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Category Archives: alternative business structures

JUDICIAL REGISTER: Evidence lodged by Judicial Investigators, campaigners, judges & journalists in four year Holyrood probe on judges’ interests – points to increased public awareness of judiciary, expectation of transparency in court

Judicial register required for openness in court. EVIDENCE accumulated as a result of a four year probe by the Scottish Parliament on proposals to require judges to register their interests – points to the inescapable conclusion there is a need for a fully published and publicly available register of interests for the judiciary.

The overall impression reached by many involved in the debate around judicial interests is that creating such a register with full declarations by judges will enhance public trust in judges, and bring the judiciary into line with transparency rules which apply to all other branches of Government.

The proposal to bring greater transparency to Scotland’s judiciary – Petition PE1458: Register of Interests for members of Scotland’s judiciary – first debated at the Scottish Parliament’s Public Petitions Committee in January 2013 – calls for the creation of a publicly available register of judicial interests – containing information on judges’ backgrounds, figures relating to personal wealth, undeclared earnings, business & family connections inside & outside of the legal profession, membership of organisations, property and land, offshore investments, hospitality, details on recusals and other information routinely lodged in registers of interest across all walks of public life in the UK and around the world.

A full debate on the proposal to require judges to declare their interests was held at the Scottish Parliament on 9 October 2014 – ending in a motion calling on the Scottish Government to create a register of judicial interests. The motion was overwhelmingly supported by MSPs from all political parties.

A full history, list of evidence, Parliamentary hearings and submissions from all sides of the debate including campaigners, legal academics, both of Scotland’s Judicial Complaints Reviewers, law related organisations, the Scottish Government and Scotland’s top judges in relation to Petition PE1458: Register of Interests for members of Scotland’s judiciary is published for readers and those with an interest in how the judiciary operate, below:

Date Petition Lodged: 07 December 2012

Note: This article will be updated as new submissions and evidence are published by the Petitions Committee.

Petition aim: Calling on the Scottish Parliament to urge the Scottish Government to create a Register of Pecuniary Interests of Judges Bill (as is currently being considered in New Zealand’s Parliament) or amend present legislation to require all members of the Judiciary in Scotland to submit their interests & hospitality received to a publicly available Register of Interests.

Petition History:

Summary:

8 January 2013: The Committee agreed to write to the Scottish Government, the Lord President, the Faculty of Advocates and the Law Society of Scotland. Link to Media report – Declare your interests M’Lords

5 March 2013: The Committee agreed to invite the Lord President to give evidence at a future meeting and seek further information on the proposed New Zealand legislation. Link to Media report – ‘Methinks the Lord President doth protest too much’

16 April 2013: The Committee agreed to write again to the Lord President and seek views from the Judicial Appointments Board for Scotland and the Judicial Complaints Reviewer. Link to Media report – What is there to hide?

25 June 2013: The Committee agreed to invite the Judicial Complaints Reviewer to give evidence at a future meeting. The Committee also agreed to write to Dr Kennedy Graham MP, New Zealand Parliament. Link to Media report – top judge ‘should reconsider his position on Scotland Act’

17 September 2013: The Committee took evidence from Moi Ali, Judicial Complaints Reviewer. The Committee agreed to write to Dr Kennedy Graham MP, New Zealand Parliament, the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service, the Scottish Court Service and the Scottish Government. The Committee also agreed to consider the debate that took place during the passage of the Scotland Act 1998 on section 23. Link to Media report – evidence of Moi Ali, Judicial Complaints Reviewer

JCR Moi Ali gives evidence to Scottish Parliament on a proposed Register of Judicial Interests

26 November 2013: The Committee agreed to defer future consideration of the petition until after the meeting between the Convener, Deputy Convener and the Lord President. Link to Official Report 26 November 2013

28 January 2014: The Committee agreed to defer consideration of the petition pending receipt of a letter from the Lord President. Link to Media report – Private Parly

4 March 2014: The Committee agreed to seek time in the Chamber for a debate on the petition. The Committee also agreed to write to the Lord President and the Scottish Government. Link to Media report – Recuse me not

6 May 2014: The Committee agreed to write to the Lord President and the Scottish Government. Link to Media report – MSPs seek views from scripted top judge

9 October 2014: The Committee held a debate in the Chamber on the subject of the petition. Link to Media report – Debating the judges – full debate at Holyrood, video & official report

28 October 2014: The Committee agreed to write to the Lord President and the Judicial Complaints Reviewer. The Committee also agreed to invite the Cabinet Secretary for Justice to give evidence at a future meeting. Link to Media report – Secretary for the judge

9 December 2014: The Committee took evidence from Paul Wheelhouse, Minister for Community Safety and Legal Affairs, and Kay McCorquodale, Civil Law and Legal Systems Division, Scottish Government. The Committee agreed to consider the petition again in the new year to reflect on the evidence received today, the annual report of the previous Judicial Complaints Reviewer and the new rules and guidance to be published by the Lord President. The Committee also agreed to write to the new Judicial Complaints Reviewer. Link to Media report – Too many secrets

12 May 2015: The Committee agreed to invite the Judicial Complaints Reviewer to give evidence at a future meeting. Link to Media report – You ran M’Lord

23 June 2015: The Committee took evidence from Gillian Thompson OBE, Judicial Complaints Reviewer. The Committee agreed to write to the Scottish Government, Lord Gill and, when appointed, the new Lord President. Link to Media report – Register, M’Lord

JCR Gillian Thompson OBE evidence to Scottish Parliament: Register of Interests for Judges Petition PE1458 Scottish Parliament 23 June 2015

10 November 2015: The Committee took evidence from Rt Hon Lord Gill, former Lord President of the Court of Session. The Committee agreed to reflect on the evidence heard at a future meeting. Link to Media report – Judge Another Day

Evidence of Lord Gill before the Scottish Parliament 10 November 2015

1 December 2015: The Committee agreed to write to the new Lord President once appointed. Link to Media report – Evidence, M’Lord

