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CONFLICT OF INTEREST: Papers lodged at Holyrood judicial interests register probe reveal Court of Session judge heard case eight times – where his son acted as solicitor for the defenders

Judicial Interests probe – Lord Malcolm heard case involving his own son. AN INVESTIGATION by MSPs into proposals to create a register of judges’ interests has received evidence which contradicts claims by top judges – that members of the judiciary recuse themselves when they have conflicts of interest in court.

Papers lodged with the Scottish Parliament’s Public Petitions Committee in relation to Petition PE1458: Register of Interests for members of Scotland’s judiciary – reveal Court of Session judge – Lord Malcolm – real name Colin Malcolm Campbell QC – took part in multiple hearings on a case which began with his son – Ewen Campbell – providing legal representation to building firm Advance Construction Ltd.

However, Lord Malcolm did not recuse himself from any of the hearings, and no one in the court made the pursuers aware of any relationship between Lord Malcolm and Ewen Campbell until years into the court case.

The high value civil damages claim, initially heard in Hamilton Sheriff Court and then transferred to the Court of Session for a ‘speedy’ resolution – involved the dumping of 16,500 tons of contaminated waste by the defenders from a North Lanarkshire Council PPI project on the land of Donal Nolan – the well known & respected former National Hunt jockey & trainer.

At the time, the defenders solicitor – Ewen Campbell – worked for Glasgow based Levy & Mcrae – a  law firm linked to Scotland’s judiciary and more recently named in a writ in relation to the £400million collapse of a Gibraltar based hedge fund – Heather Capital.

Papers now lodged at Holyrood reveal Ewen Campbell reported back to former Levy & Mcrae senior partner and suspended Sheriff Peter Watson on the day to day running of the case for Advance Construction Ltd.

Crucially, answers lodged by the defenders in relation to an appeal by the pursuer in 2016 – finally confirmed the relationship between the judge hearing the case and the defenders solicitor, admitting Ewen Campbell was Malcolm’s son, and had been acting for the defenders in court in earlier hearings.

However, the admission of the relationship between the judge and the defenders solicitor came years into the case, and questions are now being asked as to why the judge, and no one else in court informed the pursuers of this potential conflict of interest at a much earlier stage in the action.

A quote from a motion raised by the defenders in 2016 stated: “Lord Malcolm’s son, namely Ewen Campbell, was formerly an assistant solicitor at Messrs Levy & Mcrae, Solicitors, Glasgow. That firm is the principal agent instructed by the Defender and Respondent. Ewen Campbell was formerly involved in the present cause as an assistant to the partner handling the case.”

Pleadings to the court reveal Lord Malcolm heard the case on eight separate occasions, listed as 3 May 2012, 11 May 2012, 24 July 2012, 4 October 2012, 13 March 2013, 11 April 2013, 20 May 2013 and  on 16 March 2016.

However, there is no record of any recusal by Lord Malcolm in the case.

During the 11 April 2013 hearing, a note of the decision written by clerk Kate Todd reveals Lord Malcolm appointed Lord Woolman to hear the proof.

The move to appoint another judge is now subject to debate and questions from the pursuers and legal observers, given the fact Lord Malcolm had already taken part in no less than five hearings in Mr Nolan’s case without any recusal with regard to his son’s interest as legal agent for the defenders.

According to normal procedure, the appointment of Lord Woolman to the proof should instead have been undertaken by the Office of the Keeper of the Rolls of the Court, and not by another judge.

Lord Woolman has since come in for criticism after key parts of his 2014 opinion have been subject to concerns in relation to a lack of evidence and ‘unauthorised’ actions attributable to a senior QC.

However the saga of Lord Malcolm’s appearances in the case did not end with the proof being handed over to Lord Woolman in 2013.

Lord Malcolm returned to the same case during 2016 for another hearing – in order to hear and grant a motion handing money to the defenders – which had been lodged for an appeal by a friend of Mr Nolan.

The return of a judge to a case in which MSPs have been told he should have stood aside due to a conflict of interest – has now prompted concerns over the integrity of information currently supplied by the Judicial Office since 2014 relating to judicial recusals – and previous claims by judicial figures to politicians that judges had recused themselves when required to do so prior to the creation of the recusals register in 2014.

