Already wounded over refusals to investigate complaints against corrupt lawyers, the SLCC became “a laughing stock” in email revelations. A DRINK FUELLED hate-filled rant between a now former Board member of the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission (SLCC) who was personally appointed by Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill, and a former Chief Executive who mysteriously resigned over ill health then turned up again at the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman has been identified by Scottish Government insiders as the spark which left the SLCC with no credibility as an impartial regulator or of Scottish solicitors.
The bizarre rants, attacking campaign groups and clients making financial damages claims against dodgy Scottish lawyers were written by Glasgow based divorce lawyer Margaret Scanlan OBE, then a Board member of the SLCC in 2008, to Eileen Masterman, the legal regulator’s third and most controversial Chief Executive who spent only a few months in the job before being accused of lying by Scotland’s Finance Secretary, John Swinney MSP, reported by Diary of Injustice here : Scottish Govt. Finance Chief John Swinney blasts Legal Complaints Commission as liars over secret meetings with Law Society insurers Marsh UK
In the bitter email exchanges, revealed after Freedom of Information requests were made by Diary of Injustice, Mrs Scanlan went on to single out a former complaints campaign group for special attention, demanding the SLCC give no recognition to such groups in a forthcoming investigation into the Law Society of Scotland’s Master Insurance Policy & Guarantee Fund, both of which have been roundly condemned as being “institutionally corrupt” by Consumer rights groups, submissions made to Scottish Parliament investigations and hundreds of clients who have ended up financially ruined as a result of involvement with the Scottish legal profession.
Mrs Scanlan also branded claimants to the notoriously corrupt Master Insurance Policy as “chancers”, yet a ground breaking investigation carried out by the University of Manchester’s law school later that same year in July 2009, linked the Law Society’s Master Policy with suicides of clients of solicitors who were involved in damages claims against the Master Policy compensation scheme after being financially ruined by their lawyers.
Margaret Scanlan was ‘on the razzle again’ while clients of ‘crooked lawyers’ burned. Yesterday, the Sunday Mail newspaper featured email correspondence obtained under Freedom of Information laws in which SLCC board member Margaret Scanlan, a solicitor with Russells Gibson McCaffrey in Glasgow, confessed to the Commission she was suffering from the effects of a hangover after being “’out on the razzle again last night”. Stunningly Scanlan in her emails then went on to tear apart consumers hopes the SLCC would fulfil its intended monitoring role of the ‘crooked lawyer compensation schemes, operated by the Law Society of Scotland, known as the Guarantee Fund & Master Insurance Policy which are designed to (but do not) protect consumers funds from crooked lawyers who steal money or mishandling client’s legal affairs.
Margaret Scanlan : “Was out on the razzle, again, last night so bit cross-eyed this morning. Please excuse any consequent gibberish. Here are my comments on Master Policy and Guarantee Fund…. The consultation should be viewed with some caution. It provides very little by way of a sound evidential basis for us to do anything…. One unidentified responded … reports complaints about difficulty in finding solicitors to pursue a claim under MP (Master Policy). Apart from fundamental misunderstandings about MP which is for benefit of practitioner and in respect of which consumer has no rights ..”
Margaret Scanlan condemns claimants against crooked lawyers as “chancers”. However, further emails from Margaret Scanlan have now emerged which depict the same Law Society style ‘anti-consumer-anti-claims culture’ operating at the supposedly independent Legal Complaints Commission, where Scanlan stunningly labels claimants to the Guarantee Fund as “chancers” indicating she may have personal knowledge of cases, despite the fact that claims to the Guarantee Fund are supposedly confidential.
Margaret Scanlan : “The only complaints I am aware of on the functioning and extent of the GF [Guarantee Fund] have come from corporate bodies eg lending Institutions whose claims have largely not been entertained on basis that is not what GF is for. This includes our friend **** (censored) whose cause is vigorously espoused by **** (censored) but is a complete chancer in my opinion.”
Today, a senior source in the Scottish Government’s Justice Department claimed the revelations which ended up in the media, “revealed the regulator’s institutional contempt for members of the public who make complaints against crooked lawyers”. The source also went on to criticise the Justice Secretary himself for allowing the legal profession to dictate terms on a daily basis as to how the supposedly “independent” SLCC investigate complaints made by clients of poorly performing Scottish solicitors.
However, the anti-client culture at the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission did not end with just one board member, a fact revealed in continuing investigations by Diary of Injustice after sources within the SLCC leaked details of bitter meetings where consumers, campaign groups, individuals and clients of well known corrupt lawyers were openly slated and derided by the highly remunerated Board members who were taking hundreds of pounds a day in expenses claims.
