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Tag Archives: Margaret Scanlan

CALLED TO THE BARS : Drink fuelled & ‘hate filled’ emails of MacAskill appointees ruined credibility of Scottish Legal Complaints Commission claim Govt insiders

SLCCAlready 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.

0011Margaret 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 ..”

0012Margaret 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

Frequent Flyers SLCCSLCC’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

Margaret Scanlan - Called to the Bars - Sunday Mail  15 March 2009 emailCalled to the Bars : Top lawyer admits talking gibberish at work due to hangover

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.”

 

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NAME & SHAME YOUR CROOKED LAWYER : Have you been treated roughly by your solicitor ? It’s time to talk, rate, review, name & shame YOUR crooked lawyer

Lawyer sued for 1 million Sunday Mail June 3 2007Naming & shaming a crooked lawyer is one of the best ways to warn consumers of the perils of using lawyers who fail to disclose their history to clients. IN response to last year’s court sponsored takedowns of websites such as Solicitors from Hell & others across the UK & Ireland where clients of “crooked lawyers” had used the online ratings sites to publish and even debate their usually bad experiences with their solicitors, it is very clear that in 2012, consumers who are ripped off by their legal representatives or those who know of a story involving a crooked lawyer ripping off members of the public should follow the Legal Ombudsman (LeO) naming & shaming policy, by using this year to OUT those lawyers who fail their clients, whether by negligence, corruption or multiple mistakes in an effort to ensure all consumers are protected from the rogue elements of the legal profession, whether in Scotland, England Wales, or Ireland.

Naming & shaming is terribly easy to do. Make the choice to protect yourself & others, by doing it.

If you have experience of a crooked lawyer, or if you know of anyone who has experience of a crooked lawyer, wherever you are, you can help protect yourself, or help others by ensuring the details of the story are fully published in the media while also making a complaint to bodies such as the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission (SLCC) and the Law Society of Scotland.

Margaret Scanlan - Called to the Bars - Sunday Mail  15 March 2009 emailLaw complaints regulators like the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission & Law Society of Scotland turn out to be client-haters rather than consumer protectors. Consumers, clients & readers may get a lot further in their complaints and get a lot more satisfaction from a media investigation of their crooked lawyers long before the Law Society or blundering SLCC get round to putting pen to paper (usually more so in an effort to protect the lawyer before protecting the client). Put simply, its more difficult for so-called regulators like the Law Society of Scotland or SLCC to let a crooked lawyer off the hook if they have already been in the newspapers a few times. Its also more difficult to let a crooked lawyer off the hook if, as usually turns out to be the case, the media reveal they have been ripping off many of their clients, not just you, or someone you know.

If you have a story about a crooked lawyer, contact Diary of Injustice via scottishlawreporters@gmail.com with full details of what happened, how you were treated and what you have done about it so far.

Publishing your experiences at the hands of crooks in the legal world will protect you, and protect others, and will also help shame some of those 70K a year plus expenses politicians in the Scottish Parliament who continue to allow lawyers to regulate themselves and cover up for their colleagues, either at the point of complaint or in the courts. Its time you, the public are heard. Its time consumers and clients who fund the legal profession come first and make sure YOU, the fee paying client have the final say in what happens to YOUR crooked lawyer.

As the Sunday Mail reveals, clients & consumers are usually not aware their own crooked lawyer is ripping off a host of others, and getting away with it, until the media comes along and reports it to the wider world :

Revealed - Top Lawyer at the centre of 12 negligence claims April 23 Sunday Mail 2006REVEALED: TOP LAWYER AT THE CENTRE OF 12 NEGLIGENCE CLAIMS

EXCLUSIVE Brief who’s making a career out of failure

By Russell Findlay April 23 2006 Sunday Mail

THIS is the high-flying solicitor at the centre of a remarkable 12 negligence claims.

John O’Donnell, 54, makes a comfortable living from conducting complicated property transactions.

But we can reveal insurers Royal & Sun Alliance have already been forced to pay out £350,000 on seven negligence claims against him. And at least five more worth £200,000 are still being contested. His firm, John G O’Donnell & Co, is based in Cathcart, Glasgow. The Law Society for Scotland, who govern the conduct of lawyers, keep his record of complaints a secret.

O’Donnell has also been accused of misconduct but the Law Society, â„¢ has not brought any cases to the Scottish Solicitors’ Discipline Tribunal. The claims centre on complicated transactions involving property and mortgages. 9 One case settled with an £81,000 payout involved Glasgow boxing promoter Alex Morrison, 67, for whom O’Donnell acted in the 2002 sale of his Sydney Street gym to Scottish Enterprise for £130,000. The sale money should have gone to Morrison’s offshore firm, Decafarm Ltd, but was instead issued to O’Donnell’s.

Decafarm complained to Strathclyde Police fraud squad but the procurator fiscal decided not to prosecute. 9 In other cases, his clients took out two mortgages on property and sold the property, paying off one mortgage. The others lender then had to pursue the solicitor for negligence to get their money back – and his insurance paid out.

Last night, ex-SNP leader and legal reform campaigner John Swinney said: “This appears a clear example of why a robust and independent complaints handling system is required. I hope forthcoming legislation to be considered by Parliament will address these issues.”

Peter Cherbi, of Injustice Scotland, said: “If you buy a tin of beans, you can see the ingredients on the label. If you’re paying a solicitor, you should be aware of what he or she has been up to. I’m also asking Justice Minister Cathy Jamieson to revoke the exemption of the Law Society of Scotland from the Freedom of Information Act.”

Last month, it emerged that complaints against lawyers had risen 30 per cent in a year to almost 5000. But a Law Society of Scotland spokesman said: “The consumer protections for clients of Scottish solicitors are second to none.”

Last night, a legal firm issued a statement on his behalf. It read: During 2000-2002, John O’Donnell received treatment for a mental illness. He was diagnosed with clinical depression. During those dark days, Mr O’Donnell accepts his own high standards slipped. Indeed, when making a determination, the Law Society of Scotland makes reference to his illness, citing this as ‘extenuating circumstances’. “In 2003, Mr O’Donnell started a new legal practice and has many loyal and satisfied clients.”

Two years ago, the Sunday Mail revealed that O’Donnell’s office was searched by police as part of a money-laundering probe into McGovern crime family lieutenant, Russell Stirton, 46.

Where there's a will there's a crook - Sunday Mail November 28 2010Remember Remember – Where there’s a will there’s a crook. Suspension from legal practice is, however, no deterrence for crooks to come back and rip off people and their wills, as a recent Sunday Mail article exposed the case of the former jailed lawyer Valerie Macadam, now Valerie Penny returned from legal oblivion & started her own will writing business without telling her new clients she was jailed for embezzlement. Quoting from the Sunday Mail article :  “A CROOKED lawyer jailed for stealing money from dead clients is back in business, we can reveal. Valerie Penny, 54, runs a slick website to lure customers into handing over £80 for wills. She is selling the same legal services she used to steal £130,000 from clients and their estates – a catalogue of dishonesty that landed her in prison. The struck-off solicitor, who was called Macadam before her marriage, boasts of her “successful career”. But she makes no mention of her jail time for robbing clients’ cash or her shocking record of professional misconduct.”

