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Law Society welcomes new President, firm has links to dishonest Borders solicitors who mishandled wills & executry estates

Law Society of ScotlandLaw Society of Scotland gets a new President, business as usual. JAMIE MILLAR, a partner with Edinburgh Law Firm Lindsays has taken over from Ian Smart as the new President of the Law Society of Scotland after what has been seen as one of the most problematic periods yet for the Scottish legal profession, who are facing everything from eventual regulatory reform to increased competition in the still-solicitor-monopolised legal services sector.

While the Law Society of Scotland have been kind enough to publicise the change of presidency by focussing on the usual self congratulatory messages, what Drumsheugh Gardens chose not to reveal was regulatory record, or the amount of client complaints made against the law firm of Mr Millar.

Scotsman coverage of some of the stories relating to Andrew PenmanLindsays bought up Borders law firm linked to Law Society-Penman scandal. Lindsays, who, on their website describe themselves as “ a highly-regarded Scottish law firm. We combine high levels of service with legal expertise to tailor the best possible outcomes and results for you, your business, or your family.” purchased a law firm based in Jedburgh, named Turnbull Simpson & Sturrock in early 2007 which were heavily involved in the maladministration of my late father’s estate by Borders solicitor Andrew Penman of Stormonth Darling Solicitors, Kelso, which used to be a partner firm to Turnbull Simpson & Sturrock until the Scotsman newspaper began reporting on the Law Society cover up of my complaint against Mr Penman.

Philip YellandThe Law Society’s Philip Yelland personally handled complaints against Penman & Sturrock. As the Scotsman continued to report on the Law Society’s whitewash of the complaints against Mr Penman, Turnbull Simpson & Sturrock’s senior partner, Mr David Sturrock took over the administration of my late father’s estate, only to make the actions of Mr Penman and the accountant/executor Norman Howitt (still working as an accountant at JRW Group) much worse, resulting in several more years of financial damage & negligence which was carefully swept under the carpet by the Law Society of Scotland in the true cover up style we have all come to expect from lawyers investigating themselves.

Turnbull Simpson & Sturrock JedburghJedburgh based Turnbull, Simpson & Sturrock – Complaints of poor & negligent service to clients were whitewashed by Law Society of Scotland. Equally many other complaints made against Turnbull Simpson & Sturrock by locals in Jedburgh & the surrounding area received a similar whitewash treatment, but as with many Borders firms, they only continue to survive because locals have no one else to use when it comes to legal services, hence you can get a situation where one day, someone brings a large ornate gold mantle piece clock into a jewellers for valuation, allegedly owned by a solicitor, but which in reality was stolen from a house of a deceased client whose will was being handled by that very same solicitor who claimed to own it .. and nothing done about the incident (& many others) by the Law Society or the authorities, although in the case of the clock, it was apparently returned to the family after the conscientious jeweller told the relatives of the deceased … (details ring any bells ? – PC)

So, don’t expect any changes at the Law Society of Scotland this coming year which might benefit consumers, clients of solicitors, or anyone seeking redress or justice against ‘crooked lawyers’ … its more a case of ‘business as usual, burn the client for as much as you can, and if you do anything bad we will let you get away with it’ but you expected me to say that anyway, because its always the case with the Law Society … business as usual …

If you are in the Borders looking for legal services and want any recommendations, well .. I wouldn’t recommend any legal firms in Jedburgh – simply, you’d be much better off just opening your front door and letting the burglars walk into your house .. because you can expect the same treatment if you take on any of the town’s law firms as your legal representatives …

The Law Society of Scotland’s announcement of their latest President, Mr Jamie Millar :

New President of the Law Society of Scotland

Jamie Millar, a partner with Lindsays solicitors, has become the President of the Law Society of Scotland.

Mr Millar (61) has been vice-president since May 2009, and was the Society’s Treasurer for three years before that. He has been a member of the Council for six years and served as a member of a Client relations Committee for seven years from 1997.

A trainee with the then Tindal, Oatts and Rodger, Mr Millar qualified in 1973. He was a partner with the firm from 1975 to 1986. From 1986 to 2006 he was a partner at Bishops and from 2006 he was a partner at Brodies.

Jamie has over thirty years experience as a corporate lawyer specialising in acquistions/mergers, joint ventures, trade associations and corporate governance.