23 February 2016: The Committee agreed to include the petition in its legacy paper for consideration by the Session 5 Public Petitions Committee. In doing so, the Committee agreed to write to Professor Alan Paterson, University of Strathclyde. Link to Media report – Declare it, M’Lord

29 September 2016: The Committee agreed to invite the Lord President and Professor Alan Paterson to give oral evidence at a future meeting. Link to Media report – Question Time, M’Lord

22 December 2016: The Committee agreed to consider what further action to take on the petition once it has taken oral evidence from Professor Alan Paterson at its meeting on 19 January 2017. Link to Committee video footage: Petition PE1458 Register of Interests for judges Public Petitions Committee – Scottish Parliament 22 Dec 2016

19 January 2017: The Committee agreed to write to the Lord President and the Judicial Complaints Reviewer. Link to Media Report: “Transparency is part of accountability” says Law Professor to MSPs

30 March 2017: The Committee agreed to invite the Lord President to provide oral evidence at a future meeting. Link to Media Report: Top judge Lord Carloway to face Parliament probe on register of judges’ interests

Click on each link to view written Submissions to the Scottish Parliament:

Previous articles on the lack of transparency within Scotland’s judiciary, investigations by Diary of Injustice including reports from the media, and video footage of debates at the Scottish Parliament’s Public Petitions Committee can be found here : A Register of Interests for Scotland’s Judiciary.

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Reform of civil justice & court costs ‘a dying duck’ : Lawyers vested interests respond to Scottish Government’s Taylor Review

Taylor Review Page Cover_Page1Taylor Review consultation will fail to address, reform Scotland’s rip-off justice system. NEARLY FOUR YEARS AGO, the Lord Justice Clerk, Lord Gill issued his Civil Courts Review, describing Scotland’s justice system as “… a Victorian model that had survived by means of periodic piecemeal reforms. But in substance its structure and procedures are those of a century and a half ago. It is failing the litigant and it is failing society.” The well respected judge who some hope will replace Lord Hamilton as Lord President, went onto criticise the civil justice system even further, leaving little doubt in anyone’s mind of the futility of using Scotland’s civil courts, saying “Its delays are notorious. It costs deter litigants whose claims may be well-founded. Its procedures cause frustration and obstruct rather than facilitate the achievement of justice”. The Scottish Government’s response to Lord Gill’s two year Civil Courts Review was, more talk, and little action, and adding insult to injury, a review of Lord Gill’s review, branded the Taylor Review.

Over a year after Lord Gill had issued his highly critical findings on Scotland’s Victorian civil justice system, the Scottish Government announced their plans, with a proviso many of the ‘reforms’ would take years to implement, if ever. This was reported here : Scottish Government’s response to Civil Courts Review : Class Actions, more cases to Sheriff Courts, & faster, easier access to justice ‘over years’ and finally in 2011, the Scottish Government announced a review of Lord Gill’s review, seen by most as a time wasting exercise for vested interests, reported here : Scottish Government delay reforms on costs of litigation & access to justice as Minister announces 18 month ‘time wasting’ review by retired sheriff.

It took at least another six months before the Taylor Review team launched their consultation, covered by Diary of Injustice, here : Going to court is like being taken to the cleaners ? Participate in the Review of Expenses and Funding of Civil Litigation in Scotland Consultation.

While the Taylor Review has yet to report on, & recommend reforms to the way justice is obtainable (usually unobtainable) in Scotland, the vested interests of the legal profession have, predictably, released their own responses to the Taylor Review, giving little prospect of any changes to the ridiculous cost of litigating in Scotland’s civil courts.

Readers can view the legal profession’s responses to the Taylor Review at the following links : Response from the Law Society of Scotland, Law Society of Scotland’s Remuneration Committee on shortfall in judicial expenses, Response from the Faculty of Advocates, Response from the Glasgow Bar Association

Not withstanding the amount of time which has passed since Lord Gill’s critique on Scotland’s costly, antiquated civil justice system, nearly a full four years which have seen costs of going to court spiral in Scotland, there is little if anything in the responses from the legal profession which may contribute to any significant falls in the costs of obtaining justice in Scotland. Lets face it, lawyers are never going to concede justice could, and should become cheaper, simply because it affects their profits, and of course, the wider influence of the legal profession on public & political life in Scotland. Scots therefore, should not expect easier or cheaper access to justice anytime soon.

BACKGROUND TO CIVIL JUSTICE REFORM IN SCOTLAND

Lord Gill Lord Justice ClerkThe Lord Justice Clerk, Lord Gill, author of the Civil Courts Review. The Lord Justice Clerk, Lord Gill, in his speech to the Law Society of Scotland’s 60 year anniversary conference last year, reproduced in full here said : “The civil justice system in Scotland is a Victorian model that had survived by means of periodic piecemeal reforms. But in substance its structure and procedures are those of a century and a half ago. It is failing the litigant and it is failing society. It is essential that we should have a system that has disputes resolved at a judicial level that is appropriate to their degree of importance and that disputes should be dealt with expeditiously and efficiently and without unnecessary or unreasonable cost. That means that the judicial structure should be based on a proper hierarchy of courts and that the procedures should be appropriate to the nature and the importance of the case, in terms of time and cost. Scottish civil justice fails on all of these counts. Its delays are notorious. It costs deter litigants whose claims may be well-founded. Its procedures cause frustration and obstruct rather than facilitate the achievement of justice.”

The Scottish Government’s full response to Lord Gill’s Civil Courts Review can be viewed online here : Scottish Government Response to the Report and Recommendations of the Scottish Civil Courts Review or can be downloaded directly, here : Scottish Government Civil Courts Review response (pdf)

Readers can download the Civil Courts Review report in pdf format, from the Scottish Courts Website at the following links : Volume 1 Chapter 1 – 9 (Covers McKenzie Friends, procedures, advice etc, 2.99Mb) Volume 2 Chapter 10 – 15 (Covers mainly the issue of Class (multi party) actions etc, 2.16Mb) Synopsis (215Kb)

Readers may also wish to gauge how Holyrood and the Scottish Government are treating the Civil Courts Review, from a report covering the last Holyrood debate on the subject, along with video footage, here : Holyrood debate reveals civil justice reforms & McKenzie Friends may be a long way off as Scottish Ministers stumble over Lord Gill review proposals

Diary of Injustice’ coverage of the Civil Courts Review from its publication to the present, can be found here : Civil Courts Review – The story so far.

