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THE MAD, THE BAD & THE SAD: Scots financially ruined by rogue lawyers are ridiculed at secret briefing with Scottish Legal Complaints Commission as solicitors demand their victims should be forced to pay for complaints

Secret discussions held at ‘independent’ regulator on reducing complaints & making victims of dodgy lawyers pay for a slap on the wrist. DOCUMENTS obtained under Freedom of Information legislation have revealed that pro lawyer lobby group the Legal Defence Union (LDU), and the ‘independent’ Scottish Legal Complaints Commission (SLCC) which is staffed mainly by lawyers who are supposed to investigate complaints against corrupt lawyers, held private briefings where fee paying clients of dodgy Scottish solicitors were targeted & verbally abused as “mad, bad and sad” in secret discussions containing a wide variety of proposals aimed at silencing members of the public who complain against their solicitor.

And, in an effort to dissuade financially clients ruined from making complaints against their lawyers to the multi million pound SLCC which is kept afloat by contributions recouped from clients fees to the tune of nearly £3million a year, it has been proposed, with the knowledge of the Law Society of Scotland that victims of dodgy lawyers who have already been ripped off, may be forced to pay large sums of money to the regulator itself, otherwise complaints against crooked lawyers WILL NOT be investigated.

So serious are the proposals to force victims to pay for an investigation into crooked lawyers, a legal insider close to the discussions has revealed that figures as high as ONE THOUSAND POUNDS per complaint have been secretly discussed by a number of pro-lawyer groups intent on defending their colleagues from being investigated for ripping off their clients.

The plan, to force victims of dodgy lawyers to cough up even more money for regulators to investigate complaints which usually only end up with a slap on the wrist anyway, also appears to have JUDICIAL BACKING after legal insiders involved in the discussions made it clear that senior members of Scotland’s judiciary have been consulted on, and have given unofficial support to the moves aimed at preventing members of the public from being able to have any complaints against lawyers properly investigated.

One member of the judiciary, who has previously heard civil claims against solicitors in the Court of Session, and who is known to have close links to the Law Society, has even suggested the move would help prevent clients from being able to take their lawyers to court in cases the judge described in a remark as “boring, time consuming and irrelevant”.

In a further account of activities at the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission days after the briefing with the Legal Defence Union had taken place, apparently staff at the regulator broke into laughter and told rounds of jokes about clients who had approached them for help after being financially ruined by their solicitors. However, there are no records of any disciplinary action being taken at the SLCC over these incidents which allegedly continue to present day.

The Scottish Legal Complaints Commission has not published or made any comment on why clients who approach the regulator for help in dealing with rogue solicitors continue to be treated in this way by its staff and organisations which influence the regulator’s day to day workings, including how complaints are investigated.

And it is still the case that many clients of Scottish solicitors who approach the SLCC for help are often treated to a months, if sometimes years long hell where often complex complaints alleging fraud committed by Scottish solicitors are curiously ditched after lawyers have their say.

You may be mad, bad or sad, but only after your lawyer took all your money – Secret Legal Defence Union briefing to regulator says spare the lawyer, fleece the client for a little more.

Guiding Principle

The LDU believe that it is an essential requirement of any complaints process that it is fair and impartial and seen to be fair and impartial both to the complainer and the complained against party. That is the starting point and guiding principle in considering any amendment of the 2007 Act.

Meeting on 21 March

I have reported back on the notes of the meeting on 21st March to my colleagues in the Legal Defence Union but there has not been opportunity for response for the meeting planned today.There is one point however upon which I would like to comment on immediately. That is in relation to point 4 – third party complaints.

Third Party Complaints

… are a source of a great concern not only to the LDU Board but also to practitioners in general who express horror and disbelief that such a “wide” definition is allowed.

I am greatly encouraged that the group have identified that these are in the main impractical and a cause for concern to practitioners and I agree that they mismanage expectations of complainers.

I am willing to be corrected but I do not think that this applies to other professions like Accountants, Architects or Surveyors. It is also a source of abuse towards practitioners.

“The Elephant in the room”

1. This touches upon the thing that nobody seems to want to talk about. Most complaint systems are bedevilled by complaints by the mad, the bad and the sad and which may have no basis. We believe the time has been reached for a sum of money to be lodged as a “good faith deposit” towards expenses in such cases.

2. There is no doubt that if a complainer had something to lose then his mind would become focused on whether he would wish to proceed with a complaint. In practice the idea would be that the good faith deposit would be returned if the complaint was upheld but otherwise would be forfeit.

3. Perhaps this goes too far for the present WG but I make no apology for bringing this issue up and I really would welcome a debate on this problem that no one wants to talk about, probably as Complaint bodies do not want to be the first to do so. It is a general point for all complaints processes. There is constant abuse of complaint processes and someone needs to tackle it.

Third party complaints against Solicitors are such an unusual concept and the subject of such abuse by complainers that we do think that a financial incentive or disincentive is required. Ideally this should be related to the cost in processing a complaint that is unsuccessful but as a first step any financial penalty would be of assistance in deterring unjustified complaints by third parties.

Other suggestions

1) In addition to exclusion of “vexatious” and “frivolous” “totally without merit” complaint there should also be excluded, (in relation to third party complaints only) complaints where the Solicitor is simply doing his job. The current test of whether the complainer has been affected by the Solicitor’s actings is far too wide. If a Solicitors letter or cross-examination etc does not affect another person then the Solicitor is not doing his job!

The Solicitor’s job is to represent his own client and that may involve telling another person truths that the other person will not like. Cross-examination by a Solicitor frequently is designed to challenge a witness’s account or truthfulness and has to be robust. Therefore excluding complaints about the Solicitor doing his job would assist.

2) Also “totally without merit” is very difficult to demonstrate and a new wording could be say, “without substantial (and demonstrable?) merit”. Do not forget that third parties can sue the solicitor if they can prove their case but the Complaints process main purpose is to ease complaints by the client not a third party and the two should not be equated.

Points raised by James McCann – Chairman of LDU

1. IPS awards and compliance by “set-off,.

The right of the Solicitor to exercise a right of “set-off” was generally accepted by the Law Society of Scotland (LSS) under the former complaints regime although it never needed to be determined by a Court judgement so far as we know. It is a general matter that applies not just to Solicitors but to anybody in a debtor and creditor relationship and is an invariable aspect of business dealings at common law and under a very old Compensation Act.

The basic idea of course is that if the Solicitor is owed money by the client then any IPS award should be set off so as to reduce the amount that the Solicitor has to pay or to reduce the amount which the complainer has to pay to the Solicitor.

This is at variance with SLCC policy document in paras 4.45 to 4.57. This appears to be ultra vires of SLCC. It is difficult to see why SLCC should want to remove or limit such a common sense and time honoured device as set off. Indeed in mediation cases the complaint issue and the claim for balance of fees are incorporated as natural parts of the same discussion and that is certainly so in the vast majority of conciliations that are reached so as to settle a complaint even before it comes to SLCC.

2. Anonymous committees.

There are still anonymous committees sitting on determination of service complaints. Under the former complaints regime LSS published the people who sit on various committees. The new SLCC procedures appears to have taken a step back.

An SLCC Case Investigator (who is indentified) will often produce a commendably detailed and careful analysis of the file and find no basis for criticising the Solicitor. It can be infuriating when (after the Solicitor through his advisor accepts that recommendation as a sensible and practical way of dealing with the case) you can suddenly receive from an anonymous committee an unexplained decision which reverses what the Case Investigator has done. Often when that new and adverse view appears in the form of a draft determination an advisor might try to change it but it is too late.

The LDU do not think there is any place for anonymous committees in a modern regulatory system. We frequently hear the term “transparent” policies and procedures and this has to be a cornerstone of any fair and impartial complaints service

3. Hybrid complaints.

The method of dealing with these is absurd.

The problem is that there is a complete lack of sift at the point in time when cases are going to LSS. The Act provides for an appeal but this has to be taken back at the beginning of the whole procedure when the matter comes through the single gateway at SLCC.

A client could put in a list of 10 to 15 headings of complaint of which two or three are deemed potentially “hybrid”. It makes no sense at all to be appealing the admission of any conduct elements at that stage when they are only a “add on” to the whole list of service issues and where on any view the service issues are going to be admitted for consideration.

Once the service issues are resolved there is then the hybrid issue having to go all the way through the LSS system as they were seen at the original point of admission (perhaps a year or so before) as having some conduct element. It is expensive for LSS and indeed for the LDU to pay for a process which (assuming all the service headings have been dismissed in the first place) seems hardly likely to produce a conduct issue for LSS. Surely the construction of a conduct (sift) at the point in time when the supposed conduct issues are actually going to LSS could be devised and constructed.

4. Duty to liaise and consult

We have concerns that Section 5 of the 2007 Act imposing a duty on the SLCC and LSS to liaise and consult is not visible and not being maximised.

Section 5 can only be construed as intending a careful process at the point of admission of a conduct issue against the Solicitor and effectively a duty to sit out non complaints.

END OF PAPER

FRIENDS TOGETHER – LEGAL DEFENCE UNION & ‘INDEPENDENT’ REGULATOR:

The Legal Defence Union’s briefing to the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission is part of a history where the LDU and the SLCC have met to shape policy.

