Scots solicitors should be stripped of powers to police themselves. FROM SCANDAL to scandal, the all too powerful Law Society of Scotland has managed to dodge calls for the legal profession to be stripped of their self regulation powers which ensure lawyers investigate themselves, and ultimately look after their own.
No matter the amount of damage to personal lives, families & businesses of clients, tens of millions a year in clients cash and property lost to cheating solicitors with a practising certificate backed up by their trade union body – the Law Society of Scotland – the legal profession has sailed through each scandal to blag another day.
Even after two Scottish Parliamentary inquiries, the same faces sit proud at their Law Society desks, revelling in their defence of their colleagues. Grim.Almost, horrific.
Those Parliamentary inquiries? The first – in 2003 was compromised by its pro self-regulation approach right from the start.
After taking tea with the legal eagles, the Justice Committee went onto conclude there should be no change to lawyers patting themselves on the back after another successful burglary well done.
And the second Justice 2 Committee inquiry in 2006 which promised so much – ended in the brutally watered down Legal Profession and Legal Aid (Scotland) Act 2007 courtesy once more of vested legal interests, hysterical threats from legal chiefs and Law Society arm twisting.
Today as much as yesterday, rogue lawyers still pat themselves on the back for every fraud dodged, every ruined client and complaint put to sleep. Why not? They have ultimate protection from clients, delivered by their very own colleagues at the Law Society of Scotland.
And of course, let’s not forget the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission (SLCC) – trumpeted by the Scots legal establishment as the ‘independent’ face of legal regulation in Scotland since 2008.
The Scottish Legal Complaints Commission is run by the same people who looked after lawyers at the Law Society of Scotland – ‘Independent’ Scots legal watchdog consists of solicitors’ husbands, wives, sons, daughters, cousins, friends, & employers.
The Law Society also appointed Neil Stevenson – one of their own former Directors – to the top CEO post at their friendly ‘indy’ £3m a year SLCC quango earlier this year.
What stunning successes for clients has the SLCC produced since it was created in 2008? Not one: Scottish Legal Complaints Commission – A history of pro-lawyer regulation.
With the accumulating scandals of Scottish lawyers up to no good – from Christopher Hales to John O’Donnell to the usual suspects and more – where the Law Society of Scotland investigates its own, over and over, and pats itself on the back for a job well done protecting colleagues, calls are again now being made to strip lawyers of their powers to police themselves.
The Scottish Sun reports:
By RUSSELL FINDLAY Scottish Sun, 6 December 2015
CRITICS are calling for an end to the secretive “old boys’ club” which sees Scots lawyers police themselves.
It took the Law Society of Scotland four years to give police details of its probe into an alleged mortgage fraud linked to solicitor Christopher Hales and MP Michelle Thomson.
But legal experts insist this would not have happened if we had the same system of outside supervision that operates down south.
Last night a former Cabinet minister said it is “astonishing” that a trade body remains in charge of disciplining lawyers here.
Ex-Labour MP Brian Wilson said: “It’s clearly an old boys’ club and a closed shop which very much looks after its own.
“The Law Society seems to be under no obligation to report serious wrongdoing to the police until it suits them.
“It’s fundamentally wrong for lawyers to have special status. Scotland needs an independent system of regulation to protect the public.”
In July 2011 the Law Society uncovered a “potential fraud” involving 13 property deals linked to the SNP’s Ms Thomson and others.
It had an agreement at the time to share information with the then-Scottish Crime and Drug Enforcement Agency.
But its “suspicious activity report” on Mr Hales was sent to the London-based Serious Organised Crime Agency, which focused on money laundering and terrorist financing.
The lawyer was suspended in September 2011 but was not struck off until May 2014.
And it took the Law Society another 14 months before it handed over its papers on the case to the Crown Office.
Police were then instructed to probe Ms Thomson — now MP for Edinburgh West.
But today we can reveal cops down south would have been alerted four years ago.
Since 2007 all lawyers in England and Wales have had to answer to the independent Solicitors Regulation Authority.
And an SRA spokesman said: “It is standard practice to disclose information to police should we uncover evidence of suspected criminality.”
Scots Labour shadow justice secretary Graeme Pearson, above right, blasted the Thomson delay, saying: “An early report of suspected criminality is easier to investigate.”
Lawyer and ex-Scotland Yard detective Rowan Bosworth- Davies added: “This should have been reported to local cops as soon as possible.”
In other cases the Law Society has unearthed evidence of suspected criminal behaviour by lawyers — but did not inform police.
So instead of facing trial, briefs had their knuckles rapped by legal colleagues.
And victims of crooked lawyers say the complaints system is stacked against them.
A Law Society of Scotland spokeswoman said: “We work alongside an independent complaints-handling body and independent discipline tribunal.
“Much evidence suggests the system of regulation in England and Wales is more complicated and expensive.
“We are legally obliged to report to the authorities where we have concerns about possible criminality, and we do.”
An investigator who was knifed more than ten times suspected a lawyer of ordering the hit.
Ex-Law Society boss Leslie Cumming, 71, believed an Edinburgh solicitor, who we cannot name, paid thug Robert Graham to carry out the 2006 attack in the city’s Murrayfield.
Mr Cumming, told us 19 days before he died of cancer in February: “There were two solicitors who were well connected with criminals – he was one looked at”
A SHAMED lawyer dodged being struck off despite breaking money laundering rules.
Glasgow solicitor John O’Donnell, 65, struck a secret deal with the Law Society in 2009 in which he agreed to stop working. He had been found guilty of six counts of misconduct and once “borrowed” £60,000 from an unwitting client.
But the brief used another lawyer’s name to continue duping punters.