 

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LAW WARS : Court upholds SLCC’s decision to reject lawyer’s complaint against ex Law Society President Jamie Millar over Regulation Committee fiddle

Parliament_House,_EdinburghCourt of Session refuses lawyers appeal over complaint against ex Law Society President. A DECISION of the Court of Session to refuse a Glasgow lawyer permission to appeal a decision by the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission (SLCC) to dismiss a complaint against the now former President of the Law Society of Scotland, Jamie Millar over allegations he misled fellow lawyers with regards to the society’s creation of a Regulation Committee to comply with the requirements laid down in the Scottish Government’s Legal Services Act 2010 reveals its not only clients of crooked lawyers who face a rough time with their complaints with the notoriously anti-consumer law complaints quango whose Board members have openly insulted & chastised complainers & lawyers alike.

jamie_millarNow former Law Society President Jamie Millar was alleged to at the time of his presidency to have misled the rest of the Law Society over the creation of a new committee.The complaint in this latest case, made by Glasgow lawyer & Law Society Council member Walter Semple alleged the Law Society’s President at the time, Jamie Millar had deliberately misled the profession in a communication to Glasgow Council members which said that it was necessary to change the Society’s constitution in order to create the new Regulatory Committee required under the Legal Services (Scotland) Act 2010. Mr Semple’s complaint alleged Millar knew the Council already had such powers without the need to create a new Committee and that he had went back on his word having said at a meeting of Council that he would resign if the complaint of misleading the profession was found to be justified, all of which was in breach of the prohibition in the Solicitors Practice Rules of knowingly misleading other solicitors.

The Law Society quickly issued a statement welcoming the Court’s decision to halt Mr Semple’s complaint although the Law Society did not mention the fact the SLCC is subject of continuing legal challenges in the Court of Session brought by the Law Society of Scotland as reported earlier in 2010 here : Bitter feud between regulators as Law Society of Scotland take Scottish Legal Complaints Commission to Court of Session over complaints role.

The Law Society stated : The Scottish Legal Complaints Commission (SLCC) had earlier decided to reject the complaint on the grounds of it being ‘totally without merit’. An application for leave to appeal the SLCC decision was rejected by the Court of Session on Tuesday, 22 November, following a hearing on 8 November.

In April, a member of the Law Society Council made a complaint to the SLCC against the conduct of Jamie Millar who was then President of the Society. This related to a communication that was issued to solicitors on the Society’s constitution in advance of the AGM in March this year. Mr Millar’s term of office as President was for one year only and concluded in May. The Society was informed that the SLCC rejected the complaint as being totally without merit. The SLCC will therefore be taking no further action in the matter. This application to leave to appeal the decision was made to the Court of Session and was heard today.

Current Law Society President Cameron Ritchie, fresh from a grubby tour of Dubai along with Chief Exec Lorna Jack, apparently at significant expense to drum up business for the Scottish legal market. Cameron Ritchie, who succeeded Mr Millar as President when his one year term of office came to end in May, said: “I have always considered Jamie Millar to be a person of honesty and the highest integrity. The Law Society was fortunate to have him as its president during what was a particularly difficult time within the legal profession. It was regrettable that he had to face some unfair and wholly unjustified accusations during his last few months in office. He may no longer be our president but we are fortunate to still have Jamie serving on our Council, standing up and speaking out for solicitors, both within his Glasgow constituency and across Scotland.”

However, for a more accurate take on Jamie Millar, Diary of Injustice reported his installation as Law Society of Scotland President in the annual musical chairs event, here : Law Society welcomes new President, firm has links to dishonest Borders solicitors who mishandled wills & executry estates

The idea to create the Regulatory Committee came about in response to heated debate between the Law Society & the SNP minority Scottish Government of 2007-2011 over the terms of the Legal Services Act (2010) as it passed through the Scottish Parliament. The Legal Services Act came about after the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) recommended changes to Scotland’s closed shop monopolistic legal services market which is dominated & controlled by members of the Law Society of Scotland. The Scottish version of the Legal Services Act, which has existed in England & Wales from 2007, is a pale and ‘profession biased’ comparison to its southern counterpart.

During bitter exchanges between the Law Society of Scotland and the SNP minority Scottish Government, Scottish Ministers were forced to back down time & again over proposals in their bill designed to open up access to justice for ordinary Scots. In one instance, the then Communities Minister Fergus Ewing was hauled over the coals by the Law Society and quickly changed parts of the planned legal reforms, In another key capitulation, the Scottish Government’s plan for Scottish Ministers to be able to appoint lay members to the Law Society’s ruling Council was thrown out after the Society protested, reported by Diary of Injustice, here : Scottish Government back down on lay appointments to Law Society Council as lawyers interests threaten to break pro-consumer legal services bill

The Scottish Government’s own website lists the current status of the Legal Services (Scotland) Act 2010, reporting that although certain sections in the Act have been commenced (see the Legal Services (Scotland) Act 2010 (Commencement No. 1 and Saving Provision) Order 2011), the bulk of the provisions establishing the regulatory frameworks for licensed providers, confirmation agents and will writers are not yet in force. The timetable for full implementation of the Act is currently under consideration, and key stakeholders will be consulted in due course.The Scottish Government conducted a consultation on “Ownership and control of firms providing legal services under the Legal Services (Scotland) Act 2010” between February and May 2011. More details can be found HERE

The entire story of the Legal Services Bill, the arm twisting & threats from the legal profession over the loss of their exclusive control over access to justice markets, and the bill’s passage through the Scottish Parliament, along with video coverage of testimony before the Justice Committee is here : Legal Services Bill – The failure to open up access to justice in Scotland

The judgement from the Court of Session by Lord Mackay of Drumadoon, Lord Bonomy, Lord Marnoch in the appeal of Walter Semple against the decision of the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission to dismiss the complaint against Jamie Millar, follows :

OPINION OF THE COURT [2011] CSIH 74 delivered by LORD MARNOCH in Application for Leave to Appeal under Section 21(1) of the Legal Profession and Legal Aid (Scotland) Act 2007 by WALTER GEORGE SEMPLE Applicant; Against a Determination of the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission Act: Party; Fyfe Ireland LLP Alt M Ross; Shepherd & Wedderburn LLP

22 November 2011

[1] This is an application for leave to appeal brought under Section 21 of the Legal Profession and Legal Aid (Scotland) Act 2007 in respect of a Determination made by the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission (“the respondents”) arising out of a Complaint made by Walter George Semple (“the applicant”).

