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Master Scam: Law Society switch brokers of Master Policy – insurance scheme dubbed ‘corrupt & manipulative’ provides little protection for consumers against negligent, rogue lawyers

Law Society switch brokers on dodgy insurance scheme. AN INSURANCE scheme operated by the Law Society of Scotland – which covers all Scottish solicitors – and is designed to ‘protect’ consumers when lawyers walk off with their cash and other assets – has announced a change of brokers from Marsh to Lockton.

The switch was announced last week by the Law Society – who said brokers Lockton will administer and broker the Master Policy of Professional Indemnity Insurance from 1 January 2017.

The move comes after Marsh – who managed the policy for nearly 40 years – lost the five yearly tender process in April 2016 to Lockton.

The Master Insurance Policy is a compulsory Professional Indemnity Insurance arrangement enforced by the Law Society upon all solicitors in Scotland.

The scheme includes all in-house solicitors who work for the Scottish Government and lawyers from the Government Legal Service for Scotland (GLSS) seconded around public bodies and other branches of the Executive such as the Scottish Parliament and justice bodies.

The Master Policy claims to provide cover of up to £2 million for any one claim where the solicitor is ‘established’ to have been negligent.

However, the process of establishing whether a solicitor is negligent or not – is controlled by the legal profession and the courts.

In a statement issued by the Law Society, Chief Executive Lorna Jack claimed “The Master Policy provides an important protection for solicitors’ clients when things go wrong. The insurance means that any valid claim against a Scottish solicitor will be paid – even if the solicitor is no longer in practice, no longer solvent or cannot be traced.”

However, the claims – echoed from Jack’s predecessor – Douglas Mill – were previously & spectacularly taken apart by Deputy First Minister & Finance Secretary John Swinney, during a Scottish Parliament investigation into self regulation of the legal profession in 2006.

Mr Swinney branded the Law Society & Master Policy as manipulative after Mill claimed the Law Society kept a distance from the client compensation insurance arrangements.

Mr Swinney produced an internal memo from Mill himself – who had requested a “summit meeting how to dispose of several valid claims.”

Mill went onto “swear on his granny’s grave” he and the Law Society had never intervened in a compensation claim.

However, the memo – produced by Swinney during the Holyrood hearing – came to illustrate the significant level of dishonesty and  manipulation with regard to the ‘consumer protection policy’ – which despite Mill’s claims to the contrary – rarely pays full compensation after lawyers swipe clients assets.

The Master Policy was more recently linked in a Research Report to deaths and suicides of clients who attempted to claim back hundreds of thousands of pounds taken by legal agents engaged in corrupt practices not covered by an alternative Scottish Solicitors Guarantee Fund run by the legal profession.

The independent report, compiled by legal academics Professor Frank Stephen & Dr Angela Melville from the University of Manchester School of Law – concluded the Master Policy “is simply designed to allow lawyers to sleep at night.” rather than protect consumers from rogue elements within the legal profession.

According to the report “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.”

Cases referred to in the report describe scenarios where consumers are commonly forced to become party litigants after the Law Society intervene in the claims process, forcing claimants legal representatives to withdraw from acting in financial damages claims against  against other solicitors.

The Research Report sourced comments from claimants: “I keep fighting cases, and they keep coming at me, and now I have become ill. But they still keep coming at me. They threw me out onto the street, I couldn’t get my medication, I’ve got nothing, I was homeless, ill, sleeping in the car. Now I am appealing. But I can’t get a solicitor. They are just shutting me down…. My health has been damaged, they kill you off. It’s a proven fact. All of us have stress related problems after years and years of stress.”

The report also linked the Law Society’s insurance scheme to suicides of clients who attempted to claim back funds appropriated by corrupt solicitors.

The report stated:  “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.”

The report concluded: “What has clearly come through these interviews has been the very divergent views of solicitors and claimants/consumer groups as to the primary function of the Master Policy. The former tend to see it as simply a professional negligence insurance designed to protect individual members of the profession. The latter see that its primary purpose should be to protect the public against incompetent members of the profession. Whilst these are not incompatible aims we have come to the view that the rhetoric of the Law Society of Scotland encourages the latter perception but practice is more inclined to the former. In other jurisdictions there is a more explicit statement that it is the former.”

“It is clear that establishing a valid claim under the Master Policy requires either an admission of liability on the part of the solicitor or an action to be taken by the claimant to establish liability. It is our view that the Law Society of Scotland raises the expectations of potential claimants by emphasising the Master Policy’s public protection role. It is perhaps more accurate to say that policy ensures that those with a proven claim will be able to recover.”

“Those claimants to whom we spoke were very much of the opinion that it was difficult to establish liability of a solicitor for professional negligence. It would be desirable to test this claim by looking at the record of the Master Policy in terms of claims and compensation paid. Data which would have allowed us to do this was requested from the Law Society of Scotland but was only made available the day before this Report was due to be submitted. Furthermore the Law Society of Scotland and Marsh put conditions on the use of the data in this Report which were unacceptable to us and to the Chief Executive of SLCC.”

“The limited data which we have seen on the Guarantee Fund suggests that there is a considerable difference between the value of claims and the sums paid out by the Fund. We have not been able to establish whether this is a result of the discretionary nature of the fund or simply a large divergence between parties in assessing the sums lost.”

“We would recommend that the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission undertake a longer term research project which will allow researchers to examine the experiences of a representative sample of claimants and solicitors as well as analyse data on claims provided by the Master Policy’s broker under reasonable conditions of use.”

Dr Angela Melville – who interviewed many clients for her final report, confirmed the research team did not receive a copy of the Master Policy itself after Marsh director Alistair J Sim, demanded strict conditions for the disclosure of the insurance policy’s terms.

Sim wrote in a letter to the University research team – which appears in full on the last page of the report: “Please note that the consent of Marsh and Royal & Sun Alliance plc to the production of the enclosed documents is condition on the research team agreeing not to quote from the documents, or any part of them, whether text or figures, in the report to the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission.”

Sim’s letter continued: “The documents which are produced are confidential and are commercially sensitive. They are provided to the research team only and neither the documents nor copies should be provided to any other party nor should the content of the documents be disclosed to anyone outside the research team. At the conclusion of the research project, the documents should be returned with confirmation that foregoing conditions have been complied with and that no copies have been retained. If the research team is unable to agree to the foregoing conditions, the documents should be returned along with confirmation that no copies have been retained.”

No further research has been commissioned by the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission since the report was published in 2009, and with the SLCC now under substantive control of the Law Society of Scotland, much of what it produces by way of research and statistics is widely recognised as having little honest value in terms of consumer protection.

The Master Policy started in November 1978 under brokers Sedgwick Forbes UK Limited, which later became part of the Marsh Group. Given the highly specialist nature of professional indemnity insurance, the brokers play a vital role in arranging and securing the insurance cover as well as providing administration, advice, as well as risk management training.

Along the years, law firms acting for the Master Policy included Simpson & Marwick – now merged with Clyde & Co, Balfour & Manson and other ‘big name’ law firms brought in to demolish consumers attempts to reclaim millions of pounds lost, misappropriated or embezzled by Scottish solicitors.

