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Master Scam: Law Society switch brokers of Master Policy – insurance scheme dubbed ‘corrupt & manipulative’ provides little protection for consumers against negligent, rogue lawyers

Law Society switch brokers on dodgy insurance scheme. AN INSURANCE scheme operated by the Law Society of Scotland – which covers all Scottish solicitors – and is designed to ‘protect’ consumers when lawyers walk off with their cash and other assets – has announced a change of brokers from Marsh to Lockton.

The switch was announced last week by the Law Society – who said brokers Lockton will administer and broker the Master Policy of Professional Indemnity Insurance from 1 January 2017.

The move comes after Marsh – who managed the policy for nearly 40 years – lost the five yearly tender process in April 2016 to Lockton.

The Master Insurance Policy is a compulsory Professional Indemnity Insurance arrangement enforced by the Law Society upon all solicitors in Scotland.

The scheme includes all in-house solicitors who work for the Scottish Government and lawyers from the Government Legal Service for Scotland (GLSS) seconded around public bodies and other branches of the Executive such as the Scottish Parliament and justice bodies.

The Master Policy claims to provide cover of up to £2 million for any one claim where the solicitor is ‘established’ to have been negligent.

However, the process of establishing whether a solicitor is negligent or not – is controlled by the legal profession and the courts.

In a statement issued by the Law Society, Chief Executive Lorna Jack claimed “The Master Policy provides an important protection for solicitors’ clients when things go wrong. The insurance means that any valid claim against a Scottish solicitor will be paid – even if the solicitor is no longer in practice, no longer solvent or cannot be traced.”

However, the claims – echoed from Jack’s predecessor – Douglas Mill – were previously & spectacularly taken apart by Deputy First Minister & Finance Secretary John Swinney, during a Scottish Parliament investigation into self regulation of the legal profession in 2006.

Mr Swinney branded the Law Society & Master Policy as manipulative after Mill claimed the Law Society kept a distance from the client compensation insurance arrangements.

Mr Swinney produced an internal memo from Mill himself – who had requested a “summit meeting how to dispose of several valid claims.”

Mill went onto “swear on his granny’s grave” he and the Law Society had never intervened in a compensation claim.

However, the memo – produced by Swinney during the Holyrood hearing – came to illustrate the significant level of dishonesty and  manipulation with regard to the ‘consumer protection policy’ – which despite Mill’s claims to the contrary – rarely pays full compensation after lawyers swipe clients assets.

The Master Policy was more recently linked in a Research Report to deaths and suicides of clients who attempted to claim back hundreds of thousands of pounds taken by legal agents engaged in corrupt practices not covered by an alternative Scottish Solicitors Guarantee Fund run by the legal profession.

The independent report, compiled by legal academics Professor Frank Stephen & Dr Angela Melville from the University of Manchester School of Law – concluded the Master Policy “is simply designed to allow lawyers to sleep at night.” rather than protect consumers from rogue elements within the legal profession.

According to the report “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.”

Cases referred to in the report describe scenarios where consumers are commonly forced to become party litigants after the Law Society intervene in the claims process, forcing claimants legal representatives to withdraw from acting in financial damages claims against  against other solicitors.

The Research Report sourced comments from claimants: “I keep fighting cases, and they keep coming at me, and now I have become ill. But they still keep coming at me. They threw me out onto the street, I couldn’t get my medication, I’ve got nothing, I was homeless, ill, sleeping in the car. Now I am appealing. But I can’t get a solicitor. They are just shutting me down…. My health has been damaged, they kill you off. It’s a proven fact. All of us have stress related problems after years and years of stress.”

The report also linked the Law Society’s insurance scheme to suicides of clients who attempted to claim back funds appropriated by corrupt solicitors.

The report stated:  “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.”

The report concluded: “What has clearly come through these interviews has been the very divergent views of solicitors and claimants/consumer groups as to the primary function of the Master Policy. The former tend to see it as simply a professional negligence insurance designed to protect individual members of the profession. The latter see that its primary purpose should be to protect the public against incompetent members of the profession. Whilst these are not incompatible aims we have come to the view that the rhetoric of the Law Society of Scotland encourages the latter perception but practice is more inclined to the former. In other jurisdictions there is a more explicit statement that it is the former.”