[2] In deciding that the applicant’s Complaint was “totally without merit” the respondents summarised the Complaint for their determination in the following terms:

“Issue 1: Mr Millar deliberately misled the profession in a communication of 16 March 2011 addressed to Law Society of Scotland’s Council Members for Glasgow where he stated ‘We must change our constitution to create this [new regulatory] committee. Without it, we will be unable to continue regulating the existing solicitor profession when the relevant parts of the Act commences (sic) over the summer.’ Mr Millar knew this statement to be incorrect as he was aware that the Council had the necessary powers under the Law Society of Scotland’s existing constitution. In making this statement, Mr Millar has breached Rule 14(1) of the Solicitors (Scotland) (Standards of Conduct) Practice Rules 2008 which states that solicitors must not knowingly mislead other solicitors.

Issue 2: Mr Millar went back on his word given at a meeting of the Council of the Law Society held on 25 March 2011 following the Law Society of Scotland’s Annual General Meeting, where he stated that he would investigate the allegation of misleading the profession in terms of the communication of 16 March 2011 and would resign as President if the complaint was justified, in that he has failed to resign despite his investigation showing the complaint to be justified. In going back on his word, Mr Millar has breached Rule 14(1) of the Solicitors (Scotland) (Standards of Conduct) Practice Rules 2008 which states that solicitors must not knowingly mislead other solicitors.”

As regards the first of these issues, it was pointed out that the communication referred to was in fact an e-mail, not addressed to the Law Society of Scotland’s Council Members for Glasgow, but sent by way of a Council newsletter by three of those Council Members to their constituency members in Glasgow and Strathkelvin. There is, however, no doubt that, in reaching their determination on issue 1, the respondents had regard to the correct document. In this connection, it should be made clear, for the avoidance of doubt, that Mr Millar, against whom the Complaint was raised, was at the time of the events complained of the President of the Law Society of Scotland and a Council Member for Glasgow and Strathkelvin.

[3] Turning, then, to the first issue it appears to us that in those parts of the e-mail or newsletter complained of what was said in no way represented statements of fact but, on the contrary, can only be regarded as expressions of opinion regarding the relevant law. References in the Complaint and in the reasoning of the respondents to whether what was said was “accurate” or “inaccurate” or “true” or “untrue” are accordingly inappropriate, the real question being whether the opinion was or was not honestly expressed. In the course of the hearing before us Mr Semple and, we think, also counsel for the respondents were good enough to accept that that was so. Once the question is so framed, however, the considerations that the e-mail or newsletter was signed by three practising solicitors and that the opinion expressed has since had the support of senior counsel strongly suggest that the answer to that question lies in the affirmative. Mr Clancy, who apparently advised the Law Society in relation to legal matters, may or may not have agreed with that opinion and may or may not have been consulted but what is certainly clear is that neither the President nor his other two colleagues were in any way bound by what Mr Clancy may have said. In any event, as can be seen from the newsletter, the members of the Society were being encouraged to attend the imminent annual general meeting at which the principal business was to discuss the proposed changes to the constitution. In our opinion, the holding of an open debate on the question at issue can only mean that, while what was said in the newsletter may well have been intended to influence the membership, it cannot have been calculated to “mislead” the membership. It may be true, as Mr Semple submitted, that those who voted by proxy did not have the advantage of hearing the debate, but it is equally true that Mr Millar and his co-signatories were prepared to have the validity of their opinion discussed and examined by their peers. What is more, it is clear that when the meeting actually took place the applicant, Mr Semple, was allowed to express his own contrary opinion.

[4] Turning now to the second issue, it seems to us that, whatever may have been said at the time, it cannot have been within the contemplation of any of those present that the President should offer his resignation in a situation where the opinion which had been expressed had the support of senior counsel. In any event, we are of the opinion that, properly construed, and with particular reference to the phrase “offered to resign”, what was said amounted to no more than a statement of intent. As such, it was capable of being withdrawn at a later date, particularly where circumstances had altered in the interim.

[5] What we have said above is in large measure contained within the reasons given by the respondents for their decision and on the whole matter we do not consider that they either erred in law or acted irrationally in holding on the material before them that the Complaint in question was wholly without merit. In our opinion, therefore, the present application falls to be dismissed.

 

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Civil Courts Review TWO YEARS ON : “Victorian” flaws in Scots legal system ‘may last for decades’ as lawyers vested interests stifle access to justice reforms

Lord GillLord Gill’s Civil Courts Review published in 2009 recommended significant reforms to Scots justice system yet little has changed in two years. TWO YEARS ON from the CIVIL COURTS REVIEW undertaken by Scotland’s Lord Justice Clerk, Lord Gill in February 2007 which culminated in his report published in September 2009 recommending significant wide ranging reforms to Scotland’s antiquated civil justice system, Scots are finding access to civil justice & access to courts has, in reality, changed little despite much talk at the Scottish Parliament on the report’s reforms and several amateur attempts by the Scottish Government to legislate wider access to justice, all of which have been watered down in the face of almost warlike hostility from lawyers worried their profit margins would sink as people chose other forms of getting to court.

Sadly, the stinging criticisms of Lord Gill, who himself branded Scotland’s civil justice system as “Victorian”, failing to deliver efficiency of justice or Scots accessibility of justice appear to have been lost in the mists of time with little progress on the Lord Justice Clerk’s proposals to rectify the justice system’s ills, yet those consumers in Scotland who face the torture of using Scotland’s expensive, seemingly endemically dishonest legal profession to get to court, would rather the proposed reforms be speeded up than having review after review, and then as is now the case, reviews of the reviews.

