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Former Information Commissioner Kevin Dunion joins Scottish Legal Complaints Commission as costly, scandal tainted law regulator tries to clean up its act

18 Apr

Dunion SLCCEx-FOI Chief Kevin Dunion joins board of dodgy law regulator. SCOTLAND’S ‘independent’ regulator of solicitors, the traditionally anti-client & scandal tainted Scottish Legal Complaints Commission (SLCC) has announced that  Mr Kevin Dunion, Scotland’s first Information Commissioner has now joined the SLCC’s board as a ‘non lawyer’ member. Mr Dunion’s appointment is for five years and runs from March 1, 2013 to February 28, 2018.

A Press Release issued by the SLCC said it was pleased to announce the appointment of Mr Dunion to it’s board but did not mention the fact that in his previous role as Scottish Information Commissioner, he regularly investigated the SLCC in response to cases brought to his office concerning appeals against the legal regulator’s refusal to disclose information in response to Freedom of Information requests made by journalists. Mr Dunion also found on many occasions the SLCC had unfairly blacked out documents and mistreated the public, journalists and the media with regard to FOI requests.

On one occasion, Mr Dunion’s office ordered the SLCC to disclose a series of previously blacked out bitter quotes made against a member of the public by another lawyer board member who happened to be the husband of Court of Session judge Lady Smith. The now former lawyer board member, identified in emails as ‘retired’ solicitor David Smith, had embarked on name calling exercise against financially ruined clients who had made complaints against their solicitors. Diary of Injustice reported the case here : FOI Chief Dunion orders Scottish Legal Complaints Commission to release board member’s anti-client jibes, Master Policy study details

Mr Dunion’s office also ordered the SLCC to disclose details of sky high expenses payments made to it’s board members after the SLCC had bizarrely argued payments should be kept secret to protect board members from mental health problems.

The shocking sums of expenses claims paid out to board members, were subsequently revealed at £158K a year, reported by Diary of Injustice here : REVEALED : £158k of board members rocketing payments & expenses claims at ‘duck-out’ law regulator Scottish Legal Complaints Commission

Diary of Injustice journalists also used FOI legislation to investigate the SLCC after more evidence of board members anti-consumer stance emerged with the disclosure of internal emails documenting exchanges between the SLCC’s then Chief Executive, Eileen Masterman and a lawyer board member, Glasgow Divorce solicitor Margaret Scanlan OBE who joked about being too “out on the razzle” the night before, to think, while demanding consumer groups be excluded from key research into the Law Society of Scotland’s notoriously corrupt Master Insurance Policy.

The incident involving Scanlan, who is no longer on the SLCC’s board, was reported by Diary of Injustice and the Sunday Mail newspaper in 2009 here : HERE and again more recently last October 2012 HERE after Scottish Govt insiders claimed the “Drink fuelled & ‘hate filled’ emails of MacAskill appointees had ruined the credibility” of the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission.

Mr Dunion’s office also ordered the SLCC to disclose a series of bitter quotes made against a member of the public by another lawyer board member who is also the husband of Court of Session judge Lady Smith. The now former lawyer board member, identified in emails as ‘retired’ solicitor David Smith had embarked on name calling exercise against financially ruined clients who had made complaints against their solicitors. Diary of Injustice reported the case here : FOI Chief Dunion orders Scottish Legal Complaints Commission to release board member’s anti-client jibes, Master Policy study details

Interestingly, in an interview with BBC Newsnight last September 2012, Mr Dunion made references to developments in England & Wales where the UK Government are looking at including the Law Society within the scope of Freedom of Information legislation. It was pointed out the Scottish Government are still dragging their feet on this issue.

Indeed, the Scottish Government have taken a directly opposite approach, with Justice Secretary Kenny Macaskill adopting a hostile position to requests to bring the Law Society of Scotland within the scope of the Scottish version of the Freedom of Information Act. Diary of Injustice reported more on this as long ago as March 2009 here : MacAskill’s ‘no intention to include Law Society in FOI review’ allows lawyers to keep scandals & criminal records hidden from public scrutiny.

