RSS

Tag Archives: ICAS

Law Society SCDEA ‘info sharing deal’ on mob lawyers wont affect 99% of Scotland’s crooked solicitors who rip-off, steal millions from clients each year

Scdea_logoSCDEA signs ‘info sharing’ agreement with Law Society over crooked lawyers involved only in crime gangs. AFTER MANY YEARS of chasing ‘crooked lawyers’ linked to Scotland’s criminal underworld apparently without gaining one single conviction, the Scottish Crime & Drug Enforcement Agency (SCDEA) has signed an ‘information sharing’ agreement with the Law Society of Scotland which allegedly grants the Police access to information on lawyers otherwise not shared by the Law Society such as breaches of professional rules, standards or criminal activity. The deal is two-way, with the Law Society expecting Police to inform the notoriously corrupt regulator of information relating to information they gather on rogue lawyers.

However, while Police will supposedly get an “in” to the murky world of Law Society investigations into their own members, the remainder of solicitors clients, both corporate and the ordinary consumer or man on the street, will not be provided with any information on how crooked their lawyer really is or who among the criminal fraternity they are associated with.

If for instance, it turns out an unassuming High Street solicitor or accountant in, say Edinburgh, or even better still, the sleepy Scottish Borders, has been quietly laundering cash & property for Scottish crime & drug lords or even a former-gang-member-turned-informer-now-back-into-crime, other clients of this particular solicitor or accountant will not be told of their lawyer’s dealings & profiteering from the legal underworld. Hardly seems fair now, does it.

A copy of the Law Society-SCDEA information sharing deal can be downloaded at an external link, here : Information Sharing Protocol between Law Society of Scotland & Scottish Crime & Drug Enforcement Agency (pdf) and it is worth noting the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission (SLCC),who are now supposed to be the single gateway for complaints about the legal profession in Scotland, is not covered in the agreement.

Philip YellandShare thee not : Law Society of Scotland’s Regulation Chief Philip Yelland not one to share info on colleagues. Since at least 2009, the SCDEA has been issuing annual reports alleging it’s officers are investigating at least 291 “professionals” employed by Scotland’s crime gangs to organise their highly profitable criminal empires. These “professionals”, who are known to receive large amounts of money for their advice & work, apparently include lawyers, accountants, property agents and surveillance experts, all furthering the ends of crime. However no recorded prosecutions have appeared in the SCDEA’s annual announcements and this year’s latest take on the story, published in June, revealed the SCDEA had been chasing crooked lawyers attached to Scottish mobsters for at least two years, apparently without any success, because the Law Society of Scotland’s regulation department, under the command of Philip Yelland and the notoriously crooked Institute of Chartered Accountants for Scotland (ICAS) were “still investigating” the cases.

In a report published in the Herald newspaper on Monday 6 June, the SCDEA’s director general, Deputy Chief Constable Gordon Meldrum, is reported to have claimed 12 of the specialists “taken out” were key players acting as lynchpins for the top 20% of Scotland’s 360 organised crime groups.

The Herald went onto report “Mr Meldrum is unable to name any of the 12, because of ongoing proceedings against them involving the Crown Office, the Law Society of Scotland and the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Scotland.”

Since the June announcement by the SCDEA, which I reported on here : Two years later, Police Chief refuses to name crooked lawyers & accountants in SCDEA ‘swoop’ because Law Society & ICAS ‘are still investigating’, several insiders have told Diary of Injustice the Law Society & ICAS delays “were making a fool out of attempts to bring their members linked to organised crime, to justice”.

NO CASE TO ANSWER Sunday Mail 17 July 2011CRIME IS OK FOR SOME : Police & Crown Office refused to charge legal aid thief lawyers plundering millions from taxpayers. It has also emerged that while the Law Society of Scotland and the Scottish Crime & Drug Enforcement Agency are today eager for a bit of publicity, other elements of the legal profession linked back to the Law Society, such as the Legal Defence Union, have been ACTIVELY INTERVENING in criminal cases against solicitors and brokering deals with the Scottish Legal Board & Crown Office, deals which allowed up to FOURTEEN crooked lawyers to escape prosecution for LEGAL AID FRAUD, which I revealed in an earlier article published here : FOURTEEN lawyers accused of multi-million pound legal aid fraud escape justice as Scotland’s Crown Office fail to prosecute all cases in 5 years

The fact FOURTEEN crooked lawyers were not prosecuted for stealing MILLIONS OF POUNDS of taxpayers money after the Crown Office REFUSED to prosecute any of them, claiming there was insufficient evidence in each case, makes a mockery of the criminal justice system, the Police, regulation of the legal profession, and attempts to protect public money from fraudsters in the legal establishment.

It is worth noting not one single Police Chief or Scottish Government Minister has criticised any of the Crown Office FOURTEEN REFUSALS to prosecute legal aid fraudster lawyers.

Commenting in the agreement between the SCDEA and the Law Society, Deputy Chief Constable Gordon Meldrum, Director General of the SCDEA said in a Press Release published by the Law Society of Scotland : “We know that serious organised crime groups use the services of specialists, including lawyers, to support their criminal enterprises. Their role is crucial to the ongoing operation of criminal enterprises by providing the means necessary to launder money, acquire property and make other financial investments. Without this expert advice, crime groups would find it very difficult to operate.”

Mr Meldrum continued : “The vast majority of professionals are law abiding citizens, but there are a small number of unscrupulous lawyers, as well as professionals in other sectors, who are operating on behalf of organised crime. Some professionals may find themselves drawn into the criminal underworld through lack of awareness, or they may be subject to threats and blackmail by criminals. Their involvement can lead to reputational damage, loss of employment, a criminal record and even a custodial sentence.That’s why our new collaborative agreement with the Law Society of Scotland is so important. We need to know more about who is involved and the nature of their involvement so that we can take steps to disrupt criminal activity.”

Cameron Ritchie, president of the Law Society of Scotland, speaking on the smoke & mirrors agreement with the SCDEA for public consumption, said: “This is an important step for both organisations in ensuring the sharing of relevant information which will assist in the detection and disruption of organised crime in Scotland. It is absolutely vital for maintaining public trust and the reputation of the profession that we take the necessary action to ensure that our members adhere to the high regulatory and ethical standards expected of all Scottish solicitors.”

Law Society of ScotlandMore crooked lawyers than ever, yet Mr Ritchie trumpets the usual spin, claiming the Law Society operates a ‘robust regulatory regime’ Mr Ritchie continued : “We have a robust regulatory regime, including financial compliance systems, and know that the vast majority of our members are completely honest in their business practices and work very hard on behalf of legitimate clients. However those who are unscrupulous, those who are coerced into criminal activity or those who inadvertently serve organised crime, need to be identified and dealt with appropriately. “This initiative will further strengthen our financial compliance regime and we welcome the information sharing protocol as a deterrent to those involved in serious organised crime who would seek to use solicitors, or other professionals, to facilitate their activities.”

However, all eight of Scotland’s Police forces do not appear to want to work together with the public when it comes to clients reporting their solicitor or accountant to the Police for theft, embezzlement or fraud in a growing number of instances where clients are usually given the cold shoulder by Police even when large sums of money or even property are reported stolen by their solicitors or accountants. In fact, in some cases, the Police have been positively hostile, and even threatening against members of the public who report corruption in the legal world.