“The Legal Services Bill has been the major focus for the Society in the past year and will continue to be in the coming months as the Society looks at how it could regulate the new business models as well as supporting the profession during their introduction.

“The Society is continuing its modernisation programme to meet the profession’s needs now and into the future, and with that the profession continue to be consulted and asked for feedback as we develop services which will support them during this challenging time.

”Scotland’s solicitors play a major part in Scotland’s economy and I would like that to be recognised. The Society will continue to promote the profession to attract business to Scotland and enhance our economy.”

One of the key areas of work the Society is focusing on is the implementation of its review of education and training in 2010-2011.

Thursday 27 May

To sum up the latest President, his own quote seems appropriate : ”Scotland’s solicitors play a major part in Scotland’s economy and I would like that to be recognised. The Society will continue to promote the profession to attract business to Scotland and enhance our economy.” – Yes they certainly do, although not always in an honest manner, as the complaints statistics over the years have & continue to illustrate …

 

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How Law Society’s ‘cancelled’ prosecution of Borders solicitor Andrew Penman ignited moves to reform regulation of Scotland’s crooked lawyers

Law Society of ScotlandLaw Society of Scotland’s complaints whitewash provoked reforms. THE CANCELLED PROSECUTION OF BORDERS LAWYER ANDREW PENMAN, of Stormonth Darling Solicitors, by the Law Society of Scotland was one of the prime factors in starting a Scotland wide campaign to reform regulation of the legal profession, after the release of the investigation documents which revealed a Law Society Complaints Committee had been bullied into changing an original decision to prosecute Andrew Penman by Penman’s secret representative who attended the hearing, James Ness, a senior Law Society figure, now Deputy Director of Professional Practice.

Scotsman coverage of some of the stories relating to Andrew PenmanScotsman newspaper in better days followed the Penman case, eventually leading to its own editorials calling for self regulation of lawyers to end. As a result of significant publicity in the Scotsman newspaper on the Andrew Penman investigation, further cases came to light where it transpired many solicitors facing serious complaints had been legally represented at Law Society Complaints Committee hearings, particularly on serious issues such as embezzlement, allegations of client fraud, almost all complaints regarding the handling of wills, and even in cases where clients had been convicted of criminal charges. In all of these cases, while solicitors had been represented before Complaints Committees, clients had been denied equivalent representation.

Indeed, the practice of ‘legally’ representing a solicitor in front of a Complaints Committee, had become so common, it became accepted practice, unquestioned by any solicitor or lay members of the Complaints Committees, although deemed so sensitive the policy was kept secret from complaining clients and the general public, fearing claims of unfairness & prejudice. That secrecy broke, however, when due to the publicity on the Penman case, the Law Society was forced to disclose most of the Committee’s deliberations on Andrew Penman, sparking many clients to eventually find out they too had been similarly maligned by a hugely prejudicial policy of allowing a crooked lawyer legal representation before a Complaints Committee, while denying the same right to members of the public.

Law Watchdog faces threat of court fight - Scotland on Sunday 9 August 1999Former Legal Services Ombudsman Garry Watson changed recommendations on Law Society orders. As publicity grew around the Penman case, the practice of lawyers being legally represented before Complaints Committees, and being allowed to submit personal letters of pleadings to Committee members, while clients were denied similar rights, was criticised by the then Scottish Legal Services Ombudsman, Garry S Watson, who recommended the Law Society halt the practice, which it did, for a few months, until the publicity died down, then apparently re-started in secret. Garry Watson also asked for full explanations and disclosure over Penman’s secret representations, which never happened after the Law Society ordered Mr Watson to change his opinion, cancelling his order clients should be informed fully of Committee deliberations. After the Law Society restarted the practice, clients were of course none the wiser as queues of lawyers lined up to send their legal representatives to Complaints Committees, pleading in the first instance, threatening legal action and judicial reviews against Committee decisions if the former did not work.

Scotsman 8 January 1999 Independent watchdog for lawyers proposedLaw Society’s reversal of prosecution helped bring consumer led reforms to regulation of lawyers. The Andrew Penman case, which clearly should have went to the Scottish Solicitors Discipline Tribunal as a prosecution, with Mr Penman being struck off, but did not, through the Law Society’s determination to “Save Private Penman” as some have said over the years, did bring gains to consumers in terms of revealing the thoroughly corrupt practices of self regulation carried out by the Law Society of Scotland, and its will to keep such practices secret, and of course, long lasting until even the present day.