Further revelations revealing the strongly anti-client, anti- consumer views of the SLCC’s board emerged again in 2010 after Scotland’s then Information Commissioner, Kevin Dunion, ordered the release of further bitter email exchanges showing David Smith, husband of Court of Session Judge Lady Smith, who regularly branded victims of crooked lawyers as “frequent flyers” in emails the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission fought to keep the public from reading. Diary of Injustice reported on Mr Dunion’s decision and the scandal surrounding Mr Smith’s treatment of victims of rogue lawyers in an article here : FOI Chief Dunion orders Scottish Legal Complaints Commission to release board member’s anti-client jibes, Master Policy study details
SLCC’s David Smith expressed anti-client jibes in emails around the anti-consumer law complaints quango. Among the papers ordered to be disclosed in a decision published late last week by Mr Dunion are emails containing anti-client jibes from one of the SLCC’s board members, David Smith who was personally appointed to the SLCC by Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill. Mr Smith, a lawyer who served much of his career at law firm Shepherd & Wedderburn, who themselves often act for the Master Policy in protection of questionable solicitors against negligence claims, referred to participants in the Master Policy survey & deceased clients who had committed suicide as a direct result of involvement with the Master Policy, as “Frequent flyers”, a term (among many unprintable) apparently widely used among SLCC Board members & staff against anyone who submits complaints against solicitors.
A Justice Department insider condemned the use of such language, describing the words used in the email written by Smith as “being filled with hate for people who complain about their lawyers”. He further commented : “No wonder the SLCC fought against the Information Commissioner to keep it from public gaze as this depicts a very anti-client culture permeating the entire board of the SLCC.”
David Smith, Margaret Scanlan and Eileen Masterman are of course no longer at the SLCC, yet attempts to re-float the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission since the media revelations of how badly it views members of the public have consistently failed, with most people forced to deal with the prejudiced regulator ending up viewing the SLCC as little more than “a front company for the legal profession to put complaints against their members to bed”.
Eileen Masterman resigned from the SLCC, receiving a huge payoff personally backed by Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill, reported exclusively by Diary of Injustice here : HUSH & MONEY : Former SLCC law complaints Chief Executive Eileen Masterman received secret Scottish Government approved payoff in deal with lawyers. After allegedly being too ill to work, Ms Masterman went back to work for the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman, her new position exposed after allegations of a whitewash by the SPSO and a hospital over the death of a baby, reported here Deputy First Minister to look into death of baby McKenzie Wallace after parents complain of ‘whitewash’ report by SPSO investigator Eileen Masterman
The Sunday Mail newspaper reported on the anti-consumer views of the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission as follows
Mar 15 2009 By David Taylor
A TOP legal watchdog admitted to her boss she was talking gibberish – because of a hangover. Lawyer Margaret Scanlan made the confession in a email which described herself as “cross-eyed” after a night on the tiles.
Scanlan was appointed to her job in the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission by anti-booze crusader Kenny MacAskill. She wrote: “Was out on the razzle, again, last night so bit cross-eyed this morning. Please excuse any consequent gibberish.”
Divorce lawyer Scanlan sent the lengthy email at 11.30am one day in November last year to watchdog chief Eileen Masterman. It was also copied to Alan Paterson, a law professor at Strathclyde University.
Campaigner Peter Cherbi, who champions legal and consumer issues, said: “This is not the sort of service the people of Scotland deserve. “It’s not very good conduct for people who are supposed to be in some of the most respectable positions in the legal profession.”
Scanlan was hand picked by Justice Secretary MacAskill as one of five lawyers to serve on the SLCC – a “one-stop shop” for complaints against lawyers. MacAskill plans to enforce mimimum prices for drink to combat alcoholism and drink-related problems.
The SLCC was set up by the Scottish Government to “modernise the legal complaints” system and ensure gripes are resolved quickly and effectively. It was formed after complaints that self-regulation by the Law Society of Scotland often protected crooked lawyers through cronyism.
Scanlan’s email – about an insurance policy to cover solicitors’ mistakes and misuse of clients’ cash – was released to legal reform campaigners through a Freedom of Information request. The request also released emails from Scanlan attacking outspoken legal reform group Scotland Against Crooked Lawyers.
In one email, she wrote: “I would prefer that we not give any recognition to SACL. “I do not see why we have to name them even if we are bound to engage with them. “Their website is offensive and so far as I am aware no reputable organisations has anything to do with them”
Scanlan is a specialist in family law at Glasgow-based Russells Gibson McCaffrey.
She has also tutored in family law at Glasgow Caledonian University and was deputy chair of the Scottish Legal Aid Board between 1997 and 2007. She was also director of the Legal Defence Union between 1998 and 2002. She earns £350 a day plus expenses for her work with the SLCC.
When asked about the emails, Scanlan told us: “I have nothing to say.”