“It is clear that establishing a valid claim under the Master Policy requires either an admission of liability on the part of the solicitor or an action to be taken by the claimant to establish liability. It is our view that the Law Society of Scotland raises the expectations of potential claimants by emphasising the Master Policy’s public protection role. It is perhaps more accurate to say that policy ensures that those with a proven claim will be able to recover.”

“Those claimants to whom we spoke were very much of the opinion that it was difficult to establish liability of a solicitor for professional negligence. It would be desirable to test this claim by looking at the record of the Master Policy in terms of claims and compensation paid. Data which would have allowed us to do this was requested from the Law Society of Scotland but was only made available the day before this Report was due to be submitted. Furthermore the Law Society of Scotland and Marsh put conditions on the use of the data in this Report which were unacceptable to us and to the Chief Executive of SLCC.”

“The limited data which we have seen on the Guarantee Fund suggests that there is a considerable difference between the value of claims and the sums paid out by the Fund. We have not been able to establish whether this is a result of the discretionary nature of the fund or simply a large divergence between parties in assessing the sums lost.”

“We would recommend that the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission undertake a longer term research project which will allow researchers to examine the experiences of a representative sample of claimants and solicitors as well as analyse data on claims provided by the Master Policy’s broker under reasonable conditions of use.”

Dr Angela Melville – who interviewed many clients for her final report, confirmed the research team did not receive a copy of the Master Policy itself after Marsh director Alistair J Sim, demanded strict conditions for the disclosure of the insurance policy’s terms.

Sim wrote in a letter to the University research team – which appears in full on the last page of the report: “Please note that the consent of Marsh and Royal & Sun Alliance plc to the production of the enclosed documents is condition on the research team agreeing not to quote from the documents, or any part of them, whether text or figures, in the report to the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission.”

Sim’s letter continued: “The documents which are produced are confidential and are commercially sensitive. They are provided to the research team only and neither the documents nor copies should be provided to any other party nor should the content of the documents be disclosed to anyone outside the research team. At the conclusion of the research project, the documents should be returned with confirmation that foregoing conditions have been complied with and that no copies have been retained. If the research team is unable to agree to the foregoing conditions, the documents should be returned along with confirmation that no copies have been retained.”

No further research has been commissioned by the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission since the report was published in 2009, and with the SLCC now under substantive control of the Law Society of Scotland, much of what it produces by way of research and statistics is widely recognised as having little honest value in terms of consumer protection.

The Master Policy started in November 1978 under brokers Sedgwick Forbes UK Limited, which later became part of the Marsh Group. Given the highly specialist nature of professional indemnity insurance, the brokers play a vital role in arranging and securing the insurance cover as well as providing administration, advice, as well as risk management training.

Along the years, law firms acting for the Master Policy included Simpson & Marwick – now merged with Clyde & Co, Balfour & Manson and other ‘big name’ law firms brought in to demolish consumers attempts to reclaim millions of pounds lost, misappropriated or embezzled by Scottish solicitors.

While the Master Policy is tasked with dealing with claims for negligence, the Law Society has been known to manipulate claims on a serial basis. Unsurprisingly, even claims which do succeed against the Master Policy bear little return to clients who are forced to go through lengthy court processes in front of a judiciary who have also previously paid into the same Master Policy arrangement while serving as solicitors in their earlier years prior to the bench.

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Solicitor’s Judicial Review against Law Society of Scotland’s ‘corrupt, client killer’ Master Policy fails as Lord Uist rules out £15K refund

The Law Society’s Master Policy which protects crooked lawyers against clients survives lawyer’s legal challenge. THE CORRUPT WORLD of the Law Society of Scotland’s MASTER POLICY has returned to the Court of Session with yet another victory for the Law Society after Glasgow solicitor Gerard Kelly of Kelly & Co failed in a judicial review challenge to a decision of the Law Society of Scotland’s Insurance Committee which refused to refund some £15,517.87 covering four practice years, the sum being charged as “penalty premiums” after Mr Kelly  intimated to the insurers (Royal Sun Alliance) that a claim under the policy was going to be made by a former client.

Mr Kelly raised his action as a party litigant, while the Master Policy was represented by Moynihan QC for the Edinburgh Law firm of Dundas & Wilson. Little detail was released regarding the subject of the actual claim made by one of Mr Kelly’s former clients who also was not identified, and the claim, like so many others involving claims against the Master Insurance Policy, did not proceed to court, again, for unexplained reasons.