Philip YellandMisplaced trust with complaints : Philip Yelland, the Law Society of Scotland’s Director of Regulation for over 20 years yet Scotland has more crooked lawyers than ever. Philip Yelland, the Law Society of Scotland’s director of standards, previously director of regulation and before that head of the Law Society’s horrifically named “Client Relations Office” has been in charge of regulating crooked lawyers in Scotland for over TWENTY YEARS yet from Penman to the present and beyond, most crooked Scottish lawyers have either received a slap on the wrist or no punishment at all while the client ends up financially ruined and excluded from the courts to make sure justice can never be done. Would you trust anyone like this with your complaint ? Make sure you use the media first before trusting the Law Society or SLCC with your lawyer problems.

 

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DISASTER REPORT : Scottish Legal Complaints Commission study of Law Society “Guarantee Fund” suffers 13% turnout, finds clients ‘treated as criminals’

13% response disaster for SLCC report on Law Society’s crooked Guarantee Fund. A REPORT carried out by the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission (SLCC) into the notoriously corrupt “Scottish Solicitors Guarantee Fund”, a ‘client protection’ scheme operated by the Law Society of Scotland to compensate clients who have lost money because of theft by dishonest crooked lawyers & their staff has been hit by an ABYSMALLY low response of only NINETEEN replies from ONE HUNDRED & FORTY FIVE questionnaires (13%) after the Law Society refused to hand over client contact details to the SLCC & its selected research company who were investigating claims against crooked lawyers in Scotland. One client who did reply to the survey said claimants “were made to feel like a criminal” at Guarantee Fund hearings.

THE REPORT, carried out on behalf of the SLCC by Progressive, a research company based in Corstorphine Road, Edinburgh, claimed the Law Society of Scotland had REFUSED to hand over a detailed contact list of members of the public who had contacted or submitted claims to the Guarantee Fund over the past 5 years. The company & SLCC were left with NO CHOICE other than to leave the Law Society of Scotland to distribute the forms to clients that it felt should be provided with a questionnaire.

Jane IrvineJane Irvine, SLCC Chair left out critical mentions in report announcement. In its announcement publicised online, the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission DID NOT mention the low turnout of NINETEEN PARTICIPANTS in its Press Release, available HERE, nor did the SLCC publicise the fact the Law Society of Scotland distributed the forms themselves after REFUSING to hand over Guarantee Fund claimant details to the company preparing the report or the SLCC itself. Legal insiders have commented today the survey was badly handed by the SLCC who were branded by one official from a Scottish consumer organisation as “too close to the Law Society for comfort” and “unwilling at best to get to the truth”. I reported on just how badly this latest SLCC survey was being handled in an earlier article, here : CENSORED : Scottish Legal Complaints Commission’s secret new Master Policy & Guarantee Fund research ‘shuts out’ real victims of crooked lawyers

Progressive, the firm conducting the survey on behalf of the SLCC said in their now published report : “Progressive was not able to receive a database of contact details from the Law Society of Scotland. As such the questionnaire packs were sent to LSS for labelling and distribution.”

“There were two categories of respondents on the Law Society of Scotland’s database and therefore two methods of distribution. For the first category, LSS had contact details for the claimant themselves so packs were sent directly to them. For the second, LSS’s database only contained details for the names of the claimants’ solicitors. In order to account for this, the questionnaire packs included an additional letter asking the solicitor to forward on to their client named on the front of the envelope.”

“In total, 145 questionnaires were distributed; 85 that went directly to claimants and 60 that went to claimants via their solicitor. In order to optimise the response rates to the survey reminder letters were sent to respondents halfway through the fieldwork period. The fieldwork period was also extended to give maximise the opportunity for claimants to respond.”

“Questionnaires were returned directly to Progressive in freepost envelopes. In total 19 completed questionnaires were returned for analysis, denoting a 13% response rate.”

It had been hoped to send questionnaires out to 250 people although for unexplained reasons and doubtless due to the fact the Law Society of Scotland were controlling distribution, only 145 eventually went out.

The company were further critical of the Law Society’s methods of distribution, stating “A large proportion of questionnaires were not sent directly to claimants. Sending questionnaires first to solicitors to pass on to their clients would have affected the likelihood of the questionnaires reaching them and also their likelihood of completing them.” Progressive further warned : “This is likely to impact response rates.”

The report also claims : “Missing information on labels. A few solicitors fed back that there was no client contact on the packs they were sent so were unable to forward these on, again, affecting the final response rate (at least 4 reported this to be the case)” and that some clients who were sent questionnaires by the Law Society of Scotland could not be traced because they had moved address.

The report went onto state all of those who eventually responded to the survey (NINETEEN PEOPLE IN FIVE YEARS) were suspiciously successful in their claim “to some extent” but even among those, there was still evidence of some dissatisfaction with the outcome and the decisions behind it. Clearly the Law Society of Scotland had chosen clients it thought would give the Guarantee Fund a better write up than others with more horrific experiences.

The report states : “Ten of our respondents were successful in their claim, all of whom were satisfied with the outcome. Six were partially successful and of these, four were dissatisfied.”

From the comments provided as to the reasons why, one respondent’s dissatisfaction stemmed from the perception that they were not provided with direct answers for the decision. Three comments related to respondents not receiving full compensation and feeling that the decision made and the reasons for it were not clearly explained to them.

One respondent to the survey stated : “It seemed as if the Scottish Solicitor’s Guarantee Fund were trying to pay as little as possible and were looking after their own interests. Again you were made to feel like a criminal at the hearing.” Another respondent said : “I was not fully compensated for a fraud that was not my fault but my solicitor’s, who was now in jail and yet I had to suffer financially and with stress.”

Comments from the five people who provided reasons for their satisfaction expressed relief that the process had come to an end and they perceived that the Fund had worked well for them.

One respondent said : “Achieved desired outcome although would have preferred not to have gone through the process at all.”Another respondent said : “[Because] I felt that I could move forward and bring closure to the whole affair [as] I had felt very let down by the solicitor involved in my particular case.”

The full report by Progressive on the Guarantee Fund can be read here : Progressive Guarantee Fund Report 2011 (pdf) or online here : Progressive Guarantee Fund Report 2011

Bearing in mind the turnout for the report is so small, its findings & recommendations are very limited, due mostly to the notably poor advertising of the survey by the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission (who apparently wanted as small a number of participants as possible) and the fact the Law Society of Scotland were allowed to distribute the forms on their own, rather than identification & distribution be handed over to the report’s authors or an independent body.

Margaret Scanlan - Called to the Bars - Sunday Mail  15 March 2009 emailChancers Calling – SLCC Board Member Margaret Scanlan branded Guarantee Fund claimants as “chancers”. It should also be borne in mind SLCC Board Members have already expressed anti-client sentiment against claimants to the Guarantee Fund, where in one publicised incident, SLCC Board Member Margaret Scanlan raged against claimants to the Guarantee Fund, branding them “chancers” in a series of bitter emails revealed to the public by Freedom of Information legislation, revealed here : Officials pull FOI disclosures as Guarantee Fund “chancer” emails show Law Society anti-client bias has migrated to Legal Complaints Commission & here : MacAskill must clean up law complaints body as members ‘booze culture conduct’ reflects lack of discipline & will to investigate crooked lawyers

THE second piece of research carried out by University of Manchester was a statistical analysis of data from claims. The research analysed the statistical data to establish if there were any relationships between different aspects of claims made. What the research did not do was explore or look into the detail of individual claims or seek to establish if there were underlying reasons for any findings.