And, it has been pointed out – Lord Malcolm’s position on such an obvious conflict of interest contrasts starkly with action taken by former Lord President Brian Gill – who avoided the same situation when forced to step down from a case in June 2014 when Lord Gill’s son – Advocate Brian Gill – appeared in the same court acting for a party in a hearing.

With increasing calls for transparency on judges’ declarations and interests, questions are also being asked why a judge was allowed to sit unchecked so many times on a case in which his own son provided legal representation for the defenders.

The case involving Lord Malcolm – has now been brought to the attention of members of the Scottish Parliament’s Public Petitions Committee – who are involved in a five year probe on the judiciary and proposals put forward to require judges to register their interests.

Writing in a submission to MSPs, Mr Nolan’s partner – Melanie Collins – said had a register of interests for judges existed in Scotland, the existence of such a register would have resulted in Lord Malcolm recusing himself from hearing the case.

Ms Collins also highlighted links between the same judge – Lord Malcolm – and a ruling affecting hundreds of solicitors and members of the public which toppled over 700 investigations by the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission against solicitors and law firms accused of wrongdoing.

Ms Collins informed MSPs the SLCC were at the time investigating a complaint in relation to issues surrounding Mr Nolan’s case.

However, the ruling by Lord Malcolm ‘coincidentally’ closed down the legal regulator’s investigation into solicitors involved in the case, and hundreds of other cases after the judge struck down a 30 year policy where the Law Society of Scotland and SLCC investigated “hybrid complaints’ comprising of conduct and service issues against solicitors since before 1980.

Now, Ms Collins and her partner Mr Nolan both have the support of their constituency MSP Alex Neil and backing to bring their experiences to the Scottish Parliament.

The full submission from Melanie Collins: PE1458/CCC: SUBMISSION FROM MELANIE COLLINS

I would like to make the following submission in relation to the current system of judicial recusals.

In my view the system is not transparent about the circumstances in which judges should recuse themselves, such as circumstances in which a judge could be perceived as having a potential bias, or the instances in which a judge may be asked to consider recusing themselves but decide not to do so. My experience demonstrates that the recusal register is not working and that a register of interests being put in place is both necessary and correct to allow the public to have faith in the judiciary and transparency of the judicial system.

My views arise from a case raised on my partner’s behalf and in which a senior judge did not recuse himself, in circumstances in which the existence of a register of interests may have resulted in him having done so.

The matter, which I note has already been mentioned in a submission by the petitioner and has been aired by Committee members, has relevance to a recent ruling in the Court of Session a recent ruling in the Court of Session carried out by the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission .

In a civil case raised in the Court of Session, on behalf of my partner, Mr Donal Nolan, Lord Malcolm (Colin Campbell QC) heard and ruled on evidence in the case.

His son, Ewen Campbell, who at the time was with Levy & McRae, was an assistant solicitor involved in the day-to-day running of the case, providing the defenders with advice and representation in court. Ewen Campbell reported back to Peter Watson, formerly a senior partner of Levy & Mcrae, and (at the date of this submission) currently suspended as a temporary sheriff.

In the case raised on behalf of my partner Mr Nolan, had a register of interests for members of the judiciary existed prior to the case coming to court, this may in my view have resulted in Lord Malcolm having recused himself.

In relation to the impact of this on the ruling in the case involving the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission, the SLCC were investigating matters in relation to this case which the ruling by Lord Malcolm had the effect of changing the hybrid complaints process which resulted in numerous cases not being concluded.

There are examples in the judicial recusals register of judges recusing themselves, particularly the instance where former Lord President, Lord Brian Gill, recused himself on 26 June 2014, after his son appeared in the same court acting for a respondent.

It is not clear to me how this instance differed from my case where Lord Malcolm did not recuse himself and on which Lord Brodie’s opinion concluded that the circumstances did not satisfy the test for apparent bias or that there was a question of interest on the part of Lord Malcolm. This lack of clarity about when recusal is appropriate does not help in assuring public faith in the judiciary and transparency of the judicial system .

