RSS

Tag Archives: LPLA Act

ROGUES LAW: Law Society of Scotland’s self regulation “cartel” of lawyers investigating lawyers must end, says legal academic

Decades of lawyers looking after each other has destroyed confidence in Scots legal profession. THE Law Society of Scotland should be stripped of its dual role of acting for lawyers and the public, says a leading legal academic who has publicly called for an end to the self regulation cartel of Scottish lawyers looking after each other. The call for change comes amid overwhelming evidence that Scots consumers & clients who fall victim to rogue lawyers rarely if ever secure a fair hearing for their complaints or receive correct recompense for significant financial losses or embezzlement by their solicitors, due to lawyers covering up for each other.

Speaking to the Sunday Mail newspaper ahead of a BBC Scotland investigation on how solicitors make a mockery of the current system of regulation of complaints against the legal profession, Professor Julia Black of the London School of Economics said independent regulation is vital to build public confidence.

On Wednesday 15 January 2014 at 22:35, BBC Scotland will broadcast their investigation “Lawyers Behaving Badly”, where journalist Samantha Poling investigates a regulation system which clients say favours the profession rather than the consumer, and goes undercover to investigate solicitors making a mockery of the system.

Those involved in the debate regarding self regulation of Scotland’s legal profession will be well aware of the ill fated attempts between 2001-2007 to create a more independent system of regulation, which saw the creation of the pro-lawyer, anti-client Scottish Legal Complaints Commission.

Since the SLCC was created in 2008 by Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill, there have been little if any improvements in how consumer complaints against Scottish solicitors are investigated.

The current model of self-regulation of Scottish solicitors, where the SLCC investigate complaints against lawyers, appears to have led to record numbers of solicitors escaping sanction or prosecution for offences committed against clients.

Critics of the current system and its in-built pro-lawyer bias point to the fact the SLCC itself is effectively run by the Law Society who pay for its running through subscriptions raised by lawyers who in turn increase client fees to fund their own pat-on-the-back self regulation cartel.

Diary of Injustice reported on the secret vested interests at the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission in an earlier article here: A SPECIAL RELATIONSHIP : Investigation reveals Scotland’s ‘independent’ legal regulator is mired in family, business & personal links to legal profession & Law Society

The frequent, almost serial failures of the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission has been widely reported in previous articles.

The Sunday Mail reports :

Expert: Kick out cartel of lawyers

Sunday Mail 12 January 2014

A leading legal academic has called for an end to the self regulation “cartel” of lawyers in Scotland.

Professor Julia Black said independent regulation is vital to build public confidence.

Critics say the Law Society of Scotland’s dual role of acting for lawyers and the public is flawed.

Professor Black, director of the law school at the London School of Economics, said: “Let’s be honest about self-regulation.

“It’s a case of a group of people doing their work, marking their own work and if they do something wrong, telling each other off.

“It would be difficult to have full confidence in a system until you have independence, transparency and accountability.”

The Law Society in England and Wales was stripped of its regulatory role by the UK Government seven years ago.

The independent Solicitors Regulation Authority now investigates and disciplines lawyers there.

Professor Black said: “You have moved from a situation where the professional regulated itself to a situation where you have operationally independent regulators.”

Professor Black raised her concerns ahead of BBC1 Scotland investigation Lawyers Behaving Badly, which will be broadcast on Wednesday.

The Law Society of Scotland said there was “much evidence” that the system in England and Wales is more bureaucratic and expensive. A spokesman added: “This doesn’t sound like a model Scotland should follow.”

Advertisements
 

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

Scottish Legal Complaints Commission branded ‘costly rubber stamp for crooked lawyers’ after leaked investigations show backing for Law Society’s cover ups

slcc squareScottish Legal Complaints Commission lacks will to tackle complaints against lawyers despite huge public funding. The release of results of investigations carried out by the £4.5million joint taxpayer-lawyer funded Scottish Legal Complaints Commission into complaints raised by members of the public against law firms & individual solicitors, show that what was hailed as a ‘new broom’ in the world of regulating complaints against ‘crooked lawyers’ is in actuality, little more than a weak willed rubber stamp for corruption in the world of self regulation of the Scots legal profession.

Today for the first time, the results of investigations carried out by the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission reveal the astonishing lack of detail in their case handling procedures, and lack of will to even document the specific terms of complaints made against legal firms by clients whose cases ended up becoming victims of the legal firms they had approached to deal with difficult legal issues.

In the papers recently released, the client had been completely unaware they had a right to go to the Law Society of Scotland and contest the work of their legal representatives .. but the Law Society used their ‘time bar’ limitations to refuse to investigate the issues, which the SLCC itself backed.

Investigation #1 : SLCC said Law Society of Scotland did nothing wrong …

dallas1dallas2dallas3dallas4dallas5dallas6dallas7dallas9

Investigation #2 : SLCC claimed Law Society did nothing wrong (again)

lawford1lawford2lawford3lawford4lawford7lawford8lawford9

However, while the Law Society claimed the above complaints were outwith time bar, it is a fact the Law Society have on several occasions, investigated complaints made against law firms in cases where discovery of evidence was made many years later … making this case, and the SLCC’s refusal to do anything, rather questionable.

A spokesman for a consumer organisation who viewed the ‘results’ of the SLCC’s investigations into the way the Law Society had handled complaints against two Glasgow law firms, branded the contents ‘”lacklustre” and “a farce”, going onto condemn the organisation as a raw deal for Scotland.

He said : “I see little point in allowing the SLCC to continue its role if this amount of detail is all that is going to come out of investigations carried out by the SLCC into consumer complaints against solicitors. I’m sorry our organisation supported the SLCC now I’ve seen this … it’s a raw deal for the public after all the effort put in to get an improvement in consumer protection in the legal services market we badly need in Scotland.”