The statistical analysis identified a relationship between the number and total value of claims received in the same year as an individual claim and the level of payment made on an individual claim. The University’s conclusion was that the outcomes of individual claims on the Guarantee Fund are statistically related to factors beyond the ‘merits of the individual claim’. The SLCC said it “noted this conclusion but has not drawn any conclusions about underlying reasons, as they could be subject to many different factors, not all of which would be within the control of the LSS.”

The University of Manchester ‘statistical analysis’ of claims data, can be read here : University of Manchester Guarantee Fund Report 2011 (pdf)

SLCCSLCC statement is short on detail or accuracy of how Guarantee Fund survey actually turned out. The SLCC concluded in its announcement : “The SLCC is keen to take this work forward. Following on from the two pieces of research we are using the results from the Progressive research as a baseline for ongoing monitoring. The questionnaire used in the research will be issued by the LSS to all claimants at the end of the claims process. These questionnaires will be returned to and monitored by the SLCC. We will share information with the LSS and publish findings periodically will carry out an audit of a sample of the actual claims from which the University of Manchester took the statistical data. During the first half of 2012 we will examine the actual cases, the processes followed and the records of decisions to explore whether there are identifiable reasons for the statistical relationship.”

Two earlier articles featured the initial findings of the University of Manchester 2009 report into the Guarantee Fund & Master Policy, here : ‘Ground-breaking’ investigation into Law Society’s Master Policy insurance reveals realities of corrupt claims process against crooked lawyers and here : Suicides, illness, broken families and ruined clients reveal true cost of Law Society’s Master Policy which ‘allows solicitors to sleep at night’

Page 8 - Consumer Focus Scotland refused cooperation from Law SocietySuicides, illness, family breakdown, loss of homes, loss of livelihood were all identified by interviewees as being directly associated with members of the public’s dealings with the Law Society & Master Policy. During the research team’s investigation of claims against the Master Policy, team members were told of suicides which had occurred due to the way in which clients of crooked lawyers had been treated by the Law Society of Scotland and the insurers who operate the Master Policy protection scheme for solicitors against negligence claims. Quoting the report : “Several claimants said that they had been diagnosed with depression; that they had high blood pressure; and several had their marriages fail due to their claim. Some had lost a lot of money, their homes, and we were told that one party litigant had committed suicide.”

Further excerpts from the Manchester University report into the Law Society’s Master Policy & Guarantee Fund show the intolerable strain clients who attempt to claim against their ‘crooked’ solicitor have to endure : Claimants “described being intimidated, being forced to settle rather than try to run a hearing without legal support, and all felt that their claims’ outcomes were not fair. Some claimants felt that they should have received more support, and that this lack was further evidence of actors within the legal system being “against” Master Policy claimants. Judges were described as being “former solicitors”, members of the Law Society – and thus, against claimants. Some described judges and other judicial officers as being very hostile to party litigants.”

Law Society & Scottish GovernmentScottish Government have been promoting use of Law Society Guarantee Fund for new entrants to legal services market. Attempts by the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission to avoid portraying the Guarantee Fund too badly may be linked to the reliance of the SNP Scottish Government in using the Guarantee Fund as a compensation vehicle for clients of new entrants to Scotland’s supposedly expanded legal services market. I reported on this ludicrous idea in an earlier article here : Legal Services Bill vote by MSPs will force all victims of ‘crooked lawyers’ to use Law Society’s corrupt ‘claims dodging’ Guarantee Fund

As far back as March 2009, I revealed in an article : Law Society’s ‘Guarantee Fund’ for clients of crooked lawyers revealed as multi million pound masterpiece of claims dodging corruption

Yet after THREE YEARS, this latest attempt by the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission to investigate the Law Society of Scotland’s Guarantee Fund has resulted in yet another failure. There is noticeably no mention in the announcement of how the latest survey into the Master Policy is progressing, if at all.

Clearly as long as the Law Society of Scotland control both the Guarantee Fund and the Master Policy, there will be no “ultimate client protection” for consumers of legal services in Scotland and clearly as long as the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission remains as cowardly and ineffective as it is, there will be no such thing as independent effective regulation of the legal profession in Scotland and therefore no protection for clients from ‘crooked lawyers’.

 

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HACKED BY THE LAW : Hacking in UK public life reveals sleazy relationships & deals between professions, vested interests, business, lawyers & crooked cops who trade YOUR information

Consumers HackedDealt with a rogue lawyer, the Law Society or Master Policy ? You have been hacked. Oh yes you have. HACKING IN PUBLIC LIFE in the UK is much more commonly practised and goes far wider than one rashly closed down newspaper, as anyone who has become a figure of public interest, a celebrity, a politician, a critic of industry or vested interests, a campaigner of any kind, and yes, anyone who has made some kind of court claim against big business, the professions or even public services should know. I even know journalists who have been hacked, because they were investigating some kind of scandal which vested interests, some political, some commercial, and some public, did not want their names, companies or organisations dragged through the media in entirely justifiable headlines exposing scandal upon scandal.

Hacking, or as former Prime Minister Gordon Brown referred to earlier this week as “Law breaking on an industrial scale” as he spoke in Parliament about rather unnecessary news reports relating to his son’s medical condition, is most definitely not limited to certain sections of the media. Even if we don’t particularly want to admit it, I think most of us and accept that hacking in UK public life and all that illegal information sharing by professions, vested interests, big business and even public servants, exists, happens with alarming frequency, involves substantial amounts of money and personal gain for those involved, and is completely out of control. In short, it wasn’t just the News of the World now, was it.

The area of journalism I cover, is of course, the justice system and all its ills. Believe me, there are many and I don’t need to go far to find examples.

SLCC Master Policy report 2011However, after my article on 3 July 2011 in which I wrote : SUICIDES, ill health, death, family break-ups, personal threats, repossessed homes, unsolved burglaries, tampered mail, spurious Police visits or raids on your home with following arrests & charges withdrawn, benefits cheat investigations, Inland Revenue investigations, losing your job, DVLA inquiries, TV license inquiries, even RIPSA surveillance by local authorities, actions all apparently instigated by aggrieved lawyers out to discredit troublesome clients, are now known to form a catalogue of common experiences in varying combinations which keep cropping up with clients who attempt to pursue ‘rogue Scottish solicitors’ through the courts by claiming against the Law Society of Scotland controlled Master Policy, the Professional Indemnity Insurance scheme which protects solicitors from damages claims from clients for negligence and other rip-offs”, little did I realise my coverage would bring some individuals out of the woodwork who are now admitting to practising the ‘dark arts’ against disgruntled clients of Scotland’s less than honest legal profession.