In a rising, and perhaps ‘profitable’ (as an ongoing investigation appears to be revealing) trend for some Police Officers, it appears members of the Scottish legal profession are using the Police and even serving Sheriffs as a private army to threaten clients or creditors with grievances, as Scottish Law Reporter recently covered, here : Serving Sheriff’s law firm drafted in to defend Desmond Cheyne QC over French home work dispute, allegations builders ‘were threatened’ by Police

Neither the SCDEA or Law Society of Scotland are compliant with Freedom of Information legislation therefore the public will have to rely on less than believable media announcements from both organisations on how well this information scheme fares.

While the agreement between the Law Society & SCDEA is good for a few announcements, and perhaps Ministerial bragging rights at functions & evening dinners, the vast majority of ‘crooked lawyers’ who generate thousands of complaints from clients every year in Scotland will not be affected, nor will clients of crooked Scottish lawyers have any right to be informed of exactly what their lawyers are up to behind closed doors.

Just try reporting your crooked lawyer to your local Police and see how far you get. Nowhere, very fast, with the chance the solicitor will call in a favour and have the Police target you instead.

Advertisements
 

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Scottish Government plan to regulate non-lawyer ‘will writers’ may see Law Society regulate all complaints against mishandled wills, legal business in Scotland

Fergus EwingCommunity Safety Minister Fergus Ewing announces regulation for non-lawyer will writers. FERGUS EWING, the Scottish Government’s Community Safety Minister standing in for the Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill announced the latest round of amendments to the Legal Services (Scotland) Bill which include the regulation of non-lawyer will writers in Scotland, some of whom have been targeting people with the same sharp practices so often employed by solicitors & law firms who, as the complaints statistics reflect, still represent the greatest threat to deceased clients wills & executry estates.

However, there is a deadly twist in the plans announced by the Scottish Government, which may well end up ensuring any non-lawyer will writing services and indeed any new entrants to Scotland’s legal services market, are regulated by the Law Society of Scotland, as no other regulatory bodies have indicated they intend apply to Scottish Ministers to be ‘approved regulators’ for the expanded legal services market which the Legal Services (Scotland) Bill is designed to reform, aiming to bringing wider access to justice for Scots consumers of legal services, many of which are currently available through solicitor members of the Law Society of Scotland.

Law Society of Scotland & ICASAccountants regulator ICAS had intended to apply as an ‘approved regulator’ although the Law Society are now viewed as the ‘favoured applicant’ by Scottish Ministers. Initially the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Scotland (ICAS) had announced they were considering making a bid to become an ‘approved’ regulator in the reformed legal services market, however ICAS have not updated their position on the issue, and with the dithering, anti-client Scottish Legal Complaints Commission also undecided about whether it will apply to the Scottish Government as an ‘approved regulator’ of legal services, the only contender for regulating any new entrants to Scotland’s currently solicitor only legal services sector is the Law Society itself, leaving the possibility the infamous solicitor’s self regulator may well use its dominant position to force out new entrants to the legal services market it may see as competition to its own solicitor members.

As I am in favour of regulating non-lawyer will writers, I have no huge problems with the Scottish Government’s proposals, however the fact nothing has been done to protect the public from the Law Society of Scotland’s poor regulation of solicitors & law firms who in many cases, deliberately mishandle a deceased client’s estate simply to ramp up their own firm’s profits & personal finance deals with some of the major High Street banks on the back of assets of deceased clients, means there is still effectively no protection for Scots consumers when it comes to wills & executries.

Allowing the Law Society to regulate the entire wills & executries sector where the Law Society has already proved it cannot regulate its own member’s conduct on handling wills & the assets of deceased clients, will not improve consumer protection nor help reduce the huge amount of will fraud in Scotland, whether such frauds are committed by lawyers, or non-lawyers.

Law Society of ScotlandLaw Society of Scotland covers up too many complaints against wills & executry estates to protect rogue lawyers. It all comes down to poor regulation, and with estimates of solicitors siphoning off tens of millions of pounds a year from wills & executry estates in Scotland, and getting away with it because the Law Society continually whitewashes complaints made by families, beneficiaries and sometimes even charities, then until a fully independent regulator is created to ensure complaints against all legal services, including particularly wills & executries, the mere window dressing for one part of the industry, while leaving the lion’s share of will handling to the even worse regulated legal profession, will do nothing to protect members of the public and their bequests to families & friends etc …

The Scottish Government’s proposals, announced earlier this week by Community Safety Minister Fergus Ewing are as follows : Legal Services Bill to regulate non-lawyer will writers with the actual amendments lodged at the Scottish Parliament : Amendments to Legal Services Bill : non-lawyer will writers (pdf)

ScottishGovernmentScottish Government announcement on non-lawyer will writer regulation. The proposed amendment to the Legal Services (Scotland) Bill follows a consultation process, and would apply a set of regulatory rules, enforcement measures and sanctions to ensure non-lawyer will writers conform to acceptable industry practice. It will bring to an end an era where consumers have been vulnerable to non-regulated practices which are often unnecessarily expensive (the same couldn’t happen in a solicitor’s office, of course …)

One example of this was when an elderly client was charged £1,000 for a straightforward will in a non inheritance tax estate. That client was driven to her bank by the will writer to withdraw the money in cash to pay the fee. In another case, consumers wanting a will have been sold specialised services they do not require. In some cases they are being persuaded to pay up to £2,400 when a simple will costing £150 would suffice. (similar stories have been told where solicitors have done the same to their clients …)

Fergus EwingCommunity Safety Minister Fergus Ewing said: “That is why we intend to regulate non-lawyer will writers. Yesterday, I lodged amendments to the Legal Services (Scotland) Bill to provide for such regulation. A number of persons and organisations have made representations to us about non-lawyer will writers, providing examples of poor practice. These include lack of skill and competence; “cold calling”; and advice based on English law. We are very concerned that some non-lawyer will writers may be exploiting the lack of regulation to the detriment of the consumer in Scotland.”

“The regulation will continue to allow non-lawyers to provide a will writing service, but will protect consumers by ensuring that such will writers are subject to robust regulatory rules, enforcement measures and sanctions. However, we will not regulate individuals preparing their own will, with or without a DIY pack, including “deathbed” wills, or other persons providing a free advice service.”

The Scottish Government consultation on the regulation of non-lawyer will writers took place between December 18, 2009 and February 19, 2010. The consultation paper sought views on the possible regulation of non-lawyer will writers in Scotland. The Legal Services (Scotland) Bill (“the Bill”), which was introduced in the Scottish Parliament on September 30, 2009, provides a legislative vehicle to provide for regulation of non-lawyer will writer services in Scotland. Following representations made to it, the Scottish Government is concerned that some non-lawyer will writers may be exploiting the lack of regulation to the detriment of the consumer in Scotland.