Members may also wish to note I have written to the current Lord President Lord

Carloway, to make him aware of concerns in relation to my own experience before the Court of Session.

No action has been taken by Lord Carloway to address the matter, which in my view is of significant concern where there is a potential conflict of interest, and where the transparency of the judicial system could be improved. In a response from the Lord President’s Office, information about the complaints mechanism for judges was not provided.

As members of the Committee have previously been made aware of certain details of this case, I would very much welcome the opportunity to give evidence in a public session, and also that my MSP, Alex Neil whose assistance has been invaluable in advancing matters, be invited to give evidence before the Committee.

——————————

THE UNRECUSED: The judge, his son, conflicts of interest and failure to recuse – undermines public confidence in Court of Session:

An ongoing investigation into a case in which a judge did not recuse himself from seven hearings on a case where his own son represented the defenders, and returned for a eighth hearing in 2016 to hand over sums lodged as cation for an appeal – is eroding confidence in Scotland’s top court –  the Court of Session.

Journalists examining papers relating to Lord Malcolm’s eighth appearance to the case of Nolan v Advance Construction Ltd – have revealed a motion lodged by pursuer Mr Nolan for permission to appeal the decision by Lord Malcolm to hand over the £5,000 lodged as caution for expenses was blocked by Lord Brodie – but only after the judge appeared to be talked out of considering the pleadings by the defender’s QC.

The appeal raised by Mr Nolan against Lord Malcolm’s decision to hand over the cation – raised a conflict of interest and human rights, stating “grounds of justice and all persons who have an interest in the case should have been declared”.

This appeal was lodged during 2016 – only after the pursuer had been alerted to the fact a solicitor – Ewen Campbell – who acted for the defenders was actually the son of the judge – Lord Malcolm – who had presided over the case on seven previous hearings.

During hearings in relation to the initial lodging of the £5K cation by a friend of Mr Nolan – the QC, Roddy Dunlop acting for defenders Advance Construction Lrd asked Lord Menzies to increase the amount of the cation to around £35K.

However, Lord Menzies denied the defenders their motion to increase, and thought £5K was sufficient for to advance the appeal.

Then, in a later hearing, Lord Brodie said the money for the appeal should have been left in situ after the pursuer entered pleadings – requesting the cation be returned to the third party.

However Balfour & Manson – acting on behalf of Levy & Mcrae – for Advance Construction Ltd – presented a motion requesting the money be handed over to the defenders.

It was at this hearing, Lord Malcolm returned for the eighth occasion after earlier recusing himself from the case – to hand over the cash to the defenders.

The pursuer – Mr Nolan – then sought a written opinion from Lord Malcolm for his decision on 16 March 2016 to hand over the cation – however none was forthcoming from the judge or his clerks.

An opinion by Lord Brodie from the Court of Session – dated 20 May 2016 which the Scottish Courts Service has refused to publish – reveals Lord Brodie – who previously ruled on parts of the case, returned to hear Mr Nolan’s motion requesting for leave to appeal Lord Malcolm’s decision to the UK Supreme Court.

In the difficult to obtain opinion, Lord Brodie appeared to be going for the pursuer’s pleadings in that the test was met for a fair minded observer to conclude a conflict of interest existed on the part of Lord Malcolm.

However, as Lord Brodie’s opinion continues, the judge is then persuaded against granting the pursuer’s request for leave to appeal by the defender’s QC – Roddy Dunlop.

Commenting on the developments at the Scottish Parliament, the petitioner suggested the rules around judicial recusals should be improved to ensure a judge who has already recused themselves from a case should not be allowed to return to the same case at any later date.

The petitioner further stated: ”It appears Mr Nolan had no chance of obtaining justice at the Court of Session in a situation where the father of the defender’s legal agent was the presiding judge, the law firm acting for the defenders had senior partners who were judicial office holders and therefore colleagues of the presiding judge, and a QC who was representing the defenders has family links to the judiciary.”

“Had a register of judicial interests already existed, most or all of these relationships should have been caught and properly dealt with if public scrutiny and the test of fair mindedness of external observers were able to be applied to events in this case.”