“There isn’t even any detail in the papers as to what the complaint was all about in the first place and the events surrounding it. Even the Scottish Legal Services Ombudsman used to give a complete account of the original complaint and the stages it went through at the Law Society of Scotland, amounting usually to some 30 pages plus of details. Here we have as little detail as possible which is not what the public expects of a regulator appointed to clean up the severe problems of self regulation of the legal profession.”

Well …after two Scottish Parliamentary inquiries into regulation of the legal profession, and the passing of the Legal Profession & Legal Aid (Scotland) Act 2007 which created the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission to clean up corruption in the world of complaints regulation against crooked lawyers … one would think that clients deserve a little more than this .. especially after well over £2 million of taxpayers money has been soaked up by the quango and a further £2.4 million from the legal profession itself.

You can read my earlier articles on the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission here : Scottish Legal Complaints Commission – a failure from the start

SLCC website changeSLCC engages in website window dressing but still reluctant to investigate crooked lawyers. The SLCC, apparently anxious that its public image is now much less than trustworthy, is embarking on a reluctant media campaign ‘to promote itself to the community at large’ .. where leaflets and ‘road shows’ will inform the public of its existence and the services it provides consumers and solicitors. The plans may prove somewhat rocky as campaign groups and critics have pledged to attend the road shows and ask difficult questions of the way the SLCC operates and deals with the public, particularly in the wake of recent scandals which have seen SLCC board members appear in the press, apparently content to attack consumers & clients of ‘crooked lawyers’ while performing their costly regulatory roles.

Its fairly obvious the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission’s heart just isn’t in their work from the documents I’ve seen today, some published, some not.

As far as investigations of complaints against lawyers go, reports must be much more substantive in their account of matters and go into the complete detail of the issues which have caused the client to go to the SLCC or the Law Society of Scotland in the first place, otherwise no lessons will be learned by anyone, the client will never get a fair hearing, and justice will never be seen to be done (again) when it comes to dealing with crooked lawyers.

As one client put it tonight “No matter what this lawyer’s protection racket will do, they will never be trusted by the public who have been lied to too many times over complaints against crooked lawyers”.

 

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Cabinet Chief Swinney forced to intervene in independent investigation of insurance claims against crooked lawyers as Law Society ‘fearing worst’ demands secret pre-publication meetings

John SwinneyCabinet Secretary for Finance John Swinney intervenes in investigation after Law Society attempt to dictate remit & scope of inquiries. John Swinney MSP, the Cabinet Secretary for Finance, has been forced to intervene in a bitter exchange between officials of the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission and members of the public participating in the first independent investigation to be carried out into compensation claims made against Scottish solicitors, after it emerged the SLCC’s Chief Executive, Eileen Masterman had agreed to hand out copies of the research directly to the Law Society of Scotland, but had refused similar requests from members of the public whose views were being sought for the research.

I reported on the first ever independent investigation into claims made against Scottish solicitors in an earlier article, here : Scots public urged to take part in Commission’s survey on claims made against lawyers with Law Society’s Master Policy & Guarantee Fund

Eileen MastermanSLCC Chief Executive Eileen Masterman refused to hand over copies of research but Law Society to get a copy. The Commission’s Chief Executive, Eileen Masterman who received requests from the Law Society of Scotland for copies of the research even before the project began, agreed they would receive the research in a pre publication format, while denying similar requests from participating members of the public, citing among other reasons that the public “were not stakeholders in the research or the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission”, despite the fact that £2.5 million pounds of taxpayers money has been poured into the Commission, which has mostly went on officials huge salaries of up to £1350 a week and expenses perks of SLCC board members of up to £350 per day.

However, the Cabinet Chief Mr Swinney was brought into the issue by concerned constituents he has represented in the past on issues relating to claims & complaints against solicitors, over fears the Law Society were attempting to undermine the Commission’s research into claims against crooked lawyers, long known to be stage managed by the legal profession with clients achieving little or no success and most cases even being prevented from reaching court.

It was as we all know, Mr Swinney’s Holyrood confrontation with Law Society Chief Douglas Mill, over claims of corruption within the Master Policy which led to Mill’s downfall from the Society’s top position, which I reported on in early 2008, here : Breaking News : Law Society Chief Executive Douglas Mill who lied to Parliament, pursued ‘personal vendetta’ against critics – to resign

Mr Swinney has expressed deep concerns to the Commission over the research, and it can be revealed today the Cabinet Chief has written to the SLCC’s Chief Executive Eileen Masterman, reminding her that millions of pounds of taxpayers money has been spent on the Commission, making the Scots public “stakeholders” in ‘not only the research but also the organisation itself’. Mr Swinney contends (and has told SLCC Chief Executive Masterman in no uncertain terms) that members of the public participating in the research should also be given copies of the report at the same time the Law Society receives their copies, to ensure no alteration of the results of the research, which the Law Society is said to ‘fear the worst’ over, due to constant scandals involving client claims against crooked lawyers which often involve dirty tricks, delay and subterfuge from the Insurers who run the Master Policy on behalf of the Law Society of Scotland.

Philip YellandLaw Society of Scotland Director of Standards Philip Yelland asked for discussions on research before publication. In leaks from sources at the SLCC today, it can also be revealed the Law Society of Scotland have demanded exclusive access to the Master Policy research before it is published, and have also demanded discussion with the Commission, over fears that revelations from what is the first independent investigation ever to be carried out into financial claims made against ‘crooked lawyers’ in Scotland could be very damaging for the legal profession, the insurers and the Law Society of Scotland itself.