An earlier investigation by Diary of Injustice into dealings between the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission and the Legal Defence Union, –  linked to blocked criminal prosecutions of legal aid fraudster lawyers and the suicide of a married Oban family man in the SLCC’s 2009 report into the Master Policy, revealed a series of cosy meetings between the regulator & pro-lawyer lobby group at expensive Edinburgh hotels which the heads of both organisations agreed to keep off the record and away from public gaze. Read more here: Investigation reveals Scottish Legal Complaints Commission’s links, secret ‘off the record’ dealings with lawyers lobby group Legal Defence Union

Lawyer pocketed 600K Legal Aid in Two Years Sunday Mail March 27 2011Legal Defence Union helped negotiate away Legal Aid complaints against soliictor accused of nearly £700K claims. The Legal Defence Union has also found itself in the media spotlight during an investigation into Niels S Lockhart, a Kilmarnock sole practising solicitor who scooped nearly £700K of legal aid funds in three years, and was only stopped after the Scottish Legal Aid Board filed complaints to the Law Society of Scotland. The Legal Defence Union ultimately brokered a secret deal between SLAB and the Law Society which allowed Lockhart to remove himself from the legal aid register.

Niels Lockhart was the subject of lengthy investigations by the Scottish Legal Aid Board which were uncovered by Diary of Injustice & the Sunday Mail newspaper, reported earlier here : One law for lawyers : Secret Report reveals Legal Aid Board, Law Society & Legal Defence Union ‘cosy relationship’ in Lockhart case

The Legal Defence Union then intervened again when the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission received complaints against Niels Lockhart, featured in an article here: SCANDAL : Legal Defence Union intervene in SLCC investigation over £670K Legal Aid lawyer who made Pensioner HOMELESS, STARVED to pay legal bills

Diary of Injustice also published the Scottish Legal Aid Board’s S31 complaint report on Niels Lockhart to the Law Society of Scotland, also obtained after a Freedom of Information disclosure, here : SCOTTISH LEGAL AID BOARD S31 COMPLAINT REPORT TO THE LAW SOCIETY OF SCOTLAND : NIELS S LOCKHART

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Clients snared in £18K a year ‘Mediation Trap’ at Scottish Legal Complaints Commission find little resolution as dodgy lawyers ‘play for time’ to avoid complaints investigations

SLCCMediation at Scottish Legal Complaints Commission branded expensive time wasting tactic. A SCHEME set up by the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission (SLCC) to mediate complaints made against rogue Scottish solicitors & law firms by clients has been branded nothing more than an expensive time wasting strategy which more often than not results in failures of outcomes for the client and advantageous lengthy delays to investigations being started into many Scots law firms over serious complaints made about their service.

In the past year alone, mediation at the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission has cost upwards of EIGHTEEN THOUSAND POUNDS, with a significant number of cases being sent back to investigation after the lengthy mediation process failed.

Clients who have been stuck for months in what has been dubbed by some as a ‘mediation trap’ have recently contacted Diary of Injustice, reporting numerous difficulties and a breakdown of expectation after false promises of amicable conclusions or a ‘sorting out’ of difficulties between clients & solicitors, which have more often than not disappeared during the time it has taken mediation cases to progress, with many clients finding their solicitors have been much less than honest during the mediation process.

As part of an on-going investigation into the viability of mediation between clients & solicitors who have provided expensive, yet poor, often negligent legal service, Diary of Injustice asked the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission to disclose its latest records of medication cases.

MEDIATION slcc FOIbmp_Page1The SLCC responded via a Freedom of Information legislation, disclosing information which makes extremely poor reading for any clients who are currently being cajoled by the SLCC into what is clearly a very poor mediation scheme with little results :

1. 91 cases have been put to mediation in this last year (i.e. since our last annual report).

2. There has been 58 successful mediation outcomes

3. There has been 33 mediation failures

4. The number of mediation outcomes accepted or rejected by complainer/solicitor is not applicable – if either party does not want to agree, there is no settlement. Such a mediation falls within the number of “mediation failures”,

5. 33 mediation cases were sent to Investigation (if a mediation fails, the case goes to Investigation),

6. 0 mediation cases have been abandoned

7. The cost of all mediation cases equals £18028.29

While the above figures reveal some 58 ‘successful mediation outcomes’, it appears clients in several of these cases had to settle for much less than they expected to gain from the mediation process.

After DOI journalists made further enquiries of legal sources, it will surprise no one to lean that most of the outcomes in what the SLCC have dubbed ‘successful mediation outcomes’ appear to have disproportionately benefited the law firms & solicitors being complained about more so, than the client victims who were forced to go to the SLCC because of poor legal services undertaken by their solicitors.

There is also evidence to support claims from some clients that solicitors & law firms have been using the SLCC’s mediation process as little more than a delaying tactic to prevent full complaints investigations by regulators which could result in stiffer penalties and media exposure for those in Scotland’s legal profession who consistently abuse their clients.

Speaking to Diary of Injustice, a legal insider said it was common knowledge that law firms were abusing the mediation process simply to avoid investigations into their conduct. He also claimed material from the mediation process has been seen on an almost ‘live basis’ by the Law Society of Scotland & solicitors acting for the Legal Defence Union (LDU) who have previously been reported to have been involved in secret no-notes taken meetings with the highest ranks of the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission, featured earlier by Diary of Injustice in a report here : Investigation reveals Scottish Legal Complaints Commission’s links, secret ‘off the record’ dealings with lawyers lobby group Legal Defence Union

A client who has been stuck in a months long mediation case which ultimately failed described the whole process as “a complete waste of time which only benefited the lawyers and has probably ruined any chance my complaint about my solicitor ripping me off will ever be properly investigated by the SLCC.”

The SLCC have issued no further comment or details on the types of cases entering into its mediation scheme, nor have they published the details of those thirty three cases which have failed and then been put back into the investigation loop.

If you have difficulties with the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission and have been involved in its mediation scheme, Diary of Injustice would like to hear from you. Please contact us via scottishlawreporters@gmail.com

 

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Regulator’s use of powers to reduce fees demanded by ‘crooked lawyers’ fails to keep pace with client complaints, dissatisfaction with Scots law firms

SLCCScottish Legal Complaints Commission is failing to use powers of reduction of legal fees in cases of complaints ACCORDING to statistics obtained by Diary of Injustice under Freedom of Information legislation, the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission (SLCC) is generally failing to use it’s powers to reduce or even nullify lawyers fees in cases where clients have made complaints to the regulator about poor legal services provided by Scottish solicitors.

The data obtained in an FOI response from the SLCC show that in the past year, the regulator used its powers over fees in a mere twenty one cases out of all the complaints made to the SLCC in the same time period, where the ‘independent’ regulator of Scottish solicitors can usually expect to receive around one thousand complaints from dissatisfied clients.

SLCC reduction & nullification of solicitors fees 2011-2012Do lawyers deserve fees for ruining a client’s legal affairs ? You decide. In the cases revealed to Diary of Injustice, fees demanded by solicitors were reduced by the SLCC in only nine cases, the largest reduction being £2000 and the smallest reduction a mere £58. Cases where the SLCC awarded compensation to clients totalled a mere eleven cases, where surprisingly the SLCC did award sums of up to £5388 to clients whose legal interests had been damaged by their solicitors, while lower awards of compensation amounted in one case, to a mere £150. The SLCC has the power to award up to twenty thousand pounds of compensation to clients but so far does not appear to have awarded any figure over £5K.

In other cases, where the SLCC has the power to nullify, or void the fees charged by solicitors to clients, a mere 5 cases saw clients relieved of having to pay their dodgy lawyers any money for work which ended up in a complaint to the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission.

The figures make for grim reading and compare as poorly as ever to earlier figures the SLCC was hurriedly forced to publish in its 2011 annual report for the first time ever since it began work in 2008, after an investigation by Diary of Injustice found one client had been awarded a mere ten pounds compensation. The earlier report can be read here : Scottish Legal Complaints Commission forced to publish compensation data in annual report, reveals only 7 cases ‘fully upheld’ against ‘dodgy lawyers’

Commenting on the figures this morning, an official with one of Scotland’s Consumer organisations said she was surprised the SLCC had only considered action over legal fees in such a small number of complaints made to the regulator over the past year.

She said : “Clients of solicitors who are put in the position of having to make a complaint about their solicitor to the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission should make it clear in their complaints they feel the SLCC should use its powers to reduce or void fees charged by their solicitors. If the SLCC refuses to do so, or the client does not agree with the award of compensation or a fee reduction, the client should ask for a full explanation over how the SLCC came to it’s decision.”

However, a legal insider was more critical of the SLCC’s lack of action over fees charged to clients, accusing the regulator of failing to use its fee reducing powers in a manner more likely to act as a deterrent to crooked lawyers.

He said “If the SLCC were to use its powers to reduce or void solicitors fees in many more cases, it may act as a more powerful deterrent to solicitors & law firms who are failing numerous clients yet appear to be able to demand money from clients put in difficult circumstances by their actions, even after considerable failures.”

He also accused the SLCC of buckling to pressure from the legal profession in “numerous cases where fees should have been reduced or voided” after apparently secret representations were made to the SLCC by the LEGAL DEFENCE UNION (LDU) on behalf of ‘crooked lawyers’.

In a recent case, Diary of Injustice reported on how the LDU had intervened in the SLCC’s investigation of complaints mad about Kilmarnock solicitor Niels Lockhart : SCANDAL : Legal Defence Union intervene in SLCC investigation over £670K Legal Aid lawyer who made Pensioner HOMELESS, STARVED to pay legal bills and in another report, Diary of Injustice revealed secret links between the SLCC & LDU : Investigation reveals Scottish Legal Complaints Commission’s links, secret ‘off the record’ dealings with lawyers lobby group Legal Defence Union

From evidence accumulated by Diary of Injustice, it appears to be clear that the Law Society of Scotland generally view the SLCC’s powers to reduce or void fees as a hostile act to its member firms, who continually bleat about poor finances yet expect to be able to charge clients the full whack even after ruining their legal affairs. Clearly the SLCC are reluctant to upset the Law Society in some of the cases, therefore this may also account for a lack of outcomes where fees have been reduced or nullified.