As investigations into the case continue, papers currently being studied by journalists are set to reveal further issues:

* a senior QC sent emails to the pursuer and his partner demanding cash payments outside of the process where Advocate’s fees are normally paid through solicitors to Faculty Services. At the time of these demands for cash payments, the current Lord Advocate – James Wolffe QC – was the Dean of the Faculty of Advocates and fully aware of the QC’s irregular requests for cash.

* a set of desperate emails from a senior QC demanding possession of a recorded consultation during which, among other issues the pursuer’s legal team seem aloof of developments in major contamination & planning related cases.

* Evidence of Advocates’ demands for cash payments and falsified documents handed to James Wolffe QC – the then Dean of the Faculty of Advocates and now Scotland’s top prosecutor – the Lord Advocate – were not acted upon or properly investigated.

* North Lanarkshire Council paid out £2 million pounds of public cash which ended up with the defenders after they were paid in a subcontract agreement – yet the contaminated material dumped by the defenders on Mr Nolan’s land is still there and no action has been taken to remove it while the Scottish Environmental Protection Agency (SEPA) ‘looked the other way’.

* Mr Nolan had obtained a Soul & Conscience letter from his doctor due to ill health, lodged as document 148 of the process. The existence of the Soul and Conscience letter meant Mr Nolan should never have been put a position to address a court under the circumstances but was forced to do so.

* the blocking of an appeal to the UK Supreme Court by Lord Hodge – who failed to declare he previously sat on the Nolan v Advance Construction Ltd case at least eighteen times while he served as a judge in the Court of Session.

Previous articles on the lack of transparency within Scotland’s judiciary, investigations by Diary of Injustice including reports from the Sunday Herald and Sunday Mail newspapers, 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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Conflict of Interest : Replacement called for Holyrood Tory Justice Convener, too close to legal business interests for public good

Bill Aitken MSP, the current Scottish Conservative’s Justice Spokesman lacks impartiality in debates & investigations on legal issues. Mr Aitken, however, is mired in conflict of interest issues relating to support for the legal profession’s expressed desire to retain monopoly on legal services and regulation.

As Convener of the sole Justice Committee at Holyrood, the public interest is not being served by such activities & opinions Mr Aitken has engaged in and expressed, activities & opinions which relate directly to attempts to kill off widely accepted and much needed public interest reforms to the Scots legal system. Mr Aitken should either resign his position, or be replaced in the Conservative’s Justice portfolio to make way for someone who can handle impartiality and free, open debate.

Letter to Scottish Conservatives leader Annabel Goldie regarding Bill Aitken

Annabel Goldie re Bill Aitken 3 December 2007 Page 1Annabel Goldie re Bill Aitken 3 December 2007 Page 2

We must turn to the past to see Mr Aitken’s work for the legal profession, and a detailed history of how the Scottish Conservatives have treated the issue of legal reform …

The Scottish Conservatives have a chequered history when it comes to reform of the legal profession.

True, it was a Conservative Government which passed the Law Reform (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1990 which gave us the Scottish Legal Services Ombudsman and also of course, the now infamous Sections 25 – 29, which were designed to open up the legal services market for Scots long before anyone else thought of it.

Well, the Scottish Legal Services Ombudsman has as we all know, been of limited use in regulation of the legal profession .. mainly because the office did not have statutory powers of enforcement, nor, for the main, would it dare make the necessary recommendations to reform regulation of solicitors in Scotland, for fear of upsetting the Law Society and the legal establishment.

We all know the fate of Sections 25-29, the ground breaking legislation which was designed to open up access to legal services in Scotland long before Clementi took shape in England & Wales … it simply was not implemented until this year, some seventeen years later than it was designed to be implemented, due to a constant lobbying from the legal profession to keep control of access to justice.

Seventeen years is a long time for a profession, an industry, to be allowed to stall legislation which clearly was in the public interest, to allow wider access to justice & legal services, and bring down the cost of using lawyers …

You can read the latest installment on Sections 25-29 and opening the legal services market to greater choice here :

Scots Government has ‘no appetite’ for legal change

IAN FRASER

Scotland’s government and legal establishment has been accused of continuing to drag its heels on reforms intended to open up the justice system and reduce the costs of litigation.