It is also hoped Mr Dunion may raise concerns over the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission’s use of arms length projects to thwart media & public Freedom of Information requests for data gathered during research & survey activities which the regulator uses to justify it’s existence while refusing to release actual evidence of its claims.

The SLCC’s latest attempt at getting round FOI laws was revealed in a recent Diary of Injustice investigation which found the SLCC had instructed paid researchers to retain data and not pass it on directly to the regulator, in an attempt to avoid compliance with requests made under FOI legislation. Diary of Injustice reported on the scandal here : Law regulator SLCC responds to lawyers call to boycott complaints research : ‘We will AVOID Freedom of Information by stashing data with researchers’

While Mr Dunion now joins the SLCC as a board member, observers of Scotland’s notoriously pro-lawyer complaints regulator will recall that last year, the fourth, & former Chief Executive of the SLCC, Rosemary Agnew, who was rebuked at least FIVE times by Mr Dunion over her handling of FOI requests, succeeded Mr Dunion as the Scottish Information Commissioner, reported by Diary of Injustice, here : SHHH HAPPENED : Scotland’s new Information Commissioner to be Legal Complaints CEO Rosemary Agnew, rebuked FIVE TIMES for being ANTI-FOI

HOW FOI OPENS UP SCOTLAND’S LEGAL SYSTEM :

Freedom of Information requests & investigations conducted by Diary of Injustice journalists have contributed to a wider understanding of how the Scottish Legal Aid Board (SLAB) operate, where SLAB & Crown Office officials appeared to be more interested in expenses claims & flying high on intercontinental air carriers than pursuing sleazy solicitors who make off with millions of pounds of taxpayer funded legal aid.

Scotland’s Crown Office have also been caught short, awarding themselves HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS OF POUNDS in staff bonuses from the top of the organisation down, yet by all accounts failing to enforce the law when it came to instances such as the FOURTEEN lawyers accused of multi-million pound legal aid fraud escape justice as Scotland’s Crown Office fail to prosecute all cases in 5 years , and all because the Lord Advocate’s ‘independent’ Crown Counsel kept saying there wasn’t enough evidence to prosecute.

The Scottish Government too have come in for exposure, where FOI requests revealed its own Ministers directly intervened with the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission, demanding the SLCC hand back ONE MILLION POUNDS to lawyers who pled poverty over last year’s complaints levy, reported by Diary of Injustice here : Undue Influence : Freedom of Information reveals how Law Society used Scottish Government Ministers to reduce complaints levy for crooked lawyers. Further requests revealed the Justice Secretary himself even signed off on a secret payoff for the allegedly ‘too sick to ever work again’ now former SLCC Chief Executive Eileen Masterman, reported by Diary of Injustice here : HUSH & MONEY : Former SLCC law complaints Chief Executive Eileen Masterman received secret Scottish Government approved payoff in deal with lawyers

Last year, the Diary of Injustice team began work on a major investigation into Scotland’s judiciary using Freedom of Information legislation and other investigative resources. Investigations revealed a number of judges who had been secretly prosecuted for criminal offences, one at least involving Benefits Cheating, while other members of the judiciary were apparently involved in dodgy financial & property arrangements and even holding ‘tax efficient’ schemes aimed at mitigating payments of tax on financial gains. Diary of Injustice and the Sunday Mail newspaper reported on these findings here : ALL THE LORD PRESIDENT’S MEN : Benefits cheats, drunk drivers & tax dodgers, yet identities of convicted Scottish judges to remain secret for now

The Diary of Injustice team have also investigated the financial costs of Scotland’s judiciary after our FOI requests forced the publication of JUDGES EXPENSES, allowing the public to peer into the murky world of Scottish judges earning up to TWO HUNDRED THOUSAND POUNDS a year plus expenses, tips & hospitality so far unrecorded. Diary of Injustice first reported on the issue of judicial expenses, here : The costs of Scotland’s ‘Victorian’ Justice System : Court of Session judges paid £6.1 million as litigants struggle to obtain hearing dates and further reports continued HERE, all brought to you by Freedom of Information legislation & tips from well placed sources.

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