One case recently reported by Diary of Injustice where the issue of the SLCC’s reluctance to use its powers had a powerful effect on the complainant, was that of a William Gordon of Perth, who was sequestrated by Perth based law firm Kippen Campbell, who claimed they were due around two thousand five hundred pounds for legal services provided on a now collapsed medical injury claim in the Court of Session.

In the earlier report, Solicitors regulator blamed for failure to use powers on fees as accountants seize Disability benefits to pay Perth law firm for collapsed court case which also revealed Mr Gordon’s benefits had been seized by Glasgow based accountants Wylie & Bisset, acting on behalf of the Accountant in Bankruptcy (AIB) in order to pay back the alleged debts to the law firm, it was apparent that if the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission had used its powers over fees in complaints submitted by Mr Gordon, he would not have been put in the position of being made bankrupt by a law firm who effectively walked away from their client.

In the case of Mr Gordon, the AIB went further, attempting to seize two properties, orchestrating a plan to sell both to pay off alleged debts to Mr Gordon’s former solicitors, Kippen Campbell, which now total around six thousand pounds after the addition of several court hearings which Mr Gordon could not attend due to his ill health.

Diary of Injustice would like to advise consumers who are dealing with the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission : If you are making a complaint about your solicitor to the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission, whether the complaint is about fees, service or conduct, you should ask for more information on the SLCC’s powers to reduce or nullify fees you have been charged by your solicitor.

If, after the SLCC has made a decision on fees, or compensation and you are not satisfied with it, media publicity to the SLCC’s decision and your circumstances may help you have any decision looked at again, and may also help other consumers avoid using law firms who want to charge clients high fees even after ruining their legal interests.

 

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£670K dodgy Legal Aid claims lawyer who made Pensioner HOMELESS, told to pay derisory £100 fine by Scottish Legal Complaints Commission

SLCC Lockhart montageA solicitor who ruined pensioner’s legal affairs is given slap on the wrist by law complaints regulator SLCC. KILMARNOCK solicitor Niels S Lockhart, who was accused by the Scottish Legal Aid Board (SLAB) of making dodgy claims for legal aid work and who then went on to ruin the legal affairs of a pensioner and other clients is to be allowed to continue working as a lawyer after the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission (SLCC), the ‘independent’ regulator of solicitors decided his firm NS Lockhart Solicitors need only pay a meagre fine of ONE HUNDRED POUNDS to a victim who had complained about the legal nightmare she had been put through.

Esther Francis (aged 70), who was made homeless as a result of Mr Lockhart’s inaction over her legal problems and was then forced to starve herself to pay Lockhart’s demands for legal fees is to be given a derisory £100 in compensation and a £230 rebate of fees against sole practising solicitor Lockhart who raked in SIX HUNDRED & SEVENTY THOUSAND POUNDS of taxpayer funded legal aid in just three years. More on Esther’s nightmare at the hands of Mr Lockhart can be read in an earlier report by Diary of Injustice, here : Legal Aid officials hid details of dodgy claims scandal as ‘Pay-Up threats’ from £600K legal aid rogue lawyer leaves pensioner, 70, starving, homeless

Niels Lockhart was the subject of lengthy investigations by the Scottish Legal Aid Board which were uncovered by Diary of Injustice & the Sunday Mail newspaper, reported earlier here : One law for lawyers : Secret Report reveals Legal Aid Board, Law Society & Legal Defence Union ‘cosy relationship’ in Lockhart case

Today, Diary of Injustice is able to publish the investigation carried out by the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission into Niels S Lockhart. The report, now in the hands of media outlets can be viewed online here : SLCC Investigation of complaint against Niels S Lockhart of NS Lockhart Solicitors, Kilmarnock.

Lawyer 600K legal aid hassles pensioner over 100 billEsther Francis was hassled by Lockhart over bill yet her legal case had been ruined and she’d been made homeless. In the SLCC report, investigators found Mr Lockhart had provided an inadequate professional service to Mrs Francis, however the investigator for the SLCC then went onto recommend sanction only be applied to the firm rather than Mr Lockhart himself. No disciplinary measures were recommended by the SLCC, allowing Mr Lockhart’s firm to continue working after facing little more than a slap on the wrist.

It can also be revealed the SLCC DENIED Mrs Francis any access to submissions made by the LEGAL DEFENCE UNION (LDU) who were called in to intervene in the complaint on Mr Lockhart’s behalf. Diary of Injustice earlier reported on the LDU’s intervention in the complaint made against Mr Lockhart, and terse resistance from the SLCC to disclose the contact, here : SCANDAL : Legal Defence Union intervene in SLCC investigation over £670K Legal Aid lawyer who made Pensioner HOMELESS, STARVED to pay legal bills

There has also been no comment from the SLCC on the production to their office of the full investigation carried out by the Scottish Legal Aid Board into Lockhart’s actions, which Diary of Injustice published after a Freedom of Information disclosure, here : SCOTTISH LEGAL AID BOARD S31 COMPLAINT REPORT TO THE LAW SOCIETY OF SCOTLAND : NIELS S LOCKHART

A legal insider told Diary of Injustice today : “If there are other clients of NS Lockhart solicitors who feel they have been mistreated, now is the time to make a complaint to the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission.”

Diary of Injustice would also like to hear from any clients who feel they are being mistreated by their solicitors and would like to remind readers that media coverage may benefit the progress of their complaints, and help prevent other consumers from being ripped off by ‘crooked lawyers’ Readers can send details of dealings with solicitors to Diary of Injustice via scottishlawreporters@gmail.com

The Sunday Mail has covered the latest development in the Lockhart case, reporting here :

OAP fury as rogue lawyer let off Sunday Mail 03 June 2012OAP’s fury as rogue lawyer is let off.

By: Lauren Crooks Jun 3, 2012 Sunday Mail

Rogue lawyer Niels Lockhart has escaped punishment for mistreating an elderly client – after legal watchdogs decided his firm were to blame instead.

Furious Esther Francis, 70, complained to the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission over claims Lockhart failed to make any progress in her case and threatened her over bills she could not afford.

But after investigating, they decided it was the whole firm N S Lockhart – based in Kilmarnock – at fault, rather than Lockhart himself.

They wrote to Esther telling her the firm would refund £230 in fees she paid, plus £100 compensation. But Esther says she can’t believe Lockhart is still allowed to work as a lawyer.

Esther, who has rejected the settlement, said: “I got the letter last week. I wrote back and told them I wasn’t accepting the payment.”

Last year Lockhart was rapped by the Scottish Legal Aid Board for raking in 600,000 pounds of taxpayers’ cash over two years through “unnecessary and excessive” claims.

Esther reported Lockhart to the watchdog last September amid claims he had failed to progress with her case, despite several meetings with him.

Their decision states: “N S Lockhart’s failure to progress Mrs Francis’s claim in the 12 months that they acted for her amounted to an inadequate professional service.”

BACKGROUND : LOCKHART, LEGAL AID & THE LEGAL DEFENCE UNION

Lawyer pocketed 600K Legal Aid in Two Years Sunday Mail March 27 2011The long story of Mr Lockhart’s legal aid claims began nearly ten years ago, although it took the Scottish Legal Aid Board years to catch up with him, when eventually on 5 June 2005 the Scottish Legal Aid Board sent a report to the Law Society of Scotland in terms of S32 of the Legal Aid (Scotland) Act 1986 against the sole practitioner firm of Niels S Lockhart, 71 King Street, Kilmarnock. The secret report on Niels S Lockhart, obtained in 2011 by Diary of Injustice under Freedom of Information laws, can be downloaded here : SCOTTISH LEGAL AID BOARD S31 COMPLAINT REPORT TO THE LAW SOCIETY OF SCOTLAND : NIELS S LOCKHART (pdf) The Scottish Legal Aid Board’s report outlined a number of issues that had been identified during the review of case files & accounts which raised concern about Mr Lockhart’s conduct and which fell to be considered as a breach of either Regulation 31 (3) (a) & (b), relating to his conduct when acting or selected to act for persons to whom legal aid or advice and assistance is made available, and his professional conduct generally. These issues illustrated the repetitious nature of Mr Lockhart’s failure to charge fees “actually, necessarily and reasonable incurred, due regard being bad to economy”

The heads of complaint submitted by the Scottish Legal Aid Board to the Law Society of Scotland were :

(1) Excessive attendances, (2) Lack of Progress, (3) Splitting/Repeating Subject Matters, (4) Inappropriate Requests for Increases in Authorised Expenditure, (5) Matters resubmitted under a different guise, (6) Standard Attendance Times, (7) Attendances for Matters Not Related to the Subject Matter of the Case, (8) Unreasonable Charges, (9) Double Charging for Correspondence, (10) Account entries not supported by Client Files, (11) Attempt to Circumvent Statutory Payment Procedure for Property Recovered or Preserved, (12) Continued Failure to act with Due Regard to Economy.

The Scottish Legal Aid Board report also revealed : “From April 2002—March 2005, Niels S Lockhart was paid £672,585 from the Legal Aid Fund. Of this, £596,734 (89%) was in relation to Advice and Assistance cases, with £570,528 (85%) solely in relation to Civil Advice and Assistance. In the Board’s view, the ranges of actions taken by Niels S. Lockhart towards achieving those payments are not those appropriate to a competent and reputable solicitor.”