Law Society demands meeting over investigationLeaked emails from Law Society to SLCC demanded discussion of research before publication. Law Society Director Philip Yelland in his email to the SLCC Chief Executive Eileen Masterman asks : “There is the issue of the production of the final report and how the Commission would intend to use this. It is acceptable that in view of the provisions of the Freedom of Information Act at some stage the report will become public and it would be helpful at this stage to know whether it would be the intention of the Board of the Commission, once the report is produced, to discuss the matter with the professional bodies before formal publication or whether the Board would intend to discuss the final report with the professional organisations proper to any publication or indication of the steps that might be taken.”

Earlier paragraphs in Mr Yelland’s emails to the Commission were attacked by SLCC insiders, who branded them “little more than fishing attempts by the Law Society to gauge the scope of the SLCC’s research into the Master Policy, with a view to interfering in its terms & remit to save face and stop the public getting to know the truth.”

Mr Yelland’s fishing questions : “It is noted clearly that the Commission will want to speak with participants from the professional bodies (presumably the Guarantee Fund and Insurance Committees or members from these Committees) and it is also noted specifically that there is reference to a desire to speak to individuals. Is there any intention for the research to speak with individual solicitors about their views on the Master Policy and Guarantee Fund ?”

Yelland went on to enquire “So far as the Focus Groups are concerned, it is intended that there will be Focus groups involving members of the profession and mixed groups with members of the profession and the public ?”

Masterman agrees to hand over copies to Law SocietyProfessor Alan Paterson told by SLCC Chief Exec. Masterman that Law Society were expecting the worst on investigation of claims against crooked lawyers. Eileen Masterman responded by saying she would hand over copies of the research prior to publication, and in an email to Professor Alan Paterson, a board member of the Commission,  and Professor of Law at Strathclyde University, Ms Masterman said : ” ..I would be happy to give them (the Law Society) a preview of the report before publication (and I think we’ll have to publicise it fairly quickly after the Board have had an opportunity to consider it) but I don’t want us to be under any immediate pressure about how, or if, we’re going to take it forward.”

Eileen Masterman continued to Professor Paterson saying she thought the Law Society might feel they were in trouble with the research : “I get the impression that the Law Society of Scotland are expecting the worst and trying to second guess what that will be.”

A legal insider today accused the Law Society of attempting to dictate the terms of the Commission’s ground breaking research, and claimed officials at the SLCC “felt vulnerable to demands from the Law Society of Scotland for the inevitable edits of the parts of the research that the profession would not wish the public to read”.

He went on : “There is an intense feeling of distrust within the Commission’s staff that the Law Society of Scotland is constantly looking over our shoulders at what we are doing, and in reality, little is progressing at the Commission without the cooperation or say so of the profession’s governing body.”

Kenny MacAskillJustice Secretary MacAskill is blamed by legal insiders for allowing the SLCC to fall victim to Law Society bullying. Many insiders blame the Commission’s problems on Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill, for taking a back seat while the Commission was being formed, and allowing the Law Society to run the appointments process to the Commission, which has been widely condemned as “full of sleaze” by many consumer groups & law reform campaigners.

Current conditions in the workplace at the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission seem to have deteriorated so much that some members of staff have indicated they feel so ashamed of news reports & public criticism of the Commission, they now feel they cannot admit even to their friends to working at the SLCC, for fear of being told they “are employed at a front organisation set up to protect the legal profession more so than deal with complaints from members of the public.”

John SwinneyCabinet Chief John Swinney, ‘deeply angered’ by difficulties at SLCC. Mr Swinney, while continuing to watch developments, refused to comment on the further difficulties at the embattled Scottish Legal Complaints Commission. However sources close to the Cabinet Secretary admitted Mr Swinney was deeply angered at the way the Commission was handling its role as the independent regulator of complaints against Scotland legal profession which it was assigned in legislation Mr Swinney himself as an MSP campaigned hard to be passed into law as the Legal Profession & Legal Aid (Scotland) Act 2007.

A source close to Mr Swinney this afternoon said : “John has worked so hard on this problem to see much of his effort twisted around by the Law Society and incompetence from others in Government who are responsible for protecting the public interest and seeing to it what was billed as a clean up of the legal profession’s poor complaints handling process became reality.”

“As the situation goes, there has been no clean up of anything and the SLCC in its current format is widely recognised as being unfit for purpose.”

I think we all feel that way … and certainly there now has to be some reforms of the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission to bring it closer to the public & consumers of legal services, while being more accountable & transparent in its operation. Ultimately, the SLCC will most probably needed to be regulated itself.

 

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

Law Society of Scotland to allow ‘secret reports’ from lawyers against clients amid prejudiced complaints handling reforms

In an effort to regain some control over the expected uncontrollable rising numbers of complaints against Scottish solicitors, the Law Society of Scotland has embarked on a little talked about series of adjustments to complaints procedures & reduction of client’s rights in dealings with lawyers in an effort to regain the high ground over consumers of legal services in Scotland.

The Law Society has, decided to bring back the bad old days of complaints whitewashing, where a client who had complained against their solicitor had little or no part in the actual investigation & consideration of the complaint by the Law Society’s infamous Complaints Committee structure, where lawyers had commonly put forward personal submissions either from themselves or their very own Law Society representative before the Committee, while the client of course, had no such luxury or entitlement.

There can be little doubt in this move, the Law Society wishes to retain full control over complaints against solicitors, and the client’s ability to gain access to justice to resolve any difficulties brought upon them by their less than honest or competent legal agents and no doubt the raft of whitewashing from the Law Society itself.

I myself experienced a version of this procedure, where James Ness, the now head of “Law Care”, which specialises in dealing with stressed out crooked lawyers, put forward secret submissions for Kelso solicitor Andrew Penman of Stormonth Darling Solicitors, which I was not allowed to see or reply to.