Would Granny Swear by the Law Society - The Herald June 5 2006Douglas Mill, brought down by his anti-client memos, and relentless policies to save crooked lawyer Andrew Penman from prosecution. ‘Saving Private Penman” helped bring two [costly] Scottish Parliamentary inquiries into regulation of the legal profession, the first one Chaired by Christine Grahame (a dud – the enquiry, I refer to, of course) and the second, chaired by David Davidson MSP, which after hearing of even more revelations of secret anti-client behaviour such as the Douglas Mill ‘memo’gate affair’, brought to light by the now Cabinet Chief John Swinney, resulted in the passage of the Legal Profession & Legal Aid (Scotland) Act 2007, which created the hapless and Law Society controlled Scottish Legal Complaints Commission, which would have been good, had perhaps someone such as John Swinney managed its formation process, instead of the hapless Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill, who simply allowed the Law Society to pull all the strings, and fill the SLCC with a slew of Pinnochios whose noses stretch from here to the planet Pluto.

Jury  still out on law in the dock - The Scotsman 2 March 1998Law Society covered up details of decision not to prosecute Andrew Penman. The failure to prosecute Andrew Penman for offences which many solicitors since have been prosecuted and even struck off for, some even sent to jail such as ex solicitor Michael Karus, still reverberates around the legal profession, and has given clients the strength to complain against many a crooked lawyer – a good thing. Penman has also shed a much needed light on the very secretive nature of Scotland’s legal profession and how the Law Society of Scotland controls, or denies access to justice to anyone it so feels like intimidating. Again, another plus, if a costly one to Scotland, as generally one can conclude, the Scottish legal profession are not a very trustworthy bunch, either in legal service to their clients, or when it comes to regulating their own colleagues.

Here, at the request of several law students who are studying ‘regulation’ of the legal profession in Scotland, is the full report on Borders Solicitor Andrew Penman of Stormonth Darling Solicitors, Kelso. I would certainly not recommend anyone use that law firm, as reading the following will reveal.

Law Society of Scotland report on solicitor Andrew Penman Stormonth Darling Kelso Page 1Law Society investigating lawyer found that Andrew Penman had tried to fake the files. The Law Society report said : “The reporter had found it extremely difficult to obtain from the file a clear picture of what had taken place in the executry. The files had not been well kept and it was noted that throughout the files there were correspondence and telephone notes which were not in chronological order. It was noted that at several points there was correspondence which appeared not to have been dealt with and not to have been put on file as it was received but to have been put on at a later date. The reporter noted a number of’ instances which suggested that correspondence had simply been accumulated off the file and then dealt with in a fevered bout of activity in order to deal with matters which had long been delayed. The reporter noted there was also evidence of what appeared to be a bungled and unsuccessful attempt to put the file into order. Correspondence of July 1990 and July 1991 had been put on the file at a point which clearly related to July 1992.“

“The reporter noted that the files disclosed numerous lengthy and unexplained delays and a repeated failure to respond to correspondence. There were dozens of letters on the files apologizing to third parties for delays in dealing with executry matters. These delays in many cases amounted to several months and in the case of the capital taxes office there were several delays, one of 18 months.”

Law Society of Scotland report on solicitor Andrew Penman Stormonth Darling Kelso Page 2Law Society investigating lawyer found Andrew Penman deliberately mislead the Royal Bank of Scotland, amounting to professional misconduct. Page two of the Law Society report said : “The reporter noted there was a complete failure on the part of Messrs. P. & J. Stormonth-Darling to deal with this matter. They completely failed to acknowledge the instructions they had received from the Royal Bank in this connection and failed to take any steps to deal with the matter. The reporter was of the view that the substantial and unnecessary delays which had taken place in the executry might amount not only to an inadequate professional service on the part of Messrs. P.& J. Stormonth Darling but professional misconduct on the part of Mr Penman the solicitor dealing with the matter up until the time the complaint was lodged with the Law Society on 17th October 1994. Further the reporter was of the view that the apparent deliberate attempt to mislead the Royal Bank in regard to the Banco di Roma account may amount to professional misconduct.”