As well as individual instances of poor practice, it is possible to identify some main themes, including the following:

* Lack of skill and competence * Poor knowledge of inheritance tax * Advice based on English law * Low advertised costs translating into substantial fees through bait and switch and tying in of other services * Cold calling and unsolicited mail * Lack of professional indemnity insurance * Poor storage of wills

The consultation responses indicated that there is almost overwhelming support for regulation of non-lawyer will writers amongst the respondents. Indeed, 45 out of the 48 respondents are in favour of such regulation. As to the method of regulation, the vast majority of respondents are in favour of using the same model as outlined in Part 3 of the Bill. The regulation will continue to allow non-lawyers to provide a will writing service, but, at the same time, will protect consumers, by providing a set of regulatory rules, enforcement measures and sanctions that would apply to such non-lawyers. It is not the aim to regulate individuals preparing their own will, with or without a DIY pack, including “deathbed” wills, or other persons providing a free advice service.

Michael ClancyMichael Clancy, the Law Society’s Director of ‘Law Reform’. Michael Clancy of the Law Society unsurprisingly supported the Scottish Government’s plans to regulate non-lawyer will writers, as the plans had come about from orders representations made by the Law Society of Scotland to Scottish Ministers, where the society clearly wishes to retain it’s regulatory role & power over all entrants to Scotland’s legal services market. Mr Clancy said : “We’re very pleased that the Scottish Government has taken on board the representations made by the Society and others about the regulation of will writers. We firmly believe that non-lawyer will writers who provide a service for a fee should be regulated to ensure that members of the public are protected and can be sure that they are getting good advice at a reasonable cost.”

Since members of the public are currently not protected from solicitors mishandling wills, nor are clients getting good advice from solicitors at reasonable costs, how would allowing the Law Society to regulate non-lawyers improve consumer protection ? The answer is clearly it wouldn’t, but it would of course, maintain the Law Society’s power base and hold over the Scottish legal services market, which the Law Society is clearly intent on holding onto, at whatever cost.

As far as the individual instances of poor practice listed by the Scottish Government in their press release are concerned, most or all of the instances quoted in reference to non-lawyer will writers also apply to the services of a solicitor, which begs the question why the Scottish Government are content for the Law Society of Scotland to poorly regulate thousands of complaints about solicitors mishandling wills & estates, while introducing new regulation to oversee non-lawyer will writers.

Lack of skill & competence – which many solicitors seem to suffer from when they are found out after robbing a deceased’s estate of a few hundred thousand pounds for their own personal benefit. Indeed, lack of skill & competence is one of the favourite excuses for the Law Society of Scotland to cover such cases up, with a slap on the wrist for the solicitor concerned, and off he goes to work once again to ruin someone else’s will .. and again, and again, and again …

Poor knowledge of inheritance tax – again, another rampant issue in the legal profession, and speaking from experience in the case of Borders solicitor Andrew Penman, of Stormonth Darling solicitors Kelso, who ignored up to eleven letters from the Inland Revenue on inheritance tax, prompting the Inland Revenue to contact me directly, well … what more needs to be said ?

Low advertised costs translating into substantial fees through bait and switch and tying in of other services –The same happens in a solicitors office when it comes to dealing with a will. Just watch how quickly huge overdraft accounts are opened on a deceased’s client’s estate with the solicitor’s bank, gaining the solicitor cheap personal finance deals using the deceased’s client’s assets as cover in what is one of the most common ‘scams’ known in executry work.

Lack of Professional Indemnity Insurance – which solicitors do have, in terms of the Master Insurance Policy, run by the US owned insurers Marsh, who pled guilty to fraud & bid rigging criminal charges in the USA along with Royal Sun Alliance on behalf of the Law Society of Scotland. However, the Master Policy hardly ever pays out, and if victims of solicitor will fraud try and make a claim against either the Master Policy for negligence, or the equally corrupt “Guarantee Fund” compensation scheme run by the Law Society, sheer hell is unleashed, making sure claims fail on a routine basis.

It should also be noted I reported earlier on the personal cost of trying to claim against solicitors Professional Indemnity Insurance which revealed Suicides, illness, broken families and ruined clients reveal true cost of Law Society’s Master Policy which ‘allows solicitors to sleep at night’

Poor storage of wills – indeed, I could write about hundreds of solicitors who are or have been the subject of complaints to the Law Society where original wills have went missing, to be replaced with doctored versions giving intricate & costly duties to the solicitor never intended by the deceased client, and in some bizarre cases, even leaving legacies to the solicitors themselves.

I have reported in earlier articles on the difficulties & dangers of allowing a solicitor to handle wills & executry work, particularly focussing on one of the primary dangers of making a solicitor an executor of a will – something I would not recommend anyone ever try as such a decision will lead to many problems for those left behind to deal with. You can read my earlier report on this topic here : Consumer warning on wills : Don’t make your lawyer your executor as soaring cases of ‘will fraud’ show Law Society closes ranks on complaints

Reprinted from my earlier report are a few examples of solicitors defrauding wills & executry estates, which it appears the Scottish Government are still content to allow by leaving regulation of lawyers in the hands of lawyers, and thus denying the Scots public the total consumer protection of fully independent regulation of legal services in Scotland.

You decide who should be protected from whom after reading these examples :

Example 1

will photo  stockSolicitor ripped off dead client & family, paid huge interest to his own Bank. An elderly man recently deceased had left his home, possessions & sizeable investments to his wife & family in what he obviously thought was a simple straight forward will, making the mistake of appointing his solicitor as his executor. The first thing the solicitor did was open up three overdraft accounts with a local High Street bank which coincidentally, the solicitor also deals with on a business & personal basis. Over the three years the solicitor took to process his deceased client’s estate, the High Street Bank received a staggering £27,000 in interest alone on the overdraft accounts, despite there being no debts on the deceased’s estate. Documents also now reveal the solicitor negotiated some cheap personal finance from the same High Street bank to purchase a second home.

The widow of the deceased, upon being told the investments in the will had been cut in value by three quarters, made a complaint to the Law Society of Scotland after discovering through careful investigation her late husband’s investments had been changed around by the solicitor at his own discretion rather than being realised and handed over to the family as per the instructions contained in the will. Now the Law Society have backed the solicitor against the family, despite a £250,000 loss being incurred in the late husband’s investments, together with the loss of title deeds to the home in which the widow still lives, while it seems the solicitor has experienced a remarkable increase in his own personal wealth, along with 3 recent top of the range cars.

Example 2

will photo  stockSolicitor & accountant ripped off client’s charitable donations via her will. The result of the charitable intentions of a deceased elderly nurse who bequeathed her substantial entire savings including her house, in total valued at over £2 million to charitable causes, has so far resulted in not one of her wishes being respected by the solicitor and a long time friend, an accountant, she made executors of her will.

Charities who were named in the initial will have, after two years, yet to receive a penny, while again, a local High Street Bank has received over £18,000 in interest on several overdraft accounts opened by the solicitor allegedly to pay debts on the estate which never existed. Meanwhile the solicitor has also bought himself a second house, as has the deceased’s’ long time friend’ the accountant, and the charities who were due to receive sums of money are now questioning whether they will receive anything, given a recent letter to one charity from the solicitor suggesting “there was little left in the estate to cover the charitable bequests” – this despite the fact the nurse had no debts whatsoever, and owned her own home.