The secret submissions in the Penman complaint then forced the Complaints Committee to change their original decision to prosecute Penman over an unbelievable wide range of frauds found by one of the Law Society’s own investigators, which included deceiving Banks, the Inland Revenue, myself, other beneficiaries on legal & financial information relevant to Mr Penman’s woefully poor and rather dishonest legal service provided to my late father’s estate, even going so far to fiddling & falsifying files in an attempt to cover up his actings.

You can read more about the Andrew Penman complaint and how the Law Society of Scotland mishandled it here : Andrew Penman & Norman Howitt : Borders lawyer & accountant team up to ruin Cherbi executry estate

It is fairly clear, from not only my experience, but those of others reported to me, that clients must have a full involvement in the complaints process, whether that be at the Law Society of Scotland or the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission itself … and from the following letter issued by the Scottish Consumer Council to the Law Society of Scotland over this matter, it would seem there are others in agreement on this :

SCC Director Martyn Evans takes issue with the Law Society of Scotland shifting the goal posts for clients once again …

SCC response to new process for handling conduct complaints

Martyn Evans, SCC Director :

“While we are unable to comment in detail on the proposed process, we are, as you might expect, concerned at the limited involvement which the complainer will have in the process. While we understand the argument that the complainer is seen as a witness, rather than as a party to the proceedings, we do not consider that this justifies allowing the complainer to have no involvement in the process other than to receive a copy of the final written report on the matter.

We are well aware that this has been an issue of contention in the past, with the solicitor being allowed to make representations on their own behalf, while the complainer is not allowed to do so. It is proposed that only the solicitor will have the opportunity to comment on, and make representations in relation to, the narrative and assessment document produced by the case investigator. This is a very one-sided process and is unlikely to be viewed by complainers as being fair.

If the Society is to ensure that its process is viewed as fair, rather than being seen to take the side of the solicitor, as has been the case in the past, the complainer must also be given the opportunity to comment on this document. It cannot be in the interests of natural justice to refuse to allow the complainer, who may have suffered considerably as a result of the solicitor’s conduct, the opportunity to comment on any representations made by the solicitor.”

Certainly a good thing the Scottish Consumer Council have taken this issue on board, and scanning through my own work on this matter over the years, I note the Scottish Legal Services Ombudsman of the time, who investigated how the Law Society of Scotland whitewashed the Andrew Penman complaint, recommended that solicitors should be banned from making personal submissions in the future as was made for Andrew Penman … because as I found out from further revelations of the ‘Penman submissions’, it seems such submissions are usually full of lies and accusations against clients in a desperate attempt by ‘crooked lawyers’ to get themselves off the hook.

The Scotsman reports on Andrew Penman’s ‘secret representations’ to the Law Society of Scotland’s Complaints Committee :

Jury  still out on law in the dock - The Scotsman 2 March 1998

However, not content with reducing clients rights in terms of involvement in the complaint itself, the Law Society of Scotland has went one step further and reduced the time limit which clients have to complain against a solicitor from the current two years to one year – claiming this ‘little talked about’ alteration will “help clients” rather than hinder their ability to raise a complaint over poor legal service or conduct in the future.

Time limit on legal disputes – Evening Times 8 July 2008

Time Limit on Legal Disputes Evening Times July 8th 2008

So, as you can see from the above short comment in the Evening Times newspaper, if your lawyer has served you poorly and covered up his actions to the extent you don’t find out what they did until a year afterwards .. there’s no chance of getting any redress in the new system .. which is rapidly turning out to sound like the old system now …

The Scottish Consumer Council’s reaction to this was issued in a Press Release last week as follows :

SCC News Release

Comment on the announcement by the Law Society of Scotland that the deadline for making complaints to them is to reduce to one year as part of the transition to the new Scottish Legal Complaints Commission

Sarah O’Neill, Legal Officer at the Scottish Consumer Council said it was essential that people who have a grievance don’t delay lodging their complaint:

“The new Scottish Legal Complaints Commission will be able to award four times as much in compensation where cases are found against a solicitor as the Law Society of Scotland, but there’s no point hanging on until October to bring your case in the belief that you’ll get a better outcome under the new SLCC.

“Any complaints relating to work handed to a solicitor for the first time up to and including 30th September 2008 will still be dealt with by the Law Society, which will continue to handle all pre October 2008 cases right up until 2010.

“We accept that there has to be a cut-off and that the Law Society needs to be able to manage the transition of its work to the new body. It’s not ideal, though, as there will be cases where solicitors are instructed before October but problems only arise or become apparent long after that date, where clients may be justified in expecting their case to be dealt with under the new, potentially more generous SLCC system.”

With two regulators chasing complaints against lawyers, all being handled by either serving or ex Law Society of Scotland staff, the only people to benefit from the Law Society’s changes will of course, be crooked lawyers …

Perhaps our political masters would like to step in and preserve the original intentions of the Legal Profession & Legal Aid (Scotland) Act 2007, which was to clear up corruption in regulation of the legal profession and make things somewhat independent from the lawyers .. which so far, we do not seem to be getting anywhere near …

 

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

Members interests show Scottish Legal Complaints Commission lacks intended independence from lawyers vested interests

As the days count down to the first of October 2008, when the new Scottish Legal Complaints Commission takes over regulation of service complaints from the Law Society of Scotland, new details emerge of the [sadly] lack of any effort on the part of the Scottish Government to appoint wholly independent individuals to oversee and adjudicate complaints against Scotland’s 10,500 solicitors.

It appears almost, the Law Society of Scotland, which has succeeded in overpowering both the Legal Profession & Legal Aid (Scotland) Act 2007 and the new Scottish Legal Complaints Commission, has simply cloned itself into the new Commission.