The Law Society investigating lawyer went onto demand a prosecution of Andrew Penman, saying : “In respect of the extraordinary delays and the repeated failures to respond to correspondence and the apparent, deliberate attempt to mislead the Royal Bank the reporter was of the view that the professional misconduct was such that it would warrant prosecution before the Scottish Solicitors Discipline Tribunal The reporter was or the view that there had clearly been an inadequate professional service but in the, event of a referral to the Scottish Solicitors Discipline Tribunal this would be incorporated into the complaint.”

Law Society of Scotland report on solicitor Andrew Penman Stormonth Darling Kelso Page 3Law Society Complaints Committee said Andrew Penman mislead the Royal Bank, was a failure at handling an executry. The Committee’s consideration of the investigating lawyer’s findings revealed : “The Committee expressed grave concern at the way that this executry had been handled by Mr. Penman and the extraordinary delays and the complete failure to deal with correspondence in an adequate manner, The Committee were of the: view that there: had been very poor attention paid to the administration of this estate and that whilst the complainer’s uncertainty in certain matters might have caused some confusion there was a general lack of effort on the part of the solicitors to deal with matters in a reasonable manner.. It was noted in connection with the proposed loan by the Royal Bank. to the complainer there was a complete and utter failure to deal with the matter in any way or even to acknowledge the instructions. In connection with the Banco di Roma account the Committee noted the failure on the part of Mr. Penman to deal with matters in a reasonable way. They were particularly concerned at the terms of the letter written by Mr. Penman to the Royal Bank on 29th September 1992 which appeared to be an attempt to mislead the Royal Bank into believing that matters were being actively dealt with when they were not.”

“The Committee concurred with the views of the reporter in this matter indicating that the apparent attempt to mislead the Royal Bank persuaded them that Mr Penman’s acting in the matter were so serious and reprehensible as to amount to professional misconduct.”

“The Committee thereafter considered whether the professional misconduct was such that it would warrant referral to the Scottish Solicitors Discipline Tribunal. The Committee were of the view that the administration of the executry had been so appallingly badly done as to take the issue out of service into that of conduct and coupled with the apparent attempt to mislead the Royal Bank the conduct was such that it would warrant prosecution before the Scottish Solicitors Discipline Tribunal. “

Law Society Complaints Committee decided that Andrew Penman should be prosecuted : “The Committee were of the view that Mr, Penman’s acting in respect of the extra-ordinary delays and failure to progress the administration of the executry and in apparently misleading the Royal Bank of Scotland were so serious and reprehensible as to amount to professional misconduct. The Committee determined to recommend to Council that Mr. Penman be prosecuted before the Scottish Solicitors Discipline Tribunal in relation to the professional misconduct and the service provided and any other matter which the Fiscal feels appropriate.”

Law Society of Scotland report on solicitor Andrew Penman Stormonth Darling Kelso Page 4Andrew Penman begged the Complaints Committee not to prosecute, citing personal humiliation in the media as an excuse, while his legal representative at the Committee, Mr James Ness used his influence among the Committee members to derail the decision to prosecute : “Written representations were then made as to why Mr Penman should not be prosecuted. It was pointed out that the action of the complainer in referring matters to the media prior to the complaint being considered Mr Penman’s natural right to have the Tribunal or the Society decide whether the case was deemed fit for publicity had been denied. As a result of the complaint, and newspaper report Mr Penman had suffered personally and this had been a considerable punishment in itself. It was argued that a reference to the Tribunal would result in a fine and substantial cost to Mr Penman with little or no purpose beyond what the Society could achieve using its own powers given that the Society would be able to order a waiver of part or all of the substantial fee which could be charged for work done together with a compensation award of up to £1,000.00.”

A variety of further excuses were presented by Andrew Penman, through his legal agent Mr Ness, which persuaded the Committee not to prosecute, : “It was also pointed out that the complaint was from a beneficiary and not from the executor in the estate with whom Mr Penman had been working to resolve matters. The Committee considered the representations which had been made. The Committee were of the view that Mr Penman’s dealings with the matter undoubtedly amounted to professional misconduct. They thereafter considered whether in light of the representations which had been made the scale of the misconduct could be said to be so serious as to justify prosecution or whether a reprimand would be more appropriate. The Committee noted that Mr Penman clearly accepted that matters had not been dealt with in a proper manner by him and that there had been delays in progressing matters.”