Last year, on the first anniversary of the Civil Courts Review, and the blaze of publicity which surrounded its publication, we saw little change, almost a few steps backwards as I reported last August 2010, here : Civil Courts Review one year on : Scotland’s out-of-reach justice system remains Victorian, untrustworthy and still controlled by vested interests

Another year has now passed, yet the only movement on Lord Gill’s proposals by the Scottish Government, was to launch another review, as I reported earlier in March, here : Scottish Government delay reforms on costs of litigation & access to justice as Minister announces 18 month ‘time wasting’ review by retired sheriff, announced after I reported in January Civil Justice Advisory Group calls for radical reform of Scotland’s civil justice system, says people should be at the heart of Scottish civil justice

I reported on the ‘progress’ of the Sheriff Taylor review (the review of the review), earlier in July, here : Lawyers can talk, yet fee paying clients & court users remain shut out of Scottish Government review of the costs & funding of litigation in Scotland. A consultation was to be published on the Taylor Review website HERE although none has yet appeared.

Clearly, Civil Justice Reform and giving Scots control over their own access to justice & legal services, instead of the present arrangement where the legal establishment and lawyers control & decide which Scots have access to justice, is not a priority for the Scottish Government.

Indeed, it could well be argued the Scottish Government are delaying for as long as possible, most of the access to justice reforms because they will put power into the hands of Scots to resolve their legal issues & court issues much faster, at less cost, and with less potential for failure, than the present “Victorian” system offers us. The reason for the delays ? Well, its not too difficult to see if Scots are able to resolve their legal issues faster and cheaper, the legal profession are going to make a lot less money out of their clients.

Reminding readers once again of those words, Lord Gill, in his speech to the Law Society of Scotland’s 60 year anniversary conference last year, said : “The civil justice system in Scotland is a Victorian model that had survived by means of periodic piecemeal reforms. But in substance its structure and procedures are those of a century and a half ago. It is failing the litigant and it is failing society.”

He continued : “It is essential that we should have a system that has disputes resolved at a judicial level that is appropriate to their degree of importance and that disputes should be dealt with expeditiously and efficiently and without unnecessary or unreasonable cost. That means that the judicial structure should be based on a proper hierarchy of courts and that the procedures should be appropriate to the nature and the importance of the case, in terms of time and cost.”

“Scottish civil justice fails on all of these counts. Its delays are notorious. It costs deter litigants whose claims may be well-founded. Its procedures cause frustration and obstruct rather than facilitate the achievement of justice.”

“Unless there is major reform and soon, individual litigants will be prevented from securing their rights, commercial litigants will continue to look elsewhere for a forum for their claims, public confidence in the judicial system will be further eroded, Scotland’s economic development will be hindered, and Scots law will atrophy as an independent legal system.”

“Major reform and soon”, as Lord Gill said himself, has not happened. One may rightly being to wonder if Lord Gill’s reforms are ever expected to occur while the vested interests of money makers in the legal profession have their way. September 2010 has come and nearly ended, yet, again, little has changed for those in Scotland who need a justice system fit for the 21st Century, rather than what we currently have, the “Victorian” version controlled by vested interests from the legal establishment.

An official from one of Scotland’s consumer organisations admitted today he was ‘despondent’ about any major reforms to Scotland’s civil justice system over the next ten years. He said : “There is a general feeling the civil courts review is dead & buried along with any chance to launch major reforms to civil justice in the next decade.I don’t believe this is a priority for the current Scottish Government and I don’t think it will be one for the next”

He continued : “It’s just not in the interests of those earning money out of the justice system to see a different playing field where consumers can get easier, cheaper & faster access to justice in Scotland. Lawyers keep claiming if such reforms came in, they would go out of business, however lawyers dont own the justice system, they just use it to make money. Until we get away from the idea the legal profession owns & operates the justice system and the courts as their own business, there will be little chance of constructive reform of civil justice in Scotland.”

Readers can download the Civil Courts Review report in pdf format, from the Scottish Courts Website at the following links :

Volume 1 Chapter 1 – 9 (Covers McKenzie Friends, procedures, advice etc, 2.99Mb)

Volume 2 Chapter 10 – 15 (Covers mainly the issue of Class (multi party) actions etc, 2.16Mb)

Synopsis (215Kb)

My coverage of the Civil Courts Review from its publication to the present, and the pace of reforms to civil justice in Scotland can be found here : Civil Courts Review – The story so far however the story so far is that Scots do not have control over their own access to justice, and Scotland still has a justice system which is Victorian, prejudiced, politicised, controlled by vested interests & definitely a little crooked.

 

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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.”

The full report by Progressive on the Guarantee Fund can be read here : Progressive Guarantee Fund Report 2011 (pdf) or online here : Progressive Guarantee Fund Report 2011

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

THE second piece of research carried out by University of Manchester was a statistical analysis of data from claims. The research analysed the statistical data to establish if there were any relationships between different aspects of claims made. What the research did not do was explore or look into the detail of individual claims or seek to establish if there were underlying reasons for any findings.

The statistical analysis identified a relationship between the number and total value of claims received in the same year as an individual claim and the level of payment made on an individual claim. The University’s conclusion was that the outcomes of individual claims on the Guarantee Fund are statistically related to factors beyond the ‘merits of the individual claim’. The SLCC said it “noted this conclusion but has not drawn any conclusions about underlying reasons, as they could be subject to many different factors, not all of which would be within the control of the LSS.”

The University of Manchester ‘statistical analysis’ of claims data, can be read here : University of Manchester Guarantee Fund Report 2011 (pdf)

SLCCSLCC statement is short on detail or accuracy of how Guarantee Fund survey actually turned out. The SLCC concluded in its announcement : “The SLCC is keen to take this work forward. Following on from the two pieces of research we are using the results from the Progressive research as a baseline for ongoing monitoring. The questionnaire used in the research will be issued by the LSS to all claimants at the end of the claims process. These questionnaires will be returned to and monitored by the SLCC. We will share information with the LSS and publish findings periodically will carry out an audit of a sample of the actual claims from which the University of Manchester took the statistical data. During the first half of 2012 we will examine the actual cases, the processes followed and the records of decisions to explore whether there are identifiable reasons for the statistical relationship.”