“Based on the supporting evidence he arranges for, or permits, his clients to attend his office on numerous occasions for excessive, unnecessary and often irrelevant meetings. In the main, these do not appear to have advantages for their further welfare or advance their case, but merely act as a mechanism for the firm to exploit the Legal Aid Fund by charging for these unnecessary and unproductive meetings. The nature of subject matters is often repeated, resulting in numerous duplicate/multiple/consecutive grants submitted under various guises, thus avoiding the Board’s computerised checks on subject matter. This pattern of conduct is deliberate,recurring and persistent, serving—in the Board’s view—as a device to generate considerable additional income for the firm to the detriment of the Scottish Legal Aid Fund.”

However, in October 2010, Mr Lockhart’s legal representative James McCann of the Legal Defence Union approached SLAB with a prospective offer that Mr Lockhart would withdraw fully from providing legal aid if SLAB’s S31 complaint was withdrawn. A Minute of Agreement was drafter and agreed with Niels Lockhart & the Legal Defence Union outlining the voluntary and irrevocable withdrawal by Mr Lockhart and the firm from the provision of all firms of legal assistance (funded by legal aid). The Minute of Agreement also outlined the Board’s intention to make a press release detailing that following SLAB’s investigation into the firm and their subsequent complaint to the Law Society of Scotland, SLAB had accepted this permanent withdrawal by Mr Lockhart and the firm from providing all forms of legal assistance.

Diary of Injustice continued to report on allegations surrounding Mr Lockhart and the Law Society of Scotland’s efforts to avoid a prosecution. All previous reports can be viewed HERE.

 

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Court of Session hears Legal Defence Union boss who met SLCC complaints Chief stands accused of SEVEN counts of misconduct by Law Society reporter

Court BrodieCourt of Session’s Lord Brodie hears Legal Defence Union boss accused of misconduct in Law Society report. DETAILS of a court case heard in Scotland’s Court of Session have revealed William Macreath aged 60, who is the head of the LEGAL DEFENCE UNION (LDU), a shady lawyer’s lobby group specialising in defending crooked colleagues has been accused of “five findings of inadequate services” and “seven findings of professional misconduct” by an unnamed reporter acting for the Law Society of Scotland. The stinging accusations against the LDU boss, who it was revealed last year had secret meetings with Jane Irvine, Chair of the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission (SLCC) in expensive Edinburgh hotels, are contained in one of four reports carried out by Law Society reporters investigating complaints originally made SEVEN YEARS AGO in 2005 by a fellow solicitor, Miss Norna Crabbe.

Details of the court case and allegations against Mr Macreath who is also a partner in Glasgow law firm Levy MacRae only came to light after the LDU boss petitioned the Court of Session for a Judicial Review against the Law Society of Scotland which in turn resulted in Miss Crabbe asking leave to enter the process and to lodge answers as additional respondent alongside the Council of the Law Society of Scotland in response to the petition filed by Mr Macreath.

Earlier this week, Miss Crabbe’s motion to the court to enable her to enter the case faced bitter opposition from advocate Helen Watts, acting on behalf of Messrs Simpson & Marwick who are representing Mr Macreath. During the debate on the case, the Judge, Lord Brodie who is known not to be a big fan of the media, heard the case had come about after it had taken the Law Society of Scotland no less than four reporters to wade through, investigate and report back on complaints made against Mr Macreath by Miss Crabbe in relation to litigation & legal services provided by Mr Macreath to Miss Crabbe over the dissolution of a firm in which Miss Crabbe had been a partner.

The court was told of how the third reporter who looked into the complaints made against Mr Macreath recommended that all heads of complaint made by Miss Crabbe against the petitioner be dismissed, with the exception of one finding of inadequate professional services upon which the third reporter recommended that no sanction be imposed on the petitioner in respect of that finding.

Miss Crabbe subsequently complained about the terms of the 2009 Report conducted by the third reporter and it was by way of response to Miss Crabbe’s complaint about the 2009 Report that the respondent made its remit (which the petitioner avers was of a limited nature) to the fourth reporter.

In what appears to be a complete reversal of the third reporter’s findings, the fourth reporter reported in terms of the 2011 Report. In the 2011 Report the fourth reporter made five findings of inadequate services against the petitioner and seven findings of professional misconduct. The fourth reporter did not make a finding of inadequate professional services in relation to the one head of the complaint which had been upheld by the third reporter.

In response to the allegations, the court heard in Mr Macreath’s pleadings that he made detailed written representations to the respondent about the unfairness of the approach adopted in dealing with Miss Crabbe’s complaint which led to the 2011 Report. The petitioner avers that he did not receive a substantive response from the respondents until 10 January 2012 when the respondent wrote to the petitioner advising that it proposed to proceed on the basis of the 2011 Report treating the 2009 Report as a nullity.

Details published by the court reveal Mr Macreath is seeking an interdict ad interim against the Council of the Law Society of Scotland from taking any procedural step to advance the disposal of the complaint by Miss Crabbe pending resolution of the proceedings; reduction of the Law Society’s decision of 10 January 2012 to set aside the 2009 Report and treat it as a nullity; an order by the Court ordaining the Law Society to set aside the terms of the 2011 Report; and an order by the Court ordaining the Law Society to obtain a supplementary report in terms specified at paragraph 14.4 of the petition.

However, after hearing both sides arguments in court, Lord Brodie granted Miss Crabbe’s plea to lodge responses, giving a fourteen day deadline for answers to be received by the court. The full terms of Lord Brodie’s opinion are reprinted below, however it should be noted there does not seem to be any mention of what work if any, the first & second reporters carried out with regard to Miss Crabbe’s complaints.

The opinion of Lord Brodie published by the Scottish Courts website is featured here and reprinted below : OUTER HOUSE, COURT OF SESSION [2012] CSOH 81 P47/12 OPINION OF LORD BRODIE in the Petition of WILLIAM COUPERTHWAITE MACREATH Petitioner; for Judicial Review of a decision taken by the Council of the Law Society of Scotland

Introduction

[1] In this application by motion in terms of rule 58.8(2) by Miss Norma Crabbe for leave to enter the process and to lodge answers as additional respondent to the petition, I heard Miss Crabbe in support of her motion and Miss Watts, Advocate, for the petitioner.

[2] Miss Crabbe objected to my hearing Miss Watts on the ground that, contrary to what appears on the Form 23.4 lodged on behalf of the petitioner, written intimation of opposition had not been given to her on the day that the opposition was lodged with the General Department, as required by rule 23.4(4). The relevant timetable of events, according to Miss Crabbe, was that she intimated her intention to enrol the motion by fax on Monday 30 April 2012. She enrolled the motion on Wednesday 2 May. Those acting for the petitioner lodged a form of opposition to motion (Form 23.4) with the General Department on 2 May but only intimated that opposition in writing to Miss Crabbe by way of letter which arrived on Thursday 3 May. The motion came before me on Friday 4 May. While I understood Miss Watts to dispute that there had been a failure to intimate opposition on 2 May, she accepted that she had handed an amended Form 23.4 to Miss Crabbe on the morning of 4 May prior to the motion calling before me. The amended Form 23.4 stated that the motion should be refused on the basis that the applicant was not directly affected by the issues raised in the petition and lacked the necessary interest and standing to justify her participating in the proceedings.

[3] Rather than taking further time to explore the factual dispute, I proceeded on the basis that, as Miss Crabbe claimed, written opposition to her motion had only been intimated to her on 3 May 2012 and that therefore there had been a failure to comply with rule 23.4(4). Rule 2.1 gives power to the Court to relieve a party from the consequences of failure to comply with the Rules of Courts. It is not entirely clear to me that there are necessary consequences of a failure to comply with the requirement to give written notice of opposition on the day of lodging it, at least where the motion is starred, the other party is on notice that the motion is opposed and the other party has attended to make her motion. But, assuming that it was open to me to refuse to hear Miss Watts or to grant the motion irrespective of its merits, I decided that it was entirely inappropriate for me to do so andto the extent that my hearing Miss Watts required me to exercise my powers under rule 2.1, I did so. In my experience at least, a motion such as this is unusual. It did not appear to me free from all difficulty. I welcomed the assistance which might be provided from either side of the bar and Miss Crabbe did not suggest that she had suffered any prejudice from having a shorter rather than longer period of notice of opposition.

The petition

[4] The petitioner is a solicitor. The respondent is the Law Society of Scotland. The petitioner seeks judicial review of a decision taken by the Council of the respondent, acting through its Regulation Department, and intimated by letter dated January 2011, to treat its report dated 28 September 2009, on a complaint against the petitioner (by Miss Crabbe) as a nullity and to proceed on the basis of the report, dated June 2011, on the same subject.

[5] Miss Crabbe is also a solicitor. The petitioner acted on her behalf between 1998 and 2005 in relation to litigation arising out of the dissolution of the firm of which Miss Crabbe had been a partner. Miss Crabbe became dissatisfied with the services provided to her by the petitioner in relation to this matter and in August 2005 intimated the complaint to the respondent which is referred to in the petition. The then statutory provision regulating such complaints was section 33 of the Law Reform (Miscellaneous Provisions) (Scotland) Act 1990. Section 33 requires the respondent to investigate a complaint made by any person with an interest and thereafter make a written report to the complainer and the practitioner concerned. It is averred in the petition that the respondent has appointed a series of four separate reporters to deal with Miss Crabbe’s complaint. The report dated 28 September 2009 (“the 2009 Report”) was a report by the third reporter and the report dated June 2011 (“the 2011 Report”) was a report by the fourth reporter.

[6] The 2009 report by the third reporter recommended that all heads of complaint made by Miss Crabbe against the petitioner be dismissed, with the exception of one finding of inadequate professional services. The third reporter recommended that no sanction be imposed on the petitioner in respect of that finding. Miss Crabbe subsequently complained about the terms of the 2009 Report. It was by way of response to Miss Crabbe’s complaint about the 2009 Report that the respondent made its remit (which the petitioner avers was of a limited nature) to the fourth reporter. The fourth reporter reported in terms of the 2011 Report. In the 2011 Report the fourth reporter made five findings of inadequate services against the petitioner and seven findings of professional misconduct. The fourth reporter did not make a finding of inadequate professional services in relation to the one head of the complaint which had been upheld by the third reporter.