Was I surprised. Well, no. However I was surprised at the number of contacts from clients caught in the loop of hiring yet another lawyer to repair the damage a previous lawyer had done to their case, or those clients now trying to pursue their former lawyers through the courts.

Strangely enough, all of these individuals now caught in the system appear to have suffered a string of multiple problems in their life which were not present before they had become involved with the legal system, and had clearly suffered some kind of information sharing exercise between professions & in some cases even the Police who had turned against them on all counts.

In short, the Scottish justice system had clearly turned from an allegedly well respected system of dispute resolution, to that of a finely tuned, well oiled weapon used against anyone who disagreed with it or sought to recover from damages inflicted by it.

After careful consideration of material presented to Diary of Injustice, material which portrays an oh-so-obvious favour-&-trade-for-information policy involving agents working for the Law Society of Scotland’s Master Policy, I wrote a further article on 11 July 2011, reporting admissions from a legal insider that Private Investigators were routinely used to hack the details of clients who were pursuing negligence claims against their crooked lawyers, claims which involve the Law Society of Scotland’s Master Policy, an insurance protection scheme for the legal profession which is brokered by a UK subsidiary (Marsh UK) of a US company called Marsh McLennan Companies (MMC) who were found guilty of bid rigging in the US.

One firm of Private Investigators admitted to working for law firms connected to the Master Policy after being challenged with information. Since I wrote the article on Monday of this week, another firm has also acknowledged its part in monitoring and seeking, on behalf of law firms who in some cases have links to the Scottish Government, details of clients private lives.

Even better, a now retired Private Investigator who has gone on to confirm much of what has been said this week and provide further insight into highly questionable surveillance on clients and even some of the legal profession’s critics, has informed Diary of Injustice that law firms who represent the Master Policy “are now engaged in an effort to find out who talked”.

One particular incident is certainly much more clearer to me after this week.

I am now in a much better position to understand why, for instance, Board members of the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission (SLCC) felt they were able, with impunity to brand claimants to the Master Policy & Guarantee Fund as “chancers” and “frequent flyers”.

Simply, it was all down to the level of information on those individuals these particular SLCC Board members had access to, although how & why that information was compiled, what ‘questionable methods & relationships’ were used to compile it, and who was involved in compiling it, is, anyone’s guess for now, as is whether there is even one shred of truth to the information which was generated, and perhaps in some instances, fabricated by the legal profession itself.

However one thing can be clear. This particular information obtained on clients which allowed some people at the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission to feel good enough to hurl a few insults at those attempting to recover financial losses incurred by their solicitors, certainly did not come willingly from any client.

Any organisations, particularly a statutory regulator which benefits in any way from such acts of spying on clients denied justice, or whose who are caught up in trying to prove an injustice, acts clearly many of which are illegal, is not a fit or proper organisation to represent the public interest in legal matters, or protect clients interests in dealings with the legal profession.

Similarly, an insurance company which has already been convicted of bid rigging in the United States and has, in conjunction with the most senior officials of a statutory regulator, coordinated a series of acts against consumers to prevent them getting to court to settle negligence claims against crooked lawyers, or crooked anyone for that, is not a fit or proper organisation to offer insurance policies which are held up by equally crooked regulators as client protection schemes, which are nothing of the sort.

So this takes us back to one now very clear fact. If you have dealt with the legal profession on the basis you have tried to take legal action against a solicitor, or if you have raised what could be classified as serious or controversial complaints against members of the legal profession, particularly high profile members of the legal profession, you, like many others caught in the same position you have never met in your life, may well have been hacked. Hacked to an unimaginable degree. If anyone wants to do something about it, you know where I am.

Readers may also wish to note the fine article in today’s Guardian by Heather Brooke, which goes far in explaining some of the information sharing cartels existing in UK public life, here : Phone hacking: let’s break up this information cartel

And finally … to the scandal which catapulted hacking in public life into the media headlines, the story of the News of the World, which met its untimely end because, as Rupert Murdoch said today in his apology printed in several newspapers, “The News of the World was in the business of holding others to account. It failed when it came to itself.”

Need I remind you all, the same relationships between former journalists and corrupt Police Officers which ultimately brought down the News of the World, still exist in the same quantities, perhaps even more so, in many walks of life, in big business, in public services, and in the legal profession and indeed right at the very top of its regulatory bodies.

Do you ever think the legal profession and its regulators will ever apologise for, and attempt to put right the wrongs they have committed against members of the public. No they wont. Never.

This is exactly why we need newspapers & journalists with integrity, bloggers, campaigners and victims of injustice who can turn the tables on those in power, do the investigative work which needs to be done, and hold the vested interests, the crooked professions, big business, crooked politicians, the justice system, and those in public life who put on a double face, to account.

 

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Paid Pipers Required : MacAskill & Scottish Legal Complaints Commission seek extra quangocrats, lawyers, ex-Police for ‘cash happy’ law complaints quango boardroom

SLCCMore stooges sought for board of anti-client Scottish Legal Complaints Commission. FRESH from a recent recruitment drive which took in one parachuted-in advocate who happened to be a Scottish Government lawyer, and three ‘lay’ members which included yet another ex senior Police Officer, a barrister and an NHS Orkney official who resigned her post “for personal reasons”, the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission (SLCC) and Scottish Government are again on the hunt for more quangocrats & members of Scotland’s legal profession to fill the SLCC’s bursting at the seams £150k+ expenses claiming boardroom, this despite the hapless anti-client law complaints quango being told to save money and downsize its costs in the face of falling complaints numbers & dwindling public confidence.

The new posts at the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission , which include at least two non lawyers, and a further two lawyers, all of whom will be personally appointed to the SLCC by Scotland’s Justice Secretary, Kenny MacAskill, will enjoy exquisite salaries, perks & expenses claims, with a basic remuneration of £212 per day for a meagre time commitment of up to 6 days per month. a basic The term of appointment is 5 years.

While the advertisements for the latest positions have just gone live today, it is already rumoured more retiring Police officers & quangocrats, who, having unexplainably been forewarned of the new posts, are already showing tentative interest in the well paid positions at the SLCC. It has also been revealed this afternoon certain members of Law Society committees are being encouraged to apply to join the SLCC, doubtless to keep the Law Society in their now familiar position as a fly on the wall during SLCC board meetings.

The latest round of appointments come in the face of mounting criticism of the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission which has failed to make any inroads into its expected duties including monitoring of the controversial Law Society controlled client compensation schemes, the  Master Policy & Guarantee Fund, as defined in the Legal Profession & Legal Aid (Scotland) Act 2007, which itself struggled to pass through the Scottish Parliament in 2006 after threats from the then Chief Executive of the Law Society of Scotland, Douglas Mill to block Holyrood’s attempt at legal complaints reform with court action on Human Rights grounds arguing that it was a lawyer’s ‘Human Right’ to regulate cover up for their own colleagues.

So far, the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission in its three years of existence, has managed to uphold only one single complaint against an unidentified solicitor, having passed most complaints it received back to the Law Society of Scotland, after its board members took a controversial decision not to investigate any cases where instructions to solicitors began prior to 1st October 2008, the official start date of the SLCC.