While the Master Policy is tasked with dealing with claims for negligence, the Law Society has been known to manipulate claims on a serial basis. Unsurprisingly, even claims which do succeed against the Master Policy bear little return to clients who are forced to go through lengthy court processes in front of a judiciary who have also previously paid into the same Master Policy arrangement while serving as solicitors in their earlier years prior to the bench.

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LUCAN FOR HIM: Law Society repeatedly refused BBC Scotland access to ‘key player’ Regulation Chief for in-depth investigation report on rogue solicitors

Non appearance of top Law Society regulation boss in BBC investigation questioned QUESTIONS have been raised as to why Philip Yelland, the little known figure in charge of regulation of Scotland’s solicitors for the past two decades was not allowed to appear on Lawyers Behaving Badly, the recent BBC Scotland investigation on systemic failings in how the Scottish legal profession regulates itself and how lawyers have regularly escaped justice and continue to benefit from publicly funded legal aid.

In response to media enquiries, sources at the Edinburgh HQ of the Law Society of Scotland have confirmed that repeated requests from BBC Scotland for access to the society’s Director of Regulation were refused by Law Society chiefs who were determined there should be no access to, or any appearance by the twenty plus year serving head of regulation in the BBC programme.

Substituting for the Director of Regulation, the Convener of the Law Society’s Regulation Committee, Carole Ford was instead, interviewed on the powerful BBC programme broadcast last week.

However, while Ford’s performance was expectedly praised in some legal quarters, some legal experts, clients, and those who have experienced the ‘alice in wonderland’ world of how the legal profession regulates itself felt the Committee Convener was a poor substitute, and appeared to have little grasp as to the realities of how the system works, and how paying clients are treated by lawyers who regularly cover up for their own colleagues.

While many expected Mr Yelland to be part of the BBC investigation, there are numerous reasons as to why the one person in legal regulation circles who has been involved in many of the controversial and highly public cases involving solicitors escaping penalty for their actions over the past twenty years did not appear on the highly acclaimed undercover investigation by BBC journalist Sam Poling.

The Law Society’s reluctance to allow Mr Yelland’s appearance in the BBC programme may well stem from the unfortunate demise of the Society’s former Chief Executive Douglas Mill, who resigned a few weeks after the Law Society’s Council viewed and debated video footage posted to video sharing website You Tube of Mill’s angry confrontation at a Holyrood Justice Committee hearing with John Swinney, Scotland’s Finance Chief.

During the Justice Committee hearing in 2006 which formed part of the Scottish Parliament’s second, ill-fated attempt to clean up regulation of the legal profession, the former Chief Executive was caught out by the Scottish Parliament’s video coverage of the hearing when he argued with the SNP Finance Chief that the Law Society’s Master Policy, the insurance scheme which protects corrupt lawyers from clients, was fair, and that there was no collusion between figures at the Law Society and the insurers to throw out financial damages claims made by clients.

However, Mr Swinney, a skilled debater himself, trounced the then pugnacious Law Society Chief on all points, leaving the public with little doubt the Master Policy Insurance client compensation scheme run by the Law Society of Scotland is unfair and claims made by clients for damages are clearly subject to concerted and determined manipulation at the highest levels of the Law Society and the legal profession.

The footage featuring Mill’s Holyrood confrontation with John Swinney was first posted to the You Tube video sharing website in late December 2007. Mill, who superseded the equally controversial Kenneth Pritchard as Secretary of the Law Society of Scotland in the early 1990’s, then going on to become the Society’s Chief Executive and expected by many to remain in the position for a lengthy period of time, resigned a few weeks later in January 2008.

The confrontation between the former Law Society Boss and Scotland’s now Finance Chief, has since become a warning to how Law Society figures used to a closed world lacking any accountability can quickly stumble in public appearances such as the Holyrood Master Policy clash which made it obvious to all that the Law Society was, and remains determined to hang onto self regulation and the power that comes with it, at any cost.

Fears of BBC questions over claims made by clients against solicitors may also have played a part in the Society’s refusal to allow access to its regulation chief.

Academics heard involvement of Regulation Boss was linked to controversial complaints. A case referred to in a Research Report from the University of Manchester School of Law documented allegations in papers which have never been made public that the Society’s long time Regulation Chief was also allegedly linked to a case of a claim involving the Master Policy, where a respected businessman & family man from Oban committed suicide after he was sent to a law firm who have since been identified in a number of cases where dodgy solicitors have escaped justice and even possible criminal charges for legal aid fraud.

The revelations, appearing in papers studied by Professor Frank Stephen & Dr Angela Melville of the Manchester University of Law School in 2009 who were compiling a report on the Master Policy for the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission (SLCC), alleged the businessman from Oban had been sent to a Glasgow law firm to represent him in a court case against his former solicitors.

However the Glasgow based law firm, who have since represented the First Minister himself and a number of controversial figures in the legal world, did nothing for a period of three years and when it was revealed the same law firm who the Law Society’s Regulation Chief had allegedly recommended to the Oban businessman were also representing the Legal Defence Union, the organisation which represents crooked lawyers against complaints, the unnamed client committed suicide.

Against a background of too-numerous-to-mention cases where involvement of the twenty year plus serving Law Society’s Regulation Boss appears to have played a key part in allowing corrupt solicitors to remain in work, Yelland may well have faced difficult questions over his involvement in one of the key parts of the BBC Scotland report aired last week, that of former solicitor Tom Murray, currently living in Lucca, Italy.

Featured in the Lawyers Behaving Badly documentary, Murray, has appeared before the Scottish Solicitors Discipline Tribunal (SSDT) on no less than three occasions, (i) Law Society-v-Thomas Hugh Murray 01/03/2005 (ii) Law Society-v-Thomas Hugh Murray 25/11/2005 and (iii) Law Society-v-Thomas Hugh Murray 10/12/2009.

Former solicitor Murray, who said on the BBC programme during secret filming that if he returned to Scotland he could reapply to be a solicitor again, was found guilty of professional misconduct in respect of misrepresentation, deception and misleading clients including his failure to tell his clients he had been barred from practising as a lawyer. The solicitor who was sequestrated in Scotland in 2001 and continues to avoid any moves by the Law Society to take action against him and recover compensation awarded to his clients.

The case of Murray, and the Law Society’s apparently haphazard pursuit of complaints against him clearly provided fertile ground for difficult questions of Yelland, who has personally signed off on many of the communications to clients who were involved with the former solicitor. Diary of Injustice featured an in depth report on the Law Society’s involvement in the Murray case in an earlier article HERE

In a long, rambling statement attacking the BBC Scotland programme, the Law Society of Scotland made no mention as to why Mr Yelland refused to appear, nor did the Society explain why the one man who can be linked to many of the complaints made against Scottish solicitors which have done significant damage to the image of the profession, did not appear or give an account of his charge over regulation of, and standards in Scotland’s legal profession in the past two decades.