Master Policy fiddles & corruption cant be mentioned without ex-Law Society CEO Douglas Mill being torn to shreds by Scotland’s Finance Chief John Swinney (Click image to watch video)

As there is so little information released by the legal profession over the state of claims against the Master Policy, which itself has been linked to the deaths of clients in an independent report carried out by the University of Manchester’s Law School in 2009 for the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission, featured in an earlier report on Diary of Injustice HERE, the full judgement, by Lord Uist, who found in favour of the Law Society of Scotland, follows for readers interest.

Readers should also note Lord Uist’s reference to Section 44 of the Solicitors (Scotland) Act 1980 where “The Council may make rules with the concurrence of the Lord President concerning indemnity for solicitors and former solicitors [F1and incorporated practices] against any class of professional liability…”. Clearly the Lord President should be doing much more to ensure the Master Policy does not concur to cause solicitors clients to commit suicide after being hounded to death by the Law Society of Scotland and agents of the Master Policy insurers.

OUTER HOUSE, COURT OF SESSION [2011] CSOH 184 Judicial Review of a decision of the Law Society of Scotland dated 12 June 2008

Introduction
[1] In this application for judicial review the petitioner, a solicitor practising in Glasgow who has held a practicing certificate since 1983, seeks reduction of a decision of the Law Society of Scotland (the respondents) dated 12 June 2008 and intimated to him by letter dated 15 July 2008 (6/3 of process). The decision, which was in fact taken by the respondents’ insurance committee, was to refuse a request by the petitioner under Rule 9 of the Solicitors (Scotland) Professional Indemnity Insurance Rules 2005 (the 2005 Rules) to waive the provisions of the master policy which had required the petitioner to pay penalty insurance premiums totalling £15,517.87 in addition to his normal annual premiums in the insurance years 2003/04, 2004/05, 2005/06 and 2006/07.

Background
[2] The factual background to the request made by the petitioner is that in or about March 2002 a claim was intimated against his firm, Kelly & Co, by a former client of the firm. In terms of the master policy of insurance arranged by the respondents such a claim had to be reported by him to the master policy brokers. He duly reported the claim to the brokers. As a consequence of that a reserve was placed on the claim. In terms of the master policy the placing of a reserve on the claim resulted in his being required to pay penalty premiums calculated in terms of the Rates and Rating Factors therein amounting to £15,517.87. The claim against the petitioner did not proceed and accordingly the insurers did not require to indemnify him. The request for a waiver of the provisions of the master policy was refused by the respondents’ insurance committee by letter dated 15 July 2008 following upon their meeting of 12 June 2008 at which they considered written and oral submissions from the petitioner.

The master policy
[3] The master policy is a single collective insurance policy arranged by the respondents. There is a separate contract of insurance for each year. The year runs from 1 November and premiums are calculated on the basis of figures produced in July. The insurers charge a single, global premium which is allocated among the insured “practice units” in accordance with the Master Policy Rates and Rating Factors Rules for each insurance year. Those rules determine whether a practice unit qualifies for a discount or is liable to pay a penalty loading. The aggregate payable by all practice units is equal to the global premium payable to the insurers. The insurers therefore do not receive any increase in premiums in the event that a solicitor has been charged a penalty loading and nor do the respondents profit in that event. The benefit of any penalty loading is received by the practice units that qualify for a discount. Prior to the insurance year 2008/09 solicitors had a right of appeal in respect of the premium charged to them which lay to the Premium Appeal Committee of the respondents. In none of the four relevant insurance years in which the petitioner alleges that he was charged excessive premiums did he appeal to the Premium Appeal Committee.

[4] For the period 1 November 2003 to 31 October 2004 the Master Policy Rates and Rating Factors provided in para 1(a) that the standard premium for each practice unit where the number of partners or principals was between 1 and 3 fell to be calculated by adding to a fixed sum of £1,261 the sum of £3,215 for each partner or principal. Para 2(a) made provision for discounts and loadings on the premiums. It provided as follows:

“A practice unit…shall be entitled to a discount on the Standard Premium or shall suffer a percentage increase according to the following formula:-

(i) There shall be calculated the total amount (“Relevant Claims Total”) of (aa) the total of all payments made by the Master Policy insurers as at 1 July 2003 in respect of all claims on the record of each Practice Unit with the reference prefixes M1998, M1999, M2000, M2001 and M2002 and (bb) the total of all reserves placed by the master policy insurers as at 1 July 2003 on all claims on the record of the same Practice Unit with the reference prefixes M1998, M1999, M2000 and M2001.