Law Society & Scottish GovernmentConsumer Unfriendly : Scottish Government & Law Society intervened with a new law to block any attempt to use SLCC to look at historic complaints. The SLCC’s decision to refuse to look at any pre 2008 cases was taken after Petition PE1033 was lodged at the Scottish Parliament in January 2007 calling for the SLCC to investigate & adjudicate on long running cases of injustice caused by the highly prejudiced nature of the Law Society of Scotland’s regulation of complaints against solicitors. However, the Scottish Government, with the quiet support of the SLCC & Law Society of Scotland introduced a legislative amendment to the LPLA Act, the Legal Services Act 2007 (Transitional, Savings and Consequential Provisions) (Scotland) Order 2008 which included a section on the SLCC’s investigation of historical complaints. The law was presented by the Scottish Government to the Justice Committee in September 2008 and passed by the Scottish Parliament to block any further attempts to use the SLCC to investigate how poorly the Law Society had treated Scots over the years.

The official line being put out today on the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission’s latest recruitment drive for new board members is that with many of the current board members terms coming to an end, their positions need to be filled.

A Scottish Government spokesman commenting on the new recruitment round, which will see Scotland’s Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill appoint a new group of like minded individuals to the SLCC’s board, said : “The four appointments being advertised are to replace members due to step down at the end of their normal service period.  Four members are due to demit office in six months having served their allotted time.”

However, rumours are rife in the legal world that much of the current board membership of the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission who had been expected to remain in position for at least two terms, want out of the controversial law complaints quango, which, rather than repaying a staggering two million pounds of public money received from the Scottish Government, board members recently decided to reduce its vast £1.8 million cash surplus by giving back a whopping £1 million back to Scottish lawyers by way of a complaints levy cut.

An insider close to the SLCC commenting on the latest recruitment drive for new board members said “Had it not been for the barrage of online analysis of the SLCC, highlighting the poor performance of the organisation to live up to public expectations, much of the SLCC’s current board may well have remained in place for another term.”

The insider continued : “Lets be clear about this. When you have reports in the media of board members exhibiting such vile anti consumer sentiment within emails and  other venues, many people will rightly question their ability to remain impartial and independent when making policy decisions or dealing with complaints against the legal profession. Little wonder no one is choosing to renew their terms on the board.”

A senior solicitor speaking this morning on the SLCC’s hunt for new board members called for the quango to be scrapped and replaced with a Legal Ombudsman & Legal Services Consumer Panel style organisation as in England & Wales, a proposal I wholeheartedly agree with.

He said : “Even if the SLCC had fifty board members the organisation has managed to prove only one solitary thing in the past three years, that it has no credibility whatsoever as a regulator. If everyone took three years to get up and running to do their job, the country would be a shambles. This is exactly what has happened to regulation of the legal profession in Scotland, and quite frankly, the SLCC is now just an expensive embarrassment.”

He continued : “If there is to be any real attempt at cleaning up the image of the Scottish legal profession & the complaints regime, I put to you the SLCC should be scrapped, the Law Society should have all its regulatory & disciplinary functions removed, allowing it to be a representative of the profession only, and a Legal Ombudsman style office should be created along with a Legal Services Consumer Panel as exists in England & Wales. This way consumers will have their voice and representative in legal services, as will the profession, while regulation & discipline will be removed from both camps.”

I reported on the SLCC’s disastrous attempt to beef up the anti-consumer law quango in a series of reports, starting in November 2010, here : Quangocrats wanted : Scottish Legal Complaints Commission seek ‘non-lawyer’ board members with legal & ‘consumer’ backgrounds at £209+ a day.

In early February of this year, I revealed how the take-up of the lawyer position had been so poor, Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill was forced to appoint one of his own Scottish Government counsel to the ‘lawyer only’ position, reported here : Poisoned Chalice : MacAskill forced to parachute Government’s own lawyer onto Scottish Legal Complaints Commission after Advocates shun job offer.

Later in March, the new non-lawyer recruits to the SLCC’s Board, which, bizarrely for ‘non lawyer’ positions included a qualified Barrister, a third retired senior Police Officer, and an NHS Orkney official who resigned her post “for personal reasons”, covered here : One more ex-cop for anti-client Scottish Legal Complaints Commission as Justice Secretary hands out five year quango jobs at £212 per day

Margaret Scanlan - Called to the Bars - Sunday Mail  15 March 2009 emailNo more tequila nights or frequent flyers for now – Many consumers will wonder what changes if any will occur with new recruits at anti-client booze fuelled Scottish Legal Complaints Commission. An investigation by Diary of Injustice into the SLCC’s board recruitment methods, using sources & Freedom of Information legislation revealed in May of this year at least eighty nine applications from a plethora of senior Police officers, quangocrats already enjoying multiple positions on other organisations, individuals linked to the Law Society & legal profession & other like minded individuals tried to get onto the notoriously anti-client lawyer watchdog, reported here : CALLED TO THE BOARD : Documents reveal 89 applications from quangocrats to join £2 MILLION cash stash Scottish Legal Complaints Commission

The initial recruitment round to the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission, was covered during 2008 in the following reports :

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

Calls for full disclosure on legal complaints commission members as Justice Department ‘covers up’ conflicts of interest in appointments scandal

The SLCC were asked for comment on the latest round of Board member recruitment, however no statement was received by time of publication. Interestingly the SLCC is also looking to hire an Information Officer, a position which seems to replace the role of its Head of Communications, who is no longer replying to emails or Freedom of Information enquiries.

JOBSEEKING FOR GREEDY QUANGOCRATS & ‘LAWYER GROUPIES’ KEEN ON £15k A YEAR EXPENSES :

Today, the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission has advertised for two lawyers & at least two non lawyers, on the appointed for Scotland website, in the following terms :

The main functions of the Commission are to resolve complaints alleging inadequate professional service or negligence by legal practitioners, to refer complaints which allege professional misconduct or unsatisfactory professional conduct to the relevant professional body and to promote good practice in complaints handling.

The Role involves:

• Working with the Chairing Member, other Commission Members and the Chief Executive to provide strategic direction to the SLCC.

• Chairing Determination Committees, manage oral hearings and provide final, reasoned decisions. 

• Using objective and impartial judgement in adjudicating and resolving disputes about complaints. 

• Working with the Chairing Member, other Commission Members and the Chief Executive to contribute to the development of the organisation and its effectiveness, including oversight of financial and resource management.

• Accepting responsibility for decisions of the Commission, ensuring that they are implemented and ensuring appropriate standard of corporate governance in the work of the SLCC.

• Contributing to an effective team to achieve results by providing mutual support to colleagues, to challenge and to respond to challenge constructively. 

• Assisting the Chairing Member in overseeing the promotion of standards within complaints handling and agreeing the annual report.

For lawyers, the successful Candidates must either be : a solicitor, a conveyancing or executry practitioner or have acquired rights to conduct litigation or a right of audience by virtue of section 27 of the Law Reform (Miscellaneous Provisions) (Scotland) Act 1990.

Amongst other essential skills, the successful lawyer Candidates will have : The professional standing and experience to provide strategic direction in an organisational capacity, The ability to chair meetings leading to dispute resolution, The ability to achieve high standards in performance in an organisational environment.