[7] The petitioner avers that he made detailed written representations to the respondent about the unfairness of the approach adopted in dealing with Miss Crabbe’s complaint which led to the 2011 Report. The petitioner avers that he did not receive a substantive response from the respondents until 10 January 2012 when the respondent wrote to the petitioner advising that it proposed to proceed on the basis of the 2011 Report treating the 2009 Report as a nullity.

[8] In these circumstances the petitioner seeks interdict ad interim against the respondent from taking any procedural step to advance the disposal of the complaint by Miss Crabbe pending resolution of the proceedings; reduction of the respondent’s decision of 10 January 2012 to set aside the 2009 Report and treat it as a nullity; an order by the Court ordaining the respondent to set aside the terms of the 2011 Report; and an order by the Court ordaining the respondent to obtain a supplementary report in terms specified at paragraph 14.4 of the petition.

Rule of Court 58.8(2)

[9] Rule 58.8(2) provides as follows:

“Any person not specified in the first order made under Rule 58.7 as a person on whom service requires to be made, and who is directly affected by any issue raised, may apply by motion for leave to enter the process; and if the motion is granted, the provisions of this chapter shall apply to that person as they apply to a person specified in the first order”.

Discussion

[10] It was Miss Watts’s submission on behalf of the petitioner that Miss Crabbe was not a person “directly affected” by any issue raised in the petition. The petition would not resolve Miss Crabbe’s complaint against the petitioner. To the extent that Miss Crabbe’s patrimonial interests had been adversely affected by the petitioner’s conduct of her affairs then her remedy was an action for damages. Moreover, it was not in the interests of expedient determination of the petition that Miss Crabbe should be allowed to participate. A two day first hearing had been fixed in the petition for 14 and 15 June 2012. It was likely that that hearing would have to be discharged if Miss Crabbe were to be added as a party.

[11] Miss Crabbe and Miss Watts were agreed that authoritative guidance as to what is meant by “directly affected” for the purposes of Rule 58.8(2) is to be found in the judgment of Lord Reed in AXA General Insurance Ltd v The Lord Advocate 2011 SLT 1061 at paras.170 to 175. In that passage, Lord Reed explains that the traditional analysis in terms of title and interest as a requisite for locus standi in a private law context, as set out in D & J Nicol v Dundee Harbour Trustees 1915 SC (HL) 712, is inappropriate where what is in issue are questions of public law, which is likely to be the case with an exercise of the supervisory jurisdiction. At para.174 of his judgment in AXA Lord Reed considers the terms of Rule 58.8(2). He explains that stipulation in the rule that a person must be directly affected by any issue raised, is no more than a reflection of the pre-existing requirement that a person must have sufficient interest. It is no more restrictive than that.

[12] There may be instances where having made a complaint to a regulatory authority the complainer should be taken to have surrendered any private interest in the matter to that authority but on the admittedly fairly superficial understanding of the scheme under the 1990 Act which I was able to glean from the parties’ necessarily brief submissions, I do not see this to be such a case. It would appear from the petitioner’s averments that the respondent involved Miss Crabbe in the complaints process. It entertained Miss Crabbe’s complaint about the 2009 Report. It invited her to submit material which she claimed had not been considered by the third reporter. The petitioner complains of lack of procedural fairness on the part of the respondent in its consideration of the complaint. It is at the very least arguable that just as the petitioner had an expectation of procedural fairness, so did Miss Crabbe. The petitioner complains of delay on the part of the respondent. So did Miss Crabbe when she came to address me. It may be that, in contrast to the petitioner, Miss Crabbe has no direct patrimonial interest in the outcome of the complaint, but I consider that I am entitled to have regard to her interest in being vindicated in the event of her complaint being upheld just as the petitioner has an interest (additional to any purely patrimonial interest) in being vindicated by the complaint being dismissed, either in whole or in part. Depending on the outcome of the complaint, I would expect parties to consider that they had “won” or “lost” to a greater or lesser extent. The terms of the operative reporter’s report may not be determinative of the complaint but any final decision will have to be based on that report, hence the petitioner’s wish for the 2011 Report to be set aside in favour of the 2009 Report with any further report being limited to an identification of the documentation which was not available to the third reporter and a decision on the significance, if any, of such additional documentation. If it is clear that the petitioner has an interest in setting aside the 2011 Report in favour of the 2009 Report, then, conversely, I would see Miss Crabbe as having an interest, albeit perhaps not a patrimonial interest, in the 2011 Report remaining as the operative report.

[13] Were it to be suggested (and Miss Watts did not so suggest), I would not be satisfied that it would be an answer to Miss Crabbe’s wish to participate that her interests can be adequately protected by the respondent’s opposition to the petition. It may be that the respondent will take and maintain all relevant points available in answer to the petition but Miss Crabbe has no guarantee that that will be so. It may be that with a view to the economical conduct of the litigation, Miss Crabbe will not choose to add anything to what is put forward on behalf of the respondent, but she cannot know in advance whether the points which are to be insisted upon on behalf of the respondent and the way in which the proceedings are conducted will exactly coincide with her view of her interests.

[14] Miss Watts argued that it was not in the interests of the expedient determination of the petition that Miss Crabbe be allowed to participate. Miss Watts envisaged that the hearing fixed for 14 and 15 June 2012 would have to be discharged. I am not satisfied that this is necessarily so but were it to be so I do not see it as a consideration which could prevent a directly affected person being granted leave to enter the process.

Decision

[15] I shall therefore grant Miss Crabbe leave to enter the process. Miss Crabbe sought leave to lodge answers and I would grant leave for her to do so, ordaining that these be lodged within 14 days of the date of the interlocutor granting leave. [16] I reserve all questions of expenses.

LEGAL DEFENCE UNION – DEFENDING CROOKED LAWYERS, ACTING AGAINST CLIENTS :

The LEGAL DEFENCE UNION (LDU) is a small, yet powerful organisation which regularly represents crooked lawyers against investigations of client complaints which are carried out by the Law Society of Scotland & the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission (SLCC). It is now well known the LDU regularly intervene in cases and make submissions to both the Law Society & SLCC on solicitors behalf while the clients who have made the complaints are routinely refused access to the LDU’s submissions, dubbed by some complaints insiders as “more often than not, threatening & intimidatory”.

A report into the Law Society of Scotland’s Master Policy carried out by the University of Manchester Law School in 2009 for the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission was handed documents linking the Legal Defence Union to suicides of clients who had complained about their solicitors. Details of the cases were referred to in the report, which can be read in an article by Diary of Injustice here : Suicides, illness, broken families and ruined clients reveal true cost of Law Society’s Master Policy which ‘allows solicitors to sleep at night’

SLCC Lockhart montageInvestigation revealed Legal Defence Union rushed to aid £600K dodgy legal aid claims lawyer. Diary of Injustice conducted an in depth investigation into dealings between the Legal Defence Union and the Scottish Legal Aid Board (SLAB), revealing James McCann, a solicitor acting for the LDU brokered a deal between SLAB and the Law Society to deter action on complaints filed by SLAB against sole practitioner Niels S Lockhart, a solicitor who SLAB accused of making inflated claims for legal aid work after raking in SIX HUNDRED & SEVENTY TWO THOUSAND POUNDS of legal aid funds between April 2002 to March 2005.

Diary of Injustice reported on the secret deal struck between the Legal Defence Union, Scottish Legal Aid Board and the Law Society of Scotland to get Niels Lockhart off the hook from potentially being struck off, in an earlier article, here : One law for lawyers : Secret Report reveals Legal Aid Board, Law Society & Legal Defence Union ‘cosy relationship’ in Lockhart case

The secret SLAB report on Niels S Lockhart, obtained in 2011 by Diary of Injustice under Freedom of Information laws, can be viewed online here : SCOTTISH LEGAL AID BOARD S31 COMPLAINT REPORT TO THE LAW SOCIETY OF SCOTLAND : NIELS S LOCKHART

Jane Irvine SLCC ChairLegal Defence Union boss secretly met SLCC Chair Jane Irvine in no notes meetings at posh Edinburgh hotel. A further investigation carried out by Diary of Injustice into dealings between the Legal Defence Union and the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission revealed a series of secret off the record meetings at the plush Balmoral hotel in Edinburgh between Jane Irvine, the Chair of the SLCC and William Macreath, despite the fact Mr Macreath was under investigation by the Law Society of Scotland at the same time over complaints filed by solicitor Miss Crabbe. That report can be read here : Investigation reveals Scottish Legal Complaints Commission’s links, secret ‘off the record’ dealings with lawyers lobby group Legal Defence Union

Documents obtained from the SLCC under Freedom of Information disclosures revealed Mr Macreath and the SLCC Chair exchanged correspondence and letters agreeing that no notes of their meetings would be kept. The FOI disclosures can be viewed online or downloaded here : Legal Defence Union & Law Care involvement in complaints to SLCC & here : FOI Disclosure : Involvement & meetings between Scottish Legal Complaints Commission & Legal Defence Union

The Scottish Legal Complaints Commission was asked for their reaction over the allegations against Mr Macreath and what impact it may have on any discussions held between the SLCC’s Chair, Jane Irvine and the LDU Boss. No response has been received at time of publication.