The paralegal who brought this case to the attention of Law Society of Scotland has been sacked from solicitor’s law firm, and since there is no one to independently monitor how the solicitor and accountant, both acting as executor, have so fraudulently mishandled the estate of their client (and victim) nothing will probably be done against those who have so obviously plundered the estate of their dead client. Even the charities themselves are apparently reluctant to make a complaint to the Law Society of Scotland, possibly because a fleet of solicitors wives and family relatives sit on one of the charities concerned.

Example 3

will photo  stockSolicitor stole 400k from will, no action by Law Society. A solicitor named as executor in an estate of an elderly unmarried man who had no surviving family, dying three years ago, tore up the original will of his client, and replaced it with one he had created to cover up the fact that a whopping £400,000 has disappeared from his deceased client’s bank accounts.

The will, which left a substantial bequest to a care home managed by the deceased’s local authority, has also seen the usual huge payments of interest fees to a local High Street Bank, in one case alone of £14,000 of pure interest, the same bank handling the solicitor’s law firm accounts.

The local authority had questioned when the bequest was to be made over to them, after being told by the solicitor there was little left to pay out his client’s wishes. The Law Society are supposedly still looking into the case, with as yet no action against the solicitor concerned.

Example 4

will photo  stockSolicitor acting as executor stole over £30,000 from children’s trust. A deceased soldier who appointed his lawyer as executor, leaving everything to his wife & children, has unwittingly placed his family in the position of having to endure sickening refusals by the legal profession to do anything to recover over £30,000 of investments which were placed in a trust by the deceased client, for his children. The solicitor, acting as executor, cashed in the trust and used it to pay off gambling debts which everyone including the Law Society is now trying cover up.

If the Scottish Government are keen to protect members of the public and their wills, taking self regulation away from the legal profession, who appear to be causing most of the damage against people’s wills should be a primary objective of the Legal Services Bill …

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Consumers will have little protection from accountants working in Scottish legal services market as ICAS promotes more closed shop self regulation

ICAS LOGO 2Institute of Chartered Accountants of Scotland gave evidence on Legal Services Bill. TUESDAY of this week saw officials from the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Scotland appearing before the Scottish Parliament’s Justice Committee to make pleas for Scottish accountants to become more involved in the expanded legal services market, promised by the Scottish Government’s Legal Services Bill, currently receiving a rocky ride from MSPs.

In response to opening questions from Justice Committee Convener Bill Aitken on how ICAS’s regulated non-member model, which the notoriously closed shop accountants regulator claims could be applied to the legal profession at a cost that would be lower than that of the current proposals by the Scottish Government & Law Society of Scotland, ICAS Executive Director of Regulation & Compliance Vivienne Muir laughably claimed her institute‘s approach to regulation had worked well for the accountancy profession, but as we all know, has not worked very well for clients of accountants.

Vivienne Muir said : “ICAS operates a fairly comprehensive regulatory approach for its members. Our chartered accountant firms comprise non-members as well as chartered accountants. In order to bring those non-members into the regulatory structure, they can become regulated non-members—there are contractual arrangements under which non-members come to the regulatory fore.”

“The advantage is that when we go out to a firm we can monitor the whole firm, as opposed to looking just at our members. We are therefore bringing non-members into the regulatory framework. It is a simple way of doing things and means that we can go out and assess the firm for quality and competence. The method has worked well for the accountancy profession.”

ICAS goes to Holyrood but fails to impress on accountants legal services roles :

You can find out more about the Legal Services Bill HERE and the full written report of the 5th January 2010 meeting is here : Legal Services Bill 5th January 2010 Official Report

In reality, the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Scotland have as much a closed shop, protective, ‘crooked’ self regulatory set up as the Law Society of Scotland, and are well known to protect their own members from complaints even when accountants have carried out criminal acts. Among little known facts regarding ICAS is that senior Law Society of Scotland members sit on its governing body, something I’ve covered in an earlier article worth reading here : Fears over corrupt self regulation as accountants regulator draft in ex Law Society President and solicitor as Public Interest members

More of my previous articles on the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Scotland can be read here : Institute of Chartered Accountants of Scotland – not a trustworthy regulator or role model by any means and if you don’t want your legal services to be ‘Norman Howitted’ I’d suggest you read THIS and make sure your accountant is as far away from your legal affairs as possible.

It is evident the ICAS role model for regulation, as presented to the Scottish Parliament, works no better than the Law Society of Scotland’s closed shop routine for complaints against solicitors, demonstrating yet again that only fully independent regulation will serve the interests of Scotland’s consumers when it comes to a reformed legal services marketplace.

However since the Legal Services Bill as it currently stands has no provision for fully independent regulation of legal services in Scotland (principally because the professions don’t want it, and actually fear it), we as consumers cant expect much to change in terms of the public’s access to justice, instead rather this bill now appears to be more about the professions’ increased access to money and the continued right to control who in Scotland has access to justice and who does not.

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

Consumer warning on wills : Don’t make your lawyer your executor as soaring cases of ‘will fraud’ show Law Society closes ranks on complaints

Will fraud bkIf you made your lawyer an executor in your will, think again. Anyone who has written a will, making their lawyer an executor, either in a sole or joint position with another, are being urged to take immediate action to change their choice of executors after leaked complaints details revealed a huge rise in serious fraud committed by solicitors and other professionals against dead clients affairs they are charged with managing.

Law Society of ScotlandLaw Society of Scotland ‘regularly whitewashed complaints against solicitors acting as executors’. Figures revealed on fraud against wills reveal the Law Society of Scotland, the governing body of all Scottish solicitors, has blocked or dismissed up to 80% of complaints made against lawyers who have seriously mishandled the estates of their dead clients, and in many cases committed serious fraud with large sums of money simply going unaccounted for and families losing out on rightful inheritances from their loved ones.

The remaining 20% of complaints made against ‘crooked lawyers’ who have plundered the affairs of their one trusting, now deceased clients, usually end up in ‘slap on the wrist’ punishments with small fines or a weak reprimand, with the offending solicitor allowed to continue working, and only in the highest profile cases, do solicitors find themselves facing criminal charges, due to a policy of reluctance by the Crown Office to pursue members of the legal profession who actively, and it seems routinely commit crime.

A spokeswoman for one of Scotland’s consumer organisations today recommended that if a member of the public has written a will and appointed their solicitor or accountant as their executor, they should immediately reconsider their choice, preferably appointing someone closer to them by way of a relative, setting out clearly a set of instructions and a timeline by which an executor should handle the duties set out in writing in the will.

She said : “Given we are seeing an ever rising tide of fraud committed by professionals such as solicitors & accountants who are openly abusing their position as trusted executors of dead client’s estates, I would recommend that people take immediate steps to re-write their will, naming others more trustworthy as their executors.”

She continued : “Instead of appointing a lawyer you think you can trust as your executor, appoint someone closer to you such as a wife or another relative, ensuring there are clear written instructions on what they should do, how it should be done, exactly how much they can be paid for what they do if you feel they should be paid, and exactly how long it should take to wind up your affairs after death, passing on whatever it is you wish your family, friends, a charity etc to inherit, within a given length of time and with the minimum of fuss.”