For non-lawyers (former Police, quangocrats, relatives of lawyers, even their pet poodles & gerbils with a taste for £15K a year plus in expenses may apply etc), the SLCC are looking for at least two lay members, for appointment in October, and for any other lay member vacancy which may arise within 6 months of the interviews.

Amongst other essential skills, the successful Candidates will have : The ability to apply objective and impartial judgement to the resolution of disputes, the ability to  work collaboratively to achieve a positive outcome. Specialist experience of one or both of the following : Driving organisational performance with a customer focus preferably in a private sector environment or Experience of ethics in a regulatory environment.

These “essential skills” do not exist and never have existed in regulation of the legal profession in Scotland. They never will, as long as the Law Society of Scotland effectively controls regulation of the legal profession in Scotland.

The Scottish Legal Complaints Commission is thoroughly incapable of delivering “Customer Focus” to consumers, however it is certainly capable of delivering “Customer Focus” to the legal profession as it continues to do in the model of the “Front company for the Law Society” which it was always planned and turned out in the end, to be.

As Scotland’s Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill recently said in his criticism of the UK’s Supreme Court rulings which did not suit his political viewpoint, “He who pays the piper, as they say, calls the tune.” Clearly the new recruits to the SLCC’s board, like those before them, will be required to be paid pipers who will dance to the Law Society and Mr MacAskill’s tune, rather than the tune of ordinary Scots who expect better quality and more honest legal services.

 

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Scottish Legal Complaints Commission pays organisations £20K of YOUR MONEY to spy on Kenny MacAskill, Law Society, its own staff & media

SLCC MacAskillSLCC paid organisations £20k to spy on Kenny MacAskill, Holyrood, Law Society, media & others. CLIENTS of all Scottish solicitors are unwittingly helping to fund a little talked about yet HUGELY EXPENSIVE media monitoring & spying policy operated by the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission (SLCC) which reports back on news & any other reports or references relating to Kenny MacAskill, the Law Society of Scotland, Faculty of Advocates, Scottish Parliament, MSPs and even the SLCC’s own staff, according to documents & admissions disclosed under Freedom of Information legislation yesterday.

So far the SLCC has spent well nearly TWENTY THOUSAND POUNDS on spying on the media, £7555.72 in its first financial year (2009-2009) the same year it received a whopping two million pounds of taxpayers money, with the spying project’s costs increasing to £9863.07 in financial year 2009-2010 and rumoured to be even more for the current financial year. Income received by the SLCC from the levy imposed on all solicitors, which in turn is recovered from clients through increased fees, funds the SLCC’s operating costs including the media spying project. Earlier this year it was revealed the SLCC has only managed to uphold one single complaint in its three years of existence and has made not one single referral to the Scottish Solicitors Discipline Tribunal, a worse record than even the Law Society of Scotland.

SLCC cost admission media monitoring FOIKeeping the SLCC informed of how they, and their targets look to the outside world, at a cost of £10K a year. The bizarre spying policy, the principle aim of which is ‘to keep the SLCC informed of any media activity where the organisation is mentioned’, uses two companies to monitor reports & references relating to : “SLCC (UK), SLCC in all Scottish daily and weekly press, Staff Mentions, Faculty of Advocates, Justice Committee, Law Society of Scotland, The Association of Commercial Attorneys, Alternative Business Structures, Client Relations Partners, and Kenny MacAskill”. The arrangement with two companies, one called Meltwater News, the other so far not identified by the SLCC, provide reports of daily mentions of the SLCC’s search terms from all online sources and has also netted critical stories on Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill and on disgraced former MSP Bill Aitken, who resigned his position as Convener of the Scottish Parliament’s Justice Committee after he attempted to blame Sunday Herald journalists to cover up comments he made on a rape victim.

The FOI disclosure showing how the SLCC’s media monitoring policy operates, can be viewed or downloaded here : SLCC media monitoring policy

A legal insider speaking this morning on the revelations said : “Have they never heard of using a free search engine like google to find out what’s happening on the internet ? For an organisation which is supposed to be saving money, the SLCC seems to have a lot of it to waste on worries of how to maintain its image rather than attending to its duties of regulating complaints about the legal profession”

A Scottish Government source condemned the SLCC’s costly spying project. He said : “I think the 20K might have been better spent on other areas of policy rather than worrying about how they are being reported in the media.”

He also claiming the SLCC “had failed public expectations of cleaning up the poor reputation of complaints regulation in the legal profession” adding that “stalking the Justice Secretary and the Scottish Parliament at a significant cost to solicitors and their clients for signs of criticism from Scottish Ministers & msps does not do the organisation any favours.”

An official from one of Scotland’s consumer organisations braded the SLCC’s media spying policy “a complete waste of money”.

She said : “The SLCC have been so concerned about the cost of consultations such as the report into the Master Policy which happened on a shoestring budget yet we regularly see that the SLCC throws money down the toilet on anything to do with boosting its own image or keeping tabs on its critics.”

She continued : “Is this the way we expected the SLCC to perform as a complaints regulator ? I think the answer to that is a resounding ‘No’.”

While the SLCC claimed websites such as “Diary of Injustice in Scotland” were banned at the organisation’s luxurious half million pound a year Edinburgh HQ located at the Stamp Office, which is populated with staff earning up to £1350 a week & board members receiving up to £300 plus a day with almost unlimited expenses claims schemes & lucrative pension arrangements, copies of articles from this site are apparently regularly printed off from the SLCC’s Head of Communications computer and distributed around the organisation out of concern for rising levels of criticism of the now widely discredited law complaints regulator.

6Reports by Diary of Injustice on Eileen Masterman’s resignation caused grave concern at SLCC. One particular subject covered by Diary of Injustice has, according to insiders, “caused grave concern and much anger among the SLCC’s board members & staff”, relating to reports from April 2010 on the six month disappearance of the SLCC’s now former CEO, Eileen Masterman, which prompted an announcement Ms Masterman had resigned over grounds of “ill health” after less than seven months in her £80,000 a year, £1,350 plus, a week job.  However, enquiries amid a host of refusals by the SLCC to disclose information on Ms Masterman’s resignation revealed there had been bitter & drawn out negotiations with legal teams on the terms of a rumoured-to-be “large ex-gratia” payment to Ms Masterman, approved by the Scottish Government in secret, which I reported on here : HUSH & MONEY : Former SLCC law complaints Chief Executive Eileen Masterman received secret Scottish Government approved payoff in deal with lawyers :

According to insiders, even greater concerns were raised by the SLCC’s board members regarding earlier articles from Diary of Injustice which focussed on the sheer hostility of the board members towards clients of solicitors who were participating in the University of Manchester Law School’s 2009 investigation into the Law Society of Scotland’s Master Policy, the notoriously corrupt Professional Indemnity Insurance scheme which covers all Scottish solicitors for negligence & other client service failures.

