have now called in Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill to bully ‘clarify’ the SLCC into withdrawing the claims.

slcc annualreport online 2011_Page30Claiming the obvious L Law Society Guarantee Fund is crooked, dishonest and claims are fiddled. The damaging claims made in the latest annual report of the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission (SLCC) which have prompted the row between the two legal complaints regulators, state : “There is a statistical relationship between the number and total value of the claims made on the fund in the same year as an individual claim, and the level of payment made in individual claims. This suggests that the outcome of claims is influenced by factors other than the merits of the claims”. The claims are a result of research the SLCC commissioned into the Scottish Solicitors Guarantee Fund which supposedly exists to protect clients who have lost money as a result of the dishonesty of a solicitor. However, according to key SLCC insiders who spoke to Diary of Injustice earlier in the year, the research commissioned by the SLCC into the Guarantee Fund suffered a significant degree of control freakery, constant interference & a lack of cooperation from the Law Society of Scotland who wanted to control the entire project, and would rather the research not be published.

The Law Society of Scotland, angry at the claims issued a Press Release, rejecting any notion its ‘attempt’ at consumer protection is little more than consumer fraud states : The Society has today rejected this assertion as wholly misleading as the merit of the individual claim remains the only consideration when considering the outcome of that claim and any subsequent payment from the Guarantee Fund.  This was clearly explained to the SLCC in meetings and in written correspondence from the President of the Society, all in advance of today’s report publication.

With the SLCC annual report being laid before the Scottish Parliament, the Society has today written to the Cabinet Secretary for Justice and opposition justice spokespeople to clarify the situation and give a more accurate picture.

Alistair Morris, convener of the Society’s Guarantee Fund committee, said: “It is deeply frustrating that the SLCC suggests the outcome of Guarantee Fund claims are influenced by factors beyond the merits of the claim, especially when we have made it clear verbally and in writing that such a suggestion is wholly wrong.  It is even more concerning that the SLCC do not even refer to those assurances from the Society in their report. The Society co-operated fully with the SLCC when it commissioned research into the Guarantee Fund earlier this year. However we raised significant concerns at the misleading and potentially damaging interpretation of raw statistical data relating to the Guarantee Fund which suggests that the amount paid out in any claim is dependent on the sums held in the fund at any one time. We have made it clear to the SLCC, both verbally and in writing, that all Guarantee Fund claims are considered entirely on a case by case basis and on their own merit, regardless of the funds held. It is extremely disappointing that the SLCC annual report now risks misleading people into thinking that the outcomes of Guarantee Fund claims go beyond their individual merits. “

Mr Morris continued : “There are significant reserves held in the Guarantee Fund currently. Additionally, it is backed by Stop Loss Insurance amounting to £6 million and the legislation covering the Fund allows the Society to levy members if we faced circumstances where there were insufficient funds in the Guarantee Fund and Stop Loss Cover to cover the cost of a claim. Following our discussions with the SLCC we were informed that it intended to commission further research as a result of some of these initial findings. I hope this goes ahead and there will be an opportunity to demonstrate that this statement contained within the annual report laid before the Scottish Parliament is inaccurate and misleading.”

Commenting to Diary of Injustice today, an SLCC insider said the law complaints quango had only pursued the Guarantee Fund issue because of criticism from law reform campaigners & investigations carried out by Diary of Injustice into the Scottish Solicitors Guarantee Fund, revealing in an earlier article published in 2009 the Law Society’s ‘Guarantee Fund’ for clients of crooked lawyers revealed as multi million pound masterpiece of claims dodging corruption

Earlier in September 2011, Diary of Injustice reported on the SLCC’s slightly controversial report into the Guarantee Fund which has now caused the apparent fall out between the two regulators, here : DISASTER REPORT : Scottish Legal Complaints Commission study of Law Society “Guarantee Fund” suffers 13% turnout, finds clients ‘treated as criminals’

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.”

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

Speaking to Diary of Injustice this afternoon, a client who has been waiting FIVE YEARS for his claim to the Scottish solicitors Guarantee Fund to be paid after his solicitor stole nearly SEVENTY THOUSAND POUNDS from his client’s bank account, felt the argument between the SLCC & Law Society “is somewhat staged”. He went onto say it was his experience neither the Law Society or the SLCC can be trusted to properly regulate the legal profession in Scotland.

In spite of the Law Society’s condemnation of the claims contained in the SLCC’s annual report, it is now an established fact that claims against the Scottish Solicitors Guarantee Fund have been the subject of delaying tactics & corrupt attempts to prevent any payouts in most damages claims made by members of the public who have been left in financial ruin after growing numbers of Scottish lawyers have embezzled their clients funds.

More analysis of the  latest annual report of the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission for 2011 will be published during the week.

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