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PURGE LAW: ‘Reform minded’ Legal complaints chief ousted for Law Society insider as solicitors regulatory body retakes control of ‘independent’ Scottish Legal Complaints Commission

Law Society’s Neil Stevenson retakes complaints quango for lawyers.THE LEGAL profession’s definition of ‘independence’ took a full turn yesterday as the ‘independent’ Scottish Legal Complaints Commission (SLCC) and the Law Society of Scotland announced long time Law Society insider Neil Stevenson is to be the SLCC’s latest Chief Executive, replacing former Foreign Office careerist Matthew Vickers who took on the role in June 2012.

Stevenson’s appointment to the tarnished position as head of the pro-lawyer anti-client SLCC – created in 2008 and at a staggering cost since to Scots clients of over £20 million in complaints levies paid by solicitors and recovered via legal fees to clients – comes after widely reported evidence showing the SLCC has failed to live up to expectations of dealing with rising numbers of rogue solicitors who rip off their clients.

And, the Law Society’s decision to retake control of the ‘independent’ SLCC by placing one of their own in charge also comes after a challenging year for self regulation of the legal profession – left reeling from the effects of the damaging BBC Scotland investigation “Lawyers Behaving Badly” –  which blew the mask off lawyers investigating their own and legal aid fraud.

For the past fifteen months since the BBC programme aired in January 2014,  the Law Society have demanded significant changes at the SLCC after concluding the hapless complaints quango – staffed mostly by former Law Society insiders – failed to stand up for lawyers during the BBC Scotland investigation.

And, earlier this year, further friction between the two legal regulators emerged when the SLCC criticised a rigged poll organised and funded by the Law Society which claimed solicitors are ‘well liked’.

Articles on the client satisfaction poll – published in some media outlets were written by the Law Society’s own president Alistair Morris in which the Law Society President extolled the virtues of lawyers, backed up with dodgy statistics.

However the full extent of how the poll had been rigged –  featured in an investigation by DOI reported here: OWNED POLL: Law Society ‘scripted’ survey criticised by Scottish Legal Complaints Commission – new data reveals few clients of dodgy lawyers ask legal regulators for help

Another twist to the friction between the SLCC & Law Society emerged after it was revealed a series of communications between the SLCC and law reformers brought about a tipping point forcing Law Society bosses to act.

The communications – which fell into the hands of the Law Society – ‘in real time’ – appear to have helped the decision to force out the then SLCC CEO – Matt Vickers – who stood down out of the blue earlier this year to pursue a career at Ombudsman Services, reported here: GONE MEDIATIN’: Pro-lawyer legal regulator loses another CEO as Matthew Vickers leaves Scottish Legal Complaints Commission for Ombudsman Services role

The replacement of an outsider with a Law Society insider as head of the SLCC have led to further suggestions the anti-consumer quango can do nothing without a say so from the Law Society.

In an announcement the SLCC said yesterday: The Scottish Legal Complaints Commission, the independent body for complaints against solicitors, advocates and other legal practitioners in Scotland, has announced the appointment of Neil Stevenson as its new Chief Executive Officer.

Neil Stevenson has been with the Law Society of Scotland since 2004.  He is currently the Society’s Director of Representation and Professional Support.  He will be joining the Commission in mid-July.

As the new CEO Neil’s priorities will be to drive the full implementation of the SLCC’s strategy – to provide an excellent complaint resolution service for legal complaints in Scotland, to provide guidance on service standards to the profession and consumers and to raise the confidence in the legal profession in Scotland.

Bill Brackenridge, Chair of the SLCC welcomed the appointment. He said : “I am delighted to welcome such an accomplished professional to the Commission; he will inspire our staff to deliver their challenging role and move the Commission to a higher level.

Neil Stevenson, the new CEO said “I have thoroughly enjoyed my time with the Law Society and am grateful to have all the opportunities and challenges afforded to me.  I am looking forward to joining the SLCC and working with the staff to deliver some very challenging objectives.”

The Society’s chief executive, Lorna Jack commented: “I am delighted for Neil and congratulate him on his appointment. As someone who understands the legal profession and with his passion, good judgment and positive attitude, I know Neil is going to make an outstanding contribution as SLCC chief executive.”

Jack continued: “Whilst I am sorry to lose Neil from the Law Society, we will benefit from his hard work for many years to come. In his time as director of representation, he has helped to transform the range of services and support we offer the profession. He has championed our innovative new Smartcard project, ensured we remain a leader on equality and diversity, and has helped develop our new long term strategy. All of us at the Law Society are grateful for everything he has done.

“I am now looking forward to working with Neil in his new role. The relationship between the Law Society and the SLCC has improved greatly over the last few years. Given the specific roles we play in the regulation of solicitors, this has been important, particularly for the public who depend on both of our organisations to work together to protect their interests.”

The current biography of Neil Stevenson on the Law Society of Scotland’s website says: “Neil joined the education team of the Society in 2004, having previously worked on medical and dental training for NHS Education for Scotland. He holds an Edinburgh law degree and a masters in management, and has previous experience in the oil and gas sector and management research. Neil is responsible for the confidential helpline service provided by the solicitors in professional practice and for the provision of CPD to the profession through Update. The professional support team focuses on ensuring the Society listens to and learns from its members, campaigns on their behalf, and provides support services to individuals and firms. He is a director of both the independent charity LawCare and the Scottish Arbitration Centre.”