(ii) There shall be calculated the total (“Relevant Premium Total”) of (aa) the whole of the premiums paid by the Practice Unit for the insurance years commencing 1 November 1998, 1999, 2000 and 2001 (bb) two thirds of the premium paid by the practice unit for the insurance year commencing 1 November 2002. The relevant figure in each case is the premium excluding Insurance Premium Tax and any rebate of brokerage.

(iii) There shall be calculated the “Loss Ratio” of each practice unit, being the Relevant Claims Total divided by the Relevant Premium Total expressed as a percentage.

“Circumstance” matters are not taken into account for Loss Ratio assessment.”

A “circumstance” is something that could potentially give rise to a claim but did not constitute a claim. It did not affect the premium. An actual claim could give rise to a loading on the premium. There were equivalent provisions for the three subsequent insurance years.

[5] In the case of the petitioner, in the year 2003/04 the insurers placed a reserve of £40,000 on the claim and a commensurate loading of £11,995 was applied to the petitioner. In the year 2004/05 the reserve placed on the claim was £20,000 and the loading on the premium was reduced to £1,971. In the year 2005/06 the reserve had fallen to £5,000, resulting in no loading. The respondents were unaware if there had been any discount in the subsequent two years.

The relevant statutory provisions
[6] Section 44 of the Solicitors (Scotland) Act 1980 provided as follows at the material times:

“(1) The Council may make rules with the concurrence of the Lord President concerning indemnity for solicitors…against any class of professional liability, and the rules may for the purpose of providing such indemnity do all or any of the following things, namely –

(a) authorise or require the Society to establish and maintain a fund or funds;

(b) authorise or require the Society to take out and maintain insurance with an authorised insurer;

(c) require solicitors….to take out and maintain insurance with an authorised insurer.

(2) The Society shall have power, without prejudice to any of its other powers, to carry into effect any arrangements which it considers necessary or expedient for the purpose of the rules.

(3) Without prejudice to the generality of subsections (1) and (2) rules made under this section –

(a) may specify the terms and conditions on which indemnity is to be available, and any circumstances in which the right to it is to be excluded or modified;

(b) may provide for the management, administration and protection of any fund maintained by virtue of subsection (1)(a) and require solicitors … to make payments to any such fund;

(c) may require solicitors … to make payments by way of premium on any insurance policy maintained by the Society by virtue of subsection (1)(b);

(d) may prescribe the conditions which an insurance policy must satisfy for the purpose of subsection (1)(c);

(e) may authorise the Society to determine the amount of any payments required by the rules subject to such limits, or in accordance with such provisions, as may be prescribed by the rules;

(g) may specify circumstances in which solicitors….are exempt from the rules; …”

[7] The Solicitors (Scotland) Professional Indemnity Insurance Rules 1995 (the 1995 Rules), which came into operation on 1 May 1995, provided, so far as relevant, as follows:

“Master Policy

5 – (1) The Society shall take out and maintain with authorised insurers to be determined from time to time by the Council a master policy in terms to be approved by the Council to provide indemnity against such classes of professional liability as the Council may decide. The Council at its discretion may amend the terms of the master policy from time to time.

(2) The master policy shall provide indemnity for all solicitors to whom these rules apply …

(3) The limits of indemnity and the self insured amounts under the master policy shall be as may be determined from time to time by the Council.

Provided that nothing in these rules shall prohibit any solicitor from arranging with the insurers to extend the cover provided by the master policy if and on such terms as the insurers may agree.

Contingency fund

6 – (1) The master policy may provide for the intimation to the brokers of circumstances affecting a practice unit which have not given rise to a claim under the master policy but which may reasonably be expected to do so, and the terms of the master policy may provide for such circumstances to be taken into account in calculating the premium payable by practice units.

(2) The Society may establish a fund (in these Rules referred to as the “contingency fund” for the purpose of refunding to practice units such portion of the premiums paid by them as may be attributable to circumstances intimated in accordance with the master policy if and when the brokers are satisfied that no claim will result from such circumstances. The terms and conditions upon which such refund shall be made shall be determined from time to time by the Council.