The Complaints Committee, arm-twisted by senior Law Society official James Ness, and lacking any equivalent representation for my points, then changed their verdict to save Mr Penman so he could ruin some more unsuspecting clients : “Having re-considered the matter and taking into account the representations which had been made the Committee were unanimously of the view that whilst Mr Penman’s acting amounted to professional misconduct they were not such that would warrant a prosecution and a reprimand would be more appropriate. The Committee therefore determined to withdraw their recommendation for prosecution and to substitute a provisional finding of professional misconduct warranting a reprimand.”

Law Society of Scotland report on solicitor Andrew Penman Stormonth Darling Kelso Page 5 & 6Complaints Committee accused Andrew Penman of Professional Misconduct, and did nothing after Law Society intervention. The Complaints Committee in the lead up to their decision, began to excuse their change of mind over prosecution, stating : “It was noted that written representations had been received from the complainer dated 5th and 20th July. Representations had been received from Messrs. P & J Stormonth Darling dated 25th July and the Committee Secretary advised that Mr Penman had confirmed that he accepted the Committee’s preliminary view on matters i.e. that he be reprimanded in respect of the professional misconduct. Having considered the written representations the Committee found no reason to depart from its previous view and, therefore, confirmed their previous findings.”

In addition to the swathe of excuses to explain their failure to prosecute, the Complaints Committee even claimed there had been no financial loss to the estate, which had in reality been ruined through the actions of both Andrew Penman as the legal agent, and Borders Accountant Norman Howitt, acting as the Executor. The Law Society were therefore unable to explain the reduction of a 300K capital residual estate to zero.

The official decision of the Complaints Committee read as follows : “THE COMMITTEE HAVING CONSIDERED THE FURTHER REPRESENTATIONS WHICH HAD BEEN MADE FOUND NO REASON TO DEPART FROM ITS PREVIOUS VIEW AND ACCORDINGLY FIND THAT THE CONDUCT OF MR PENMAN IN RESPECT OF THE EXTRAORDINARY DELAYS AND FAILURES TO PROGRESS THE ADMINISTRATIONOF THE EXECUTRY AND IN MISLEADING THE ROYAL BANK OFSCOTLAND WERE SO SERIOUS AND REPREHENSIBLE AS TO AMOUNT TO PROFESSIONAL MISCONDUCT. THEY REPRIMANDED HIM.”

“IN ADDITION THE COMMITTEE FOUND THAT AN INADEQUATE PROFESSIONAL SERVICE HAD BEEN PROVIDED BY MESSRS. P & J. STORMONTH DARLING IN RESPECT OF THE EXTRAORDINARY DELAYS AND FAILURE TO PROGRESS MATTERS DURING THE PERIOD FROM THE DATE OF DEATH TO OCTOBER 1994 WHEN MR PENMAN CEASED DEALING WITH THE MATTER. THE COMMITTEE DIRECTED THAT THE SOLICITORS SHOULD ONLY BE ENTITLED TO CHARGE A FEE IN RESPECT OF THAT PERIOD TO A MAXIMUM OF £3,000 PLUS VAT IN TERMS OF SECTION 42A(2)(a)(ii) OF THE 1980 ACT. IN ADDITION THE COMMITTEE DETERMINED THAT THE SOLICITORS SHOULD MAKE A PAYMENT OF £1,000 TO THE ESTATE BY WAY OFCOMPENSATION IN TERMS OF SECTION 42A (2)(d) OF THE 1980 ACT.”

As a matter of record, the £1,000 payment Mr Penman was ordered to make, was taken by Norman Howitt, the Estate Executor, to pay bills Mr Penman and Mr Howitt had accumulated themselves on failed advertising.

As a result of the Complaints Committee’s spineless decision, Borders solicitor Andrew Penman was never prosecuted for his actions, and was allowed to continue working at Stormonth Darling Solicitors, Kelso to this day. Insiders at the Law Society of Scotland have confirmed numerous complaints have been made by other clients against the Borders Law firm Stormonth Darling, since the Complaints Committee’s decision not to prosecute Mr Penman all those years ago.

You can read more about Borders Accountant Norman Howitt’s part in the Executry, and more, here : A picture is worth a thousand words – Images of fraud reveal corruption & deceit by lawyers & accountants in the Scottish Borders and you can read about how the Law Society of Scotland prevent clients being able to recover financial damages or take any legal action against crooked lawyers such as Andrew Penman, and the Law Society itself, here : Law Society intervention in claims ‘commonplace’ as ex Chief admits Master Policy protects solicitors against clients

Looking on the bright side, much good came from the Penman case, even if the bad remained.