Diary of Injustice has reported on the BBC’s investigation into self regulation of the Scottish legal profession in previous articles here: Lawyers Behaving Badly – a window into the world of lawyers regulating themselves

 

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Hacking your life ? The Law Society of Scotland & its insurers are experts. Memos & more proved information sharing, surveillance, hacking of Scots public goes right to the top

Douglas Mill 4Strong questions and a lack of custard pies in 2006 ensured Law Society Chief Executive fell on his information gathering memos. IN a favourable comparison to yesterday’s Westminster Culture Committee session in which hardly anything new was gained from the questioning of Rupert & James Murdoch & Rebekah Brooks on a what did they know and when did they know it theme regarding the News of the World “phone hacking” scandal, readers may wish to take note us Scots visited this same topic in 2006, where, albeit accidentally, the ‘dark art’ of information sharing & hacking into the lives of the public was revealed during questioning the Law Society of Scotland’s then Chief Executive, Douglas Mill by the now Scottish Cabinet Secretary for Finance, John Swinney.

Hacking for some seems to, suspiciously, focus only on hacking phones, yet as we all know, hacking into your own life can mean a lot more. Legislation such as  the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act, with our own Scottish version (RIPSA) has effectively promoted an uncontrolled culture of hacking throughout the UK so should we be surprised certain sections of the media felt left out and did their own hacking ? No.

Things like, hacking your medical records, hacking your financial details, hacking your mail, hacking your email, hacking into your home, hacking into your legal aid, hacking into your relationship with your own lawyer, hacking into your family life, and all done pretty much without so much as a whimper from anyone willing to stop it. We have seen it all before, yet nothing has ever been done until now. Did the same happen in Scotland ? Yes, although in the case of Scotland, you can be assured there will never be a Westminster style inquiry into it, ever.

As documents came to light at the Scottish Parliament in 2006 which touched on the subject of the legal profession hacking into the lives of clients, no one thought to ask the appearing Law Society officials exactly what methods they had used when intervening in the lives of members of the public to block their access to justice.

By today’s standards, not pursuing such a line of questioning when faced with documentary proof those before you had personally intervened in the lives of members of the public, gathered information which could not have been obtained in many cases, legally, had applied that information to blocking legal representation or interfering in court cases, or had knowledge that the Police had been used to thwart investigations, would in itself be suspicious. This is exactly what happened, and nothing more was said, nothing more was done.

Targeting clients : John Swinney asked stern questions of Law Society Chief Mill in 2006 which exposed lawyers using information to undermine members of the public. (Click image to view video)

John SwinneyCabinet Finance Chief John Swinney (then in opposition in 2006) knew how to ask some questions, yet he should be asking more. You can read more about the content of Mr Mill’s memos to the Law Society of Scotland President & the disgraced insurance firm Marsh, who were convicted of criminal offences in the United States, here : Law Society boss Mill lied to Swinney, Parliament as secret memos reveal policy of intervention & obstruction on claims, complaints. The memos between the Law Society & employees of an insurance firm portrayed an information sharing agenda on members of the public which existed in order to undermine any court actions or access to justice for those victimised by the legal profession. Clearly a degree of spying against members of the public was being practised by the Law Society and its insurers, and clearly the legal profession had undermined an earlier Scottish Parliamentary inquiry, yet no searching questions were asked.

In one of the memos, sent from Alistair Sim, the Director of Marsh UK to Mr Mill, Sim suggested collecting information on clients while in another memo, Mill refers to a proposed Scottish Parliament Justice Committee 1 inquiry into regulation of the legal profession in Scotland, which was held in 2002-2003 under the Convenership of the Christine Grahame MSP, who is again, coincidentally of course, the Convener of the Scottish Parliament’s Justice Committee.

It was clear from the content of the memos Law Society officials & Marsh employees were involved in an attempt to undermine the 2003-2003 Justice Committee hearings and prevent anyone attending who might have exposed the hacking culture at the Law Society of Scotland and its insurers which was going on in the name of protecting the legal profession’s Master Policy, a massive multi million pound client compensation scheme. which oddly enough, hardly ever pays out.

During the 2002-2003 inquiry, not one single member of the public was allowed to testify before the Scottish Parliament’s Justice Committee after the Law Society of Scotland demanded members of the public be banned from speaking at Committee hearings. The 2002-2003 inquiry under Christine Grahame did not discuss the memos made available to John Swinney, and Ms Grahame’s team subsequently went onto conclude regulation of the legal profession should remain as it was, under the control of the Law Society of Scotland.

It took a second inquiry into regulation of solicitors, held in 2006 by the Scottish Parliament’s Justice 2 Committee, initially chaired by Annabel Goldie (who resigned due to a conflict of interest) subsequently replaced by David Davidson, which brought the Law Society’s meddling in cases & client’s lives to the fore.

During the 2006 enquiry,  members of the public were allowed to testify before the Justice 2 Committee and subsequent to Mr Swinney’s encounter with Douglas Mill over the secret memos, Mill was forced to resign, albeit only after video footage of the incident was posted to video sharing website You Tube. Yet amid all this, no searching questions were asked by MSPs as to exactly what methods the Law Society of Scotland and its insurers employed to intervene in the lives of members of the public.

As readers will now be well aware, the creation of the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission has done nothing to clean up the corruption in the world of regulation of the legal profession, in fact, probably worsening it. My previous coverage of the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission, itself branded a “Front Company for the Law Society of Scotland”, can be found here : Scottish Legal Complaints Commission : The story so far

Readers can find out more for themselves in my previous coverage of just how the Law Society of Scotland and agents acting for its Master Policy insurers hack into the lives of clients, here : Spies, Lies, Hacking & Facebook : Law Society Master Policy snooped on ‘difficult clients’ to undermine damages claims, complaints about lawyers & here : Suicides, ill health, financial ruin : Will SLCC’s latest Master Policy report deliver solution to Law Society ‘pro-crooked lawyer’ insurance scheme ?

421Who headed the hacking ? Law Society’s now former Chief Executive Douglas Mill & Philip Yelland, head of Client Relations. Regular readers will be well aware I was significantly targeted by both Douglas Mill who personally blocked my legal aid, and the Law Society of Scotland’s Director of Regulation, Philip Yelland, who personally intervened with my solicitor at the time and ordered him not to take my instructions. Correspondence which revealed the actions of Mill & Yelland against me, can be viewed HERE & HERE. I can assure you all, these people and agents working for their “Master Policy” made my family life and my access to justice, a living hell. Almost, a death sentence, all in the name of protecting crooked Borders solicitor Andrew Penman of Stormonth Darling Solicitors, Kelso. The Andrew Penman scandal was heavily reported in the Scotsman newspaper during the 1990s.

Indeed, I have not forgotten that during the time of the Scotsman’s coverage, disruptive relationships between the legal & accounting profession who were intent on preventing further media reporting on Mr Penman, and, officers of Lothian & Borders Police came to the fore in several incidents, one of which involved the compromising of a costly & lengthy CID surveillance operation. Details of this scandal may well soon be appearing in a newspaper near you.

In my experience investigating & reporting on the legal profession for five years, and campaigning for legal reforms since the 1990s, information sharing, hacking, operating a policy to undermine critics by any means necessary, including the use of surveillance, and relationships involving the Police, goes right to the very top of any organisation which is very much involved in undermining the public good for its own ends.