Stevenson’s directorship of “Law Care” – a charity set up by the legal profession to help and defend solicitors who have been found out for ripping off their clients – will be of interest to clients who end up in the unenviable position of having to approach the SLCC to make a complaint about their solicitor. The charity has filed numerous reports with the pro-lawyer SLCC & Law Society Complaints Committees – pleading for corrupt solicitors to be let off the hook on everything from embezzlement to faking up paperwork.

Stevenson’s directorship of the Scottish Arbitration Centre may also put him in conflict of interest with SLCC policy of forcing complainants into the murky world of arbitration – where clients who are ripped off for large sums of cash by their solicitor end up with only a pittance in return. The Scottish Arbitration Centre – started by the Scottish Government and backed by lawyers, is a sponge for taxpayers cash and international trips by lawyers & former judges who are trying to promote Scotland’s tarnished legal sector as a haven for international mediation.

REVOLVING DOOR OF LEGAL REGULATOR CHIEF EXECUTIVES:

The post of the SLCC’s Chief Executive has seen considerable controversy since the legal quango was created in 2008. Now, eight years on and five Chief Executives later, the SLCC is looking for another boss to steer it through troubled waters and continuing accusations of pro-lawyer bias.

mkmc slcc openingMacAskill as Justice Secretary backed secret payoff for ‘too ill to work’ former Chief Executive. The SLCC’s first ‘appointed’ Chief Executive – Eileen Masterman – held the role for less than a year, negotiated a secret, substantial payoff backed personally by the Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill, and resigned from her role at the SLCC on grounds of “ill health”. Eileen Masterman then returned to work for her former employer – the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman (SPSO) as a “complaints reviewer”, and was accused of whitewashing the circumstances of the death of a baby at the NHS Forth Valley Hospital – reported by Diary of Injustice & the Sunday Mail newspaper here : Deputy First Minister to look into death of baby McKenzie Wallace after parents complain of ‘whitewash’ report by SPSO investigator Eileen Masterman

The SLCC’s first Chief Executive – civil servant Richard Smith – resigned from the role after disagreements about how the SLCC would act as a regulator. Mr Smith was then replaced by another civil servant before Mrs Masterman was eventually appointed as the first ‘official’ CEO.

Concluding a turbulent few months which saw exchanges of letters between current Deputy First Minister John Swinney and Masterman over claims and counter-claims about the Master Policy – reported here: SLCC’s Eileen Masterman resigns, questions remain on attempt to mislead Cabinet Finance Chief John Swinney over secret meetings with insurers Marsh’ Masterman stood down from the SLCC – which by that time had suffered significant reputational damage.

After a speedy recruitment round, Rosemary Agnew then became the SLCC’s fourth Chief Executive, reported here: The £80K job no-one wants : Lawyers lobby seek FIFTH time unlucky Chief Executive for Scottish Legal Complaints Commission role. However Ms Agnew later resigned to take up the post of Scottish Information Commissioner in early 2012.

The SLCC’s current and now outgoing CEO Matthew Vickers took on the role in June 2012, reported here: “Customer Service” main focus for Ex-Foreign Office Consul taking over as FIFTH Chief Exec at ‘anti-consumer’ Scottish Legal Complaints Commission.

 

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GONE MEDIATIN’: Pro-lawyer legal regulator loses another CEO as Matthew Vickers leaves Scottish Legal Complaints Commission for Ombudsman Services role

Matthew Vickers, CEO of law regulator resigns for mediation post. TROUBLED regulator of solicitors – the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission (SLCC) has announced the resignation of yet another Chief Executive – Matthew Vickers – who steps down in March 2015 for a post in the world of big business mediation.

Mr Vickers, who took on the CEO role at the SLCC during summer of 2012 after the ‘independent’ regulator had lost several bosses over a four year span – is leaving to take up the post of Deputy Chief Ombudsman at Ombudsman Services – a not-for-profit organisation which provides independent dispute resolution for the communication, energy and property sectors.

Commenting on the resignation SLCC chair, Bill Brackenridge said: “We are grateful to Matt for his leadership and contribution since he joined the SLCC as CEO in June 2012. He and the management and staff have worked hard to make the SLCC a more efficient, effective and influential organisation. We are now well established as an independent and impartial body. Of course, we recognise that there is a great deal of work to be done and we have started our search to find a CEO who will help us to tackle it.”

The overly pro-lawyer, anti-consumer SLCC – frequently accused of bias towards solicitors over poor handling client complaints has cost clients a staggering £18 million since it was created in 2008 with an extra £2million of taxpayers money handed over by the Scottish Government.

The cost of running the SLCC is  met by a complaints levy of around £300 a year, paid by solicitors who then go on to recover the levy through hikes in legal fees to clients.

In the eight years since the SLCC has existed, not one rogue solicitor or law firm has been named & shamed by the poorly constituted regulator – once touted as the key to cleaning up the poor and often corrupt reputation of legal services in Scotland.

Over the years, the regulator has been subject to numerous scandals, ranging from board members drunken jibes against victims of rogue lawyers, to accusations it failed to use powers to monitor damages claims made in the courts by financially ruined clients against the Law Society’s Master Insurance Policy.