Two earlier articles featured the initial findings of the University of Manchester 2009 report into the Guarantee Fund & Master Policy, here : ‘Ground-breaking’ investigation into Law Society’s Master Policy insurance reveals realities of corrupt claims process against crooked lawyers and here : Suicides, illness, broken families and ruined clients reveal true cost of Law Society’s Master Policy which ‘allows solicitors to sleep at night’

Page 8 - Consumer Focus Scotland refused cooperation from Law SocietySuicides, illness, family breakdown, loss of homes, loss of livelihood were all identified by interviewees as being directly associated with members of the public’s dealings with the Law Society & Master Policy. During the research team’s investigation of claims against the Master Policy, team members were told of suicides which had occurred due to the way in which clients of crooked lawyers had been treated by the Law Society of Scotland and the insurers who operate the Master Policy protection scheme for solicitors against negligence claims. Quoting the report : “Several claimants said that they had been diagnosed with depression; that they had high blood pressure; and several had their marriages fail due to their claim. Some had lost a lot of money, their homes, and we were told that one party litigant had committed suicide.”

Further excerpts from the Manchester University report into the Law Society’s Master Policy & Guarantee Fund show the intolerable strain clients who attempt to claim against their ‘crooked’ solicitor have to endure : Claimants “described being intimidated, being forced to settle rather than try to run a hearing without legal support, and all felt that their claims’ outcomes were not fair. Some claimants felt that they should have received more support, and that this lack was further evidence of actors within the legal system being “against” Master Policy claimants. Judges were described as being “former solicitors”, members of the Law Society – and thus, against claimants. Some described judges and other judicial officers as being very hostile to party litigants.”

Law Society & Scottish GovernmentScottish Government have been promoting use of Law Society Guarantee Fund for new entrants to legal services market. Attempts by the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission to avoid portraying the Guarantee Fund too badly may be linked to the reliance of the SNP Scottish Government in using the Guarantee Fund as a compensation vehicle for clients of new entrants to Scotland’s supposedly expanded legal services market. I reported on this ludicrous idea in an earlier article here : Legal Services Bill vote by MSPs will force all victims of ‘crooked lawyers’ to use Law Society’s corrupt ‘claims dodging’ Guarantee Fund

As far back as March 2009, I revealed in an article : Law Society’s ‘Guarantee Fund’ for clients of crooked lawyers revealed as multi million pound masterpiece of claims dodging corruption

Yet after THREE YEARS, this latest attempt by the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission to investigate the Law Society of Scotland’s Guarantee Fund has resulted in yet another failure. There is noticeably no mention in the announcement of how the latest survey into the Master Policy is progressing, if at all.

Clearly as long as the Law Society of Scotland control both the Guarantee Fund and the Master Policy, there will be no “ultimate client protection” for consumers of legal services in Scotland and clearly as long as the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission remains as cowardly and ineffective as it is, there will be no such thing as independent effective regulation of the legal profession in Scotland and therefore no protection for clients from ‘crooked lawyers’.

 

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The Law Society from Hell : Scots face decade of closed shop, low quality & high cost crooked lawyers as solicitors demand access to justice monopoly goes on

law-in-scotlandAs predicted, Law Society of Scotland’s ‘one profession’ conference result : More client rip-offs on the way. ANOTHER DECADE OF LEGAL RIP-OFFS via poor regulation, consistently poor quality legal services, the worst levels of access to justice in the entire UK & the lowest possible form of consumer protection when things go wrong between clients & solicitors, is on the way for unsuspecting & unwary consumers of legal services in Scotland, according to the Law Society of Scotland ‘new strategy’ for the next decade up to 2020, published earlier this week as a result of the society’s annual conference : “Law in Scotland- One Profession”.

According to the Law Society’s Press Release following its annual conference, the society stated its new strategic aim as ‘to lead and support a successful and respected Scottish legal profession’ in its ‘Towards 2020’ strategy document and has set out five principal objectives against which it will assess and measure its performance over the coming years.

The latest ‘key objectives’ announced, which remain unachievable even after SIXTY YEARS of the Law Society of Scotland’s existence, are :

Excellent solicitor professionalism and reputation (Ignoring huge levels of fraud & theft involving clients funds, legal aid fraud, involvement in organised crime, tax fraud, criminality, etc is on the rise within the profession)

Law Society of Scotland members are trusted advisers of choice (Trust a member of the Law Society of Scotland, kiss goodbye to your life as you knew it before legal difficulties, home repossession, faltering finances, personal bankruptcy & family break up all set in as a result of clients misplaced trust)

Law Society of Scotland members are economically active and sustainable (Economically active enough to inflate fee notes & play clients along for years, charging for work which in most cases never leads to a solution to the client’s legal problems)

The Law Society of Scotland is the professional body and regulator of choice (Another decade of corrupt regulation of complaints against crooked lawyers where solicitors cover up for their colleagues)

The Law Society of Scotland is a high performing organisation (High performing for solicitors, non performing for clients)

The 4m Crooked Lawyer - Daily Record 1991The Law Society of Scotland’s vision for next 10 years – we should expect more multi-million pound crooked lawyers. The now familiar annual claims from the Law Society of Scotland cut little truth in terms of reality, as the levels of frauds committed by crooked lawyers against their clients are significantly on the rise in Scotland, doubtless due to the recession & general downturn in business which has brought about many new creative ways by law firms to rip off clients, including use of Scotland’s Sheriff Courts to pursue clients for alleged fees due for non existent work on court cases which commonly never see a court room or a legal remedy.