 

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Spies, Lies, Hacking & Facebook : Law Society Master Policy snooped on ‘difficult clients’ to undermine damages claims, complaints about ‘crooked lawyers’

logoIf your complaint against a solicitor involves negligence, or the theft of your funds, prepare to be hacked. LET’S BE HONEST. Spying hacking or snooping is endemic in daily life. In the name of cutting crime, the last UK Labour Government even passed legislation, the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act, with our own Scottish version (RIPSA), which greatly expanded the number of organisations who could spy or even in some cases, hack into your every move where, for example your local authority could & did use snooping powers which were originally meant to sniff out terrorists, to check if you put recyclables in your general waste bin, if you were trying to get your child into a school outwith your home address area or if your dog made a foul & murderous use of a tree in a public park.

So, while many of us may, or may not be so shocked about the lurid headlines of the past two weeks which culminated in the closure this past weekend of the News of the World newspaper, after allegations were made that former journalists hacked into the phone messages of celebrities, politicians & public figures (crooked or otherwise) and allegedly, murder victims, it should come as no surprise to all of us, the same tactics employed by certain sections of the media to dig up dirt on, well, anyone, have been employed by the legal profession for decades to target those consumers who have been put in the unenviable position of being forced to complain about their solicitors poor service, taking in many subjects & actions which, if committed by the ordinary man on the street, would be classed as criminal.

Spot the difference ? Well that’s easy. Headlines about the News of the World have been in the news for months, if not years. The revelations proved too strong for News International to bear, the advertisers pulled their business, there are rumours yet more allegations are to be revealed, and so, the paper closed.

When it comes to the legal profession and its insurers use of snooping practices to follow clients, dig up dirt on their lives, use friendly pubic servants out for financial gain to intimidate the ‘difficult ones’, put clients on blacklists banning them from ever obtaining a lawyer again, harassing clients families, generally making life difficult, well … such things are not talked about in public and hardly ever, if at all, hit the headlines.

Over the years many people who have contacted me over their complaints about solicitors, have spoke of an almost shared experience, numbering well into the hundreds of people, where for instance, individuals have encountered problems with their mail, problems with their bank, problems with the Police, problems with their local council, and so on, and all these problems beginning, strangely enough, only after they had been ripped off by their solicitor and had felt strongly enough about it to register a complaint with the Law Society of Scotland, demanding compensation for negligence, or lost, stolen or embezzled funds.

Coincidence ? Yes, perhaps, if it happened to three or four people in the past twenty years … but as the numbers built up, and even journalists from various newspapers who referred these increasing numbers of clients to me began to say themselves, “Coincidence flies out the window when dealing with crooked lawyers and the Law Society, these people have been targeted”.

Coincidentally, all of those who suffered many of these reported difficulties brought on by their complaint to the Law Society, were those seeking to take legal action against their solicitor, legal action against the Law Society of Scotland, legal action against an advocate or to pursue a damages claim against the Master Policy, the Law Society of Scotland’s Professional Indemnity Insurance scheme designed to protect crooked lawyers from damages claims for negligence.

I recently reported on the level of intrusion into the lives of consumers by the Law Society of Scotland and persons working for its Master Policy insurance scheme, in an article on the latest SLCC research into the Master Policy, here : Suicides, ill health, financial ruin : Will SLCC’s latest Master Policy report deliver solution to Law Society ‘pro-crooked lawyer’ insurance scheme ?

In the earlier article, I reported on the text of a document sent to a solicitor suggesting ways in which to protect himself from a complaint, and an impending claim against the Master Policy. I also reported how John Swinney, the Scottish Government’s Finance Chief revealed the text of a secret memo where a Director of Marsh UK discussed secret moves with the then Chief Executive of the Law Society of Scotland, Douglas Mill, to spy on members of the public by collating information on clients & their claims against the Master Policy.

Marsh UK were identified in memos released by Cabinet Secretary John Swinney during a Justice Committee meeting at the Scottish Parliament, which revealed the Law Society of Scotland & its insurers were engaged in interference in clients legal representation and were also actively blocking damages claims & court cases against crooked lawyers from entering the Scottish courts.

A legal insider speaking to Diary of Injustice some weeks ago alleged several firms of Private Investigators in Edinburgh & Glasgow have been routinely used by law firms working on behalf of the Master Policy to “dig up dirt on difficult clients”. He named several firms and provided information still being looked into.

He said : “If someone becomes publicly involved with the Law Society of Scotland to the degree a solicitor may end up in court or the society faces severe criticism for its actions, that person is checked out. Its been this way for years.”

He continued : “Its common knowledge if a client manages to obtain legal representation to pursue a negligence claim against their former solicitors, their lives will be put under the microscope using any means possible. This has involved using Private Investigators and other bodies to engather information. I’d like to think this is used for honest purposes but I know its not. Put it this way, if there’s no dirt there, it will be put there and used to make someone’s life very very difficult.”

One of the firms of Private Investigators named by the insider initially denied allegations their role “entails surveillance on difficult clients of solicitors”, however in an email received prior to publication of this article this afternoon, they have since admitted working for a key law firm acting for the Master Policy.

Their admission may have been influenced by the fact copies of mobile phone text messages and a dummy letter sent upon my advice from a client who was suspicious about the security of his mail to his new solicitor, ended up in the wrong hands, with the information therein being made available to certain people at the law firm who are defenders in an ongoing legal action. It also transpires Facebook profiles of the client’s son & daughter were also found among papers of the defending law firm, who are fighting allegations with significant proof that they deliberately lost their client’s case against a leading insurance firm.

The firm of Private Investigators, who claim to use former Police officers in their work, have requested a meeting with Diary of Injustice to discuss the matter further and I will report any developments to readers as the story unfolds.

In a recent report on Scottish Law Reporter, it is worth noting the subject of “Police involvement” on the side of an advocate who had been the subject of complaints to the Faculty of Advocates by builders chasing sums allegedly owed to them. Scottish Law Reporter reported the builders had been threatened by a Police Office from Strathclyde Police after a Sheriff and former Law Society Fiscal’s law firm had become involved in the dispute.

The details in the above story as reported by Scottish Law Reporter reads almost the same for tens of clients, who, after making a complaint to the Law Society of Scotland, and in some cases going onto make a claim against the Master Policy, encountered growing problems with their local Police forces, information on which unexplainably ended up with law firms representing & defending ”crooked lawyers” in court.

Recently, the case of Ian Puddick, a plumber who exposed a love affair between his wife and an insurance executive was debated in the Westminster Parliament, where MPs were told actions resulting from the involvement of a “private security firm”  (Kroll) who were hired by the insurance executive “to bury” Mr Puddick led to Mr Puddick being raided by several units from the City of London Police including its Anti-Terror branch with claims over a million pounds of public money were spent on investigating Mr Puddick, whose life was made a misery. It is a fact Kroll were owned by MMC (Marsh McLennan Companies) during these incidents in 2009. In June 2010, Marsh & McLennan Co Inc agreed to sell investigations unit Kroll to a firm led by former Marsh CEO Michael Cherkasky for $1.13 billion.

MMC (Marsh McLennan Companies) is currently chaired by Conservative Peer Lord Ian Lang. MMC is the parent of Marsh UK, who operate the Law Society of Scotland’s Master Policy, and who also provide insurance services for the Scottish Government, much of Scotland’s local authorities & public services, many bodies within the Scottish legal system including the Police.