What ‘Penman’ did, was alert the public to the fact the Law Society of Scotland, as a regulator, are thoroughly corrupt, as is the Scottish legal profession, throughout its entire fabric. No solicitor will stand against another, despite claims to the contrary, and those consumers who dare take issue with their ‘crooked lawyers’ face losing any right to access to justice, simply because lawyers consider it their right to fleece their clients, when needs must. Take my advice – don’t let Andrew Penman happen to you …

 

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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.

 

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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.

 

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Westminster Expenses : Ex Scottish Borders Libdem MP Lord Kirkwood claimed furnishings & more on taxpayer – should be stripped of title

archiekirkwoodArchy Kirkwood as a member of Parliament offered little help to victims of crooked Scottish Borders lawyers. Former Scottish Borders MP, now Lord’ Archy Kirkwood features in today’s Telegraph newspaper revelations on the Westminster expenses scandals, and deservingly so, as the paper reports he “claimed £5,000 in expenses to refurbish his London flat before retiring as an MP and selling it to his daughter for less than half its value.”

Scotsman coverage of some of the stories relating to Andrew PenmanArchy Kirkwood offered little help against crooked lawyer Andrew Penamn & crooked accountant Norman Howitt. I always wondered what Archy Kirkwood did for the Scottish Borders, because all I was ever able to secure from him was a letter writing contest to the former Scottish Office then Scottish Executive on the corruption of crooked Borders lawyer Andrew Penman of Stormonth Darling solicitors, Kelso – right in the heart of Archy Kirkwood’s constituency. It seemed to me, backed up by information provided by others in the region, Mr Kirkwood was a touch soft on the likes of crooked lawyers, and particularly didn’t want to do much regarding corrupt Borders accountants such as Norman Howitt, who you can read more about here : A picture is worth a thousand words – Images of fraud reveal corruption & deceit by lawyers & accountants in the Scottish Borders

Norman Howitt Accountant JRW Group Hawick Scottish BordersBorders accountant Norman Howitt of JRW Group, Hawick took pensioner’s pension & bank book. even made false statements to Police to cover his tracks, but Kirkwood did nothing. Now, you’d think ‘Lord’ Kirkwood would have done something about a crooked accountant confiscating a pensioner’s pension book and wanting to take control of a pensioner’s entire savings for himself .. but, strangely, no. It seems there was too much to gain from supporting the same crooked accountancy and legal firms as one of the region’s leading solicitors informed me …

However, it wasn’t just me who felt the lack of support from Mr Kirkwood during his time as an MP, after several people in the Borders began to contact me over similar problems in getting Mr Kirkwood to do anything for them at all other than the standard fair of writing letters, while refusing to raise issues or early day motions at the Westminster Parliament, during the time where that’s all we had as a legislature.

Taking a look around the Scottish Borders as I did before I left it years ago (and apparently it has changed little to-date) backs up the idea the region needs younger, harder working idealistic politicians who have the region’s people and Scotland’s interests at heart, rather than preferring the Westminster cabal to give them long term jobs and the facility to milk the taxpayer for expenses while their constituency lies in ruins.

I note Lord Kirkwood still remains in the LibDems armoury, his name cropping up on the GovNet website here, alongside other such luminaries as Lord Foulkes of Cummock, also an MSP : Govnet Advisory Board, which lists his following details as :

Lord Archy Kirkwood of Kirkhope

Archy Kirkwood was MP for Roxburgh and Berwickshire for 22 years, standing down at the May 2005 General Election. First elected in June 1983, he became the Liberal Party’s spokesman on Health, Social Services and Social Security. In 1992, he became the Chief Whip of the Liberal Democrat parliamentary party. In 1997 Archy became Chair of the Social Security Select Committee (now Work & Pension Committee).

He served on the House of Commons Audit Committee and on the House of Commons Commission and was knighted in 2003 for services to Parliament. Archy was made a life peer in 2005. He is currently head of external relations at the office of the Liberal Democrat Leader.