Cameron RitchieLaw Society President Cameron Ritchie. Commenting on the Law Society’s desire to remain in charge of exactly who in Scotland it decides should have access to justice, the Society’s current president, Cameron Ritchie, said: “The pace of change for the legal profession, like others, has been tremendous in recent years and of course there has been the additional challenge of the economic downturn. It’s vital for any successful organisation to take time to step back from the day to day operations and look at where we are headed. We must plan what our key priorities should be and how we can best anticipate future opportunities and challenges in order to properly support the profession, which in turn helps our members better serve their own clients, now and into the future.”

The Law Society further stated that a review of its work was initiated by its Council and the final strategy, approved by Council members last month, has had input from groups of members, faculties and firms, as well as senior management and staff at the Society. The Council has considered economic, social and political change which is likely to impact the legal sector and the opportunities these change could bring in addition to any challenges for members.

The statement did not make any mention the Council of the Law Society of Scotland was branded “fundamentally dishonest at its core” by a now former Council Member, John McGovern who, it is claimed “has been critical of the Society’s policy on ABS, and has campaigned against the dual functions of representation and regulation being vested in the Society, amongst other issues.”.

Law Society President Cameron Ritchie again : “The outlook for the next few years remains challenging and we know that solicitors will continue to feel the effects of a tough economic climate. Social change will also impact on our members as consumers of legal services become increasingly well informed and will seek the best and most cost effective services available to them. This makes reputation and quality assurance for solicitors and their firms even more important. As a professional body, it will be our role to promote a deeper understanding of the solicitor brand to the public.

Mr Ritchie said the Law Society was now looking to bring in more female solicitors into the profession. he continued : “The legal sector itself is changing and we are seeing a younger profession with the gender balance swinging towards females. There are also pressures on some specific areas of legal practice, such as the criminal bar, and a growing number of ’employed status’ solicitors.”

Fergus Ewing Scottish ParliamentFergus Ewing, Communities Minister in 2010 was made a laughing stock after Law Society forced him to announce major pro-lawyer changes to a wider-consumer-choice-in-legal-services law. The Law Society also praised the Legal Services (Scotland) Act 2010, (a much watered down out version of the UK Legal Services Act 2007) which took the SNP Scottish Government three years longer than Westminster MPs to consider, and was only passed after the Law Society heavily amended its intentions, at one point turning Community Safety Minister Fergus Ewing into a shrivelled-up laughing stock after Mr Ewing was forced by the Law Society to withdraw major parts of the reforming legislation which had intended to put consumers in charge of their own access to justice although not to the same degree as consumers in England & Wales enjoy. Such were the amendments ordered by the Law Society to the Scottish Government’s legal services bill, the latest timetable from the Scottish Government has indicated that alternative business structures are unlikely to become a reality until at least summer 2012.

An earlier article reporting on how the Legal Services (Scotland) Act was passed, is here : ‘Choice’ but not as we know it : Legal Services Bill passed, Scots access to justice remains mostly under Law Society’s control and the chequered history of the Legal Services Bill at the Scottish Parliament can be read here : Legal Services Bill for Scotland, giving consumers no access to justice.

More examples of how the then Community Safety Minister Fergus Ewing danced to the tune of the Law Society of Scotland & its members, can be found HERE, HERE, & HERE.

Law Society President Cameron Ritchie added: “In addition to this we also have to be aware of the political context in which we work and the changes coming down the track which will affect the profession. Given the cross party support for the Scotland bill we can predict further devolution of powers to the Scottish Parliament and we know there is strong political will to see reforms proposed by Lord Gill introduced. We await the outcomes of the ongoing reviews by Lord Carloway and Lord McCluskey. Within such a period of change, we want everyone, whether they are a solicitor or member of the public, to be able to understand our organisation’s purpose and vision for the next five to 10 years.”

The Scots public do not need to wait to understand the Law Society of Scotland’s purpose & vision for the next ten years, as the last two decades of record levels of client fraud & corruption within the Scottish legal profession, held together by the Law Society and its persistent crop of leaders who ensure the legal profession’s vested interests come before consumers, serve as warning from the past the same will continue until fully independent regulation of legal services is a reality, and anti-consumer closed shop institutions such as the Law Society of Scotland are consigned to the dustbin if history.

 

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The Scheme : Law Society’s new regulation committee pitches old joke of ‘lay membership’ as more ‘slaps on the wrist’ for crooked lawyers expected

Law Society of ScotlandOld Joke returns : Law Society indulges in spin on lay membership as yet another new beginning for regulation.  THE latest attempt by the Law Society of Scotland to deal with the issue of regulation of Scotland’s notoriously corrupt legal services market as yet another regulation committee was revealed yesterday with the announcement of yet more lay members and another regulatory committee to comply with the laughably lax regulatory requirements of the Scottish Government’s Legal Services (Scotland) Act 2010, the half hearted & much interfered with attempt to comply with recommendations by the Office of Fair Trading to open up Scotland’s closed shop solicitor dominated legal services market.

The ‘duties’ of this new regulatory committee, with yet more lay members, those oh-so-honourable lay members who allow the Law Society to justify its continued stranglehold over the regulation & lack of protection of Scots consumers who are duped, fleeced, ripped-off and ruined by their legal representatives on a daily basis, are contained in Section 133 of the Legal Services (Scotland) Act 2010, which reads like a criminal’s recipe for money complaints laundering & regulation dodging.

However, the Law Society’s not-so-shiny-or-new regulatory committee has its roots mired in controversy, double dealing & threats against the legislation which created it, all culminating in a significant climb-down by the Scottish Government on its proposals to specify the number of lay members on the Law Society’s ruling Council as I reported  here : Scottish Government back down on lay appointments to Law Society Council as lawyers interests threaten to break pro-consumer legal services bill

Fergus EwingEmbarrassing forced retreat by Scottish Government Minister after Law Society threats over council & committee make-up. Fergus Ewing, the Scottish Government’s now former Minister for Communities & Safety appeared at a Law Society ‘road show’ last year to announce to angry solicitors their beloved ‘Council of the Law Society of Scotland’ would remain a lawyer-only club, making the following announcement :“The power of Scottish Ministers to make regulations specifying the proportion of lay members and the criteria for selection was intended as a fall-back, only to be used in the unlikely event that there would be a need to resolve any disagreements regarding the proportion of lay members.”