(3) Every solicitor to whom these rules apply shall contribute such sum (if any) as may be required by the Council to establish and maintain the contingency fund. Every such solicitor shall produce along with each application for a practicing certificate such evidence as the Council may require that he has paid such contribution as aforesaid.

Waiver

8 – The Council shall have power in any case or class of case to waive in writing any of the provisions of these Rules and to revoke any such waiver.

Professional practice

10 – Failure to comply with these rules may be treated as professional misconduct for the purposes of Part IV of the Solicitors (Scotland) Act 1980.”

[8] The 1995 Rules were revoked by the Solicitors (Scotland) Professional Indemnity Insurance Rules 2005, which came into operation on 1 June 2005. Rule 1(4) provided as follows:

“All acts done under or pursuant to the 1995 Rules shall be treated as having been done under or pursuant to these Rules, except in so far as they are inconsistent with these Rules.”

Rules 5, 9 and 11 of the 2005 Rules were generally in the same terms as Rules 5, 8 and 11 of the 1995 Rules. The 2005 Rules did not make any provision for a contingency fund.

[9] The Solicitors (Scotland) Professional Indemnity Insurance Contingency Fund Rules 2007, which came into operation on 1 September 2007 made provision for monies which remained in the contingency fund as at that date. Rule 3 provides as follows:

“Contingency Fund Monies

3 – (1) The Society shall manage and administer the contingency fund monies.

(2) The Society may use the contingency fund monies for any professional indemnity purpose.

(3) The Society may use the contingency fund monies to pay costs and expenses reasonably incurred in connection with the management and administration of those monies or with their use for any professional indemnity purpose.”

The terms of the decision
[10] The letter from the registrar of the insurance committee of the respondents dated 15 July 2008 stated as follows:

“The Committee was most grateful to you for your oral presentation as well as the question and answer session which followed the presentation. Your paper and presentation have assisted the Committee in carefully considering your request for a waiver from the Rates and Rating Factors regime under Rule 9 of the Solicitors (Scotland) Professional Indemnity Insurance Rules 2005.

The Committee carefully considered and noted the following matters in relation to your waiver request:-

1. That in terms of the scheme for the master policy for professional indemnity insurance for Scottish solicitors, as the then sole principal in the firm of Kelly & Co, Solicitors, Glasgow you intimated a claim against your firm to the master policy insurance brokers, Marsh.

2. That as a result of your decision to intimate the claim to the brokers this matter was then advised to the Lead Insurers RSA under the master policy. The consequence of this decision by you to intimate the claim was that you transferred the risk of payment against this claim to the insurers. The Committee noted that the ‘transfer of risk’ from your firm to the insurers resulted in a reserve being made against this claim. As a consequence of your decision to transfer this risk to the insurers your firm had declined the option of carrying this risk itself and thereby wished to use the underwriting facility of the master policy.

3. That there had been a validly made claim against your firm of Kelly & Co, Solicitors, Glasgow which had resulted in the lead insurers placing a reserve of £40,000 against this claim. .

4. The Committee noted that your firm in intimating this matter to the brokers and thereafter by the brokers to the lead insurers had been treated no differently from any other firm of Scottish solicitors which is insured under the master policy for professional indemnity insurance.

5. The Committee noted that prior to the intimation by you of this claim against your firm that your firm had benefited from the application of the discount/loading scheme under the master policy for professional indemnity insurance whereby your firm has received discounts on its master policy premium based on its no claims record.

6. The Committee noted that once a reserve had been set by the lead insurers against the claim made against your firm that you had decided not to challenge the reserve. This is because you accepted that the reserve figure was both fair and reasonable.

7. The Committee also noted that you have accepted as being fair and reasonable the Rates and Rating Factors regime operated by the Society under which the global premium for the master policy for professional indemnity insurance is allocated amongst individual firms.

8. The Committee noted that in the course of your presentation on Thursday 12 June 2008 you stated that a request for a waiver was an opportunity for the Society to show that the master policy was robust and can deal with any allegations of unfairness where the application of the Rates and Rating Factors regime may appear to have resulted in a disproportionate result. The Committee is of the opinion that it is the application of the Rates and Rating Factors regime (which is reviewed on an annual basis) which in itself shows that the master policy is robust and applies equally and fairly to all firms.