A report commissioned by the SLCC on the Master Policy revealed clients were not getting a fair deal from the Law Society’s ‘crooked lawyer’ compensation scheme, and that clients had committed suicide after not being able to repair the damage to their lives caused by their solicitors. However nothing has been done by the SLCC on this matter since the report came out in 2009, reported here: Suicides, illness, broken families and ruined clients reveal true cost of Law Society’s Master Policy which ‘allows solicitors to sleep at night’

The SLCC’s latest annual report for 2013-2014 claimed the regulator had awarded a record £365K in compensation to clients who filed complaints about rogue Scots lawyers.

However an analysis of the figures revealed the SLCC only used its powers to nullify fees to clients on two occasions in the past year, raising questions as to why the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission continues to solicitors found guilty of providing poor legal services to demand fees from clients even after ruining their legal interests.

REVOLVING DOOR OF LEGAL REGULATOR CHIEFS:

The post of the SLCC’s Chief Executive has seen considerable controversy since the legal quango was created in 2008. Now, eight years on and five Chief Executives later, the SLCC is looking for another boss to steer it through troubled waters and continuing accusations of pro-lawyer bias.

mkmc slcc openingMacAskill as Justice Secretary backed huge secret payoff for ‘too ill to work’ former Chief Executive. The SLCC’s first ‘appointed’ Chief Executive – Eileen Masterman – held the role for less than a year, negotiated a secret, substantial payoff backed personally by the Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill, and resigned from her role at the SLCC on grounds of “ill health”. Eileen Masterman then returned to work for her former employer – the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman (SPSO) as a “complaints reviewer”, and was accused of whitewashing the circumstances of the death of a baby at the NHS Forth Valley Hospital – reported by Diary of Injustice & the Sunday Mail newspaper here : Deputy First Minister to look into death of baby McKenzie Wallace after parents complain of ‘whitewash’ report by SPSO investigator Eileen Masterman

The SLCC’s first Chief Executive – civil servant Richard Smith – resigned from the role after disagreements about how the SLCC would act as a regulator. Mr Smith was then replaced by another civil servant before Mrs Masterman was eventually appointed as the first ‘official’ CEO.

Concluding a turbulent few months which saw exchanges of letters between current Deputy First Minister John Swinney and Masterman over claims and counter-claims about the Master Policy – reported here: SLCC’s Eileen Masterman resigns, questions remain on attempt to mislead Cabinet Finance Chief John Swinney over secret meetings with insurers Marsh’ Masterman stood down from the SLCC – which by that time had suffered significant reputational damage.

After a speedy recruitment round, Rosemary Agnew then became the SLCC’s fourth Chief Executive, reported here: The £80K job no-one wants : Lawyers lobby seek FIFTH time unlucky Chief Executive for Scottish Legal Complaints Commission role. However Ms Agnew later resigned to take up the post of Scottish Information Commissioner in early 2012.

The SLCC’s current and now outgoing CEO Matthew Vickers took on the role in June 2012, reported here: “Customer Service” main focus for Ex-Foreign Office Consul taking over as FIFTH Chief Exec at ‘anti-consumer’ Scottish Legal Complaints Commission.

 

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CALLED TO THE BARS : Drink fuelled & ‘hate filled’ emails of MacAskill appointees ruined credibility of Scottish Legal Complaints Commission claim Govt insiders

SLCCAlready wounded over refusals to investigate complaints against corrupt lawyers, the SLCC became “a laughing stock” in email revelations. A DRINK FUELLED hate-filled rant between a now former Board member of the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission (SLCC) who was personally appointed by Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill, and a former Chief Executive who mysteriously resigned over ill health then turned up again at the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman has been identified by Scottish Government insiders as the spark which left the SLCC with no credibility as an impartial regulator or of Scottish solicitors.

The bizarre rants, attacking campaign groups and clients making financial damages claims against dodgy Scottish lawyers were written by Glasgow based divorce lawyer Margaret Scanlan OBE, then a Board member of the SLCC in 2008, to Eileen Masterman, the legal regulator’s third and most controversial Chief Executive who spent only a few months in the job before being accused of lying by Scotland’s Finance Secretary, John Swinney MSP, reported by Diary of Injustice here : Scottish Govt. Finance Chief John Swinney blasts Legal Complaints Commission as liars over secret meetings with Law Society insurers Marsh UK

In the bitter email exchanges, revealed after Freedom of Information requests were made by Diary of Injustice, Mrs Scanlan went on to single out a former complaints campaign group for special attention, demanding the SLCC give no recognition to such groups in a forthcoming investigation into the Law Society of Scotland’s Master Insurance Policy & Guarantee Fund, both of which have been roundly condemned as being “institutionally corrupt” by Consumer rights groups, submissions made to Scottish Parliament investigations and hundreds of clients who have ended up financially ruined as a result of involvement with the Scottish legal profession.

Mrs Scanlan also branded claimants to the notoriously corrupt Master Insurance Policy as “chancers”, yet a ground breaking investigation carried out by the University of Manchester’s law school later that same year in July 2009, linked the Law Society’s Master Policy with suicides of clients of solicitors who were involved in damages claims against the Master Policy compensation scheme after being financially ruined by their lawyers.

