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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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HACKED BY THE LAW : Hacking in UK public life reveals sleazy relationships & deals between professions, vested interests, business, lawyers & crooked cops who trade YOUR information

Consumers HackedDealt with a rogue lawyer, the Law Society or Master Policy ? You have been hacked. Oh yes you have. HACKING IN PUBLIC LIFE in the UK is much more commonly practised and goes far wider than one rashly closed down newspaper, as anyone who has become a figure of public interest, a celebrity, a politician, a critic of industry or vested interests, a campaigner of any kind, and yes, anyone who has made some kind of court claim against big business, the professions or even public services should know. I even know journalists who have been hacked, because they were investigating some kind of scandal which vested interests, some political, some commercial, and some public, did not want their names, companies or organisations dragged through the media in entirely justifiable headlines exposing scandal upon scandal.

Hacking, or as former Prime Minister Gordon Brown referred to earlier this week as “Law breaking on an industrial scale” as he spoke in Parliament about rather unnecessary news reports relating to his son’s medical condition, is most definitely not limited to certain sections of the media. Even if we don’t particularly want to admit it, I think most of us and accept that hacking in UK public life and all that illegal information sharing by professions, vested interests, big business and even public servants, exists, happens with alarming frequency, involves substantial amounts of money and personal gain for those involved, and is completely out of control. In short, it wasn’t just the News of the World now, was it.

The area of journalism I cover, is of course, the justice system and all its ills. Believe me, there are many and I don’t need to go far to find examples.

SLCC Master Policy report 2011However, after my article on 3 July 2011 in which I wrote : SUICIDES, ill health, death, family break-ups, personal threats, repossessed homes, unsolved burglaries, tampered mail, spurious Police visits or raids on your home with following arrests & charges withdrawn, benefits cheat investigations, Inland Revenue investigations, losing your job, DVLA inquiries, TV license inquiries, even RIPSA surveillance by local authorities, actions all apparently instigated by aggrieved lawyers out to discredit troublesome clients, are now known to form a catalogue of common experiences in varying combinations which keep cropping up with clients who attempt to pursue ‘rogue Scottish solicitors’ through the courts by claiming against the Law Society of Scotland controlled Master Policy, the Professional Indemnity Insurance scheme which protects solicitors from damages claims from clients for negligence and other rip-offs”, little did I realise my coverage would bring some individuals out of the woodwork who are now admitting to practising the ‘dark arts’ against disgruntled clients of Scotland’s less than honest legal profession.

Was I surprised. Well, no. However I was surprised at the number of contacts from clients caught in the loop of hiring yet another lawyer to repair the damage a previous lawyer had done to their case, or those clients now trying to pursue their former lawyers through the courts.

Strangely enough, all of these individuals now caught in the system appear to have suffered a string of multiple problems in their life which were not present before they had become involved with the legal system, and had clearly suffered some kind of information sharing exercise between professions & in some cases even the Police who had turned against them on all counts.

In short, the Scottish justice system had clearly turned from an allegedly well respected system of dispute resolution, to that of a finely tuned, well oiled weapon used against anyone who disagreed with it or sought to recover from damages inflicted by it.

After careful consideration of material presented to Diary of Injustice, material which portrays an oh-so-obvious favour-&-trade-for-information policy involving agents working for the Law Society of Scotland’s Master Policy, I wrote a further article on 11 July 2011, reporting admissions from a legal insider that Private Investigators were routinely used to hack the details of clients who were pursuing negligence claims against their crooked lawyers, claims which involve the Law Society of Scotland’s Master Policy, an insurance protection scheme for the legal profession which is brokered by a UK subsidiary (Marsh UK) of a US company called Marsh McLennan Companies (MMC) who were found guilty of bid rigging in the US.

One firm of Private Investigators admitted to working for law firms connected to the Master Policy after being challenged with information. Since I wrote the article on Monday of this week, another firm has also acknowledged its part in monitoring and seeking, on behalf of law firms who in some cases have links to the Scottish Government, details of clients private lives.

Even better, a now retired Private Investigator who has gone on to confirm much of what has been said this week and provide further insight into highly questionable surveillance on clients and even some of the legal profession’s critics, has informed Diary of Injustice that law firms who represent the Master Policy “are now engaged in an effort to find out who talked”.

One particular incident is certainly much more clearer to me after this week.

I am now in a much better position to understand why, for instance, Board members of the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission (SLCC) felt they were able, with impunity to brand claimants to the Master Policy & Guarantee Fund as “chancers” and “frequent flyers”.

Simply, it was all down to the level of information on those individuals these particular SLCC Board members had access to, although how & why that information was compiled, what ‘questionable methods & relationships’ were used to compile it, and who was involved in compiling it, is, anyone’s guess for now, as is whether there is even one shred of truth to the information which was generated, and perhaps in some instances, fabricated by the legal profession itself.

However one thing can be clear. This particular information obtained on clients which allowed some people at the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission to feel good enough to hurl a few insults at those attempting to recover financial losses incurred by their solicitors, certainly did not come willingly from any client.

Any organisations, particularly a statutory regulator which benefits in any way from such acts of spying on clients denied justice, or whose who are caught up in trying to prove an injustice, acts clearly many of which are illegal, is not a fit or proper organisation to represent the public interest in legal matters, or protect clients interests in dealings with the legal profession.

Similarly, an insurance company which has already been convicted of bid rigging in the United States and has, in conjunction with the most senior officials of a statutory regulator, coordinated a series of acts against consumers to prevent them getting to court to settle negligence claims against crooked lawyers, or crooked anyone for that, is not a fit or proper organisation to offer insurance policies which are held up by equally crooked regulators as client protection schemes, which are nothing of the sort.

So this takes us back to one now very clear fact. If you have dealt with the legal profession on the basis you have tried to take legal action against a solicitor, or if you have raised what could be classified as serious or controversial complaints against members of the legal profession, particularly high profile members of the legal profession, you, like many others caught in the same position you have never met in your life, may well have been hacked. Hacked to an unimaginable degree. If anyone wants to do something about it, you know where I am.

Readers may also wish to note the fine article in today’s Guardian by Heather Brooke, which goes far in explaining some of the information sharing cartels existing in UK public life, here : Phone hacking: let’s break up this information cartel

And finally … to the scandal which catapulted hacking in public life into the media headlines, the story of the News of the World, which met its untimely end because, as Rupert Murdoch said today in his apology printed in several newspapers, “The News of the World was in the business of holding others to account. It failed when it came to itself.”

Need I remind you all, the same relationships between former journalists and corrupt Police Officers which ultimately brought down the News of the World, still exist in the same quantities, perhaps even more so, in many walks of life, in big business, in public services, and in the legal profession and indeed right at the very top of its regulatory bodies.

Do you ever think the legal profession and its regulators will ever apologise for, and attempt to put right the wrongs they have committed against members of the public. No they wont. Never.

This is exactly why we need newspapers & journalists with integrity, bloggers, campaigners and victims of injustice who can turn the tables on those in power, do the investigative work which needs to be done, and hold the vested interests, the crooked professions, big business, crooked politicians, the justice system, and those in public life who put on a double face, to account.

 

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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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