9. The Committee noted that in your presentation on Thursday 12 June 2008 you stated that bodies such as the Monopolies and Mergers Commission, the Office of Fair Trading, the Financial Services Authority and the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission may have an interest in the operation of the master policy for professional indemnity insurance. This is a correct statement of fact as many of these bodies have at some time in the recent past had dealings with the Society with respect to the master policy for professional indemnity insurance. Please note that the Office of Fair Trading launched a formal investigation into the master policy for professional indemnity insurance and concluded in 2005 that: –

“Under current arrangements for professional indemnity insurance there may be a benefit to the Law Society of Scotland, its members and their clients, of collective bargaining by the profession to secure uniform and affordable professional indemnity insurance for Scottish solicitors. It was not clear, given the scale of the profession in Scotland, that the apparent benefits of England and Wales’ arrangements, in terms of greater freedom to solicitors to seek insurance directly from an approved pool of insurers, could simply be achieved in the context of solicitors in Scotland.”

Please also note that the Financial Services Authority approved the Society’s arrangements for professional indemnity insurance through the master policy prior to granting the Society status as a designated professional body under the Financial Services and Markets Act 2000. There has also been a recent meeting between representatives of the Society and the Commissioners of the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission on the master policy for professional indemnity insurance at which their oversight responsibility for the master policy was discussed.

10. The Committee also noted that if a ‘qualifying insurer’ regime were in operation in Scotland (similar to that currently in operation for solicitors in England and Wales) instead of the current master policy arrangements it is likely that insurers would have imposed some level of premium loading on account of the claim intimation/reserve and that insurers would not have returned or refunded any part of the premium loading if, at a later stage, the matter was resolved at no cost to the insurers concerned.

Given all of the above matters which were very carefully considered by the Insurance Committee, the Committee agreed on an unanimous basis to refuse your firm’s request for a waiver and refund of the discounted/loading insurance premiums of £15,517.87 on the basis that this additional premium was equitable based on the Rates and Rating Factors scheme operated by the Society.”

The petitioner stated that he strongly disputed that, as the Committee noted in para 7, he accepted as being fair and reasonable the Rates and Rating Factors regime.

Appropriateness of judicial review
[11] The respondents, both in their written answers and in the oral submissions made by Mr Moynihan on their behalf, submitted that the petitioner had failed to exhaust his remedies and that the current application for judicial review was unjustified. Reliance was placed on the following statement at para 12.01 in Clyde and Edwards on Judicial Review (2000):

“As a general proposition it may be said that judicial review is not available if there is an alternative means of relief open to the applicant. One example of such a case is where there is a contractual remedy open to the complainer.”

It was submitted that in each of the four insurance years concerned the petitioner had had the opportunity to appeal to the Premium Appeal Committee (subsequently abolished) but did not do so. Accordingly, the present application by way of judicial review was inappropriate as he had failed to take advantage of the appropriate remedy at the time. As he had failed to avail himself of that remedy, it was not open to him now to proceed by way of judicial review.

[12] In response the petitioner stated that he could not have pursued the option of an appeal to the Premium Appeal Committee as he had never disputed the level of the reserve. Clause 4(b) of the master policy provided that a firm which disputed the level of the insurers’ reserve or the insurers’ classification of an intimation as a claim rather than a circumstance could instigate an appeal under the procedure set out therein. He made no criticism of para 6 of the respondents’ decision letter. He did not dispute that what was involved here amounted to a claim rather than a circumstance. Clause 4(b) of the master policy did not apply as he was not challenging the Rating Factors. The request for a waiver under the 2005 Rules could cover the years in which the 1995 Rules were applicable in view of Rule 1(4) taken with Rule 9 of the 2005 Rules. There was no time limit covering the application for a waiver.

[13] In my opinion it cannot be said that resort to the supervisory jurisdiction of the court is excluded in this case on the ground that the petitioner failed to avail himself of an alternative remedy. As he pointed out, he was not challenging the Rates and Rating Factors and Clause 4(b) of the master policy therefore did not apply. The insurance committee of the respondents did not question the competency of his application for a waiver to them and proceeded to deal with the substance of it. That being the case, I see no reason why their decision should not be open to challenge by way of an application for judicial review if they erred in law or exceeded their powers in reaching it. Accordingly, I hold that this application for judicial review cannot be described as being inappropriate or unjustified on the ground of the existence of an alternative remedy of which the petitioner failed to avail himself.