0011Margaret Scanlan was ‘on the razzle again’ while clients of ‘crooked lawyers’ burned. Yesterday, the Sunday Mail newspaper featured email correspondence obtained under Freedom of Information laws in which SLCC board member Margaret Scanlan, a solicitor with Russells Gibson McCaffrey in Glasgow, confessed to the Commission she was suffering from the effects of a hangover after being “’out on the razzle again last night”. Stunningly Scanlan in her emails then went on to tear apart consumers hopes the SLCC would fulfil its intended monitoring role of the ‘crooked lawyer compensation schemes, operated by the Law Society of Scotland, known as the Guarantee Fund & Master Insurance Policy which are designed to (but do not) protect consumers funds from crooked lawyers who steal money or mishandling client’s legal affairs.

Margaret Scanlan : “Was out on the razzle, again, last night so bit cross-eyed this morning. Please excuse any consequent gibberish. Here are my comments on Master Policy and Guarantee Fund…. The consultation should be viewed with some caution. It provides very little by way of a sound evidential basis for us to do anything…. One unidentified responded … reports complaints about difficulty in finding solicitors to pursue a claim under MP (Master Policy). Apart from fundamental misunderstandings about MP which is for benefit of practitioner and in respect of which consumer has no rights ..”

0012Margaret Scanlan condemns claimants against crooked lawyers as “chancers”. However, further emails from Margaret Scanlan have now emerged which depict the same Law Society style ‘anti-consumer-anti-claims culture’ operating at the supposedly independent Legal Complaints Commission, where Scanlan stunningly labels claimants to the Guarantee Fund as “chancers” indicating she may have personal knowledge of cases, despite the fact that claims to the Guarantee Fund are supposedly confidential.

Margaret Scanlan : “The only complaints I am aware of on the functioning and extent of the GF [Guarantee Fund] have come from corporate bodies eg lending Institutions whose claims have largely not been entertained on basis that is not what GF is for. This includes our friend **** (censored) whose cause is vigorously espoused by **** (censored) but is a complete chancer in my opinion.”

Today, a senior source in the Scottish Government’s Justice Department claimed the revelations which ended up in the media, “revealed the regulator’s institutional contempt for members of the public who make complaints against crooked lawyers”. The source also went on to criticise the Justice Secretary himself for allowing the legal profession to dictate terms on a daily basis as to how the supposedly “independent” SLCC investigate complaints made by clients of poorly performing Scottish solicitors.

However, the anti-client culture at the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission did not end with just one board member, a fact revealed in continuing investigations by Diary of Injustice after sources within the SLCC leaked details of bitter meetings where consumers, campaign groups, individuals and clients of well known corrupt lawyers were openly slated and derided by the highly remunerated Board members who were taking hundreds of pounds a day in expenses claims.

Further revelations revealing the strongly anti-client, anti- consumer views of the SLCC’s board emerged again in 2010 after Scotland’s then Information Commissioner, Kevin Dunion, ordered the release of further bitter email exchanges showing David Smith, husband of Court of Session Judge Lady Smith, who regularly branded victims of crooked lawyers as “frequent flyers” in emails the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission fought to keep the public from reading. Diary of Injustice reported on Mr Dunion’s decision and the scandal surrounding Mr Smith’s treatment of victims of rogue lawyers in an article here : FOI Chief Dunion orders Scottish Legal Complaints Commission to release board member’s anti-client jibes, Master Policy study details

Frequent Flyers SLCCSLCC’s David Smith expressed anti-client jibes in emails around the anti-consumer law complaints quango. Among the papers ordered to be disclosed in a decision published late last week by Mr Dunion are emails containing anti-client jibes from one of the SLCC’s board members, David Smith who was personally appointed to the SLCC by Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill. Mr Smith, a lawyer who served much of his career at law firm Shepherd & Wedderburn, who themselves often act for the Master Policy in protection of questionable solicitors against negligence claims, referred to participants in the Master Policy survey & deceased clients who had committed suicide as a direct result of involvement with the Master Policy, as “Frequent flyers”, a term (among many unprintable) apparently widely used among SLCC Board members & staff against anyone who submits complaints against solicitors.

A Justice Department insider condemned the use of such language, describing the words used in the email written by Smith as “being filled with hate for people who complain about their lawyers”. He further commented : “No wonder the SLCC fought against the Information Commissioner to keep it from public gaze as this depicts a very anti-client culture permeating the entire board of the SLCC.”

David Smith, Margaret Scanlan and Eileen Masterman are of course no longer at the SLCC, yet attempts to re-float the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission since the media revelations of how badly it views members of the public have consistently failed, with most people forced to deal with the prejudiced regulator ending up viewing the SLCC as little more than “a front company for the legal profession to put complaints against their members to bed”.

Eileen Masterman resigned from the SLCC, receiving a huge payoff personally backed by Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill, reported exclusively by Diary of Injustice here : HUSH & MONEY : Former SLCC law complaints Chief Executive Eileen Masterman received secret Scottish Government approved payoff in deal with lawyers. After allegedly being too ill to work, Ms Masterman went back to work for the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman, her new position exposed after allegations of a whitewash by the SPSO and a hospital over the death of a baby, reported here Deputy First Minister to look into death of baby McKenzie Wallace after parents complain of ‘whitewash’ report by SPSO investigator Eileen Masterman

The Sunday Mail newspaper reported on the anti-consumer views of the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission as follows

Margaret Scanlan - Called to the Bars - Sunday Mail  15 March 2009 emailCalled to the Bars : Top lawyer admits talking gibberish at work due to hangover

Mar 15 2009 By David Taylor

A TOP legal watchdog admitted to her boss she was talking gibberish – because of a hangover. Lawyer Margaret Scanlan made the confession in a email which described herself as “cross-eyed” after a night on the tiles.