A legal insider today backed up the timely advice on wills, saying : “I am a solicitor, and I have clients who have written their wills with my firm. However I have refused all requests to be executor on an estate, and I can tell you from my own experience dealing with other legal firms in the cases of a deceased estate, there is no way I would ever appoint another solicitor to be my executor. It is a stupid move in today’s society.”

He continued : “Yes, it may be inevitable that a solicitor is needed to work on some aspects of a deceased’s estate, but for goodness sake, don’t put a lawyer in the driving seat of executor because that will almost always put a will in the slow lane for years to come, and cause problems far beyond any imagination.”

“To prevent problems, people should take the simple step of making someone they really trust as their executor, and giving them strict instructions and time limits on how their affairs should be handled. This is very easy to achieve, if people would only use a little common sense in making sure whoever they choose to appoint as executor is locked into a certain agreement on what they can and cannot do.”

Scotsman coverage of some of the stories relating to Andrew PenmanScotsman reported on Law Society’s protection of Andrew Penman who ruined estate. For years its been well known in the legal profession that handling a will is almost like having a license to steal because at the end of the day you know the Law Society will back solicitors up 100% against any complaints over what went wrong. Readers will be familiar with my own past on this issue, where a crooked lawyer by the name of Andrew Penman of Stormonth Darlng Solicitors, Kelso teamed up with an accountant (and executor), Norman Howitt now of Borders accountants JRW Group, to ruin my late father’s estate, details of which can be read HERE here and HERE.

Many people, especially the elderly, can be lulled into a false sense of security by an oh-so-smart solicitor, making them believe believing their lawyer is always there to help them and will of course, act honestly after the client has died and do exactly what has been asked of them as an executor. Today however, some shocking examples of fraud committed by solicitors against their deceased client’s wishes can be exposed :

Example 1

will photo stockSolicitor ripped off dead client & family, paid huge interest to his own Bank. An elderly man recently deceased had left his home, possessions & sizeable investments to his wife & family in what he obviously thought was a simple straight forward will, making the mistake of appointing his solicitor as his executor. The first thing the solicitor did was open up three overdraft accounts with a local High Street bank which coincidentally, the solicitor also deals with on a business & personal basis. Over the three years the solicitor took to process his deceased client’s estate, the High Street Bank received a staggering £27,000 in interest alone on the overdraft accounts, despite there being no debts on the deceased’s estate. Documents also now reveal the solicitor negotiated some cheap personal finance from the same High Street bank to purchase a second home.

The widow of the deceased, upon being told the investments in the will had been cut in value by three quarters, made a complaint to the Law Society of Scotland after discovering through careful investigation her late husband’s investments had been changed around by the solicitor at his own discretion rather than being realised and handed over to the family as per the instructions contained in the will. Now the Law Society have backed the solicitor against the family, despite a £250,000 loss being incurred in the late husband’s investments, together with the loss of title deeds to the home in which the widow still lives, while it seems the solicitor has experienced a remarkable increase in his own personal wealth, along with 3 recent top of the range cars.

Example 2

will photo stockSolicitor & accountant ripped off client’s charitable donations via her will. The result of the charitable intentions of a deceased elderly nurse who bequeathed her substantial entire savings including her house, in total valued at over £2 million to charitable causes, has so far resulted in not one of her wishes being respected by the solicitor and a long time friend, an accountant, she made executors of her will.

Charities who were named in the initial will have, after two years, yet to receive a penny, while again, a local High Street Bank has received over £18,000 in interest on several overdraft accounts opened by the solicitor allegedly to pay debts on the estate which never existed. Meanwhile the solicitor has also bought himself a second house, as has the deceased’s’ long time friend’ the accountant, and the charities who were due to receive sums of money are now questioning whether they will receive anything, given a recent letter to one charity from the solicitor suggesting “there was little left in the estate to cover the charitable bequests” – this despite the fact the nurse had no debts whatsoever, and owned her own home.

The paralegal who brought this case to the attention of Law Society of Scotland has been sacked from solicitor’s law firm, and since there is no one to independently monitor how the solicitor and accountant, both acting as executor, have so fraudulently mishandled the estate of their client (and victim) nothing will probably be done against those who have so obviously plundered the estate of their dead client. Even the charities themselves are apparently reluctant to make a complaint to the Law Society of Scotland, possibly because a fleet of solicitors wives and family relatives sit on one of the charities concerned.

Example 3

will photo stockSolicitor stole 400k from will, no action by Law Society. A solicitor named as executor in an estate of an elderly unmarried man who had no surviving family, dying three years ago, tore up the original will of his client, and replaced it with one he had created to cover up the fact that a whopping £400,000 has disappeared from his deceased client’s bank accounts.

The will, which left a substantial bequest to a care home managed by the deceased’s local authority, has also seen the usual huge payments of interest fees to a local High Street Bank, in one case alone of £14,000 of pure interest, the same bank handling the solicitor’s law firm accounts.

The local authority had questioned when the bequest was to be made over to them, after being told by the solicitor there was little left to pay out his client’s wishes. The Law Society are supposedly still looking into the case, with as yet no action against the solicitor concerned.

Example 4

will photo stockSolicitor acting as executor stole over £30,000 from children’s trust. A deceased soldier who appointed his lawyer as executor, leaving everything to his wife & children, has unwittingly placed his family in the position of having to endure sickening refusals by the legal profession to do anything to recover over £30,000 of investments which were placed in a trust by the deceased client, for his children. The solicitor, acting as executor, cashed in the trust and used it to pay off gambling debts which everyone including the Law Society is now trying cover up.

Even serving one’s country it seems, is no guarantee to not being ripped off after death by crooked lawyers out to line their own pockets, with the likes of the good old Law Society of Scotland and the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission sitting back and doing absolutely nothing.

Sadly, these are but a handful of cases brought to my attention recently where lawyers & accountants, mistakenly appointed as executors in wills by ever trusting clients, have ended up fleecing the funds entrusted to them, for their own personal gain. My own advice to anyone writing a will, or anyone who has written a will, is, if you have appointed a lawyer as your executor, go back and re-write your will immediately naming someone you really can trust to handle your affairs after death.

Please, also take the advice of consumer organisations to stipulate exactly how and who should respect your wishes after you die, ensuring you also place limits on, or forbid the use of overdraft accounts by solicitors which are ostensibly used by the legal profession to waste your money with High Street banks in bargaining to secure cheap personal finance for lawyers. Taking these steps and taking the time to carefully think through your final wishes will save your remaining family a lot of heartache and ensure what you want actually occurs, rather than allowing the legal profession and others to march off with what you may have wished to go to your loved ones.

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Legal establishment quango Judicial Appointments Board claims jobs for Scottish judges are controlled by lawyers ‘old boys network’

JAB logoScotland’s Judicial Appointments Board – full of old boys itself. With much fanfare yet little surprise, Scotland’s Judicial Appointments Board, the Ministerial appointed ‘quango’ which helps appoint Scotland’s judges and sheriffs, has published research which ironically claims that jobs for judges are influenced and controlled by the legal profession’s old boys network.

The research, which started after a Sunday Herald investigation found that most of Scotland’s judges have identical backgrounds (approaching clone status) found about 67% of members of Scotland’s legal profession, of whom only around 19% replied (a total of 2319 responses received), that “being in the right social network” influenced which members of the legal profession went on to become a sheriff or a judge after a few nods & winks from those already in the judiciary.