 

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SCANDAL : Legal Defence Union intervene in SLCC investigation over £670K Legal Aid lawyer who made Pensioner HOMELESS, STARVED to pay legal bills

SLCC Lockhart montageLegal Defence Union intervened in Complaints investigation of dodgy claims lawyer. A series of CONFIDENTIAL DOCUMENTS obtained by Diary of Injustice journalists investigating the closed world of regulation of Scottish solicitors have revealed the notorious LEGAL DEFENCE UNION (LDU) have intervened in an investigation being carried out by the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission (SLCC)) in response to complaints made by clients against Niels S Lockhart, the sole practising solicitor from Kilmarnock who was accused by the Scottish Legal Aid Board (SLAB) of making EXCESSIVE claims for taxpayer funded legal aid. A SLAB report revealed Lockhart walked away with a staggering SIX HUNDRED & SEVENTY TWO THOUSAND POUNDS of legal aid funds between April 2002 to March 2005 yet SLAB Chiefs said “..the the ranges of actions taken by Niels S. Lockhart towards achieving those payments are not those appropriate to a competent and reputable solicitor.”

In the shady deal done between the Law Society of Scotland, the Scottish Legal Aid Board and the Legal Defence Union over Legal Aid Chief’s demands Lockhart be investigated by the Law Society, it was revealed by Diary of Injustice and the Sunday Mail newspaper that solicitor James McCann of the Legal Defence Union had stepped in to prevent any further investigations or prosecutions of ‘their client’ Mr Lockhart. Diary of Injustice reported on the secret deal by the three legal organisations in an earlier article, here : One law for lawyers : Secret Report reveals Legal Aid Board, Law Society & Legal Defence Union ‘cosy relationship’ in Lockhart case

Diary of Injustice revealed in January of this year, the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission had been called in to investigate Mr Lockhart in an earlier article, here : TO BE OR NOT TO BE ? Lawyer who raked in £600K of Legal Aid & left clients ruined, now being investigated by Scottish Legal Complaints Commission.

However, news of the secret intervention by the Legal Defence Union on behalf of the shamed legal aid claims solicitor Niels Lockhart who is still working as a lawyer in Kilmarnock, has been roundly condemned by senior members of the legal profession and even insiders at the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission, who are aghast the LDU has again been flexing its muscle to protect solicitors many inside & outside the profession now feel are not fit to represent the legal interests of their clients.

This time around, Mr Lockhart is facing complaints made by clients such as pensioner Esther Francis, who was MADE HOMLESS by solicitor Niels Lockhart’s dodgy legal services. Lockhart’s demands for ever more money to pay for fanciful legal work also forced the poor pensioner TO STARVE HERSELF to pay legal fees after being threatened by the Kilmarnock solicitor over a missed £100 payment of legal bills which were originally being paid by Legal Aid. Diary of Injustice and the Sunday Mail newspaper covered the story here :

Lawyer 600K legal aid hassles pensioner over 100 billLegal Aid officials hid details of dodgy claims scandal as ‘Pay-Up threats’ from £600K legal aid rogue lawyer leaves pensioner, 70, starving, homeless SLAB’s secret deal with Law Society of Scotland & LDU kept info on legal aid accusations against solicitor from clients. A VULNERABLE PENSIONER was left HOMELESS & HAD TO STARVE HERSELF to pay legal fees after being threatened by Kilmarnock solicitor Niels S Lockhart over a missed £100 payment of legal bills which were originally being paid by Legal Aid. Esther Francis, 70, had gone to Niels Lockhart for help in a dispute with her housing association and was originally put on legal aid by the lawyer who has already claimed around SIX HUNDRED THOUSAND POUNDS of legal aid money in previous years for other clients, however she was not told by the Scottish Legal Aid Board (SLAB) her solicitor, Mr Lockhart had ‘voluntarily’ withdrew himself from being able to provide legal aid, AFTER he was accused by SLAB of making excessive legal aid claims.

Diary of Injustice can today reveal the documents obtained in the latest scandal involving the Kilmarnock based solicitor, which cannot  be published at this stage for fear of prejudicing the SLCC’s investigation into the dodgy solicitor, CONFIRM the Legal Defence Union have made strong representations on behalf of Mr Lockhart to the SLCC, in writing and, apparently during meetings & other conversations with staff and senior figures at the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission.

More worryingly for those clients who are making complaints against Mr Lockhart, the documents also reveal the same clients who found their lives & legal affairs ruined by Mr Lockhart’s actions are now BEING DENIED access to the LDU’s representations to the SLCC by members of staff at the SLCC. Clients who have asked for access to the Legal Defence Union’s submissions supporting their client Mr Lockhart, have been given a short sharp shrift by SLCC officials who have refused to part with the secret LDU begging letters.

In one letter seen by Diary of Injustice, an SLCC investigator claimed the Legal Defence Union had not seen any correspondence or complaints made by clients of Mr Lockhart, yet further enquiries carried out by Diary of Injustice have now established the LDU “is fully aware of the terms of the complaints made against their client”. It has since been established by Diary of Injustice the LDU also appears to have copies of submissions made in the complaints against Mr Lockhart, despite written assurances given by SLCC investigators to clients this was not the case.

The Scottish Legal Complaints Commission was asked for comment on these developments, however no response has been received prior to publication.

BACKGROUND : LOCKHART, LEGAL AID & THE LEGAL DEFENCE UNION

Lawyer pocketed 600K Legal Aid in Two Years Sunday Mail March 27 2011The long story of Mr Lockhart’s legal aid claims began in the first half of the last decade, although it took the Scottish Legal Aid Board years to catch up with him, when on 5 June 2005 the Scottish Legal Aid Board sent a report to the Law Society of Scotland in terms of S32 of the Legal Aid (Scotland) Act 1986 against the sole practitioner firm of Niels S Lockhart, 71 King Street, Kilmarnock. The secret report on Niels S Lockhart, obtained in 2011 by Diary of Injustice under Freedom of Information laws, can be downloaded here : SCOTTISH LEGAL AID BOARD S31 COMPLAINT REPORT TO THE LAW SOCIETY OF SCOTLAND : NIELS S LOCKHART (pdf) The Scottish Legal Aid Board’s report outlined a number of issues that had been identified during the review of case files & accounts which raised concern about Mr Lockhart’s conduct and which fell to be considered as a breach of either Regulation 31 (3) (a) & (b), relating to his conduct when acting or selected to act for persons to whom legal aid or advice and assistance is made available, and his professional conduct generally. These issues illustrated the repetitious nature of Mr Lockhart’s failure to charge fees “actually, necessarily and reasonable incurred, due regard being bad to economy”

The heads of complaint submitted by the Scottish Legal Aid Board to the Law Society of Scotland were :

(1) Excessive attendances, (2) Lack of Progress, (3) Splitting/Repeating Subject Matters, (4) Inappropriate Requests for Increases in Authorised Expenditure, (5) Matters resubmitted under a different guise, (6) Standard Attendance Times, (7) Attendances for Matters Not Related to the Subject Matter of the Case, (8) Unreasonable Charges, (9) Double Charging for Correspondence, (10) Account entries not supported by Client Files, (11) Attempt to Circumvent Statutory Payment Procedure for Property Recovered or Preserved, (12) Continued Failure to act with Due Regard to Economy.

The Scottish Legal Aid Board report also revealed : “From April 2002—March 2005, Niels S Lockhart was paid £672,585 from the Legal Aid Fund. Of this, £596,734 (89%) was in relation to Advice and Assistance cases, with £570,528 (85%) solely in relation to Civil Advice and Assistance. In the Board’s view, the ranges of actions taken by Niels S. Lockhart towards achieving those payments are not those appropriate to a competent and reputable solicitor.”

“Based on the supporting evidence he arranges for, or permits, his clients to attend his office on numerous occasions for excessive, unnecessary and often irrelevant meetings. In the main, these do not appear to have advantages for their further welfare or advance their case, but merely act as a mechanism for the firm to exploit the Legal Aid Fund by charging for these unnecessary and unproductive meetings. The nature of subject matters is often repeated, resulting in numerous duplicate/multiple/consecutive grants submitted under various guises, thus avoiding the Board’s computerised checks on subject matter. This pattern of conduct is deliberate,recurring and persistent, serving—in the Board’s view—as a device to generate considerable additional income for the firm to the detriment of the Scottish Legal Aid Fund.”

Outline of Correspondence SLAB-LSS re NS LockhartSLAB’s report was heavy on accusations yet achieved little, as did their complaint to the Law Society. The Scottish Legal Aid Board presented its report & complaint to the Law Society of Scotland on the 5th June 2006 but had to wait until a stunning FOUR YEARS until August 2010 before the Law Society even got round to sending SLAB a copy of the Law Society investigator’s report, which recommended that 11 out of 12 of SLAB’s complaints were “made out” and also recommended that the Law Society exercise its powers to exclude Niels Lockhart from giving advice & assistance to or from acting for a person to whom legal aid is made available.

However, two months later in October 2010, Mr Lockhart’s legal representative James McCann of the Legal Defence Union approached SLAB with a prospective offer that Mr Lockhart would withdraw fully from providing legal aid if SLAB’s S31 complaint was withdrawn. A Minute of Agreement was drafter and agreed with Niels Lockhart & the Legal Defence Union outlining the voluntary and irrevocable withdrawal by Mr Lockhart and the firm from the provision of all firms of legal assistance (funded by legal aid). The Minute of Agreement also outlined the Board’s intention to make a press release detailing that following SLAB’s investigation into the firm and their subsequent complaint to the Law Society of Scotland, SLAB had accepted this permanent withdrawal by Mr Lockhart and the firm from providing all forms of legal assistance.

Letter to LSS, 11-10 redactedLegal Aid Board asked Law Society to withdraw complaint after secret deal was reached with Legal Defence Union. “In November 2010 SLAB advised the Law Society of Scotland that they had negotiated with Mr Lockhart his voluntary removal from the provision of legal assistance with effect from 1 November 2010 and acknowledged that the Society had separately received information from Mr Lockhart signalling his intention to withdraw from provision of all types of legal assistance. In the light of this, we sought to know from them whether they accepted SLAB’s withdrawal of the S31 complaint against Mr Lockhart.”