The merits of the application
[14] The petitioner challenged the lawfulness of the decision of the insurance committee on the grounds set out in statement 18(a) to (g) of the petition, with the exception of ground (d). In brief, the grounds were that the decision to refuse the waiver request was one which no reasonable body in the position of the respondents could have reached, that in reaching their decision the respondents took into account certain irrelevant considerations, that the decision lacked proportionality, that the respondents fettered their discretion by rigid adherence to the master policy Rates and Rating Factors and did not exercise the discretion given to them by Rule 9 of the 2005 Rules, that the decision to adhere to the terms of the master policy imposed upon the petitioner was unlawful and amounted to an abuse of power as the petitioner was not given any freedom of choice as to which insurer should provide insurance or what the policy terms and conditions should be and, lastly, that in refusing the waiver request the respondents breached the petitioner’s legitimate expectation that a no loss claim would not result in penalty premiums not being returned, the major exclusion clause in the insurance contract not having been brought to his attention.

[15] For the respondents it was submitted that the insurance committee had looked at the equities of the case and decided that there was nothing inequitable in the application of the Rules in force at the material time. What the petitioner was attempting to do by way of his application for judicial review was to achieve a retrospective adjustment of a closed commercial transaction.

[16] In my opinion, on the assumption that the application to the insurance committee under Rule 9 of the 2005 Rules was a competent one (about which I express no view as it was treated by the committee as being competent), it cannot be said that the respondents erred in law or exceeded their powers when deciding to refuse the petitioner’s request for a waiver. They did not fail to take relevant matters into account and they did not take into account any irrelevant matters. Moreover, from a practical point of view I do not see how they could ever have refunded the petitioner premiums which they had not received. It is evident that the petitioner is opposed to the system of the master policy arranged by the respondents as he perceives that it has resulted in injustice to him, but it is not for me to enter into what are in substance policy matters for the respondents and their membership. The petitioner was obliged to comply with the 1995 and 2005 Rules as any failure to do so could have been treated as professional negligence on his part. The insurance committee properly considered the merits of the application for a waiver and I cannot detect any illegality or irrationality in the decision which they reached.

Decision by Lord Uist [17] I shall dismiss this petition.

 

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Prevention is better than Penman : Law Society of Scotland’s ‘One Profession’, ‘One Big Rip Off’ conference is just another ‘Client Relations Killer’

law-in-scotlandSponsored by Master Policy Insurers Marsh & HSBC Bank, Law Society of Scotland’s annual conference debates way forward for lawyers. THE LAW SOCIETY OF SCOTLAND, the infamous anti-consumer regulator of complaints against crooked Scottish solicitors, holds its ‘one profession’ conference tomorrow, Tuesday 6 September at the ‘plush’ Glasgow Hilton. The event is sponsored by well known UK Based bank HSBC and the Law Society’s own Master Policy insurers, MARSH, the convicted of bid rigging in the US insurance broker firm linked in an independent report to the suicides of clients who dared approach the courts & Master Policy to recover funds stolen by crooked Scottish lawyers.

Law in Scotland – One Profession’, which, according to those in the know may be better described as One Profession, One Big Client Rip Off, is being held on Tuesday 6 September at the Glasgow Hilton. Attendees expected, mostly solicitors and those from the legal establishment will be those who have rather large financial interests in making the legal profession as profitable as possible, stepping on as many clients along the way as is humanly possible.

marshMarsh, the Master Policy insurers co sponsor this year’s conference, along with HSBC Bank. This year’s event at the Glasgow Hilton, itself the scene of various cosy lunches between law firms, universities & the Scottish Government which appear to have influenced the awarding of multi million pound publicly funded contracts to Scots law firms, is, according to the Law Society’s website, structured around 6 streams each focusing on highly topical issues for Sole Practitioners, High Street firms, In House, Big Firms, Legal Aid practitioners and New Lawyers.