Sections 25-29 of the Law Reform (Miscellaneous Provisions) (Scotland) Act 1990 were intended to end the country’s legal closed shop by allowing people other than advocates and lawyers to have rights of audience in Scottish courts.

However the four sections of the 1990 act were dormant on the statute book for 17 years. They were finally implemented in Scotland by Jack McConnell’s government on March 19. However, nine months on, no professional bodies have secured rights of audience for members.

The rights, which ended the legal closed shop in England and Wales in 1997, can be granted to professional organisations but not to individuals. The Scottish Government is insisting that, in order to qualify, any professional body must prove it has certain “safeguards” in place, including codes of conduct, training programmes and indemnity insurance.

Campaigners for access to justice suspect the Scottish government’s failure to act on the reforms is because neither the justice secretary Kenny MacAskill nor the Lord President – who together must approve each and every application – have the appetite for change. The Association of Commercial Attorneys, whose 20 members specialise in handling construction industry disputes, applied for rights of audience in Sheriff courts on June 29. Last month, the body was disappointed to receive a letter from the Lord President, Lord Hamilton suggesting it was insufficiently well-established to be able to properly regulate its own members and therefore that it would probably find itself ineligible for rights of audience.

David Whitton, Labour MSP for Strathkelvin and Bearsden, believes this is pure protectionism. He challenged MacAskill on this during a recent debate on the legal services in the parliament, and has sent three subsequent written questions on the matter. During the debate, Whitton asked MacAskill why the rights had not yet been granted to anyone. Whitton said: “I urge the cabinet secretary to put aside his earlier prejudice and give the people of Scotland the affordable choices that currently are enjoyed in the rest of the UK.”

However MacAskill said he was “not convinced” that sections 25-29 would be of any benefit, and that he had not changed his views on the matter since writing an article in the Scotsman in February 2006. In this MacAskill said he had “yet to be convinced that the move would benefit the legal service, rather than make the situation worse There are good reasons for having a monopoly-regulated profession; otherwise, how do you regulate those not part of the organisation?”

MacAskill’s public hostility to change appears to contradict what he said in a leaked letter to cabinet colleague John Swinney. In this, MacAskill said: “You will be interested to know that the commencement of the sections came in to effect on 19 March 2007 Guidance has been prepared that covers in some detail the provisions to be contained in draft schemes and the consideration of applications. I hope this reassures you that action has now been taken to increase consumer choice in the supply of legal service providers.”

A spokesman for ACA said: “We are concerned that the cabinet secretary for justice – who has an involvement in the consideration of our application – has formed a view without putting forward any evidence to substantiate how he has arrived at his position.”

Can any political party say they were clean on this ? Well, after seventeen years of all parties sitting back, and failing to do anything on this issue, the answer of course, is “No”.

The SNP, Labour, the LibDems, and of course, even the Conservative Party, who authored Sections 25-29 in the first place, all share the streak of guilt in allowing lawyers to obstruct and withhold legislation from the public which would have saved everyone a great deal of money, allowed anyone access to justice more so than has been available until now, and may well have made the Scottish Justice system a lot more credible than it is today .. if it has any credibility at all left that is …

When 1999 came around, and Scotland gained it’s Parliament at Holyrood, there was a Conservative with a differing view on legal reform. His name is Phil Gallie.

Addressing the issue without need of recourse to the legal profession, Mr Gallie put forward the issue of reform of the legal profession to the then Justice & Home Affairs Committee, Chaired at the time by Roseanna Cunningham MSP.

Unfortunately, the 1999 version of today’s Justice Committee retired Mr Gallie’s proposal, on the basis it had too much business for the time, but, undaunted by a lack of will on the part of some to look into how the legal profession ran itself, and the Justice system, Mr Gallie again brought the issue before the Justice 1 Committee of the Scottish Parliament in 2001, then Chaired by Alistdair Morgan MSP, and was successful in gaining a Parliamentary investigation into regulation of the legal profession.