“In December 2010 the Law Society wrote to SLAB advising that they had accepted SLAB’s withdrawal of the complaint and that they were closing their file and taking no further action.”

Diary of Injustice continued to report on allegations surrounding Mr Lockhart and the Law Society of Scotland’s efforts to avoid a prosecution. All previous reports can be viewed HERE.

In July of 2011, Diary of Injustice followed up the investigation into the LDU-SLCC relationship with the following report, revealing senior figures from the LDU had SECRET no-notes-taken meetings with the SLCC’s Chair, Jane Irvine :

slccInvestigation reveals Scottish Legal Complaints Commission’s links, secret ‘off the record’ dealings with lawyers lobby group Legal Defence Union REVEALED : Law regulator’s dealings with organisation linked to client suicides & blocked prosecutions of legal aid fraudsters. AN INVESTIGATION by Diary of Injustice into dealings between the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission (SLCC), the ‘independent’ quango which regulates complaints against Scottish lawyers and the Legal Defence Union, an organisation which represents the best interests of lawyers,recently linked to blocked criminal prosecutions of legal aid fraudster lawyers & also the suicide of a married Oban family man in the SLCC’s 2009 report into the Master Policy, has revealed a series of cosy meetings between the regulator & pro-lawyer lobby group at expensive Edinburgh hotels which the heads of both organisations agreed to keep off the record and away from public gaze.

According to claims from SLCC insiders who were fed up with the non-achieving law complaints regulator, the scandal hit Scottish Legal Complaints Commission and the Legal Defence Union have now become so close, SLCC staff privately joke it is now “routine” for the Legal Defence Union to intervene in complaints investigations on behalf of solicitors interests while consumers who make complaints about their solicitors to the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission, are not represented in any way and have no organisation to turn to for help with their complaints.

SLCC to LDU no records of meetings keptSLCC Chair Jane Irvine agreed no records of discussion between regulator & lawyer’s lobby group at Balmoral Hotel. A limited amount of papers reluctantly disclosed by the SLCC under Freedom of Information legislation show a series of discussions between the two pro-lawyer bodies bosses, Jane Irvine for the SLCC and LDU Solicitor Director William Macreath, also a partner at law firm Levy McRae, who, according to the text of one of the letters disclosed to Diary of Injustice under FOI laws, both agreed “there would be no formal records of any element of the discussion.”. The letter from Jane Irvine to the LDU Director which disclosed the secret no-records-of-meetings policy went on to detail several technical issues about complaints regulation and how the SLCC should deal with solicitors & consumers, the former apparently having much greater priority over the latter. The limited Freedom of Information disclosure of documents disclosed by the SLCC documenting only a fraction of its dealings with the Legal Defence Union can be viewed online or downloaded here : FOI Disclosure : Involvement & meetings between Scottish Legal Complaints Commission & Legal Defence Union

Anyone who has made a complaint about their solicitor or law firm to the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission is HIGHLY ADVISED by Diary of Injustice journalists to ask the SLCC for copies of correspondence or representations made by the Legal Defence Union on behalf of the solicitor or law firm who is the subject of the complaint. If readers want to publicise any material, please send it to Diary of Injustice at scottishlawreporters@gmail.com

 

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TO BE OR NOT TO BE ? Lawyer who raked in £600K of Legal Aid & left clients ruined, now being investigated by Scottish Legal Complaints Commission

Lawyer pocketed 600K Legal Aid in Two Years Sunday Mail March 27 2011A solicitor from Kilmarnock who took over £1/2 million in legal aid is being investigated by the SLCC after clients made complaints. NIELS LOCKHART, a sole practising solicitor from Kilmarnock who was the subject of several reports in the Sunday Mail newspaper last year after a joint investigation with Diary of Injustice into legal aid fraud, is now confirmed by legal insiders to be under investigation by the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission (SLCC), after some of Mr Lockhart’s clients filed complaints over his damaging conduct in their cases, conduct which the SLCC has been told, has left some former clients now financially ruined and with little hope of recovery. Mr Lockhart’s actions in one of the cases in particular, that of Esther Francis (70) have caused such hardship the pensioner was left homeless after losing everything from a failed claim Mr Lockhart was dealing with on Esther’s behalf. Esther was also threatened by Lockhart over the non payment of bills, leading to the pensioner having to starve herself to meet Lockhart’s demands for money.

However, despite the detailed complaints submitted to the SLCC about Mr Lockhart, and admissions from sources within the law complaints regulator they are well aware of media investigations exposing Lockhart, the SLCC sent several letters out to complainants asking if they wanted to enter into mediation over their complaints against the now infamous lawyer, rather than see justice done in a proper investigation which could eventually lead to Lockhart being struck off as a practising solicitor. In 2011, Diary of Injustice reported :

SLAB_logoCalls to investigate Scottish Legal Aid Board & Law Society over ‘dodgy dealings’ in ‘voluntary removal’ of £600k lawyer from legal aid register THE SCOTTISH LEGAL AID BOARD (SLAB) & the Law Society of Scotland are facing calls for an inquiry into the way they both deal with alleged cases of legal aid claims abuse after it was revealed in a national newspaper a solicitor who raked in over £600,000 in legal aid claims over two years was allowed to quietly remove himself from the legal aid register after a deal had been struck between his lawyer and the legal aid board to avoid any further proceedings, even though SLAB had made a detailed complaint to the Law Society of Scotland in 2006, a complaint which took the law complaints self regulator a whopping FOUR YEARS to investigate !

Lawyer pocketed 600K Legal Aid in Two Years Sunday Mail March 27 2011One law for lawyers : Secret Report reveals Legal Aid Board, Law Society & Legal Defence Union ‘cosy relationship’ in Lockhart case Legal Aid Chiefs accused lawyer Niels Lockhart of excessive claims yet no prosecution or repayment took place. A SECRET REPORT by the Scottish Legal Aid Board (SLAB) into “excessive” claims for legal aid made by Kilmarnock based solicitor Niels S Lockhart who raked in over £600,000 in legal aid claims over two years can now be published, revealing the full extent of SLAB’s accusations against the sole practitioner, the FOUR YEAR WAIT for the Law Society of Scotland to rule on the case and the intervention of the Legal Defence Union who brokered a deal allowing Mr Lockhart to walk away from all accusations over his claims for legal aid.

Legal Aid officials hid details of dodgy claims scandal as ‘Pay-Up threats’ from £600K legal aid rogue lawyer leaves pensioner, 70, starving, homeless SLAB’s secret deal with Law Society of Scotland & LDU kept info on legal aid accusations against solicitor from clients. A VULNERABLE PENSIONER was left HOMELESS & HAD TO STARVE HERSELF to pay legal fees after being threatened by Kilmarnock solicitor Niels S Lockhart over a missed £100 payment of legal bills which were originally being paid by Legal Aid. Esther Francis, 70, had gone to Niels Lockhart for help in a dispute with her housing association and was originally put on legal aid by the lawyer who has already claimed around SIX HUNDRED THOUSAND POUNDS of legal aid money in previous years for other clients, however she was not told by the Scottish Legal Aid Board (SLAB) her solicitor, Mr Lockhart had ‘voluntarily’ withdrew himself from being able to provide legal aid, AFTER he was accused by SLAB of making excessive legal aid claims.

Diary of Injustice continued to report on allegations surrounding Mr Lockhart and the Law Society of Scotland’s efforts to avoid a prosecution. All previous reports can be viewed HERE.

The long story of Mr Lockhart’s legal aid claims began in the first half of the last decade, although it took the Scottish Legal Aid Board years to catch up with him, when on 5 June 2005 the Scottish Legal Aid Board sent a report to the Law Society of Scotland in terms of S32 of the Legal Aid (Scotland) Act 1986 against the sole practitioner firm of Niels S Lockhart, 71 King Street, Kilmarnock. The secret report, obtained under Freedom of Information laws, can be downloaded here : SCOTTISH LEGAL AID BOARD S31 COMPLAINT REPORT TO THE LAW SOCIETY OF SCOTLAND : NIELS S LOCKHART (pdf)

The Scottish Legal Aid Board’s report outlined a number of issues that had been identified during the review of case files & accounts which raised concern about Mr Lockhart’s conduct and which fell to be considered as a breach of either Regulation 31 (3) (a) & (b), relating to his conduct when acting or selected to act for persons to whom legal aid or advice and assistance is made available, and his professional conduct generally. These issues illustrated the repetitious nature of Mr Lockhart’s failure to charge fees “actually, necessarily and reasonable incurred, due regard being bad to economy”

The heads of complaint submitted by the Scottish Legal Aid Board to the Law Society of Scotland were :

(1) Excessive attendances, (2) Lack of Progress, (3) Splitting/Repeating Subject Matters, (4) Inappropriate Requests for Increases in Authorised Expenditure, (5) Matters resubmitted under a different guise, (6) Standard Attendance Times, (7) Attendances for Matters Not Related to the Subject Matter of the Case, (8) Unreasonable Charges, (9) Double Charging for Correspondence, (10) Account entries not supported by Client Files, (11) Attempt to Circumvent Statutory Payment Procedure for Property Recovered or Preserved, (12) Continued Failure to act with Due Regard to Economy.

The report by the Scottish Legal Aid Board revealed that, of all firms in Scotland, the sole practitioner firm of NS Lockhart, 71 King Street, Kilmarnock, granted the highest number of advice and assistance applications for “interdict” (392) for the period January-October 2004.The next ranked firm granted 146, while the next ranked Kilmarnock firm granted only 30.