Scanlan was appointed to her job in the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission by anti-booze crusader Kenny MacAskill. She wrote: “Was out on the razzle, again, last night so bit cross-eyed this morning. Please excuse any consequent gibberish.”

Divorce lawyer Scanlan sent the lengthy email at 11.30am one day in November last year to watchdog chief Eileen Masterman. It was also copied to Alan Paterson, a law professor at Strathclyde University.

Campaigner Peter Cherbi, who champions legal and consumer issues, said: “This is not the sort of service the people of Scotland deserve. “It’s not very good conduct for people who are supposed to be in some of the most respectable positions in the legal profession.”

Scanlan was hand picked by Justice Secretary MacAskill as one of five lawyers to serve on the SLCC – a “one-stop shop” for complaints against lawyers. MacAskill plans to enforce mimimum prices for drink to combat alcoholism and drink-related problems.

The SLCC was set up by the Scottish Government to “modernise the legal complaints” system and ensure gripes are resolved quickly and effectively. It was formed after complaints that self-regulation by the Law Society of Scotland often protected crooked lawyers through cronyism.

Scanlan’s email – about an insurance policy to cover solicitors’ mistakes and misuse of clients’ cash – was released to legal reform campaigners through a Freedom of Information request. The request also released emails from Scanlan attacking outspoken legal reform group Scotland Against Crooked Lawyers.

In one email, she wrote: “I would prefer that we not give any recognition to SACL. “I do not see why we have to name them even if we are bound to engage with them. “Their website is offensive and so far as I am aware no reputable organisations has anything to do with them”

Scanlan is a specialist in family law at Glasgow-based Russells Gibson McCaffrey.

She has also tutored in family law at Glasgow Caledonian University and was deputy chair of the Scottish Legal Aid Board between 1997 and 2007. She was also director of the Legal Defence Union between 1998 and 2002. She earns £350 a day plus expenses for her work with the SLCC.

When asked about the emails, Scanlan told us: “I have nothing to say.”

 

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NHS DEATH COVER UP : Deputy First Minister to look into death of baby McKenzie Wallace after parents complain of ‘whitewash’ report by SPSO investigator Eileen Masterman

Death of baby McKenzie Wallace montageHealth Minister to look into NHS failures in case of death of baby in NHS Forth Valley hospital & SPSO report whitewash. SCOTLAND’S DEPUTY FIRST MINISTER Nicola Sturgeon has said she will look into the case of the death of little baby McKenzie Wallace at an NHS Forth Valley hospital after an exclusive report in the Sunday Mail newspaper revealed the baby’s grieving parents have fought a long & difficult battle to get answers over why little McKenzie died. The report in the Sunday Mail also revealed NHS Forth Valley FAILED to pick up on a rare heart defect in the couple’s baby which should have been detected during a 20 week scan but was missed after the scan, conducted by a trainee under the supervision of an experienced midwife was not properly interpreted. However, a senior consultant obstetrician who later studied the ultrasound pictures from the Stirlingshire hospital found a heart problem was visible and had been missed by both the midwife & the trainee.

On receipt of a further report into the tragedy, the family have accused the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman (SPSO) ‘Complaints Reviewer’, Eileen Masterman of producing a ‘whitewash’ report in the SPSO’s investigation of their complaints against NHS Forth Valley regarding the deadly failures in the provision of medical services which ultimately led to the death of McKenzie Wallace just five days after she was born.

While the death of baby McKenzie has been a terrible toll in itself for the family to bear, the nightmare continued when their complaints to NHS Forth Valley over the events which led to the death of their child were mishandled, leading to the family using Freedom of Information legislation to uncover more facts not disclosed by NHS Forth Valley during their investigations and ultimately, making a complaint to the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman who used an unnamed ‘expert’ to exonerate the hospital’s role in the death of the child.

The files accumulated by the family in their complaint to NHS Forth Valley can be read here : Complaint to NHS Forth Valley – Death of Baby McKenzie Wallace The responses received from NHS Forth Valley can be viewed here : NHS Forth Valley FOI – Death of Baby McKenzie Wallace and the report by the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman into the way the hospital handled the case, can be viewed here : SPSO Report – Death of Baby McKenzie Wallace

m2Former SLCC Chief Executive Eileen Masterman wrote SPSO report which exonerated negligent medical staff at NHS Forth Valley. In what may come as a surprise to many, the author of the SPSO report now branded a whitewash is none other than Eileen Masterman, former Chief Executive of the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission (SLCC), who took a six month sick leave from the SLCC and then employed teams of lawyers to negotiate a massive SECRET PAYOFF so large & subject to such a complex agreement, the secret deal was required to be signed off personally by Scotland’s Justice Secretary, Kenny MacAskill. Legal insiders commenting on the case said today they were shocked to see Eileen Masterman show up again at the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman so soon after resigning under a cloud from the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission, with an official explanation of “ill health”.

mkmc slcc openingFOI investigations by Diary of Injustice revealed Justice Secretary MacAskill personally signed off secret unpublished payment to Eileen Masterman. One Scottish Government insider who now claims he “did not agree with the terms of the settlement as put to Mr MacAskill” said the Justice Secretary was out on a limb over his involvement in the secret payoff to Masterman. The insider called for all details of the negotiations involving Ms Masterman, the SLCC & the Scottish Government along with the amount of the secret payoff to be made public.