I note for instance this week, with the announcement of the new Chief Executive of the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission – Elieen Masterman, was also a member of Law Society of Scotland’s the Professional Conduct Committee, evidence of which you can see here in the Law Society’s annual report of 2004

You can read the Journal of the Law Society’s announcement of Eileen Masterman’s appointment to the Chief Executive’s position here : Complaints Commission has chief executive

Not a very thorough report from the Journal though – they missed out she served on Law Society Committees too … tut tut …

Now, I’m not saying the new Chief Executive shouldn’t be in her post just because she sat on Law Society Committees .. but I am saying that surely, with the public spirit & intentions of the LPLA Act .. that people entirely independent from the legal profession .. entirely independent from the Law Society of Scotland and it’s many regulatory branches .. could have at least been found to staff and run the new [but no longer independent] Scottish Legal Complaints Commission …

Of course, the problem comes in such a situation we have here in the formation of an entirely new regulatory body, where there is a lack of political leadership or incentive to do other than what has done before.

Where for instance, there is no political leadership or political intervention in an industry to reform or change its ways .. that industry will do as it pleases as so many industries have done in the past when it came to disrespecting the rights of consumers.

Here we have that same situation, where the legal ‘industry’ in Scotland seems to be able to do as it pleases, because there is no political leadership or political intervention to ensure that the public interest is kept paramount over that of the industrial interest.

The legal profession’s interest in this case, is to keep control of regulation at all costs, to the point of co-opting what was intended to be a new ‘independent’ complaints commission, now staffed by the very same people, many who have corrupted the regulatory process for many years ensuring clients got nowhere against crooked members of the legal profession.

Sadly in this instance, there appears to be almost no political leadership at all coming from Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill, who has simply sat back and allowed the Law Society to put forward its people to staff, run and enforce the new Scottish Legal Complaints Commission .. and absolutely nothing has been said about it at all ..

If you actually sit down and think about it, the Justice Secretary has failed to show leadership, raise comment, or even just raise an eyebrow on umpteen more issues facing Scots Law today, from corrupted disclosure practices of the Crown Office, to the failures of the Lockerbie Case, to the failure of Law & order up and down the country itself ..

Kenny MacAskill : Scots Govt ‘great debt’ to legal profession ensured SLCC was taken over by the Law Society & vested legal interest

Do better Kenny ? We Scots deserve better on Justice, I’m sure …

You can read some of my earlier articles on the formation & appointments process of the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission here :

Scottish Legal Complaints Commission – protecting the public or protecting the legal profession ?

Call for MacAskill appointments ‘sleaze investigation’ as revelations show Legal Complaints Commission member was subject of Police inquiry

Law Society staff secretly migrating into ‘independent’ complaints commission will ensure continuing problems of regulating Scottish lawyers

Here is the register of Members interests from the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission .. see if you can spot anyone who hasn’t had dealings with lawyers or been part of the legal profession’s self regulatory set up over the years .. you will be very hard pressed to do so, and it is that difficulty which gives rise to the fact the SLCC is not the independent complaints commission which Scots were promised …!

Scottish Legal Complaint Commission

Members Register of Interests (link opens as a .pdf document)

SLCC members interests Page 1SLCC members interests Page 2

Jane Irvine :

• Currently Scottish Legal Services Ombudsman.

• Professional contact with solicitors’ firms Burness, Leslie Deans & Co and Allan McDougal.

• Professional contact with advocates Derek O’Carrol and John Campbell QC.

Douglas Watson :

• Former lay member of a Law Society of Scotland Committee dealing with Access to Legal Information. The role was unpaid.

• A cousin, Bruce Minto, is a partner in Dickson Minto, Solicitors.

• Formerly a Chief Superintendent with Lothian and Borders Police.

Linda Pollock :

• Executive Nursing Director (1989 -2006).

• Interim Board Nurse Director (2002-2003).

• Chief Nursing Officer’s Professional Advisor on nurse prescribing (2005-6).

• Past External Examiner with Robert Gordon’s University and Queen Margaret University.

• Research Honorary Fellow in the Social Science Faculty of Edinburgh University.

• Formerly, a part time nurse member of the Mental Welfare Commission (1997-2005).

• Currently, working as a Primary Care Consultant, undertaking research work commissioned by the Queen’s Nursing Institute in Scotland.

• Registrant member of the Nursing and Midwifery Council Appointments Board.

• Member of the Royal College of Nursing.

• Has accepted hospitality from Gillespie MacAndrew.

George L Irving CBE :

• Director of Social Work North Ayrshire Council 1999-2000.

• Board Member of Ayrshire Council on Alcohol.

• Ex-President of the Association of Directors of Social Work ( Scotland ).

• Chair of NHS Ayrshire and Arran from 2001-2006.

• Led the National Support Team, Management of Offenders 2005-2007.

• Visiting Professor to Glasgow Caledonian University School of Health and Social Care.

• Fellow of the Royal Society of Medicine.

• Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts.

• Member of the Rotary Club of Alloway.

Ian Gordon OBE, QPM, LL.B (Hons) :

• Retired Deputy Chief Constable of Tayside Police.

• Associate Professor in Policing for Charles Sturt University (Australia).

• Formerly Chair of the Association of Chief Police Officers in Scotland (ACPOS) Professional Standards Business Area.

• Vice-Chair of ACPOS General Policing Business Area.

• Director, Quaere Ltd

Margaret Scanlan :

• Consultant, Russells Gibson McCaffrey, Solicitors.

• Member of the Law Society of Scotland and holder of current practising certificate.

• Husband is a senior partner Russells Gibson McCaffrey.

• Husband is a member of the Law Society of Scotland and holder of current practising certificate.

• Past Chair of the Family Law Association.

• Former member of the Scottish Legal Aid Board.

David Smith :

• Member of the Law Society of Scotland and holder of current practising certificate.