Today, anyone in Scotland who has perhaps at some stage, felt there was someone looking over their shoulder because they complained about their solicitor, or took the matter to court, can take a little heart from the fact the Scottish legal profession are now spying on their own, with the revelation that two ‘representative bodies’ of Scotland’s legal profession are snooping on the lives of staff at the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission, (SLCC), according to documents shown by a legal insider to Diary of Injustice which include printouts of Facebook pages, a list of names and other information gathered on individuals who work at the SLCC.

One has to wonder, if the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission has managed to close down record numbers of complaints yet has only managed to uphold one single complaint against a solicitor, why would information on those working at the SLCC be of such importance to the likes of the Law Society of Scotland and other ‘representative bodies’ of Scottish solicitors ?

 

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Supreme Court judge Lord Rodger who found Law Society of Scotland lied over dishonesty claims in legal establishment’s stitch-up of former solicitors ‘who championed underdog’, dies after short illness

LordRodger1Former Lord President who became Supreme Court judge, Lord Rodger dies after a short illness. LORD RODGER, the former Lord President of the Court of Session who found the Law Society lied over dishonesty claims in a famous case involving former Edinburgh solicitors Gordon & Maria Thomson who were hounded out the profession for taking too much legal aid business, and who went on to become a judge in the UK Supreme Court, itself recently involved in controversial rulings on Scottish Human Rights cases which have changed the face of Scotland’s notoriously corrupt, antiquated legal system, has died after a short illness, it has been announced.

Lord Alan Rodger studied at the University of Glasgow, graduating with an MA, and at the University’s School of Law, taking an LLB. He became an advocate in 1974 and was Clerk of the Faculty of Advocates from 1976 to 1979. He was a Member of the Mental Welfare Commission for Scotland from 1981 to 1984, and was appointed Queen’s Counsel in 1985.He was an Advocate Depute from 1985 to 1988 and was appointed Solicitor General for Scotland in 1989, being promoted to Lord Advocate in 1992, at which time he became a life peer as Lord Rodger of Earlsferry, of Earlsferry in the District of North East Fife, and was appointed to the Privy Council.

Lord Rodger was appointed a Senator of the College of Justice, a judge of the High Court of Justiciary and Court of Session, in 1995, and became Lord Justice General and Lord President in 1996. He was appointed a Lord of Appeal in Ordinary in 2001, upon the retirement of Lord Clyde. He and nine other Lords of Appeal in Ordinary became Justices of the Supreme Court upon that body’s inauguration on 1 October 2009.

Among the many rulings Lord Rodger will be remembered for, is that of the famous case where former Edinburgh solicitors, Gordon & Maria Thomson, who were hounded out of the Scottish legal profession by establishment elements and the Law Society of Scotland for taking ‘too much’ of the legal aid business. In a ruling on a petition to the nobile officium, Lord Rodger, then the Lord President, along with Lords Coulsfield & Marnoch, found the Law Society of Scotland, who had rigged an investigation into the Thomsons, and subsequent hearings before the Scottish Solicitors Discipline Tribunal which struck off the Thomsons as solicitors, had not removed allegations of dishonesty which were part of the Law Society’s concerted effort to strike down the Thomson’s popular legal business. The ruling from Lord Rodger and his colleagues on the bench stated :

This petition to the nobile officium by Gordon Thomson and Maria Thomson comes before the court on a motion for a first order for service. Among those upon whom service is sought are the President and Council of the Law Society of Scotland. It appears, however, that a copy of the petition was faxed to the Law Society some days ago and in any event the existence of the petition was reported in the press. The Law Society were accordingly represented at the hearing by Mr. Macdonald, Q.C.

The petitioners were the subject of proceedings in the Solicitors Discipline Tribunal, the hearing in which took place over several days in 1994 and 1995. On 22 March the Fiscal and the petitioners reached a substantial measure of agreement and the proceedings were adjourned until 5 April 1995. After sundry procedure, the Tribunal issued an interlocutor on 7 April and on 8 June 1995 they issued their formal Findings which comprised seventeen numbered paragraphs. In due course the petitioners appealed to this court. Their appeal came before an Extra Division who allowed it and remitted the matter to the Tribunal. In the opinion delivered by Lord Prosser, in a passage which we do not repeat but which was based on the submissions made at the hearing of the appeal, the court indicated that they were not satisfied that all the allegations of personal dishonesty against the petitioners had been withdrawn. In the present petition the petitioners state that the position of the Fiscal at the original hearing before the Tribunal was, and the position of the Fiscal at the new hearing is, that all such allegations have been withdrawn. The petitioners therefore ask the court to exercise the nobile officium and inter alia: “to hold that the Opinion of the Court should be recalled and re-written omitting any imputation of personal dishonesty by either Petitioner and publicised accordingly….”

However great the powers of this court may be, we cannot rewrite history. Nor can any interlocutor recall the words of an opinion or unsay what the court has said in an opinion which has been issued. The petition is therefore self-evidently incompetent.

None the less, as the petitioners point out, the opinion of the court has been published on the Internet and elsewhere. If the Law Society’s position is actually that the Fiscal at the original hearing withdrew the allegations of personal dishonesty and that the Society do not allege personal dishonesty, then it is proper that this state of affairs should be given equivalent publicity. In the course of the short hearing we accordingly asked Mr. Macdonald to clarify the position of the Law Society. He readily did so. Based on what he told us, for the avoidance of doubt, we record that the Law Society of Scotland agree that the findings of the Discipline Tribunal issued on 8 June 1995, so far as inferring personal dishonesty on the part of the petitioners, did not reflect the pleas tendered by the petitioners and accepted by the Fiscal and those findings should therefore not have been made by the Tribunal.

Struck off mavericks celebrate legal victoryFormer solicitors Gordon & Maria Thomson were targeted in a fit up by the Law Society of Scotland over their law business. Gordon and Maria Thomson were originally struck off in 1995 after a 16-day tribunal hearing over what many now see as widely fabricated allegations by the Law Society of Scotland of a “substantial catalogue” of professional misconduct. The couple had become widely known through television commercials which featured Mr Thomson in biking leathers, astride a Harley- Davidson motor cycle. They were judged by the Law Society to have been too hungry for fees and to have run their Edinburgh practice in a manner which allegedly brought the profession into disrepute. Their firm, Gordon Thomson & Co, operated from the Sighthill shopping centre in Edinburgh. It also had branch offices, dubbed “law cafes”, in Methil and Glenrothes in Fife. In his advertising Thomson portrayed himself as a champion of the underdog, and clients were called “friends”. His theme tune was Tina Turner’s Simply The Best. The offices were run almost as drop-in centres where members of the public could go for a coffee and a talk with one of the staff. The Law Society condemned this as soliciting clients of other lawyers and thus decided to kill off their business, and practising certificates.

Unbeknown to myself at the time, a firm of Edinburgh solicitors who were representing me in the case of the crooked Scottish Borders solicitor, Andrew Penman, and my attempt to take the Law Society of Scotland to court, had been appointed to wind up the Thomson’s legal practice by the Law Society. One of the firm’s solicitors went onto confess the whole thing had been about money, because many Edinburgh law firms were anxious the Thomson’s were taking their business, and particularly the legal aid money which effectively subsidises some of Edinburgh’s most noted, if most useless and sometimes most crooked, law firms.