The report stated : “While conducting a selective analysis of Niels S Lockhart’s Advice and Assistance accounts, it was clear from the outset that much of his business comes from “repeat clients” and/or members of the same household/family, whom he has frequently admitted to Advice and Assistance. The analysis revealed persistent patterns of excessive client attendances, the vast majority of which are irrelevant, unnecessary and conducted without due regard to economy.”

“It was also clear that Niels S Lockhart makes grants for a number of interlinked matters, where there is clearly a “cross-over” of advice. Consecutive grants are also often made as a continuation of the same matter shortly after authorised expenditure has expired on the previous grant.”

“This appears to the Board to be a deliberate scheme by Niels S. Lockhart to make consecutive grants of Advice and Assistance on behalf of the same client for the same matter, for personal gain. By so doing, he has succeeded in obtaining additional funds by utilising new initial levels of authorised expenditure for matters where, had further requests for increases in authorised expenditure under the initial grant been made to the Board, they would with every likelihood have been refused by Board staff.”

“Closer scrutiny of Niels S Lockhart’s accounts and some client files has given rise to a number of other serious concerns, e.g. numerous meetings, standard of file notes, encouraging clients to advance matters while demonstrating a lack of progress.”

“After a meeting between SLAB officials & Mr Lockhart on 14 April 2005, Mr Lockhart was advised that SLAB’s Executive Team had approved of his firm’s accounts being removed from the guarantee of 30-day turnaround for payment of accounts, and that henceforth, to allow the Board the opportunity to satisfy itself that all fees and outlays had been properly incurred and charged by the firm, he would be required to submit additional supporting documentation and information with his accounts (including client files).”

The report continued : “Over the next few months, Mr Lockhart telephoned Accounts staff many times, often on a daily basis, repeatedly asking questions about the type of charge they considered acceptable or unacceptable in a variety of situations. Staff reported that, despite their having given Mr Lockhart the same answers time and again (both via correspondence and over the telephone),he continued to submit accounts with unacceptable charges. In a final effort to counter these continuing problems and to emphasis the Board’s stance in relation to the various issues of concern, our Accounts Department sent him a letter on 23 December 2005.”

“Mr Lockhart did not provide a written response to this correspondence. He did however contact Mr McCann of the Legal Defence Union, who wrote to the Board seeking a meeting with Board officials to try to resolve the payments issue. Our view however was that this would not advance matters as Mr Lockhart had been given a clear steer both after the April 2005 meeting and in the December when Accounts wrote to him on a number of matters.”

However, the secret report revealed SLAB officials had made a significant omission, amazingly, failing to interview any of Mr Lockhart’s clients despite the allegations of excessive legal aid claims.

The SLAB report revealed : “Board staff have not interviewed any of Mr Lockhart’s clients as we have no reason to believe that, for example, the multitude of meetings that he held with them—sometimes more than twice daily—did not take place; our concern is that they DID take place and he has sought to claim payment for these multitudinous meetings,very few of which could be described as necessary and reasonable. We believe that such work had no regard to the principle of economy: our contention is that it is highly unlikely that any private paying client would be willing to meet the cost of the service provided by Mr Lockhart. That aside, there are cases set out in the report where it is difficult to see what advice or assistance has actually been provided. Our Accounts staff are continuing to assess a number of his accounts and examining the corresponding client files which indicate repetition of the issues that gave rise to our initial concerns.”

The report’s findings concluded : “From April 2002—March 2005, Niels S Lockhart was paid £672,585 from the Legal Aid Fund. Of this, £596,734 (89%) was in relation to Advice and Assistance cases, with £570,528 (85%) solely in relation to Civil Advice and Assistance. In the Board’s view, the ranges of actions taken by Niels S. Lockhart towards achieving those payments are not those appropriate to a competent and reputable solicitor.”

“Based on the supporting evidence he arranges for, or permits, his clients to attend his office on numerous occasions for excessive, unnecessary and often irrelevant meetings. In the main, these do not appear to have advantages for their further welfare or advance their case, but merely act as a mechanism for the firm to exploit the Legal Aid Fund by charging for these unnecessary and unproductive meetings. The nature of subject matters is often repeated, resulting in numerous duplicate/multiple/consecutive grants submitted under various guises, thus avoiding the Board’s computerised checks on subject matter. This pattern of conduct is deliberate,recurring and persistent, serving—in the Board’s view—as a device to generate considerable additional income for the firm to the detriment of the Scottish Legal Aid Fund.”

Outline of Correspondence SLAB-LSS re NS LockhartSLAB’s report was heavy on accusations yet achieved little, as did their complaint to the Law Society. The Scottish Legal Aid Board presented its report & complaint to the Law Society of Scotland on the 5th June 2006 but had to wait until a stunning FOUR YEARS until August 2010 before the Law Society even got round to sending SLAB a copy of the Law Society investigator’s report, which recommended that 11 out of 12 of SLAB’s complaints were “made out” and also recommended that the Law Society exercise its powers to exclude Niels Lockhart from giving advice & assistance to or from acting for a person to whom legal aid is made available.

However, two months later in October 2010, Mr Lockhart’s legal representative James McCann of the Legal Defence Union approached SLAB with a prospective offer that Mr Lockhart would withdraw fully from providing legal aid if SLAB’s S31 complaint was withdrawn. A Minute of Agreement was drafter and agreed with Niels Lockhart & the Legal Defence Union outlining the voluntary and irrevocable withdrawal by Mr Lockhart and the firm from the provision of all firms of legal assistance (funded by legal aid). The Minute of Agreement also outlined the Board’s intention to make a press release detailing that following SLAB’s investigation into the firm and their subsequent complaint to the Law Society of Scotland, SLAB had accepted this permanent withdrawal by Mr Lockhart and the firm from providing all forms of legal assistance.

Letter to LSS, 11-10 redactedLegal Aid Board asked Law Society to withdraw complaint after secret deal was reached with Legal Defence Union. “In November 2010 SLAB advised the Law Society of Scotland that they had negotiated with Mr Lockhart his voluntary removal from the provision of legal assistance with effect from 1 November 2010 and acknowledged that the Society had separately received information from Mr Lockhart signalling his intention to withdraw from provision of all types of legal assistance. In the light of this, we sought to know from them whether they accepted SLAB’s withdrawal of the S31 complaint against Mr Lockhart.”

“In December 2010 the Law Society wrote to SLAB advising that they had accepted SLAB’s withdrawal of the complaint and that they were closing their file and taking no further action.”

Jane IrvineSLCC Chair Jane Irvine had secret no-notes meetings with devisive Legal Defence Union in swanky Balmoral Hotel. Now, in 2012, rumours of further involvement by the legal profession on behalf of Mr Lockhart are again circulating, alleging the Legal Defence Union have again been asked to involve themselves with the SLCC over the investigations being carried out into Lockhart. If true, the rumours may damage the credibility of the SLCC even further, after an investigation by Diary of Injustice into the dark world of the Legal Defence Union revealed last year that senior members of the Legal Defence Union have enjoyed cosy get-togethers with Jane Irvine, the Chair of the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission at the expensive Balmoral Hotel in Edinburgh, meetings in which all note taking & record keeping were barred.

In July of 2011, Diary of Injustice followed up the investigation into the LDU-SLCC relationship with the following report :

slccInvestigation reveals Scottish Legal Complaints Commission’s links, secret ‘off the record’ dealings with lawyers lobby group Legal Defence Union REVEALED : Law regulator’s dealings with organisation linked to client suicides & blocked prosecutions of legal aid fraudsters. AN INVESTIGATION by Diary of Injustice into dealings between the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission (SLCC), the ‘independent’ quango which regulates complaints against Scottish lawyers and the Legal Defence Union, an organisation which represents the best interests of lawyers,recently linked to blocked criminal prosecutions of legal aid fraudster lawyers & also the suicide of a married Oban family man in the SLCC’s 2009 report into the Master Policy, has revealed a series of cosy meetings between the regulator & pro-lawyer lobby group at expensive Edinburgh hotels which the heads of both organisations agreed to keep off the record and away from public gaze.

According to claims from SLCC insiders who were fed up with the non-achieving law complaints regulator, the scandal hit Scottish Legal Complaints Commission and the Legal Defence Union have now become so close, SLCC staff privately joke it is now “routine” for the Legal Defence Union to intervene in complaints investigations on behalf of solicitors interests while consumers who make complaints about their solicitors to the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission, are not represented in any way and have no organisation to turn to for help with their complaints.

SLCC to LDU no records of meetings keptSLCC Chair Jane Irvine agreed no records of discussion between regulator & lawyer’s lobby group at Balmoral Hotel. A limited amount of papers reluctantly disclosed by the SLCC under Freedom of Information legislation show a series of discussions between the two pro-lawyer bodies bosses, Jane Irvine for the SLCC and LDU Solicitor Director William Macreath, also a partner at law firm Levy McRae, who, according to the text of one of the letters disclosed to Diary of Injustice under FOI laws, both agreed “there would be no formal records of any element of the discussion.”. The letter from Jane Irvine to the LDU Director which disclosed the secret no-records-of-meetings policy went on to detail several technical issues about complaints regulation and how the SLCC should deal with solicitors & consumers, the former apparently having much greater priority over the latter. The limited Freedom of Information disclosure of documents disclosed by the SLCC documenting only a fraction of its dealings with the Legal Defence Union can be viewed online or downloaded here : FOI Disclosure : Involvement & meetings between Scottish Legal Complaints Commission & Legal Defence Union

The Scottish Legal Complaints Commission is yet to announce what, if any measures it is taking with regards to complaints made against Mr Lockhart.

 

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