• Former member/partner of Shepherd and Wedderburn LLP, Solicitors. Retired on 30/04/08.

• Wife is a Senator of the College of Justice and a non practising member of the Faculty of Advocates.

David Chaplin :

• Former member of Anderson Fyfe LLP, Solicitors. Retired on 30/04/08.

• Member of the Law Society of Scotland and holder of current practising certificate.

• Director and shareholder in Baliol Properties Limited.

Alan Paterson :

•Professor of Law and Director of the Centre for Professional Legal Studies at Strathclyde University.

• Research adviser to the Scottish Legal Aid Board.

• Lay member of the Judicial Appointments Board.

• Co-opted member of the Council of the Law Society of Scotland.

• Member of the Law Society of Scotland.

• Professional contact with Guild & Guild, Solicitors

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

OFT await SNP plans on access to justice reforms as Law Society demands protection of market monopoly & regulation.

While our Justice Secretary sweats over whether to fully implement the OFT’s recommendations on reforming access to justice & legal services, a few of you have been asking my thoughts about the Legal Profession and Legal Aid (Scotland) Act 2007

The LPLA (Scotland) Act was passed, to address significant concerns over regulation of the legal profession.However, the LPLA (Scotland) Act we have now, a watered down version of what was initially planned is a watered down version of what was initially planned, and that is due of course, to protests from the legal profession during the consultation phase of the LPLA Bill through the Parliament in 2006, and amendments lodged by MSPs allied to the legal profession during the LPLA Bill debate at Holyrood in December.

The LPLA (Scotland) Act, does something for regulation of the legal profession, in terms of bringing about the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission, who will to a degree, oversee the investigation & regulation of service complaints against solicitors, but regulation of conduct complaints, and the disciplinary process, is still handled by the Law Society of Scotland.

The LPLA (Scotland) Act, therefore, falls down on removing regulatory and disciplinary procedures from the legal profession in their entirety, and while it is the case that lawyers can regulate their colleagues, or discipline their colleagues, there will be no true transparency or accountability in regulation of the legal profession in Scotland until the SLCC gets the necessary powers to deal with all complaints against solicitors while also handling disciplinary procedures.

A quick example of the SLCC as it currently stands would run something like this :

A client makes a service complaint against their solicitor.

The SLCC & Law Society argue as to whether it is indeed a service complaint, with the Law Society trying to take control of the complaint designating it a “conduct issue”, resting in their remit, rather than a “service” issue, resting with the SLCC.

The SLCC win their argument, investigate the complaint, find the solicitor guilty of poor service, then ask the Law Society to prosecute the solicitor on particular issues.

The Law Society prosecute the solicitor, either bungling the case deliberately, or through incompetence, and the solicitor who was found guilty by the SLCC after an investigation of the client’s complaint, escapes justice yet again.

Not an ideal arrangement, but one which has been foisted upon us by the Law Society’s demand to retain a regulatory & disciplinary role with regard to complaints against solicitors.

The question would then be, will Kenny MacAskill as Cabinet Secretary for Justice, or the SNP administration currently in charge of the Scottish Executive, change such arrangements so the SLCC will handle all regulatory & disciplinary matters involving the legal profession ?

I think the answer to that one isn’t particularly clear, when actually it should be clear.

If the LPLA (Scotland) Act and the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission don’t property address the failures of regulation of the legal profession, Scotland should surely expect it’s Executive or Government to address any failures and remedy the problem accordingly ?

Well, you would think that to be the case, but time is ticking and the failure to progress issues such as the well known sins of the past by the legal profession, where countless solicitors remain in practice who have effectively ruined clients lives with the backing of the Law Society of Scotland, do not bode well for confidence in the current administrations ability to bring about an end to injustice, caused by the justice system as currently controlled it seems, by itself.

Another question which was put to me was : Would any political party have passed the LPLA (Scotland) Act. I think we all know the answer to that one.

I doubt that any political party other than Labour, would have been able to pass the LPLA (Scotland) Act.

For a start, Labour had the numbers in the Parliament in their favour, and also the backing of Westminster, who themselves, have seen just as many representations from constituents in Scotland who have encountered problems with the legal profession & crooked lawyers.

The Conservatives certainly would not have passed any laws which took away regulation by solicitors of complaints against solicitors or passed anything which would have increased fines for crooked lawyers, or compensation payments to ruined clients. Indeed there were some within the Conservative party who worked against the LPLA (Scotland) Act, such as Bill Aitken MSP, now bizarrely, the Convener of the sole Holyrood Justice Committee. Mr Aitken attempted to limit the scope and remit of the LPLA Bill during it’s parliamentary phase, debate & eventual vote, to the point of making the legislation useless

Yes, there are some within the Conservatives (I count one) who have done much for their constituents with regard to such legislation, and indeed it was a Conservative who in-effect, started the ball rolling on what eventually became the LPLA (Scotland) Act, but that MSP, none other than Phil Gallie, is no longer at Holyrood, and I doubt the Conservative party leadership if god forbid, they were ever in charge of the Scottish Executive again, would have passed such lawyer busting legislation.

The LibDems, while being part of the former Labour/LibDem Scottish Executive who did pass the LPLA (Scotland) Act, were not for the majority, a willing partner in the progress of the LPLA Bill hearings at Holyrood.

If the LibDems were solely in charge of the Scottish Executive, I do not believe they would have proposed or passed such legislation, and indeed, a LibDem English Peer, Lord Lester of Herne Hill QC was employed by the Law Society of Scotland to opinion a legal challenge against the LPLA (Scotland) Act by threatening court action against the Scottish Executive & Parliament

Lastly we come to the SNP.