Frequent Flyers SLCCFrequent Flyers : SLCC’s David Smith expressed anti-client jibes to Eileen Masterman in emails around the anti-consumer law complaints quango. Among the papers ordered to be disclosed in a decision by the Scottish Information Commissioner, Kevin Dunion and featured in reports on Diary of Injustice were emails containing anti-client jibes,sent by SLCC board member David Smith to Ms Masterman in July 2009. Mr Smith, husband of Court of Session judge Lady Smith, 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”.

An earlier story in the Sunday Mail newspaper, revealing the boozed-up antics of SLCC board members who went on to make bitter hate fuelled remarks against members of the public & consumer groups in their emails to each other, prompted calls by some connected to the organisation “to take action” against Diary of Injustice and “attempt to discredit any reporting of internal goings on or information perceived to be anti-consumer” at the hapless law complaints quango.

Margaret Scanlan - Called to the Bars - Sunday Mail  15 March 2009 emailCalled to the Bars featured in newspapers, pointed to SLCC’s anti client culture among board members & senior officials. Margaret Scanlan’s ‘cross eyed’ email said : ““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 ..”  Ms Scanlan’s rant against the Master Policy investigation was featured in the Sunday Mail newspaper, depicting a bitter, hate fuelled anti-client culture operating at the highest levels of the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission, which also saw Ms Scanlan rubbish victims of crooked lawyers who tried to recover money misappropriated by their solicitors as “complete chancers”.

Despite the bitter tirades of Scanlan & Smith against consumers & victimised clients, the University of Manchester’s report published by the SLCC in 2009 linked the Master Policy to the deaths of clients, more on which can be read here : Suicides, illness, broken families and ruined clients reveal true cost of Law Society’s Master Policy which ‘allows solicitors to sleep at night’

The Scottish Legal Complaints Commission was asked to justify their expenditure on spying on the media in the face of requirements by all public bodies to save money and whether they considered this is money wisely spent. The SLCC were also asked if their media monitoring spy service brought any benefits to regulation of the legal profession. A spokesperson for the SLCC said : “The SLCC has no comment.”

BACKGROUND TO PAYOFF & RESIGNATION OF SLCC CHIEF EXECUTIVE EILEEN MASTERMAN :

Sources in late 2009 had informed Diary of Injustice that Ms Masterman had failed to respond to correspondence from consumers & msps, however it was not until early 2010, firm evidence was made available Ms Masterman had been missing from her role as the SLCC’s Chief Executive for some time, as I revealed in an article on April 13 2010, here : £70K Chief Executive ‘missing for 6 months’ at Scottish Legal Complaints Commission as Justice Secretary dodges questions on scandal-hit law quango The day after my initial article on Ms Masterman’s disappearance from  work, April 4, 2010, the SLCC were forced to announce the resignation of Ms Masterman from her post on grounds of “ill health”, which I reported on, here : SLCC’s Eileen Masterman resigns, questions remain on attempt to mislead Cabinet Finance Chief John Swinney over secret meetings with insurers Marsh

John SwinneyCabinet Finance Chief John Swinney revealed he felt Ms Masterman had mislead him over accounts of meetings. However, Eileen Masterman’s resignation leaves questions over increasingly bitter exchanges between the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission & the Scottish Government’s Finance Chief, John Swinney, on a matter which I have previously reported where further documents obtained under Freedom of Information legislation revealed the SLCC had clearly mislead Mr Swinney over secret meetings between its officials including Ms Masterman and officials from Marsh, the Law Society’s Master Policy insurers.

Ian GordonFrequent Fryers of FOI : SLCC Board Member ex-Deputy Chief Constable Ian Gordon, also the Convener of the Standards Commission for Scotland refused disclosure on Masterman. Given the many questions raised over the resignation of Ms Masterman, and the lack of progress the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission had made on key issues including scrutiny of the Master Policy, Freedom of Information requests were made to the SLCC asking for details surrounding the resignation. They were refused. Upon a request for a review of the SLCC’s refusal to disclose information through Freedom of Information legislation, one of its board members, former Tayside Deputy Chief Constable Ian Gordon, who is also, amazingly, the Convener of the Standards Commission for Scotland, abruptly refused the Freedom of Information review, as did the SLCC’s new Chief Executive, Rosemary Agnew, who considered and again abruptly refused a second request for an FOI review.

The Scottish Information Commissioner, Kevin Dunion was asked to investigate the SLCC’s refusal to hand over information on Ms Masterman’s resignation. He has found the SLCC must release some details although has allowed other information to remain secret. His decision can be read here : Decision 114/2011 Resignation of the former Chief Executive Officer

 

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HUSH & MONEY : Former SLCC law complaints Chief Executive Eileen Masterman received secret Scottish Government approved payoff in deal with lawyers

SLCC Chief Executive Eileen Masterman (foreground) received Scottish Government approved pay off after lawyers intervened says auditor report. RUMOURS that Eileen Masterman, the former Chief Executive of the much derided Scottish Legal Complaints Commission (SLCC), received a SUBSTANTIAL PAY OFF after she resigned on grounds of “ill health”, after serving less than SEVEN MONTHS in the £80,000 a year, £1,350 plus, a week job have now been confirmed with the publication of a “Key Memorandum Issues” document prepared for the SLCC by the Edinburgh offices of auditors Grant Thornton. Grant Thornton were called in to replace the Scottish Legal Aid Board (SLAB) as the SLCC’s auditors, after SLAB were abruptly sacked from their auditing role by the SLCC’s board in 2009 after much bickering over the Legal Aid Board’s scrutiny of the failed law complaints quango.

However, the report now published by Grant Thornon FAILS to mention any references to official claims Ms Masterman resigned due to “ill health”. The report instead documents a battle negotiations between lawyers, the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission and even the Scottish Government over what is referred to as an unspecified “Ex-Gratia payment”, which one legal insider this morning said may have been made to head off any legal proceedings against the SLCC by Ms Masterman. The figure, which Grant Thornton, the SLCC and the Scottish Government have so far failed to disclose, is rumoured to be substantial.

Grant Thornton’s audit of the SLCC’s problems revealed Scottish Government approved payoff to former CEO. Referring to Ms Masterman’s payoff while managing to omit the figures, page eight of the report from Grant Thornton states : “Ex gratia payment to former CEO : Rosemary Agnew was appointed the role of Acting CEO in November 2009 and the former CEO, Eileen Masterman departed from the post in February 2010, with Rosemary Agnew continuing in her role. We understand that an ex-gratia payment was paid to the former CEO. The amount of this payment was determined through consultation between the former CEO, the Board and the respective lawyers. The payment was then authorised and approved by the Board and the payment approved by the Scottish Government.”

Scottish Legal Complaints Commission - Eileen Masterman steps down  as Chief  Executive 19 April 2010SLCC release on Masterman resignation claimed illness, omitting details of Scottish Government approved pay-off. The Scottish Legal Complaints Commission issued a public press release regarding Ms Masterman’s resignation, stating : “The SLCC has now informed its staff and stakeholders that after a period of illness, Eileen Masterman, Chief Executive Officer of the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission (SLCC) has left the organisation. The Commission wishes her well for the future. Jane Irvine, SLCC Chair, confirmed that Rosemary Agnew, the SLCC Head of Investigations, will continue in her role as Accountable Officer and Acting Chief Executive until further notice. The position of Chief Executive is filled through the Public Appointments process run by the Office of the Commissioner for Public Appointments in Scotland (OCPAS). The recruitment process will commence in due course.”