Phil Gallie’s attention to detail, understanding of the complex issues, and service to his constituents in this effort was substantial and effective. I know, because I was one of those who asked Mr Gallie to put forward the issue, on both occasions, 1999 and 2001.

Scotland on Sunday 2001 : Phil Gallie secures legal profession inquiry

Legal Profession in the dock over complaints about self regulation Scotland on Sunday February 2001

2001 was then set to be a good year and for the first time, would see a significant Parliamentary investigation into the workings of the legal profession, buoyed by the fact that the likes of Phil Gallie was a member of the investigating Justice 1 Committee which would do the work, leaving no stone unturned in the Justice 1 Committee’s investigation of the legal profession. However, this was not to be.

After the summer recess, the Justice 1 Committee under the Chairmanship of Christine Grahame MSP (SNP) took up the terms of the inquiry and began establishing it’s remit.

Phil Gallie, still the Conservative Justice spokesman and member of the Justice 1 Committee began to ask questions which indicated he would be seeking substantive answers to the way the legal profession, and particularly the Law Society of Scotland conducted itself, in all things from regulatory issues to that of business, and policies towards clients, even client complaints.

Mr Gallie began to ask searching questions at Committees of the issues to be raised in the Justice 1 Committee’s “Regulation of the legal profession” inquiry, so much, and so detailed, the Conservative Party boss, David Mcletchie MSP, himself a lawyer with Tods Murray, replaced Mr Gallie with Lord James Douglas Hamilton, then an MSP, in the Scottish Conservative’s Justice portfolio, to ensure Mr Gallie would not have the chance within the Justice 1 Committee to ask the searching questions needed in the intricate inquiry into lawyers …

After Mr Gallie’s forced replacement in the Justice portfolio by David Mcletchie, the chance for a reasonable inquiry in 2001 was lost. Indeed, the remaining members of the 2001 Justice 1 Committee, including SNP Convener Christine Grahame, turned the “regulation of the legal profession” inquiry into a vote of confidence in the Law Society of Sotland, and went so far to deny the public access to much of the submitted information, even denying public appearances & testimony from people who were easily able to destroy whole sections of blatantly false testimony before Parliament by the legal profession.

I was of course, one of those who were barred from appearing before the 2001 Justice 1 Committee inquiry, even though it was Phil Gallie who had secured the inquiry after my campaign, along with a great many others, to get such an investigation.

After Christine Grahame’s Justice 1 Committee made a mess of the investigation into lawyers, the issue reverted back to the Scottish Executive and campaigners to pursue, and in 2006, the Legal Profession & Legal Aid Bill, was presented to the Justice 2 Committee of the Scottish Parliament for investigation and consideration.

Annabel Goldie MSP was Convener of the Justice 2 Committee in 2006, being also the Conservative’s Justice Spokesman. Annabel Goldie was, and is also of course, a solicitor, and thus a member of the Law Society of Scotland, which would figure highly in such an investigation, so, Ms Goldie, fearing a conflict of interest in her position as Convener and also a solicitor with a vested interest against the terms of the LPLA Bill, resigned her position as Convener, and fellow Conservative David Davidson MSP was elected in her place as Justice 2 Committee Convener.

From the Scotsman 21 February 2006

Scots Tory leader steps down from key post to avert row

MICHAEL HOWIE

THE leader of the Scottish Conservatives has resigned from a key parliamentary post in an effort to head off a “conflict of interest” row.

Annabel Goldie is stepping down as convener of the powerful Justice 2 committee just before it begins scrutinising proposals for a major shake-up of legal services, including plans for an independent legal complaints body.

Ms Goldie is a partner in the Glasgow law firm Donaldson, Alexander, Russell & Haddow and a member of the Law Society of Scotland, which under the proposals will see its powers of self- regulation reduced. She is no longer a practising solicitor, but despite that has decided to quit to avoid a potential conflict of interest.

She said: “I have intimated to the parliament my desire to step down from the Justice 2 committee.

“This is a suitable time to do so as the committee will be looking at legislation on the regulation of the legal profession. Stepping down now avoids any perception of a conflict of interests.”