Given John Swinney’s now famous skirmish with Douglas Mill before the Justice 2 Committee over a secret memo, where it was revealed Mr Mill was interfering in negligence claims against solicitors interfering, and Mr Swinney’s representation of constituents who have problems with the legal profession and the Law Society, I would have to say the SNP might have passed the LPLA (Scotland) Act if they were solely in charge of the Scottish Executive, but that’s only a “might”.

There are many who believe the SNP would not dare disobey a substantial influence from the legal profession within their party to propose and pass such law reforming legislation as the LPLA (Scotland) Act … and admittedly, the SNP are yet to prove their track record on the justice system and reform of the legal profession as these areas, strangely, have been left out of significant proposals up to now.

In short, the SNP have everything to prove and everything to lose, on justice, access to justice, and injustice. Are they up to the challenge ? The clock is ticking on justice & injustice and so far, there are little developments which could without doubt be said to put right the sins of the past …

Today in the Scotsman, there is an interesting piece on Kenny MacAskill’s performance as Justice Secretary.

The report predictably is focused on the Law Society of Scotland’s fears over implementing the OFT’s recommendations for wider access to justice, and thus breaking the centuries old monopoly held by solicitors & advocates over legal services – the prime money spinner for the Scottish legal profession.

In fact, reading the piece today, one could be forgiven for thinking the public interest and surely the right of every individual to access to justice & legal services, takes second place to the apparent right of solicitors & the Law Society of Scotland to retain their monopoly and decide who gets access to justice and who does not. A justice system fit for a banana republic perhaps ?

Isn’t it about time our politicians started giving the public some benefit instead of the professions ? Where are the reforms and inquiries into injustice we are due ?

Read on for the article from the Scotsman :

How has Kenny MacAskill fared in the hot seat ?

JENNIFER VEITCH

BY THE time the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) started looking at that Which? super-complaint in May, the political landscape had shifted – Labour were out and the SNP were in, albeit by a nose.

So a new justice secretary has been left with the task of responding to the OFT’s recommendations and reacting to the legal profession’s inevitable concerns about potentially seismic changes to the legal services market.

To an extent, Kenny MacAskill has been able to hit the ground if not running, then jogging. In the eyes of lawyers at least, he does enjoy one major advantage over Cathy Jamieson, his predecessor because, before switching careers to become an MSP in 1999, he was a practising solicitor for 20 years.

The MSP for Edinburgh East and Musselburgh knows from past and relatively recent experience what it’s like to be a lawyer dealing with the everyday challenges of demanding clients.

Combined with his experience of the legislative process in parliament, that should make him a seasoned legal veteran.

So as the profession awaits the Scottish Government’s response to the OFT’s recommendations with some trepidation, will he adopt a softer approach to the previous administration, once colourfully accused by the Law Society of Scotland of “naked lawyer-bashing”?

In other words, whose side will MacAskill be on?

Anyone attending the recent Law Society of Scotland conference on alternative business structures knows that there are several to competing interests to choose from.

Should he listen to big firms who want to compete with English rivals, or small firms who want to protect access to justice? Or middle-class consumers who want a better deal when shopping around for conveyancing services, or working-class people who can’t afford to pay for a lawyer in the first place?

At the conference, MacAskill seemed to be trying to tread the very fine line between spelling out that change was inevitable – and without “endless” time to navel gaze on what exactly that change would be – and trying to convince the profession that he was still on their side. Up to a point, anyway.

Apart from a slightly clumsy attempt at a football league analogy – I’m not sure quite how many firms would like to be compared to the Old Firm, let alone Stirling Albion or Gretna – his speech appeared to be well-received.

He made the right lawyer-friendly noises about protecting and indeed promoting the integrity of the Scottish profession and the legal services market.

He also made it clear that he was not afraid to go a different way from Westminster and would not “blindly follow” the Clementi blueprint.

Yet, given the recent spats between Messrs Salmond and Swinney and the Labour government at Westminster, over everything from the financial settlement to foot-and-mouth disease, MacAskill may have to reassure those who fear the Scottish National Party may seek to preserve difference from England for its own sake rather than the good of Scotland.

If he does seek to press ahead with reforms before Clementi takes effect in England at the turn of the next decade, he will need to show the profession there is a sound basis for change at such a fast pace.

MacAskill is now facing a tough test. He will have to weigh the profession’s concerns and decide whether there is hard evidence that alternative business structures will harm the public interest. If he finds none, then firms will have to deal with the consequences.

But, however much MacAskill’s brain still works like that of a lawyer, his instincts will be those of a politician. If it comes to the crunch, who is more important in winning votes – lawyers or consumers?

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on October 15, 2007 in Law

 

Tags: , , , , , ,

Dean of Faculty attacks legal aid & regulatory reforms as a threat to lawyers independence as prospect of political meddling by legal profession looms

 Politics is alive & well in the legal profession it seems, with Roy Martin QC, the Dean of Faculty, using a recent admissions ceremony for new solicitors entering the Scottish legal profession, to attack the reforms of independent regulation brought forward in the Legal Profession & Legal Aid (Scotland) Bill, as well as having a rant at the drying up of the legal aid river of money flowing into his colleagues pockets.

Mr Martin, QC, is, of course,quite upset that the traditional practice of lawyer covering up for lawyer, has been thrown on it’s head by the recently passed but long over due LPLA Bill, given that around 5000 plus complaints a year are made against solicitors in Scotland by clients on everything from embezzlement to fraud to theft of property, negligence, inflated accounts, falsified work, and just about every other crooked practice one could think of.

Unlike Mr Martin and his colleagues, those who don’t have the convenience of professional self regulation’ would normally be facing criminal charges and jail sentences on many of those complaints made by clients to the Law Society & Faculty of Advocates, but the convenience of self regulation by the Faculty & Law Society has certainly been successful over the years in protecting the many crooked lawyers in the profession from justice, while also making sure the client who has lost out at the hands of their legal representatives, gets little or no compensation .