Lord HamiltonScotland’s Lord President, Lord Hamilton. Lord Hamilton, who recently stated to the Scottish Parliament he should be able to tap someone on the shoulder and make them a sheriff, commented on the research, saying : “It is of the first importance that individuals appointed to judicial office are of the highest calibre. Selection for appointment must be solely on merit but it is essential that applications should be encouraged from the widest range of persons eligible. I welcome the Board’s decision to instruct this survey and look forward to having the opportunity to examine its results.”

Lord Hamilton speaks on judicial appointments ..

richard keen qcThe Dean, Richard Keen QC. Richard Keen, the Dean of the Faculty of Advocates, who is still busy challenging the right of asbestos sufferers to claim compensation from insurance companies, commented on the JAB’s jobs for boys survey : “The Faculty of Advocates welcomes any measure to ensure a judicial process that secures the appointment of those best qualified and equipped to discharge judicial functions. It is particularly important that we have a process which provides for appointments throughout the system without regard to gender, ethnic background, marital status, sexual orientation, political affiliation, religion or disability.”

Ian SmartLaw Society of Scotland President, Ian Smart. The Law Society of Scotland were also quick to get their oar in, with a statement from Ian Smart, who said : “Following the publication of the Gill Report, we are potentially entering a completely new era in the field of judicial appointments. Against that background particularly, this is important research indicating the willingness of JABS to continuously improve and modernise the recruitment process and to encourage applications from candidates from all strands of the legal profession. It will be interesting to monitor future developments in judicial appointments as a result.”

You can download & read the research at the following links :

Volume 1: Link opens in new windowMain Report Volume 2: Link opens in new windowTabular Report Link opens in new windowComparison paper on the “Three Surveys ….. Same Answers?”, and for comparison, the Judicial Appointments Commission (for England and Wales) and the Northern Ireland Judicial Appointments Commission have undertaken similar research within their jurisdictions. For further information on their research work, please visit: JAC’s Link opens in new windowBarriers to Applications for Judicial Appointment Research” NIJAC’s Link opens in new windowResearch into Barriers and Disincentives to Judicial Office

However, the Judicial Appointments Board’s desire to get the message out on ‘jobs for the boys’ in Scotland’s courts, necessitates a closer inspection of the JAB itself ….

MacAskill tight lippedJustice Secretary Kenny MacAskill appoints JAB members on the ‘recommendation’ of Scotland’s Lord President Lord Hamilton. Unsurprisingly, while the Judicial Appointments Board’s research, carried out by an external consultancy at cost to the taxpayer claimed old boys networks controlled judicial appointments, the JAB failed to mention that some of its own members, all Ministerial appointees are themselves well known in legal circles for being part of old boys networks which have helped cover up some of the worst scandals to hit Scotland’s legal profession for decades.

Martin McAllister 2000Martin McAllister played a key part in huge Law Society claims cover up scandal which toppled Douglas Mill from his post. One fine example of old boys network appointments to the Judicial Appointments Board itself, would be that of the case of JAB member Martin McAllister, whose name featured heavily in the ‘Law Society of Scotland secret memo claims scandal’ where secret memos, sent to Mr McAllister (who was at the time President of the Law Society) by his [then] Chief Executive colleague Douglas Mill, exposed a policy of concerted and deliberate actions aimed at controlling and curtailing claims & complaints made against ‘crooked lawyers’ by members of the public.

John SwinneyCabinet Secretary John Swinney exposed Law Society claims fixing scandal involving Martin McAllister. Oddly enough, when Mr MacAskill was asked about Martin McAllister’s part in the claims fixing scandal, the Justice Secretary denied any knowledge of the matter, this despite the fact Mr MacAskill’s Cabinet colleague, the Cabinet Secretary for Finance, John Swinney, exposed McAllister & Mill’s secret memos & deliberate actions against members of the public, during recorded hearings of the Scottish Parliament’s Justice 2 Committee, where Mr Swinney’s confrontation with Douglas Mill over the memos addressed to Martin McAllister, eventually led to Mill’s downfall as Chief Executive of the Law Society of Scotland after 11 years in the job.

Cabinet Secretary John Swinney confronted Douglas Mill over claims fixing memos involving the then Law Society President Martin McAllister.

Douglas Mill Memo to Martin MacAllister 5 July 2001 - stop the MacKenzies from appearing at the Justice CommitteeMemos of a feather flock together as Mill’s secret memos to Martin McAllister proposes ways to kill off claims & complaints against crooked lawyers. You can read my earlier report on Mr McAllister’s controversial appointment to the Judicial Appointments Board, including details of those secret memos here : Justice Secretary MacAskill denies knowledge of ‘claims fixing’ memos identifying former law chief sent to Judicial Appointments and decide for yourselves how the old boys network control even appointments to quangos such as the Judicial Appointments Board who themselves, make the appointments of Scotland’s judges.

For readers interest, here are the current Judicial Appointments Board members (who appear not too short of an old boys network either by the looks of it)

Sir Muir Russell, KCB, DL, FRSE (lay Chairing Member)

Sir Muir Russell became Principal of the University of Glasgow in October 2003. He was born in 1949 and was educated at The High School of Glasgow and Glasgow University, where he took a first class honours degree in Natural Philosophy. Prior to his appointment at the University of Glasgow he was Permanent Secretary to the Scottish Executive. He was elected as a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh in 2000 and holds honorary degrees from the University of Strathclyde and the University of Glasgow. His interests include music, food, wine and occasional golf. Sir Muir was appointed to the Board in October 2008 for three years.

Ms Elspeth MacArthur (lay member)

Elspeth MacArthur’s background is in human resources and she has been Director of Human Resources at the University of Edinburgh for the past nine years. Ms MacArthur is also a member of the Board of Management at the John Wheatley College, which is committed to regeneration and combating social exclusion in the east end of Glasgow. Ms MacArthur was appointed to the Board in July 2007 for three years.

Sandy Mowat CA (lay member)

Sandy Mowat’s background is in business as a Chartered Accountant. He was senior and managing partner of Alexander Sloan, Chartered Accountants until he retired in late 2007. He now practices on his own account and holds a number of non-executive directorships and charity trustee appointments. In April 2008 Mr Mowat was appointed to the Investigation and Enforcement Committee of The Institute of Chartered Accountants of Scotland and in April 2009 was appointed Secretary and Treasurer of The Baird Trust. Mr Mowat was appointed to the Board in January 2008 for three years.

Professor Andrew Coyle CMG (lay member)

Andrew Coyle is Professor of Prison Studies in King’s college, University of London. Between 1997 and 2005 he was founding Director of the International Centre for Prison Studies in King’s College. He is a prisons adviser to several United Nations bodies and to the Council of Europe. He is a member of the Foreign Secretary’s Expert Panel against Torture and of the National Advisory Body on Offender Management. He worked for 25 years at a senior level in the prison services of the United Kingdom. While in the Scottish Prison Service he was Governor of Greenock, Peterhead and Shotts Prisons. Between 1991 and 1997 he was Governor of Brixton Prison in London. He was appointed a Companion of the Order of St Michael and St George in 2003 for his contribution to international penal reform. He is a Fellow of King’s College London. Professor Coyle was appointed to the Board in January 2009 for three years.