However, despite all of his positions, ‘Lord’ Kirkwood is now revealed as just another British politician who has milked the taxpayer, for, as the Telegraph reports, everything down to £3,000 for carpets and flooring for his kitchen and bathroom from John Lewis and £94 for a lavatory paper holder and tiles from Fired Earth.

Not satisfied with that, as the Telegraph continues to report, he returned to John Lewis to buy a £207 bathroom cupboard and mirror, curtains for £90 and lighting worth £72. Whatever relationship carpets, flooring, and other furnishings has to politics, evades me. Pay the money back. In fact, give up your title – as sure as all titles should be stripped from any politician caught milking the system.

Congratulations to the Telegraph for their excellent reporting, and I hope someone makes ‘Lord’ Kirkwood pay all the money back he has claimed from the taxpayer, along with all the other Westminster, and Scottish politicians who have done the same. Politicians are paid plenty for their job, and should bear in mind its all about representing the community, not ripping us off.

Pay the money back ‘Lord’ Kirkwood. In fact, since everyone was recently shouting to take Sir Fred Goodwin’s title away, give up your title too, ‘Lord’ Kirkwood, as sure as all titles & privileges should be stripped from any politician caught milking the system.

The Telegraph reports :

MPs’ expenses: Lord Kirkwood did up flat on expenses, then sold it cheaply to daughter

Lord Kirkwood, a Liberal Democrat peer, claimed £5,000 in expenses to refurbish his London flat before retiring as an MP and selling it to his daughter for less than half its value.

By Jon Swaine
Published: 10:30AM BST 03 Jun 2009

The peer, a work and pensions spokesman, used public funds to buy carpets, curtains and bathroom furniture for his Westminster flat from stores including John Lewis and Fired Earth.

He made the purchases after announcing in April 2004 that he would retire as MP for Roxburgh and Berwickshire at the general election in May 2005. During his final year in the Commons, he claimed a total of £18,806 in allowances for the flat, which he bought for £182,500 in 2001.

These included about £670 a month to pay the interest on its mortgage. He then sold it in May 2007 to his daughter Holly, 31, a journalist for Country Life magazine, for £100,000. On Tuesday he said the flat had been valued at £225,000.

Three weeks before the sale, a flat in the same building sold for £358,000.

When he made the claims, Lord Kirkwood, then Sir Archy Kirkwood, sat on the House of Commons commission which was overseeing the first publication of basic details of MPs’ expenses. As the details were published in October 2004, he said that he welcomed the fact that “taxpayers can really see how their money is being spent”.

However, he dismissed suggestions that voters would be shocked by the amount of money involved. “I’m not saying it’s an insignificant sum, but it’s pretty small beer,” he said.

Between November and December 2004, Lord Kirkwood claimed more than £3,000 for carpets and flooring for his kitchen and bathroom from John Lewis. He also claimed £94 for a lavatory paper holder and tiles from Fired Earth.

In April 2004, the month he announced his intention to step down as an MP, he claimed £200 for repairs to the flat’s electrics. In June 2004, he claimed £50 for fans. In July he claimed £660 for unspecified work by a contractor.

Over the following months, he returned to John Lewis to buy a £207 bathroom cupboard and mirror, curtains for £90 and lighting worth £72.

In February 2005, he claimed £145 for a clothes rail and storage devices, £78 for kitchen stools and £56 for roller blinds. He also claimed £115 for computer equipment through his office expenses two months before he retired.

Lord Kirkwood, 63, had designated as his main home a house in Selkirk where he still lives with his wife Rosemary.

He claimed more than £63,000 in House of Lords allowances last year, including £20,019 on overnight subsistence: the Lords’ equivalent of second home allowances.

He claimed £11,419 in “day subsistence” allowances, £11,419 in office running costs and £9,741 in travel costs.

Lord Kirkwood, who was knighted for services to Parliament in 2003, was one of five Lib Dem MPs put forward for peerages by Charles Kennedy, the then party leader, after the 2005 election. He announced his retirement after it was decided that his seat should merge with that of Tweeddale, Ettrick and Lauderdale, which was held by Michael Moore, a fellow Lib Dem.

Lord Kirkwood said yesterday: “When I sold the flat to my daughter a professional valuation was secured on the property. It was valued at £225,000. This was declared for capital gains.

“The fuse box and wiring system was unsafe and needed to be replaced. There were some costs of relaying flooring in parts of the property.”

 

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