The right to sit in judgement on one’s colleagues & friends, to make sure they only get a slap on the wrist when caught with their hands in the till, is of course, why Mr Martin & his colleagues in the legal profession have for so long, fought tooth & nail to protect their self given right of self regulation – which the legal profession sought & gained from governments long ago.

We all saw, in the following examples of previous articles, how the legal profession & it’s ‘leading lights’ attacked the proposed LPLA Bill, to make dealing with legal agents much fairer for the consumer, and we also saw how the Chief Executive of the Law Society, Douglas Mill, went one step further & threatened our Scottish Parliament with a Court challenge should the LPLA Bill not be amended to it’s liking (although Mill actually preferred the legislation be killed off completely).

Law Society of Scotland threatens Court challenge against Scottish Executive over LPLA legal reform Bill

Law Society of Scotland & Lord Lester QC challenge new legislation to protect Scottish public against crooked lawyers

Scotsman responds to Peter Cherbi and the Herald with a living eulogy of Douglas Mill

Law Society of Scotland claims success in gagging the press over Herald newspaper revelations of secret case memos

Scottish legal profession campaigns against open debate in Scottish Parliament on independent regulation of complaints against lawyers

Who is a greater threat to the Parliament in that one then ? the public, or the legal profession ? … seems the lawyers can even get away with threatening court action against our elected representatives, while any such attempt by a member of the public is laughed off …because of course, the public would never be able to secure legal representation to actually take on such a case against the Parliament & win …

However, Roy Martin’s blast at the LPLA Bill may be more than just the rant of an upset lawyer because he didn’t get his way …

I understand several on-the-side meetings have been held between some members of the legal profession and some of Scotland’s Political parties, with ideas being raised regarding limitation of the implementation of the LPLA Bill and scaling back of some of it’s provisions – in exchange for possible donations & political support .. and no doubt some favours down the road .. such as those sticky secret mortgages on the side which quite a few ministers of the current Scottish Executive enjoy, paid for by us, the taxpayer, through their Parliamentary expenses allowances.

Two Scottish Executive Ministers revealed to be charging mortgage interest payments to the public

Scottish Labour Politician rents his own son’s flat for £7000 a year, charging it up to taxpayers

I wonder if the major political parties involved in the Holyrood elections may wish to comment on that one ?

Could this be a fundamental shifting of the power base perhaps in Scottish politics, where the legal establishment might just be setting out to make sure it’s favored candidates get in after the elections, and that indeed … all those promises contained in the LPLA Bill of independent regulation for lawyers & higher compensation payments to ruined clients, might just go the way of those provisions in the Law Reform (Misc Provisions) Bill 1990, which were to open up the rights of Courtroom representation to the client and break the monopoly of solicitors & advocates – who are still the only authorised representatives of the public in our courts.

Scottish Executive thought to be blameworthy for allowing restrictive practices in legal services

Scottish Executive fails to block FOI disclosure on records of restricted access to Courts

We therefore have an example of that already in the above case … so, no one can say it hasn’t happened before …

In an interesting development though, Roy Martin’s tenure as Dean of Faculty proves yet again that nothing changes … with only just last week, a complaints hearing against one of Scotland’s most famous Advocates rigged so that the client wouldn’t be able to attend … certainly a sad indictment of regulatory practices as they stand .. and yet again more evidence, if required these people need to be left to educate their colleagues in the ways of honesty, transparency & competency, while someone else, outside the legal profession, handles the regulatory side of things.

A reminder to you all … If you have experienced poor treatment from the Law Society of Scotland in a complaint or lost money to a crooked lawyer and nothing was done about it, Please sign Petition PE1033 and begin the campaign for redress and resolution to the way clients have been discriminated against by crooked lawyers & the Law Society of Scotland under their decades old prejudiced self regulatory complaints system.

Related article from the Herald newspaper with link :

http://www.theherald.co.uk/politics/news/display.var.1270776.0.0.php

Lawyers’ independence ‘undermined by politicians’
DAVID LEASK March 19 2007

Scotland’s top advocate has accused politicians of undermining the independence of his profession.

Roy Martin, QC, the dean of the Faculty of Advocates, warned of a creeping threat to lawyer’s freedoms – just as they are needed most.

Mr Martin, in a hard-hitting message to Scotland’s latest crop of young lawyers, fired a broadside against new regulation and legal aid funding problems eroding their time-honoured and cherished independence from the state.

He told an admission ceremony for newly-qualified solicitors at Edinburgh’s Parliament House: “There is a danger that interests which do not properly recognise the importance in a civilised society of an independent legal profession are taking steps which have already undermined, and will continue to undermine, that independence. In a society where the individual citizen is increasingly subject to regulation and control by the state, what the lawyer does is unique because it is he or she who has the responsibility of standing between the citizen and the state in all its guises – and it is essential that the lawyer can do so, and be seen to do so, independently.”

Mr Martin’s speech, said to be the most controversial delivered at the event in a generation, summed up simmering discontent on what some lawyers see as interference from Holyrood, Westminster, and even Brussels.

The dean has already joined with other senior law figures in warning of what they see as a threat to the independence of the justiciary and attacking the executive’s Scottish Legal Complaints Commission which, widely welcomed by lay people, will effectively end centuries of self-regulation.

However, a spokesman for the Scottish Executive last night dismissed any suggestion recent reforms would do anything to take away lawyers’ freedoms.

He said: “The last four years have been a time of unprecedented reform in the justice system.

“New laws and procedures have laid the platform for a more efficient, more effective justice system that treats victims, witnesses and consumers with increasing care and respect.”

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on October 5, 2007 in Law

 

Tags: , , ,