Rev John Miller (lay member)

John Miller was born in 1941. After university he was a youth worker at a church in Niddrie, Edinburgh. He became a minister of Castlemilk East Parish in Glasgow in 1971. He and his wife Mary were closely involved in the life of the Castlemilk housing scheme for the next 36 years. From 2001 to 2002 he was Moderator of the Church of Scotland’s General Assembly, representing the Church of Scotland at national and international level. He then returned to parish life. In 2005 the Lord Provost awarded him the Glasgow Loving Cup for his contribution to the City. On retirement in 2007 John and Mary Miller spent 18 months working in Zimbabwe. Reverend Miller was appointed to the Board in March 2009 for three years.

The Honourable Lady Smith (judicial member)

Lady Smith was appointed a Judge of the Supreme Court in 2001. She is a graduate of the University of Edinburgh. She was admitted to the Faculty of Advocates in 1980 and was Standing Junior Counsel to the Countryside Commission. Lady Smith was appointed Queen’s Counsel in 1993. She served as a Temporary Sheriff from 1995 to 1999. Lady Smith was appointed Chair of the Scottish Partnership on Domestic Abuse from 1998 to 2000 and served as Advocate Depute from 2000 until she was appointed a Judge. She has served as a member of the Court of Session Rules Council and is a past Chair of the Advocates Family Law Group and Chair of the Advocates Professional Negligence Law Group. Lady Smith was appointed to the Board from July 2008 for three years.

Sheriff Principal Sir Stephen Young Bt QC (judicial member)

After qualifying as a solicitor he worked in London and Glasgow for three and a half years. He then trained as an advocate and was called to the Bar in 1977. He was appointed as a Sheriff in 1984, serving in Glasgow and Greenock. In 2001 he was appointed Sheriff Principal of Grampian, Highlands and Islands, where he is responsible for the administration of justice in the sheriff courts throughout the North and North East of Scotland and the Western and Northern Isles. Sheriff Principal Young was appointed to the Board in June 2007 for three years.

Sheriff Kenneth Ross (judicial member)

Sheriff Ross was appointed a Sheriff in 1997, serving at Linlithgow until 2000 and since then at Dumfries. He is a graduate of Edinburgh University and qualified as a solicitor in 1973. From 1975 until 1997 he was a partner in the firm of Gillespie, Gifford & Brown, Solicitors, Dumfries. He served on the Council of the Law Society of Scotland from 1987 until 1996, convening the Complaints and Guarantee Fund Committees. He was President of the Law Society of Scotland in 1994/5. He sat as a Temporary Sheriff between 1987 and 1997 and has been a member of the Scottish Legal Aid Board since 2004. Sheriff Ross was appointed to the Board in October 2008 for three years.

Mr Roy Martin QC (legal member)

Mr Martin was admitted to the Bar in Scotland in 1976 and in England and Wales in 1991. He became a Queen’s Counsel in 1988. He was the Dean of the Faculty of Advocates from 2004 to 2007. Mr Martin has served as a Temporary Sheriff, a part-time Chair of Industrial Tribunals, and is currently a Chair of the Police Appeals Tribunal. He is a Governor of Loretto School and a Trustee of the National Library of Scotland. Mr Martin was appointed to the Board in June 2007 for three years.

Martin McAllister (legal member)

Mr McAllister is a partner with Taylor and Henderson Solicitors based in Saltcoats, Ayrshire. 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 Glasgow Graduate School of Law and a part time Convenor of The Mental Health Tribunal for Scotland. Mr McAllister was appointed to the Board from September 2008 for three years.

Surely its now time to make the appointments of Scotland’s judiciary a lot more transparent than this lot could ever manage ? After all, do the courts not serve the public and the interests of justice, rather than so obviously serving themselves ?

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Scottish chartered accountants ‘are too dishonest’ to handle wills & executries as ICAS pulls out of rights of audience battle for legal business

ICAS LOGO 2Scots accountants regulator ICAS have withdrawn their application for rights of audience. The choice of which professional should ruin your legal & financial affairs after you are dead, is to remain unchanged for now, with the revelation that the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Scotland have put ‘on hold’ their application to the Scottish Government for extended rights of audience to handle clients wills & probate services – work currently undertaken exclusively by solicitors.

Scottish GovernmentScottish Government made a short admission on accountants rights of audience battle. A spokesman for the Scottish Government today said : “ICAS have put their application on hold meantime. We will proceed once we hear from them again. We have no correspondence from ICAS other than the application. We had a telephone conversation with them some months ago but have heard nothing since.”

ICAS had applied for rights of audience to the Scottish Government in July 2008, under the terms of Sections 25-29 of the Law Reform (Miscellaneous Provisions) (Scotland) Act 1990, which I reported on in an earlier article, here : Accountants demand powers to handle wills & legal services, offering ‘crooked’ self regulation and little consumer protection in return

The 2008 application came after ICAS had tried unsuccessfully to amend the Legal Profession & Legal Aid (Scotland) Bill 2007, to enable accountants to enter the legal services business, which I reported on earlier, here : Scottish Accountants try to amend LPLA Bill for their own benefit – but refuse independent regulation safeguards for the consumer

A solicitor welcomed the news that ICAS had pulled their rights of audience application, claiming that accountants could not be trusted to handle the wills of dead clients, and warned the public there were little safeguards in the event a crooked accountant made off with the client’s money.

He said : “Considering accountants have little or no experience in the field of handling probate work in Scotland, and clients have even less safeguards in terms of protection from rogue accountants ruining their business, I doubt it would be in the consumer’s best interests at this point in time to allow accountants to handle clients post-death affairs. I would therefore not advise a potential client or any of your readers to trust an accountant to ‘wind up’ their legal affairs according to their will.”

Norman Howitt Accountant JRW Group Hawick Scottish BordersThe case of Scottish Borders accountant Norman Howitt (pictured left) made it dangerous to allow accountants to handle a client’s will. The solicitor went onto continue his critique and suggested accountants be barred from any involvement with wills : “On the basis of the now well known case involving your own family and the accountant Mr Howitt who was executor to your family’s ruined estate, I have advised and put off several clients from appointing their accountant as ‘executor’ to their will. After having read of Howitt’s actions in your case, I feel accountants and others close to the deceased’s financial affairs should be banned from becoming executors on wills they are closely linked with or are handling via their firms either in a personal or business capacity.”

You can read more about the way in which an accountant in the Scottish Borders, Norman Howitt, helped a solicitor also in the Scottish Borders, Andrew Penman of Stormonth Darling Solicitors, Kelso, ruin my family’s legal affairs, and how they got away with it, here : A picture is worth a thousand words – Images of fraud reveal corruption & deceit by lawyers & accountants in the Scottish Borders

While for now, chartered accountants in Scotland do not have the right to handle wills & probate services, they can conduct similar business in England & Wales, which you can read more about HERE

There are numerous reported cases where accountants, acting in the capacity as executor, have totally ruined the estates of deceased clients. Take it from me, there is as little protection against a crooked accountant robbing your life savings or ruining your legal affairs, as there is against a solicitor doing the same.