Following the ‘recruitment process’, Ms Masterman was eventually replaced by Rosemary Agnew as Chief Executive in 2010. The SLCC have since removed any references to Ms Masterman’s resignation from their website.

Sources in late 2009 had informed Diary of Injustice that Ms Masterman had failed to respond to correspondence from consumers & msps, however it was not until early 2010, firm evidence was made available Ms Masterman had been missing from her role as the SLCC’s Chief Executive for some time, as I revealed in an article on April 13 2010, here : £70K Chief Executive ‘missing for 6 months’ at Scottish Legal Complaints Commission as Justice Secretary dodges questions on scandal-hit law quango

The day after my initial article on Ms Masterman’s disappearance from work, April 4, 2010, the SLCC were forced to announce the resignation of Ms Masterman from her post on grounds of “ill health”, which I reported on, here : SLCC’s Eileen Masterman resigns, questions remain on attempt to mislead Cabinet Finance Chief John Swinney over secret meetings with insurers Marsh

John SwinneyCabinet Finance Chief John Swinney revealed he felt Ms Masterman had mislead him over accounts of meetings. However, Eileen Masterman’s resignation leaves questions over increasingly bitter exchanges between the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission & the Scottish Government’s Finance Chief, John Swinney, on a matter which I have previously reported where further documents obtained under Freedom of Information legislation revealed the SLCC had clearly mislead Mr Swinney over secret meetings between its officials including Ms Masterman and officials from Marsh, the Law Society’s Master Policy insurers.

John Swinney 09032009 to SLCC 1Cabinet Secretary Swinney demanded explanations of SLCC’s minutes contradictions. Letters written by Cabinet Secretary John Swinney dated March 2009 to the SLCC’s Chief Executive Eileen Masterman brand her explanation ‘contradictory’ to details in the Commission’s own minutes : “In your response on the 12th of December to *** subsequent letter on the 2nd of December in which *** had stated ‘clearly you are saying that no date has yet been arranged for the Marsh presentation’. You indicated that a meeting took place with RSA (Royal Sun Alliance) in July 2008 but that no meeting had occurred with Marsh.”

Mr Swinney went on to state in his letter : “*** has drawn to my attention the fact that the minutes of the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission dated 11th of March 2008 and 7th July 2007 indicated firstly in March 2008 that ‘Jane Irvine confirmed she had arranged an introductory session from Marsh’ and the minutes in July said that a meeting had taken place with RSA. I have to say that I feel there is a contradiction between the correspondence you have sent to *** dated 1st and 12th of December and the minutes of the SLCC meetings of March and July.”

John Swinney 03062009 to SLCCSLCC’s answers to Cabinet Secretary Swinney were far from clear. Ms Masterman’s responses to Mr Swinney’s allegations of contradictions in correspondence between himself, a constituent and the SLCC, to keep secret any meetings with the insurers, fell through after details of the secret meetings emerged in board minutes of meetings of the Commission, leading to further correspondence between the SLCC & Mr Swinney, who went onto brand Ms Masterman’s explanations as “far from clear” after Ms Masterman informed Mr Swinney in letters dated 15 January 2009 “The SLCC has not consulted with Marsh or the Royal Sun Alliance about the operation of the Master Policy” which was contradicted by emails from November 2008 between Ms Masterman & the then Head of Investigations Rosemary Agnew, which read : “We received our tutorial yesterday on the Master Policy from Marsh”.

Eileen Masterman then wrote to John Swinney in a letter dated March 2009 claiming “I have not met with Marsh”, clearly contradicting the course of events revealed in documents released under FOI legislation where SLCC officials including Ms Masterman had in fact met Marsh.

Frequent Flyers SLCCFrequent Flyers : SLCC’s David Smith expressed anti-client jibes to Eileen Masterman in emails around the anti-consumer law complaints quango. Among the papers ordered to be disclosed in a decision by the Scottish Information Commissioner, Kevin Dunion, emails containing anti-client jibes were revealed to have been sent by SLCC board member David Smith to Ms Masterman in July 2009. Mr Smith, husband of Court of Session judge Lady Smith, 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”.

Margaret Scanlan - Called to the Bars - Sunday Mail  15 March 2009 emailCalled to the Bars : Evidence from earlier FOI releases featured in newspapers point to SLCC’s anti client culture among board members & senior officials. The emails from David Smith to SLCC staff including the SLCC’s then Chief Executive Eileen Masterman, support evidence from earlier FOI releases which featured in the national media of a bitter, hate fuelled anti-client culture operating at the highest levels of the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission, which has seen other board members such as Glasgow divorce lawyer Margaret Scanlan who rubbished victims of crooked lawyers as “complete chancers”. In additional emails, other board members chastised consumer organisations, and sought to exclude them from the inevitable results of the SLCC’s Master Policy investigation, which the deaths of clients to the Law Society of Scotland, its insurers and the Master Policy itself.

A client who has been waiting months for the SLCC to take action on his complaint about his solicitor, condemned the organisation for its inaction over complaints and internal secrecy. He said : “I’ve been waiting nine months for a result on my complaint which has been back and forth from the Law Society to the SLCC yet neither can work out who should investigate my case. They seem to be more able to pay off their staff in the snap of a finger and make sure the dirt is kept secret rather do their job which is supposed to be investigating complaints about solicitors.”

Scottish GovernmentSomething to hide : Scottish Government Ministers refuse to comment on audit report’s claims they approved a payoff to the former SLCC Chief Executive Eileen Masterman. The Scottish Government were asked for comment on their role in approving the pay off to Ms Masterman amid claims that a series of leters from Mr Swinney & a law reform campaigner over the Master Policy meetings led to her downfall. The Scottish Government refused any comment, their spokesperson briefly stating : “This is a private personnel matter for the SLCC and its former employee.”

The Scottish Legal Complaints Commission also refused to comment on the matter or release any details of the payoff and how it was negotiated. It was also noted the SLCC’s media response was emailed at exactly the same time as the response received from the Scottish Government.

Ian GordonFrequent Fryers of FOI requests : SLCC Board Member former Deputy Chief Constable Ian Gordon is also the Convener of the Standards Commission for Scotland for the next four years. Given the many questions raised over the resignation of Ms Masterman, and the lack of progress the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission had made on key issues including scrutiny of the Master Policy, Freedom of Information requests were made to the SLCC asking for details surrounding the resignation. They were refused. Upon a request for a review of the SLCC’s refusal to disclose information through Freedom of Information legislation, one of its board members, former Tayside Deputy Chief Constable Ian Gordon, who is also, amazingly, the Convener of the Standards Commission for Scotland, abruptly refused the Freedom of Information review, as did the SLCC’s new Chief Executive, Rosemary Agnew, who considered and again abruptly refused a second request for an FOI review.

The Scottish Information Commissioner, Kevin Dunion is now investigating the SLCC’s refusal to release any information on Ms Masterman’s absence and resignation from the SLCC.

 

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