Mr Ewing continued : “Following representations from the Law Society of Scotland, in which it re-affirmed its commitment to lay appointments, I no longer consider it necessary for Scottish Ministers to have this fall-back power. Therefore, I intend to bring forward an amendment at Stage 2 of the Legal Services (Scotland) Bill to delete section 92(4), (5) and (6) of the Bill.”

A solicitor attending the Law Society road show branded Mr Ewing’s appearance & speech as “comical”, saying the Minister appeared at the show like a schoolboy awaiting corporal punishment. A video of Mr Ewing’s speech briefly published by the Law Society was quickly taken down as some indicated it looked too embarrassing for Mr Ewing, who has since been replaced in his role by Roseanna Cunningham.

The Law Society of Scotland issued a Press Release, promoting its latest committee abortion creation as “a significant step for the Society” yet lay members have populate much of the Law Society of Scotland’s committee structure, and as the records show, have simply acted as a rubber stamp for the Society’s wishes & determined effort to undermine any legal reforms which intend to place consumer protection over the vested interests of the legal profession and self regulation.

The Law Society today claimed : “The new committee will work independently from the Society’s Council on regulatory matters, with all of the Society’s current regulatory sub-committees now reporting to it. “

Cameron Ritchie, president of the Law Society of Scotland, said: “The calibre of those applying to join the regulatory committee was extremely high and we were struck by the range and depth of talent of applicants and the enthusiasm they displayed for the work of the Society.

Mr Ritchie continued : “The appointment of the committee is a significant step for the Society as we move towards new types of legal services businesses becoming a reality. The Society is continuing to develop a regulatory framework for Licensed Legal Services Providers which will be as rigorous as that for solicitors, and the committee will have an important role to play as we move forwards.”

The committee members, who include non-solicitors from a wide range of backgrounds including education, the medical sector, surveying and accountancy, will choose a lay convener from amongst the five non-solicitor members. Solicitors Alison Atack, Frank MacAuley, Jane MacEachran and Alistair Morris will be joined by the five new lay members. A further solicitor appointment will also be made. The lay members of the regulatory committee are: chartered surveyor James Allan, head teacher Carole Ford, Professor Kay Hampton, chartered accountant Alan Plumtree and Elaine Tait, chief executive of Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh.

The Law Society of Scotland refused to release any photographs of its latest lay Committee Members, in keeping with it’s tradition of keeping Scots consumers in the dark over who exactly decides on complaints against ‘crooked lawyers’. Clearly however this is wrong. Consumers, clients of solicitors and the public have a right to know exactly who it is who sits on these Law Society of Scotland committees.

These people, along with those who sit on the board of the anti-client Scottish Legal Complaints Commission are making anonymous, unaccountable decisions which affect the lives of anyone using legal services. Those individuals or groups who make these decisions on the quality of legal services which affect the lives of ordinary people and solicitors alike, should be identifiable by a current photograph if their positions are in any way connected with consumer protection or regulation.

As a journalist and a law reform campaigner, I always wonder about the motives & make up of such people who clamour to join an organisation such as the Law Society of Scotland which is already known to have threatened the Scottish Government & Scottish Parliament with legal action if it did not get its way, has interfered with litigants legal aid applications, undermined consumer protection & client rights, personally targeted critics & litigants pursuing ‘crooked lawyers’ through the courts, has whispered in the ears of judges to influence verdicts in civil cases, has regularly provided false information to newspapers, has been linked to & covered up the deaths of its members clients and has within its ranks, officials who have used connections with Police forces to intimidate clients who dared complain against solicitors.

Indeed, what motives & what kind of person would clamour to join such an organisation and such a scheme aimed at ensuring solicitors sleep soundly at night while clients rot in ruin ?

An official with one of Scotland’s consumer organisations said today : “The latest Law Society attempt to control regulation through yet another committee will not change the circumstances of consumers who face historically prejudiced self regulation by the legal profession”.

A client turned campaigner whose bitter experiences with the Law Society became part of the SLCC’s 2009 report on the Master Policy said  : “The committee lay membership at the Law Society of Scotland has proved time and again it is a sham. It does nothing to enhance consumer protection or give clients a fair hearing against solicitors who have the Legal Defence Union standing by their side while the complainant remains unrepresented.”

The backgrounds of those the Law Society of Scotland consider to be “lay people” :

James Allan (East Lothian – Surveyor) – Chartered Surveyor. Honorary Secretary of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors from 2004 to 2010.  Former Chairman of the Institution’s Nominations Committee Independent Adjudicator and Mediator in many construction disputes.

Carole Ford (Glasgow – Education) – Head Teacher, Kilmarnock Academy.  Current Council Member for the General Teaching Council Scotland as well as current Convener of Disciplinary Sub-Committee of the Council Scotland.  Former President of Schools Leaders Scotland.  Board member of Learning and Teaching Scotland.

Professor Kay Hampton (Glasgow – Higher Education) – Emeritus Professor in Community and Race Relations at Glasgow Caledonian University. Commissioner to the Scottish Human Rights Commission.  Member of Children’s Panel in Glasgow.  Former Commissioner of the Equalities and Human Rights Commission.  Former Chair, Deputy Chair and Commissioner, Scotland and UK for the Commission for Racial Equality.  Former Chair and UK Board Member for the Community Fund, Lottery Fund.

Alan Plumtree (Dunblane – Accountancy) – Chartered Accountant.  Current Partner in the firm of French Duncan LLP.  Former Senior Audit Partner and member of that firm’s Management Committee.  Extensive involvement with the Committees of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Scotland including the Practitioner Certification Committee, Regulation and Compliance Board, Professional Standards Liaison Committee and Examination Board.

Elaine Tait (Kinross – Medical) – Chief Executive of Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh (RCPE).  Quality Assurance Partner of the General Medical Council (GMC).  Member of the Royal College’s Lay Advisory Committee.  Former Reporter for the Society for the Client Relations Committee as well as a member of the Client Relations Committee as well as a member of a Client Relations Committee.  Also member of the Society’s Professional Conduct Committee as well as the Shadow Regulatory Committee.

 

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