Often I have found, from not only the case involving my own family’s legal affairs, but also those many more cases brought to my attention by you, the public, that crooked lawyers, and crooked accountants seem to make a good team taking as much money for themselves as they can get before actions are discovered.

It is also a fact the Law Society of Scotland and the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Scotland, both self regulators of their own professions, work together closely on many issues, and proliferate each other’s aims on occasions of investigations into crooked lawyers & accountants, by appointing each other’s members to their in-house committees, a subject which I tackled earlier, here : Fears over corrupt self regulation as accountants regulator draft in ex Law Society President and solicitor as Public Interest members

I would therefore recommended that members of the public who have already appointed an accountant as ‘executor’ on their will should immediately replace that person or their firm with someone who is a lot less involved in their financial or legal affairs and ensure whoever that person is, they are appointed with a set of specific instructions on what they can and cannot do, with a given timeline & cost not to be exceeded for the completion of their work.

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Scottish Legal Complaints Commission ‘authorised to lie’ on FOI query over secret meetings with accountants regulator ICAS & insurers Marsh

SLCC squareScottish Legal Complaints Commission concealed meetings with Institute of Chartered Accountants of Scotland. Investigations into ties between insurers & the Scottish Government reveal the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission were authorised to conceal cooperation and meetings with the Institute of Chartered Accountants from Freedom of Information enquires, after officials at the Justice Department deemed their release to media too sensitive on the grounds that the secret meetings, details of which had been leaked to reporters, had been arranged by Marsh UK, insurers to Scotland’s legal profession and the Scottish Government itself.

SLCC deny involvement with ICAS in FOI responseFreedom of Information replies from the Legal Complaints Commission brought denials all round. The Scottish Legal Complaints Commission replied to Freedom of Information enquiries on their involvement with the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Scotland with all round denials : “The SLCC has no involvement with Institute of Chartered Accountants of Scotland therefore I am issuing you with notice that the information requested is not held in line with Section 17(1)(b) of the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002” and went on in email correspondence to further deny reports that Marsh UK were involved in arranging the meetings with ICAS, allegedly on instructions from the Scottish Government’s Justice Department, who were concerned the Scottish Government’s own links to discredited insurers Marsh, ICAS, and even the Law Society of Scotland itself on insurance issues would be revealed in FOI disclosures.

Law Society of Scotland & ICASLaw Society of Scotland has strong ties to accountants regulator ICAS. I have reported earlier on the Law Society of Scotland’s involvement with the Institute of Chartered Accountants here, where even a former President of the Law Society, Ruthven Gemmel, was posted to ICAS committees to keep up representation from the legal profession : Fears over corrupt self regulation as accountants regulator draft in ex Law Society President and solicitor as Public Interest members

Eileen MastermanSLCC Chief Executive Eileen Masterman arranges meetings with ICAS through crooked insurers Marsh. The round of secret meetings was kicked off by the SLCC’s Chief Executive, Eileen Masterman, who wanted meetings with ICAS over discussions on the SLCC’s role in monitoring the notoriously corrupt Master Policy & Guarantee Fund, the two compensation schemes run by the Law Society of Scotland which are intended to compensate clients of crooked lawyers who commit negligence while representing their clients legal affairs or stealing clients funds.

SLCC secret meetings with ICAS SLCC denied all involvement with ICAS & Marsh but now documents reveal otherwise. Investigations which sprang from leaks from the Scottish Government & ICAS revealed the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission had been in discussions with the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Scotland over suggestions for the names of experts and other individuals from the legal & accounting world to include in the SLCC’s research into the Master Policy & Guarantee Fund. However, as Marsh UK arranges insurance for both the legal AND accountancy professions, the Scottish Government’s Justice Department (who are also insured through deals with Marsh UK) ordered any documents relating to SLCC meetings with ICAS to be kept secret from the media.

This is not the first time the SLCC have lied about meetings with Marsh and the Law Society, as I featured in an earlier article here : MacAskill’s SLCC lied over secret meetings with Law Society & Marsh as quango announces £15k ‘study’ into master policy & guarantee fund

ScottishGovernmentScottish Government allegedly now control all FOI requests to law complaints quango. A source today from the Scottish Government confirmed the Justice Department’s policy on FOI enquiries to the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission : “All Freedom of Information enquiries to the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission are now relayed to the Scottish Government due to the scandals surrounding the organisation, some of which have already appeared in the media.”

“Ever since leaks sprung from the SLCC last year on the staffing arrangements and arguments over positions which were going exclusively to former Law Society staff, the Justice Secretary himself and senior Justice Department officials have become paranoid over what the commission releases, and have ordered the SLCC to hand over all FOI requests and copies of email communications from certain individuals for their approval before replies are sent out.”

“There is no doubt in my mind we are talking about Government backed interference in the FOI process to conceal facts.”

The Scottish Government’s concern over Freedom of Information enquiries to the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission stems from consistent reporting of problems at the hugely expensive quango, which has spent more time deciding perks for its members, and fumbling through its duties to regulate complaints against Scottish solicitors, rather than cleaning up Scotland’s notoriously corrupt legal services sector, which is being hit with spiralling complaints against solicitors who are committing fraud & embezzlement against their clients on an almost daily basis.

You can read more of failures at the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission here : Complaints Commission ‘unfit for purpose’ as secret meetings with insurers & pensions take focus over consumer protection against crooked lawyers and much more coverage of the SLCC and many of its problems HERE.

Masterman arramges to meet ICASFurther internal documents from the SLCC reveal existence of non-existent meetings with ICAS and insurers Marsh UK. While the SLCC were busy denying any involvement it had with the infamously corrupt Scottish accountants regulator, ICAS, even more documents are now emerging of the cosy meetings held between Eileen Masterman & the Chief Executive of ICAS. However, while the SLCC has been forced to disclose some material on the secret meetings it claimed never took place, access to any records or minutes of the meetings themselves between SLCC officials and ICAS Executives have been denied for varying reasons, the latest of which amazingly implies that no actual records of the meetings between Ms Masterman and accounting chiefs exist.

Norman Howitt Accountant JRW Group Hawick Scottish BordersICAS investigation into Borders Accountant Norman Howitt proved to many that self regulation of accountants is as corrupt as self regulation of lawyers. A good example of how the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Scotland handle investigations against crooked accountants, can be found in my own case, here : A picture is worth a thousand words – Images of fraud reveal corruption & deceit by lawyers & accountants in the Scottish Borders

The SLCC and the Scottish Government could not be reached for comment today, however a Law Society insider admitted both the Justice Department and the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission had been caught on the hop with the revelations.

He said : “This is what happens when someone tries to manage the truth and conceal some very dirty business going on behind the scenes, which will no doubt further erode the public credibility of the SLCC if indeed there is any left to speak of.”

So, should the Scottish Government continue working to conceal corruption within the self regulation of complaints against solicitors ? I think not .. and much more needs to be made of this Government interference in the FOI process, which is why the FOI Commissioner Kevin Dunion will be asked to investigate the SLCC’s conduct in this affair.

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,