Under rules of parliament, committee members are expected to disclose a potential conflict of interest, but are not required to step down.

Political opponents questioned how long she could have continued such demanding twin roles.

Nicola Sturgeon MSP, the deputy leader of the SNP, said: “I have always wondered whether she could combine being leader of a party with leader of a committee.”

The Justice 2 Committee’s inquiry into the LPLA Bill began swiftly in early 2006, and addressed many of the failings of the past attempts to look into the issue, including the failed SNP chaired version of 2001-2003 which managed to make matters worse for Scots when it came to legal services & regulatory reform.

After stormy questioning sessions, which saw revelations of direct interference by Law Society Chiefs such as Douglas Mill in client cases against negligent lawyers, revelations of many anti client policies, false testimony from insurance firms, themselves indicted on corruption charges for market fixing in other countries, open confrontations between Law Society executives and politicians on conflicting evidence & testimony, the public were finally allowed to speak and have their day in Parliament, attesting to experiences with the Scots legal profession, so much, and so bad, the LPLA Bill cleared the Justice 2 Committee with a recommendation for vote & passing into law.

See my earlier reports on goings on at the LPLA Bill hearings in the Parliament :

The Corrupt Link Revealed – How the Law Society of Scotland manages client complaints & settlements.

Victims of the Scottish Legal Profession testify before the Justice 2 Committee, Scottish Parliament

The Law Society of Scotland did not take the prospect of losing control of complaints lying down of course … and mounted an intense public campaign of obstruction, deceit and threat to prevent the LPLA Bill being passed, and sequestered the support of several MSPs to put forward their views and amendments to the Parliament. One of those taken on board by the Law Society to promote the legal profession’s campaign against reform, was Bill Aitken MSP.

While Law Society Chief Executive Douglas Mill was busily preparing a legal challenge against the Scottish Parliament & Executive over the passage of the LPLA Bill, by drafting in the English QC Lord Lester of Herne Hill to author a bizarre opinion that ‘it was a lawyers human right under ECHR to regulate complaints against lawyers’, Bill Aitken was steadily discussing & preparing a raft of amendments to the LPLA Bill which the Law Society of Scotland required to be implemented before the bill would finally pass.

In short, Bill Aitken was the Law Society’s gun, placed to the head of the Parliament.

One of the amendments Mr Aitken raised against the LPLA Bill, was the Law Society’s demand that the LPLA Bill’s proposal of a £20,000 fine limit which the new Scottish Legal Complaints Commission would be able to impose & enforce on lawyers found to be crooked, would be reduced to a meager £5,000, making the fine system proposed in the bill useless. Mr Aitken was acting for the legal profession in proposing such amendments, certainly not the public interest

See my earlier reports on Mr Aitken’s actions on behalf of the legal profession against the reforming LPLA Bill here :

Law Society of Scotland lobbies Scottish Parliament to pass anti consumer amendments on LPLA Bill threatening Court action if demands not met

Amendments to Scottish Executive LPLA Bill reveal possibility of contempt charges against Law Society officials.

Many of Mr Aitken’s amendments did not pass, including that of limiting the fine system for crooked lawyers, but his actions demonstrated a clear course of support and affiliation to the Law Society of Scotland, and thus, a support for the actions and words of the Law Society of Scotland and many of it’s officials in the debate on the LPLA Bill.

Notwithstanding the efforts of Mr Aitken, the Law Society, and their allies to prevent passage of the LPLA Bill, the legislation was passed after a debate in Parliament in December 2006, which even saw John Swinney MSP enter the fray once again, informing Holyrood he was in possession of even more evidence to show a culture of interference, obstruction, and corruption at the Law Society of Scotland when it came to regulatory practice.

Legal Profession & Legal Aid Bill finally passed by Scottish Parliament, with amendments.

You can view some of Mr Swinney’s comments during the 2006 LPLA Bill debate in which he reveals significant problems with access to justice and corruption within the Law Society of Scotland by visiting InjusticeTV.