421Law Society’s Chief Executive Douglas Mill & Philip Yelland, head of Client Relations during the fit up of the Thomsons. It is worth noting that throughout the Law Society of Scotland’s determined pursuit of the Thomsons, its Chief Executive was Douglas Mill, who was forced to resign his position after video footage of a confrontation between Mill & the Scottish Government’s Finance Secretary John Swinney at a 2006 meeting of Holyrood’s Justice 2 Committee was published on the internet. It is also worth noting the same individuals who were wrapped up in the Thomson case, Mr Mill & Philip Yelland, the Law Society of Scotland’s Client Relations & Regulation Chief at the time of the Thomson case, were both also involved in the same highly personalised & bitter pursuit of myself, blocking all my attempts to take Andrew Penman, his law firm Stormonth Darling, the Master Policy,  and the Law Society of Scotland to the Court of Session.

Scotland’s serving & previous Lord Advocates issued their own tribute to Lord Rodger in a Press Release from the Crown Office :

Following the sad death of Alan Rodger, Lord Advocates past and present have paid tribute.

Speaking of Mr Rodger, Frank Mulholland QC, Dame Elish Angiolini QC and Lord Boyd of Duncansby QC issued a joint statement saying: “It is with great sadness that we have learnt of Alan Rodger’s death. Those of us who have had the privilege of working with or appearing before him held him in the highest regard.”

“His sharp intellect allied to his humanity and humility made him one of the great Lord Advocate and Lord Presidents. Scotland’s legal profession is poorer for his passing. He bore his illness with great courage and has left a legacy of significant jurisprudential thinking which will stand Scotland well for many years to come. Our thoughts are with his family at this sad time.”

The Law Society of Scotland issued its own tribute to Lord Rodger

In tribute to Lord Rodger, Cameron Ritchie, President of the Law Society of Scotland said: “Lord Rodger was an eminent and distinguished figure within the Scottish legal profession. He held some of Scotland’s most distinguished positions, including Lord Advocate and Lord President, where he demonstrated immense ability and intellect. “His more recent role as a member of the UK Supreme Court; one of only two Scottish Judges served to underline his considerable contribution, not only to the justice system but to society as a whole. Above all he was a great ambassador for the Scottish legal profession and someone who will be greatly missed.”

Scotland’s First Minister Alex Salmond, who recently launched highly personalised attacks on the Supreme Court judges over their ruling in the Nat Fraser case, delivered his own commentary on Lord Rodger’s death, saying : “Lord Rodger made an outstanding contribution to public life in Scotland over many years both as a judge and as Lord Advocate. He was held in the highest regard by all those who worked with him in public service, and dedicated himself to the interests of justice during a long and hugely influential career.”

Yet in early June, the First Minister and his Justice Secretary, Kenny MacAskill publicly criticised the Supreme Court & its judges, (two of whom were Scottish, Lord Hope and Lord Rodger, now deceased) of being part of a ”court in London that is made up of a majority of judges who do not know Scots Law, who may have visited here for the Edinburgh Festival”.

Mr MacAskill went on to threaten to withdraw funding for the Supreme Court, saying : “When I go to the Law Society I say that I will not routinely fund ambulance-chasing lawyers. It should be said that I am not going to pay for ambulance-chasing courts. As a Government we have to pay for the Supreme Court of the UK and I think they should recognise that we’ll pay for our fair share of what goes there. But I am not paying money that would come out of the police budget, or prison budget or community payback budget because they are routinely taking cases that we as a country do not think should be going there. He who pays the piper, as they say, calls the tune.”

 

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Ex-Law Society Boss involved in Master Policy memo scandal & Climategate email inquiry Chief retain 5 year, £290 a day Judicial Appointments quango jobs

Kenny MacAskill denies existence of memosEnsuring establishment support for another 4 years as Justice Secretary ? AMONG the multitude of justice related quango appointments quietly announced in the past week by Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill, are the reappointments for five more years of former Law Society President Martin McAllister and former Permanent Secretary for the Scottish Government (Chief of the civil service in Scotland), Sir Muir Russell to the quango which recommends the appointments to Scotland’s judiciary, the Judicial Appointments Board, with salaries of £290 per day plus expenses for a meagre time commitment of 20 to 30 days per year.

Martin McAllisterMartin McAllister, former Law Society President. Martin McAllister, who was implicated in the memogate scandal involving the Law Society of Scotland, Marsh and Douglas Mill over ‘claims fixing’ allegations made by Cabinet Secretary for Finance John Swinney, retains his well paid Judicial Appointments Board position on top of yet another publicly funded quango position as part-time Convenor of the Mental Health Tribunal for Scotland with a whopping recession busting payment of £430 per day plus expenses.

My earlier report on Mr McAllister’s controversial initial appointment to the Judicial Appointments Board, including details of the Law Society’s secret memos implicating his involvement in a scandal which went onto claim the resignation in January 2008 of Douglas Mill the then Chief Executive of the Law Society of Scotland, is here : Justice Secretary MacAskill denies knowledge of ‘claims fixing’ memos identifying former law chief sent to Judicial Appointments.

When asked about Mr McAllister’s past for my earlier report, the Justice Secretary’s spokesperson claimed there was no information of any matter involving Mr McAllister and his role in claims against the Master Policy during his time as Law Society President : Mr MacAskill’s spokesperson said at the time : “Mr McAllister was appointed through fair and open competition by an independent panel. We are not aware of any formal complaint about Mr McAllister’s role in relation to claims and complaints during his time as President of the Law Society of Scotland, and no evidence has been presented to us which would raise any questions over the decision of the selection panel.”

John Swinney, a trustworthy manJohn Swinney, Cabinet Secretary for Finance & Sustainable Growth. However, the Scottish Government Finance Chief, John Swinney when in opposition during the summer of 2006 at the Scottish Parliament’s Justice 2 Committee, questioned the then Law Society Chief Executive Douglas Mill over contents of his own memos, which referred to Martin McAllister. Mr Swinney said : “I am interested in what the witnesses have just said about the Law Society having nothing to do with the arrangements for handling negligence claims. I have in front of me a memorandum in connection with the case of one of my constituents. It was issued by Mr Mill on 5 July 2001.”

“Mr Mill’s memo was written to the then president of the Law Society, Mr McAllister. It refers to the broker of the master policy. Mr Mill suggests that it would be good if he and the others involved all got together and had a “summit meeting” to discuss how to dispose of my constituent’s “several valid claims”. Mr Mill and I have discussed the matter at length over the years, but I find that a rather strange memo if it is to sit comfortably with the statement that the president has just made.

“The memo of 5 July encourages “a summit meeting on the up-to-date position”to be held to look at “both the complaints and the claims aspects.” That rather suggests that the Law Society has been involved. The claim remains unresolved to date and yet the memo is dated 5 July 2001.”

Clearly Mr Swinney’s evidence to the Justice 2 Committee during 2006, which can be viewed in video footage on InjusticeTV HERE, raises serious questions over the honesty of the Scottish Government’s claim not to have known of Mr McAllister’s past involvement in the Marsh memo scandal.

In the case of the reappointment of Sir Muir Russell to the Judicial Appointments Board, the former head of the civil service in Scotland, is now better known for his chairing of the Climategate inquiry into into allegations that leading academics at the University of East Anglia manipulated data on global warming. The ‘results’ of that ‘inquiry’ can be found HERE.