The Scottish Government insider said : “Clearly there is a public confidence issue here were someone can resign from the highly controversial and underperforming Scottish Legal Complaints Commission claiming ill health and then go back to work at the highly questionable Scottish Public Services Ombudsman who have similar public confidence issues. There must be full transparency here otherwise there can be no confidence in the SPSO.”

One senior solicitor who does not wish to be named has already claimed the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission had been told during the “bitter negotiations” that “Eileen Masterman’s health was so bad that she may never work again”. It has also been alleged that involvement from Cabinet Secretary for Finance John Swinney, who accused Ms Masterman of lying over secret meetings she took part in with convicted US insurers Marsh who handle the Law Society of Scotland’s notoriously corrupt Master Policy protection for negligent solicitors also ‘contributed to Ms Masterman’s alleged ill health’, an issue reported earlier by Diary of Injustice here : SLCC’s Eileen Masterman resigns, questions remain on attempt to mislead Cabinet Finance Chief John Swinney over secret meetings with insurers Marsh

However it appears after only a few months of leaving the SLCC, Eileen Ms Masterman was re-employed by Jim Martin, the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman, whose organisation was savaged last year by Scottish Government Minister Alex Neil during his testimony to the Scottish Parliament’s Petitions Committee, which Diary of Injustice reported along with video footage of Minister Neil’s testimony, here : Holyrood considers nine petitions against Scottish Public Services Ombudsman as Housing Minister dubbed ‘out of touch’ over accusations

The Sunday Mail newspaper spoke to the parents about their views of Ms Masterman’s report on the death of their baby. The Sunday Mail reported : “The couple have also criticised a report issued last month by Eileen Masterman, of the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman. She rejected the view of the Forth Valley doctor. Instead, she agreed with an unnamed expert who said there was no need for a second scan due to the limited nature of what could be seen. She said: “The advice indicated that, even if the scan had been done again, it would have been likely the results would have been the same.”

Andrew said: “I have no faith in Masterman. The SPSO have refused to say who the expert is or hand over their report. “McKenzie’s death cannot be for nothing. Some sort of lesson has to be learnt.”

spso-logoSPSO refused to issue any comment on Eileen Masterman’s report. The Scottish Public Services Ombudsman was asked for media comment on Ms Masterman’s position at the SPSO and to explain how she was able to return to work so soon. One of it’s Press Officers said : “I am sorry but we are unable to comment on the employment status of individuals. This would be unfair to those individuals and in breach of data protection.” Later, the SPSO angrily REFUSED to disclose any material in response to Freedom of Information requests regarding Ms Masterman’s apparent speedy return to work at the SPSO, with SPSO officials blocking all further attempts to secure disclosures via Freedom of Information legislation.

Nicola SturgeonScottish Deputy First Minister & Health Secretary Nicola Sturgeon MSP. Deputy First Minister & Scotland’s Health Secretary, Nicola Sturgeon was asked by Diary of Injustice for a comment on the tragic events and the SPSO’s handling of baby McKenzie’s parents complaints against NHS Forth Valley. Questions put by Diary of Injustice journalists to Ms Sturgeon, which were accompanied by papers relating to the case asked : “Has the Health Minister any comment on how the complaint involving the death of the baby has been handled, the fact this family have received little support in spite of what appears to be a cover up by NHS Forth Valley, and why can one individual who travels between regulators show up again in an old post to carry on her work after claiming she could never work again.”

A spokesperson for the Scottish Government replied to the questions put to the Health Secretary, stating : “The circumstances surrounding this event are extremely tragic, and our thoughts are with the parents. Where recommendations are made in an Ombudsman’s report, we expect NHS Boards to fully implement all necessary steps to ensure that similar circumstances do not recur.”

The spokesperson continued : “The SPSO is an organisation independent of the Scottish Government and as such appoints its own personnel. The circumstances surrounding any appointment of any individual is a matter for the SPSO.”

The parents of baby McKenzie have since received a letter from the Scottish Government replying on behalf of Scottish Health Secretary Nicola Sturgeon. Andrew & Joanne have now been told Ms Sturgeon has agreed to look at the papers relating to the circumstances of baby McKenzie’s death, and how Andrew & Joanne were treated by NHS Forth Valley & the SPSO. Ms Sturgeon also offered her condolences in the letter to Andrew & Joanne over baby McKenzie’s death. The parents of baby McKenzie have also asked for a meeting with Ms Sturgeon over the case.

Clearly, the tragic case of the death of little baby McKenzie Wallace, just five days into her live is yet another clear demonstration of medical negligence in the NHS and the cover ups which kick in to prevent any justice for the bereaved family. The family deserve answers and the life of a child cannot be lost in an SPSO report or a promise of “lessons will be learned” which are, as we are all now sadly too aware, never learned.