The Legal Profession & Legal Aid (Scotland) Act 2007, as the LPLA Bill is now known goes forward in implementation, although scattered reports of interference and threat from the Law Society still reach me, particularly it seems, interference in the formation of the new Scottish Legal Complaints Commission, in which a senior source at the Scottish Government claims “the SNP don’t have a clue on how to go about this” and “the Law Society are never off the phone these days” badgering against the full spirit of the LPLA Act .. as could be expected.

However, the LPLA Act is not the only piece of legislation to change the Scottish legal landscape which is worrying lawyers.

Even more worrying to the legal profession, is the idea of opening up the legal services market and thus breaking the monopoly on access to legal services currently held by lawyers & advocates, where, if you want to get to court, or use critical legal services, you must use a solicitor who is a member of the Law Society of Scotland.

See an earlier report I wrote on OFT recommendations to open the legal services markets and the Law Society’s resistance to those public interest reforms here :

OFT recommends lifting of lawyers monopoly on access to justice & legal services in Scotland

Law Society of Scotland reject Which? ‘interference’ & “super complaint” to OFT against lawyers monopoly on access to justice

The Law Society of Scotland support retaining the monopoly on access to legal services, and restricting your choice of legal services & legal representatives. The Law Society of Scotland also supports retaining exclusive control over regulation, and has threatened legal challenges if it is not allowed to remain in charge of complaints.

Bill Aitken, who is now the Scottish Conservative’s Justice spokesman and also the Convener of Holyrood’s sole Justice Committee, which must consider issues such as these, also supports retaining the monopoly on access to legal services – in the interests of keeping the profits of the legal profession healthy, and as I have reported above, also supports lawyers retaining control over regulation, so far as to even congratulate and praise the very same people who have threatened Parliament & the Government with legal challenges if their professional interests are not met and served.

You can read about Mr Aitken’s recent comments & policy on legal reform here :

Access to Justice : Holyrood Justice Convener praises Law Chief who threatened, lied to Parliament, while SNP dither on reforms

The question is, or perhaps I should say, the standard is : would Annabel Goldie MSP have done the same in her position as Justice Spokesman & Convener of a Justice Committee ?

Would Annabel Goldie have publicly supported retaining a monopoly on legal services and denying the public access to justice if she had been Convener of a Justice Committee ?

No, I don’t think she could have supported such an outright protectionism as Convener of the Committee responsible for considering it. Ms Goldie is a solicitor, she has a vested interest in retaining a monopoly of legal services, and in any case, the wider public interest must be served by a Convener of a Parliamentary Committee, not that exclusively of a profession or a supporting profession.

Would, perhaps, Annabel Goldie have publicly supported retaining control over regulation and proposed amendments to legislation which came direct from the Law Society itself if she had been Convener of a Justice Committee ?

I doubt very much Ms Goldie, in a position of being Convener of a Justice Committee, would have supported the Law Society retaining control of regulation, as again, she is a member of the Law Society of Scotland, and has a vested interest in her governing body retaining control over regulation. This very issue is why Annabel Goldie resigned her position as Convener of the Justice 2 Committee in 2006.

Bill Aitken, while not a solicitor, shares those same conflicts of interest, perhaps to a greater extent, given his willingness to propose anti public amendments to much needed public interest reforms, and express support for the Law Society and individuals within the legal establishment who have directly threatened the Parliament & Government with legal action if their wishes were not met.

Mr Aitken’s position on these issues, as Convener of the single Justice Committee now in the Scottish Parliament, and Scottish Conservative Justice Spokesman, does not serve the interests of impartiality and the public interest. He is expressly serving the legal profession in his views and deeds, and as Convener his view may well be unduly influential. He should therefore be replaced.

The same high standards of impartiality and avoiding of conflict of interest, demonstrated by Annabel Goldie, who respectfully and admirably, applied to herself in 2006 and resigned from the Justice 2 Committee to serve the public interest, should now be applied to Mr Aitken.

The Scottish Conservatives therefore need a new Justice spokesman, and Parliament & Scotland need an impartial Justice Committee Convener dedicated to serving everyone’s interests, not exclusively the professions & business.

 
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Posted by on December 4, 2007 in Politics, Scots Law, Scottish Law

 

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