The Herald newspaper revealed in a report “Holyrood fiasco peer’s £40k for chairing Climategate review” by Paul Hutcheon that Sir Muir Russell walked away with nearly £6000 a month (totalling £40,000) for leading the Climategate probe which unsurprisingly cleared scientists at the University of East Anglia of data manipulation.

The Herald report said : “The inquiry chaired by Sir Russell investigated claims that researchers at East Anglia had distorted statistics on global warming. Hacked e-mails written by university staff led to fears that information on climate change was being manipulated, a row that was played out internationally. The six-month probe concluded with Russell and his team noting the “rigour and honesty” of the scientists. A freedom of information request has revealed that the university paid Russell a £40,000 fee for his chairmanship. He also benefited from £2908 in travel and £976 for accommodation.”

Here follows the announcement from the Scottish Government of Sir Muir Russell & Martin McAllister’s reappointments to the Judicial Appointments Board, for another five years on £290 per day plus expenses, all coming out of public funds :

Judicial Appointments Board for Scotland

The Cabinet Secretary for Justice today (22/03/2011) announced the reappointments of Sir Muir Russell as the Chairing Member, and Mr Martin McAllister as a member to the Judicial Appointments Board for Scotland.

Sir Muir Russell was first appointed as Chairing Member of the Judicial Appointments Board for Scotland on October 1, 2008 for a three year period. His background is as a civil servant and he held a number of posts before being appointed Permanent Secretary at the Scottish Office in 1998. He was Principal of the University of Glasgow from 2003 until his retiral in 2009. He is a Vice Chair of Governors of the Glasgow School of Art, the Chairman of the Dunedin Concert Trust, a Member of the Board of the Moredun Research Institute, the Chairman of the Council of the Hannah Research Institute and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh.

This reappointment will run for a further three years from October 1, 2011 to September 30, 2014. He is an experienced chair who demonstrates particular strengths in building relationships both internally and with external partners. This post is part-time and attracts a remuneration of £17,500 per annum for a time commitment of 20 to 30 days per year. He has no other public appointments.

Mr McAllister was first appointed as a legal member on September 1, 2008 for a three year period. He is a partner with Taylor and Henderson Solicitors. He is a former President of the Law Society of Scotland and has convened several of its Committees including Legal Aid, Professional Practice and Professional Conduct. Mr McAllister is currently a part-time tutor at the University of Strathclyde and a part-time Convenor of the Mental Health Tribunal for Scotland.

As a practicing Solicitor and former President of the Law Society he brings valuable experience of the largest element of the legal profession in Scotland. This reappointment will run for a further three years from September 1, 2011 to August 31, 2014. This post is part-time and attracts a remuneration of £290 per day a for a time commitment of 20 to 30 days per year. Mr McAllister is also a part-time Convenor of the Mental Health Tribunal for Scotland with a remuneration of £430 per day.

The Judicial Appointments Board for Scotland was established by Ministers in 2002, and it became an independent advisory non-departmental public body on June 1, 2009. The Board has statutory responsibilities under the Judiciary and Courts (Scotland) act 2008. The Board’s role is to make recommendations to Ministers for appointment to the office of judge, sheriff principal, sheriff, and part-time sheriff as well as other judicial offices set out in the Act.

These Ministerial public appointments were made in accordance with the Commissioner for Public Appointments in Scotland’s Code of Practice.

All appointments are made on merit and political activity plays no part in the selection process. However, in accordance with the original Nolan recommendations, there is a requirement for appointees’ political activity within the last five years (if there is any to be declared) to be made public. There is no political activity to be declared.

BACKGROUND to the Judicial Appointments Board:

The role of the Judicial Appointments Board is to recommend to the Scottish Ministers individuals for appointment to judicial offices within the Board’s remit and to provide advice to Scottish Ministers in connection with such appointments. The Board is responsible for recommending individuals suitable for appointment to the following judicial offices Judge of the Court of Session, Chair of the Scottish Land Court, Sheriff Principal, Sheriff, Part-time Sheriff, Temporary judges.

The JAB’s website claims : “The selection of individuals for recommendation must be made solely on merit and an individual may only be selected for recommendation if he or she is of good character. Only the judicial and legal members of the Board may assess the applicants’ knowledge of the law or their skill and competence in the interpretation and application of the law. Decisions about an applicant’s suitability to be recommended for appointment are made by the whole Board.”

Ironically, a research report carried out by the Judicial Appointments Board claimed that jobs for Scottish judges were controlled by an old boys network , probably the same old boys network which ensures who gets jobs on the Judicial Appointments Board itself.

 

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Holyrood’s Justice Committee Chief Bill Aitken who praised former Law Society boss after complaints scandal is forced to resign over rape comments

bill aitkenTory Justice Committee Convener Bill Aitken shamed into resignation over his comments on a rape case. BILL AITKEN, the well known Scottish Conservative & Convener of the Scottish Parliament’s sole Justice Committee for the past four years has been forced to resign his committee position after his comments in a media interview regarding a rape case in Glasgow where he inferred a rape victim may have been a prostitute resulted in a Parliamentary Motion lodged by Green MSP Patrick Harvie, calling for him to quit.

While the focus of most of today’s news reports on Mr Aitken’s resignation remains on the actual comments made by the Justice Committee Convener & Tory spokesman on ‘Community Safety’, it should not be forgotten that Mr Aitken, who is no stranger to controversy himself, reportedly denied he had made the controversial comments regarding a rape case to the Sunday Herald newspaper, apparently changing his story to admit what he had said only after ‘reading a transcript of the interview’.

The Sunday Herald interview with Mr Aitken over a Glasgow rape case quoted Mr Aitken as saying : “I really think we need to know a bit more about these. They are not always as they seem to be, put it that way.If this woman was dragged halfway through the town then it just couldn’t possibly happen. So has nobody asked her what she was doing in Renfrew Lane? Somebody should be asking her what she was doing in Renfrew Lane. Did she go there with somebody? … Now, Renfrew Lane is known as a place where things happen, put it that way.It’s an area where a lot of the hookers take their clients. Now that may not have happened in this case. But you know … what was happening?”

The Sunday Herald further reported : When challenged on his comments by the Sunday Herald, Aitken denied making them until he read a transcript of the conversation. Asked whether there is a difference between the rape of women who work as prostitutes and those who don’t, he said: “Well, the prostitute has possibly put herself in a position of some vulnerability.”

Mr Aitken’s remarks were widely criticised from all quarters, including the Police, as was reported by Scottish Law Reporter, here : Cops claim Tory Justice Committee boss infers Hookers deserve it : Scottish Conservative’s Bill Aitken asks paper “Was rape victim a prostitute ?”

The Sunday Herald reported at the time the Scottish Conservative’s current boss, Annabel Goldie, refused to condemn her Tory Party colleague for his remarks, and then apparently “turned and walked away.”

The condemnation of Mr Aitken’s comments then reached the stage where a Parliamentary motion was due to be lodged yesterday by the Green MSP, Patrick Harvie, calling for Mr Aitken’s immediate resignation from the Justice Committee.

In the media release from the Scotland’s Green Party, Patrick Harvie said : “Bill Aitken’s comments are way beyond the standards any party in Parliament should find acceptable from any MSP, but they make it entirely unacceptable for him to continue in post as Convenor of the Justice Committee. No-one who thinks we should blame rape victims should ever be allowed to hold that role in this country.”