The Sunday Mail reports :

Grieving parents say medics missed tragic toddler's heart problem Sunday Mail March 25 2012Grieving parents say medics missed tragic toddler’s heart problem

Mar 25 2012 Exclusive by Russell Findlay

HEARTBROKEN parents yesterday told how they fear a midwife missed their baby daughter’s fatal heart condition because she was in the huff. McKenzie Wallace died just five days after being born because of a heart defect linked to rare genetic disorder Ivemark syndrome.

But mum Joanne Weir, 27, and dad Andrew Wallace, 31, say the condition would have been picked up at a 20-week scan if the midwife had not been annoyed that they asked the sex of their baby. The scan was conducted by a trainee sonographer at Forth Valley Royal Hospital in Larbert and was supervised by an ­experienced midwife, who did not flag up any problems.

But a senior consultant obstetrician who studied the ultrasound pictures from the Stirlingshire hospital found a heart problem was visible. He also stated that “he would have suggested a repeat scan or asked for a second opinion”. As a result, the midwife who supervised the trainee was ordered to undergo further training. The couple said that a consultant at Yorkhill Hospital, Glasgow, agreed the heart defect – known as right atrial isomerism – should have been spotted.

Joanne, who is due to give birth again in 10 weeks at Edinburgh Royal, said: “It should have been glaringly obvious and was ‘too big to miss’, according to McKenzie’s consultant at Yorkhill.”

Fuel tanker driver Andrew, who lost a brother and an uncle to the genetic condition, said: “A trainee carried out the scan but the supervisor was so busy moaning at us for daring to ask if we were to buy blue or pink that she was obviously distracted.“Apparently it’s all right, though, because she has now been for training – but this should not have happened.

“We had to make the decision not to attempt to treat McKenzie as all options were horrific and had life-extending probabilities of less than a few months. Had we known she had this condition, we may have considered ­termination early in pregnancy as it was incredibly unfair to put McKenzie through that.”

The couple, from Bo’ness, Stirlingshire, also said that another midwife ignored their concern about McKenzie’s blue appearance when she was born at Stirling Royal Infirmary. During Joanne’s labour, a sewage pipe became blocked below the maternity ward, which caused chaos. Andrew said: “They were distracted. They should have listened to what I was saying about McKenzie turning blue.”

It took 24 hours before they admitted any problem and the baby was immediately sent to the Royal Hospital for Sick Children at Yorkhill. From there, McKenzie was sent to the Rachel House Hospice in Kinross, where she died in her parents’ arms on February 18 last year.

The couple have also criticised a report issued last month by Eileen Masterman, of the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman. She rejected the view of the Forth Valley doctor. Instead, she agreed with an unnamed expert who said there was no need for a second scan due to the limited nature of what could be seen. She said: “The advice indicated that, even if the scan had been done again, it would have been likely the results would have been the same.”

Andrew said: “I have no faith in Masterman. The SPSO have refused to say who the expert is or hand over their report. “McKenzie’s death cannot be for nothing. Some sort of lesson has to be learnt.”

The NHS said: “We carried out an internal review and could find no evidence of errors in the clinical care provided by staff.”

 

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The £80K job no-one wants : Lawyers lobby seek FIFTH time unlucky Chief Executive for Scottish Legal Complaints Commission role

Fifth Chief Executive sought for lawyer complaints quango mess. CONTINUITY appears to be a bad word at the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission (SLCC), who are now faced with conducting a recruitment process to find a FIFTH replacement for the role of SLCC Chief Executive, after losing its FOURTH CEO, Rosemary Agnew to the post of Scottish Information Commissioner. The job of SLCC Chief Executive, which no one seems to want, or can stand for more than a year, attracts a salary of around EIGHTY THOUSAND POUNDS A YEAR plus expenses, hospitality, and other perks from the law complaints quango which has so far cost clients of solicitors and taxpayers a stunning FOURTEEN MILLION POUNDS plus since 2008 yet has apparently not seen one single crooked lawyer prosecuted or struck off as a result of SLCC investigations into consumer complaints against the legal profession.

Continuing the lack of continuation in the role of SLCC Chief Executive, Mrs Agnew has occupied the SLCC’s Chief Executive job for a little more than a year after taking on the ill fated position from the SLCC’s first Chief Executive, Eileen Masterman, who resigned on ill health grounds, coincidentally also after being able to stand little more than a year in the job based at the Stamp Office in Edinburgh.

Reports of difficulties during Ms Masterman’s time as Chief Executive of the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission saw a string of controversial decisions involving the Law Society of Scotland’s Master Insurance Policy, secret meetings with insurers Royal Sun Alliance & Marsh, who were convicted of illegal activities in the United States.

