Jane Irvine, SLCC Chair : £300 a day for some, benefits seized to pay lawyers for others as regulator accused of failure to clip disputed fees. PERSISTENT FAILURES at the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission (SLCC) including A RELUCTANCE to use key powers which enable the ‘independent’ regulator of Scottish lawyers to reduce or even nullify fees of solicitors who ruin their clients legal interests are being blamed for the predicament of a Mr William Gordon of Perth, who has now been made bankrupt by Perth based law firm Kippen Campbell, over demands he must pay fees for a case which collapsed because his lawyers withdrew from acting for him.
Mr Gordon’s plight comes as a result of a series of bitter, ‘one sided’ court actions held in Perth Sheriff Court, where agents acting for Kippen Campbell demanded Mr Gordon be sequestrated to pay fees they claimed were due to them for legal services provided for a medical damages claim being heard in the Court of Session. However, documents obtained by Diary of Injustice in connection with complaints made to regulators show the Perth law firm walked away from Mr Gordon’s case after he made complaints about their service & conduct to the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission, who typically, backed the law firm despite considerable allegations of service failures provided by Mr Gordon to the SLCC.
Diary of Injustice has previously reported on Mr Gordon’s case, here : Personal injury client dropped by Perth based solicitors Kippen Campbell ‘being hounded’ by court attempts to recover disputed fees
Earlier this week, it was reported by the media that Glasgow based accountants Wylie & Bisset, who are now pursuing Mr Gordon, attempted to seize his home (even though he does not own it) and the home of another family to pay back the Perth law firm for debts the law firm claims were incurred on Mr Gordon’s damages claim in the Court of Session, now ruined because he is unable to obtain any further legal representation.
Scottish Law Reporter quoted an article from the Herald newspaper, and further reported HERE : Glasgow based accountants Wylie & Bisset who are acting on behalf of the Accountant in Bankruptcy, sent demands to Kippen Campbell’s former client Mr Gordon who lives in Perth, threatening seizure & sale of his property, which he does not own, and the seizure & sale of another property owned by an unconnected family who live in Rattray, Blairgowrie, whose surname is also Gordon.
Threatening letters – Pay up for lawyers fees or we make you homeless say AIB’s agents. In letters sent to Mr Gordon, Wylie & Bisset demand a “required payment” of NINETY TWO THOUSAND & FIVE HUNDRED POUNDS, and goes on to threaten “We require firm proposals for the realisation of the sum in question to your sequestrated estate as a matter of urgency. Should we not receive your proposals within 14 days of the date of this letter, then please be aware that we shall be forced to seek action for vacant possession of the property.”.
The property which Wylie & Bisset were attempting to seize and had valued, at £185,000, was located in Rattray, Blairgowrie, and owned by a family unconnected to Mr Gordon. Yet the debt allegedly owed to the Perth based law firm amounted to little more than £2,700, which now appears to have increased to some £6,600 taking into account several hearings at Perth Sheriff Court which have artificially inflated the original demand for the disputed legal fees. Another demand sent to Mr Gordon from Wylie & Bisset, just a few days after the earlier threat, stated : “Please note that should suitable proposals not be received in writing, within 7 days, then we will have no alternative but to instruct a solicitor to raise proceedings in court for the forced sale of your property.”
Accountant in Bankruptcy, Scotland’s insolvency service with added errors. The Accountant in Bankruptcy was asked by Diary of Injustice to explain why their agents, Wylie & Bisset attempted to seize Mr Gordon’s rented property and that of another family. However, a spokesperson for the AIB explained away the attempted property grab as “errors”, telling Diary of Injustice yesterday : “As previously advised, Wylie & Bisset are one of AiB’s Insolvency Service providers and are required to administer cases in accordance with our processes. The administration of sequestrations is a complex task where a range of information is obtained from various sources. During this process, it is possible for errors to occur, though the Accountant in Bankruptcy is satisfied that our providers give a consistently high standard of service when acting on our behalf. Where errors are discovered, our providers are required to review their processes and make necessary changes to ensure that similar errors are not repeated. In cases where individuals have been negatively affected by an administrative error, our providers will attempt to rectify the issue as soon as possible and where appropriate, will write to apologise for any inconvenience caused.”
Further enquiries by Diary of Injustice have now established Wylie & Bisset, acting on behalf of the AIB have also frozen Mr Gordon’s Lloyds TSB bank account and seized his disability benefits payments, leaving him without any cash to live on whatsoever. Documents & copies of communications between the bank & Mr Gordon appear to show the bank simply froze Mr Gordon’s account on a telephone call ‘say so’ from Wylie & Bisset.
This information was put to the Accountant in Bankruptcy, who attempted to explain away the seizure of Mr Gordon’s benefits by claiming they had no idea what the source of payments into bank accounts were.
A spokesperson for the AIB claimed : “Where a trustee discovers that the debtor has a bank account, they may contact the bank to have the account frozen. This action may be appropriate to prevent the debtor from inappropriately withdrawing funds after the award of sequestration. Where an account has been frozen, it is the responsibility of the debtor to contact the trustee to make representations around the money held in the account. This is particularly important where the debtor is reliant on state benefits that are paid directly into a bank account, as the trustee is unlikely to be aware of the origin of the money held in the account. This scenario can be avoided if the debtor co-operates fully with the trustee and provides information on their income and savings.”
However, a senior official from one of Scotland’s Consumer organisations speaking to Diary of Injustice this morning rubbished the AIB’s claims of ignorance, and pointed out it was against the law to seize state benefits under section 187 of the Social Security Administration Act 1992 which clearly states “On the bankruptcy of a beneficiary, such benefit shall not pass to any trustee or other person acting on behalf of his creditors.”
She described the AIB’s actions as : “An attempt to starve out Mr Gordon to pay off his lawyers.”
The official went onto inform Diary of Injustice that her organisation has received numerous reports of law firms threatening clients with bankruptcy if they did not pay what appear to be dubious demands for fees. In other cases, law firms have simply gone ahead and made their clients bankrupt without even giving them a chance to question the legitimacy of the fees claimed to be owed.
Speaking to Diary of Injustice late last night, a senior source in the Scottish Government acknowledged there is a growing problem with law firms threatening clients over legal fees, an issue which has also been brought to the attention of some msps.
He went on to say he believed law firms were using their influence in local courts to easily obtain bankruptcy orders against clients who have little or no chance of obtaining legal representation to challenge the law firms demands.
Meanwhile Mr Gordon is running short of cash while the Accountant in Bankruptcy and their agents run up large charges to the taxpayer in the course of pursuing a client who has no access to justice to challenge what has been done to him, in the name of paying a firm of lawyers based in Perth. Mr Gordon is without legal representation and his doctor has told Perth Sheriff Court on numerous occasions his patient is too unwell to attend court hearings.
The unavoidable conclusion is Mr Gordon’s predicament could easily have been avoided if the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission had listened to him during the course of his complaint, and at the very least, reduced or nullified the fees of a law firm who walked away from their client when he discovered his case was not being pursued as he had instructed.
Diary of Injustice has previously reported how Ms Sally McCartney, the partner at Perth based Kippen Cambpell who dealt with Mr Gordon’s case, wrote letters to the Scottish Parliament CAMPAIGNING AGAINST independent regulation of the legal profession, also ARGUING AGAINST plans to increase compensation to clients of lawyers who had provided poor services, reported here : Scottish Parliament documents reveal Perth law firm in complaint fees case campaigned against Holyrood clean-up of regulation of lawyers