Mr Harvie continued : “If he does not resign, the Tory leadership should force his hand. If they do not, Parliament must act to remove him, and act quickly. The alternative would a serious loss of confidence in Parliament as an institution, and the Justice Committee in particular.”

Mr Aitken, who is also retiring from the Scottish Parliament and not standing in this year’s election said: “I am standing down as convener of the justice committee. I do so with a mixture of emotions: frustration at allowing myself to be misrepresented; anger at being misrepresented and remorse to rape victims and their loved ones for any hurt they feel, but also in the hope my true views can now be heard. In all my years as a city councillor, a JP and an MSP, I have spoken out against criminals and spoken up for victims of crime. That will not change in retirement. I will continue to battle for justice for all.”

Conservative Party leader Annabel Goldie commenting on Mr Aitken’s resignation, said: “Bill Aitken is a man of principle and honour. He was not prepared to let any issue compromise the work of the Justice Committee and he has shown his respect both for the committee and the party.”

However, in a stark indication of just how honest we can expect our politicians to be, neither Mr Aitken nor his Scottish Conservative Party boss Annabel Goldie chose to explain reports of why Mr Aitken initially denied his comments over the rape case to the newspaper until being shown a transcript of the interview.

A legal insider commenting on Mr Aitken’s resignation said today : “Changing stories to journalists only after being shown evidence of one’s comments is not the expected level of honesty or integrity to be shown by a Convener of the Scottish Parliament’s Justice Committee”.

While Mr Aitken’s political career has ended on a sour note over his comments regarding a rape case, he is well known for a habit of making controversial remarks, where in one instance he sought to praise a former Chief Executive of the Law Society of Scotland Douglas Mill in the Scottish Parliament’s debating chamber during a debate on the Legal Services Bill.

Bill Aitken offers praise for the then Chief Executive of the Law Society, Douglas Mill, claiming “Scottish Lawyers have an excellent reputation (click image to watch video)

The Scottish Parliament’s website, in a slightly differing verbatim account of the above footage reports Mr Aitken as saying : “Scottish lawyers have an excellent reputation. Members of the Law Society, such as Douglas Mill, have contributed to the International Institute of Law Association Chief Executives. That is indicative of the way in which Scots lawyers are regarded elsewhere. Other distinguished members of the Law Society staff have played international roles, which is to be encouraged.”

Just a few weeks later in January 2008 after Mr Aitken’s fawning comments for the Law Society Chief Executive, Douglas Mill himself was forced to resign his position after a video recording of a clash between Mr Mill & the Scottish Government’s Finance Chief, John Swinney was posted to the popular video file sharing website You Tube.

Douglas Mill 4Former Law Society boss Douglas Mill received praise from Bill Aitken during Parliamentary debates, only to be forced into resignation a few weeks later after memo scandal. The video footage from an earlier Scottish Parliament Justice Committee investigation of the Law Society & regulation of the legal profession in 2006, quoted Mr Mill as denying he had become involved in interfering with claims & complaints made by members of the public against crooked lawyers. John Swinney then produced one of Mr Mill’s own secret memos which proved Mr Mill and a number of others within the Law Society, including its then President and insurers had colluded against complaints & damages claims made by clients against Scottish solicitors.

John SwinneyJohn Swinney revealed copies of secret memos which contradicted Douglas Mill’s testimony to an earlier Justice Committee over protection of crooked lawyers. Mr Swinney, then in opposition battled on with Mr Mill in a clash before the Justice Committee lasting several minutes, at the end of which no one was left in any doubt the Law Society of Scotland and Mr Mill had been involved in preventing claims for damages against ‘crooked lawyers’ from going ahead. The incident was reported in the Herald newspaper at the time in an article titled Would granny swear by the law society ?” in a reference to Douglas Mill claiming he had not intervened in claims against ‘crooked lawyers’ by swearing on his granny’s grave.

Bill Aitken’s misplaced idol ? : Douglas Mill & John Swinney come to blows over corruption at the Law Society & its Master Policy insurance, revealed in Mr Mill’s own secret memos (click image to watch video)

A legal reform campaigner speaking this afternoon to Diary of Injustice said he felt Mr Aitken’s praise for the Scottish legal profession was misplaced, particularly in view of the 2006 revelations of the Law Society of Scotland’s conduct towards members of the public in complaints & claims for compensation.

He said : “Mr Aitken’s remarks in the Parliament praising lawyers sound like they come from a lobbyist, not an elected politician.”

He continued : “Any msp who openly praises the legal profession when there is such blatant evidence available as Douglas Mill’s memos which clearly show corruption right at the heart of the Law Society should examine whether they are in the right job. Maybe they should go and work for the Law Society instead of pretending to represent the majority of voters who are not lawyers and don’t work in or for the legal profession.”

Justice CommitteeThe current Holyrood Justice Committee under Mr Aitken’s term as Convener has not been ‘consumer friendly’ to reforms of regulation the legal profession. Mr Aitken’s term as the Convener of what has been one of the most disappointing Justice Committees since the Scottish Parliament was re-established in 1999, saw members of the public excluded from giving any evidence on their personal experiences with Scotland’s legal services market during the Justice Committee’s investigation of the Legal Services Bill, which instead saw a platoon of appearances from the legal profession & the Law Society of Scotland, who proposed ordered so many amendments to the Legal Services Bill, its initial aims of widening access to justice for Scots have been completely ruined.

I reported on msps final vote on the Legal Services Bill, here : ‘Choice’ but not as we know it : Legal Services Bill passed, Scots access to justice remains mostly under Law Society’s control

You can read my full coverage of the Legal Services Bill and how it passed through the Scottish Parliament, here : Legal Services Bill for Scotland – Scots denied access to justice on the Law Society’s orders

To demonstrate the rather one sided approach to the Legal Services Bill taken by Mr Aitken’s Justice Committee, readers can view my report of the Law Society of Scotland’s ‘easy ride’ testimony on the Legal Services Bill here : Little mention of consumer protection for Scots as Law Society give evidence to Holyrood on Legal Services Bill reforms

In comparison to the way members of the Law Society were treated by Mr Aitken and the Justice Committee, my coverage of the OFT & Which? testimony on the Legal Services Bill, in which consumer interests were noticeably ripped apart by msps, is available here : OFT & Which? call for independent regulation of lawyers as Justice Committee hears evidence on Legal Services Bill

In reality, as far as battling for justice goes, Mr Aitken’s term as Holyrood’s Justice Committee Convener appears to have been less along the lines of battling for justice for all, and more along the lines of battling to keep the current status quo as it is where justice in Scotland is far out of reach for most Scots, and questions over the honesty & integrity of the Scots justice system such as the Lockerbie case and the many more cases of injustice or the public’s access to justice remain unanswered.

Battling for justice for the legal establishment, is a world away from battling for justice for the Scots public.

In a curious development this morning, a legal insider claimed the Law Society of Scotland were, prior to the scandal over the rape comments, discussing whether to offer Mr Aitken a role on one of its Committees after he retires from the Scottish Parliament. Whether the Law Society choose to proceed with their alleged offer in the light of Mr Aitken’s resignation, remains to be seen.

 

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