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THE CROOK REPORT: Property, wills, trusts & executries still the main target of rogue lawyers as Scottish Legal Complaints Commission 2014 report reveals regulator awarded £365K to victims of dodgy solicitors

15 Dec

2014 Annual report of legal regulator reveals compensation figures up. COMPENSATION totalling over £365,000 has been awarded to clients of rogue solicitors in the past year, says the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission (SLCC) in its 2014 annual report. The legal regulator for Scotland’s notoriously poor legal services sector also revealed it had received 1024 new complaints against dodgy lawyers since last year’s annual report.

The latest report from the ‘independent’ SLCC – which is funded by a levy on solicitors and has a high composition of former Law Society staff & ex employees of law firms among its own staff – also revealed there has been a 35% rise in mediation uptake in the past year.

However, over the past year reports have emerged of individuals who made complicated complaints against their solicitors involving substantial financial sums being cajoled, and in some circumstances, forced into the mediation scenario – which ran for months and ended up with not quite the success portrayed at the outset.

Among other figures from the report, 125 complaints were upheld, 247 were “resolved”, these figures together representing 65% of eligible complaints.

Dual investigations carried out by the SLCC & Law Society of Scotland – where conduct & service issues combine in complaints came in for a critical finding in the report. The SLCC said “While the percentage of service only complaints has remained stable over the past three years, there has been a fall in the number of complaints that have been categorised as conduct-only but a rise in the number of hybrid complaints, which contain both service and conduct elements.”

“This trend can have a significant impact on the parties to the complaint, as hybrid complaints have to undergo two separate investigations (i.e. by the SLCC and the relevant professional organisation), which can lead to timescales being doubled, and in those cases which result in prosecutions to the Scottish Solicitors Discipline Tribunal, tripled. Since the 2007 Act requires the SLCC and RPOs to seek to avoid duplication in investigations, the current average time taken to investigate hybrid complaints is of real concern to us, and this is something that we and the RPOs are looking to address in the next operational year.”

SLCC 2014 Annual Report Launching the Annual Report, the SLCC’s CEO, Matthew Vickers, commented “The vast majority of the legal profession in Scotland provide great service to the public, but where things do go wrong the SLCC takes firm and decisive action to put things right.” Conveyancing, family law and executries, wills and trusts are the three biggest areas of complaint.

Mr Vickers points out that that cases touching on home and family life can have a huge impact on people’s lives. “We’re ready to use the full extent of our powers to enforce our decisions and make sure awards are paid out where they are due. 65% of the complaints about service which we accept are resolved or upheld”. “But the Annual Report also highlights the growing importance of informal techniques such as the SLCC’s free and confidential mediation service in finding solutions to complaints. Consequently, the SLCC’s process has become quicker and more efficient and complaint handling times have halved since 2012.”

“The legal services sector is worth over £1 billion to the Scottish economy and the report notes recent research which indicates that law firms can increase their profitability by around 3% through better complaint handling. The report also sets out the work of the SLCC on training and guidance for the profession.”

Mr Vickers added “We’ve published guidance for the public on using legal services and on conveyancing in particular as part of our efforts to prevent complaints from happening in the first place.”

While the news of better handling of complaints against the legal profession & rogue solicitors is welcome, it has taken the SLCC six years and five Chief Executives – which include Rosemary Agnew – currently the Scottish Information Commissioner – to get to a state where it pays out to financially ruined victims of “crooked lawyers”, however the total compensation awarded to members of the public who find themselves at the mercy of their once trusted solicitor are “little more than a scratch on the surface” – according to one person who has already been through the complaints process.

Highlighting the £1 billion figure from the statement issued by the SLCC’s current Chief Executive, Matthew Vickers, legal insiders remain of the view the financial sums involved in fraud carried out by Scottish solicitors each year are in the millions – with clients still struggling to recover 100% of their losses from the SLCC or the unsympathetic Court of Session – where judges often have undeclared links & financial relationships with some of the very same law firms accused of ripping off their clients.

Readers have since pointed out striking similarities between statements given by Lorna Jack, the Law Society of Scotland Chief Executive and Matthew Vickers, CEO of the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission in relating to their claims of the legal services sector being worth “over £1 billion to the Scottish economy” – a line spun by vested legal interests and some elderly judges – each time there is any public criticism of the legal profession for its poor provision of legal services in Scotland, one sided, biased regulation, sky high legal fees and closed shop lawyer-only access to Scottish courts.

However, less keen are the legal profession or the SLCC and even the Scottish Legal Aid Board to talk about or admit to the £1 billion pound plus taxpayer funded subsidy handed by the Scottish Government in the form of legal aid to Scottish lawyers & law firms since the Financial crash of 2008 – revealed by Diary of Injustice here: BANK OF LEGAL AID: £1billion of public money thrown at ‘struggling’ lawyers since 2008 financial crash.

Diary of Injustice would like to remind people who contact the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission to ensure when they file their complaint against their solicitor, they also state as clearly as possible they are seeking full compensation for their losses and nullification of any fees their solicitor is claiming for or has already billed for – after providing clients with poor or inadequate legal services.

If clients have been ripped off – as in embezzlement by a solicitor, or money going missing, property titles or other losses including items from executries or the estates of deceased family members & so on, this should be made clear to the SLCC including the financial damage caused by the loss of such material.

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