John SwinneyCabinet Finance Chief John Swinney revealed he felt Ms Masterman had mislead him over accounts of meetings. It later emerged the Scottish Government’s Finance Chief, John Swinney personally intervened on behalf of a constituent over the murky goings on at the SLCC and accused Ms Masterman of being less than honest in correspondence. It is thought this spat between Masterman and Mr Swinney eventually led to the first Chief Executive’s demise over ‘ill health’. Diary of Injustice reported more on Ms Masterman’s resignation in an earlier article here : SLCC’s Eileen Masterman resigns, questions remain on attempt to mislead Cabinet Finance Chief John Swinney over secret meetings with insurers Marsh

While Ms Masterman may have resigned on ill health grounds, she was quick to engage lawyers to negotiate a large figure payoff from the SLCC, a payoff which was personally signed off by Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill and has never been disclosed to either the public or legal profession who fund the SLCC. The saga was reported by Scottish Law Reporter in an earlier article HUSH & MONEY : Former SLCC law complaints Chief Executive Eileen Masterman received secret Scottish Government approved payoff in deal with lawyers

Prior to Eileen Masterman’s appointment as CEO in 2008, Richard Smith, who was appointed by the Scottish Government as the interim’ Chief Executive in the formation year of the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission, resigned in early 2008 after only a few months in the job. Mr Smith, a a consultant in the Scottish government’s justice directorate, was officially reported to have stood down to focus on other projects. However legal insiders have since informed Diary of Injustice the resignation was as a result of views expressed that the SLCC was not going to live up to expectations promised by the Scottish Parliament.

Mr Smith was the replaced by John Murphy, another Scottish Government consultant who took over the role until Eileen Masterman was eventually appointed as Chief Executive later in 2008. As reported by Diary of Injustice, Ms Masterman resigned over ill health grounds, even though questions remain over her actions while in the role, and Mrs Agnew, the latest Chief Executive has ditched her post to be the new Scottish Information Commissioner

Jane Irvine, the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission’s Chair issued the following statement seeking a new recruit for the post of Chief Executive : On behalf of The Scottish Legal Complaints Commission (SLCC) I want to thank you for your interest in becoming our new Chief Executive. As an organisation we have been operational since 1 October 2008 with our main functions as follows:

  • Handling all complaints about members of the Law Society of Scotland and the Faculty of Advocates
  • Overseeing the Law Society of Scotland and Faculty of Advocates conduct and insurance arrangements
  • Dealing with complaints about cases that have been through conduct systems
The establishment of the SLCC represented a change in the way complaints against the legal profession were handled by introducing a novel form of funding for a public body in Scotland. We focus on the early resolution of disputes and encourage improvement whilst remaining independent, accessible and impartial.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank our departing Chief Executive, Rosemary Agnew, who has established a core team which is working well with established governance and financial polices, allowing operational matters to run smoothly. From this sound platform we are searching for a CEO who will lead us into the next phase of evolution for SLCC.

We are looking for a leader who can inspire the operational team as well as influence change. Naturally, our new CEO should continue to drive operational efficiency upwards internally as well as influencing externally to help improve service standards within the legal profession. We are looking for someone with the appropriate level of gravitas to work in partnership with key stakeholders and develop the way the SLCC evolves over the next 5 years.

The Chief Executive will be responsible for enhancing operational efficiency by reducing the time we take to deal with cases and the costs, ensuring that we are 100% user focussed. We already have a LEAN review underway and this will form a bridge into this new phase. A new CEO will also have to start to use the evidence we hold about practise trends and complaint handling to encourage higher service standards within the Scottish legal professions.

As well as the typical leadership qualities, the SLCC requires a CEO who is familiar with using evidence gathered to ensure policy within the professional bodies matches the best in regulatory practice. The successful candidate will need to be capable of negotiating with a very broad range of stakeholders from small interest groups to the Scottish Parliament. Naturally, you will have the credibility to influence and persuade as well as the capability to resolve complicated arguments, often formulated by emotive parties and / or historic practices. In return the CEO will work with an excellent small team and enjoy the support of an active Board while fronting an intellectually stimulating role meeting the demands of both the public and private sectors.

Those interested in filling the shoes of Eileen Masterman, or Rosemary Agnew can find send their up to date CV and covering letter/supporting statement to Munro Consulting who are handing the recruitment : Amy Dalgleish by e-mail to amy.dalgleish@munroconsulting.com or by post to Munro Consulting Ltd, Monteith House, 11 George Square, Glasgow, G2 1DY quoting reference G640.

  • Job Description
  • Person Specification
  • Application’s Close – Monday 12th March 2012
  • Longlist interviews – Thursday 5th April 2012
  • Meeting to select shortlist candidates – Wednesday 11th April 2012
  • Shortlist interviews – Monday 16th April 2012
It should be noted that while the SLCC, Law Society of Scotland & Faculty of Advocates are keen to stress it is their member solicitors & advocates who stump up the £2.8 MILLION a year to pay for the SLCC’s budget, expenses claims & operating costs, the cold fact is that clients & consumers are being made to pay the complaints levies, via large hikes in legal fees or spurious additions of large sums to client’s legal bills for non existent or “forgotten work”. Taxpayers have also had a significant input into the SLCC, which has received around TWO MILLION POUNDS of taxpayers money since 2008 in the guise of “start up costs” despite the huge public sector cuts being forced through by Governments in London & Edinburgh. More on this year’s SLCC budget & complaints levy can be read here : Lawyers told to pay £338 for continuing ‘old pals act regulation’ as Scottish Legal Complaints Commission calls for 60% complaints levy rise

Some cases recently brought to the attention of Diary of Injustice where clients have been or are being pursued for unexplained or non existent legal work, have seen figures of tens of thousands of pounds demanded from clients for fees which law firms had supposedly “forgot to charge for”. Any consumer in a fee dispute with their solicitor where such a situation has arisen would be well advised to publicise their plight by contacting Diary of Injustice via scottishlawreporters@gmail.com

 

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