Topics for tomorrow’s conference, (with the reality check in bold for consumers), include:

1. Winning more business from existing clients and new clients (and ripping them off through a variety of well tried & tested fraudulent methods, safe in the knowledge you are going to get away with it)

2. Tenders & Procurement: What Corporates look for in a law firm (Bribes, blackmail, backhanders, hospitality, access to crooked politicians, sympathetic or crooked members of the judiciary etc)

3. Ensuring your income from Legal Aid (and ensuring the Crown Office doesn’t prosecute you for stealing millions in legal aid by calling in the Legal Defence Union & favours from the Law Society)

4. Dealing with Difficult Clients (How to harass clients into withdrawing their complaint, sending someone round to threaten to burn their house down if they don’t, threatening client’s children (in one case, rape), use of corrupt Police Officers to threaten arrest, having a client’s home repossessed, breaking up their family, provoking a client into suicide (becoming increasingly popular)

5. Building your Professional Network (Meeting up with crooked colleagues from all walks of life & professions including the criminal underworld who may be of use in the future)

6. Your clients want WHAT? (none of the above, just a honest job on their case rather than it being strung out for a few years just to generate huge fees and a few rip offs including thefts from wills & property.

Despite the Law Society of Scotland claiming to represent both the legal profession and the public interest in legal issues & regulation of the profession, clients are not welcome at the event, however, the two faces of what the Law Society preaches as “Client Relations” versus what “Client Relations” actually is, will most certainly be discussed.

The Law Society of Scotland will have the public believe “Client Relations” is about dealing with client complaints effectively and ensuring clients are well protected from mishaps in their relationship with their solicitor or the legal profession as a whole. As many readers & consumers now know, through the power of the alternative & online media to that of the legal profession, the reverse is true.

Fact. In reality, experiences of real clients, rather than third party script writers show ”Client Relations” is in truth, about sending a client round so many twists & turns in the legal world, ending up with a law firm that represents & defends crooked lawyers, and is acknowledged to have intervened to prevent criminal charges against corrupt solicitors in legal aid fraud cases, that the client, a married family man was provoked into suicide after well over three years of torture at the hands of the Scottish legal profession and its many tentacles.

Prior to tomorrow’s conference, some sections of the media have been helping the Scottish legal profession over the past few weeks to promote itself as an honest bunch, albeit with ‘imperfections’ which can be easily put right. The usual, now incredibly worn script is followed – a lawyer can only achieve what is possible, not always what the client wants, and of course, the lawyer should put right mistakes immediately, something which invariably does not happen.

However, the same tired arguments & ostensibly the same articles written by solicitors and some of the most senior officials from the Law Society in newspapers since the early 1990’s, have done nothing to stem rising client fraud committed by members of the legal profession over the past two decades, and noticeably have spoke nothing about the rising numbers of client deaths, home repossessions & sheer outright harassment which clients have experienced at the hands of vindictive solicitors & law firms who have in recent times started to use the courts to recover alleged fee notes for work which never took place.

So worrying is the silence on the consumer’s point of view and actual experiences of genuine clients with genuine grievances, it is as if there is a media blackout of clients woes in some sections of the press, and when someone dares to point it out, or write about the issue on their own, a national newspaper tags along with the profession to in a concerted attempt to silence criticism. Clearly, no accident, according to how one journalist told it.

Law Society of ScotlandLaw Society of Scotland “Client Relations” ensures solicitors interests come first before consumer protection. Clearly, enough time has passed where more & more experiences of clients ruined by their solicitors have hit the internet based media, showing without a doubt, clients usually receive the sharp end of the stick from their solicitors and the legal profession once a fraud has taken place, and upon receipt of an actual complaint by a client, the Law Society of Scotland will despatch the likes of the Legal Defence Union and a charity called “Law Care” to help the solicitor out of their ‘difficulties’ by any means possible, while the client is left with no support, no help, no one to speak for them, and certainly no return of what is now typically tens of thousands of pounds stolen from their funds.

While the Law Society gives lectures to its masses, and consumers about “how to deal with difficult clients”, the truth of how the Scottish legal profession perceives & deals with complaints is reflected in what one well known solicitor in an interview about how to deal with difficult clients once said.

Referring to an example where a client had considerable cause to complain to the Law Society of Scotland about the loss of hundreds of thousands of pounds, the solicitor said : “He should have a shotgun stuck in his mouth and the trigger pulled.”

This, is the attitude, and indeed the practice of the legal profession and the Law Society of Scotland when dealing with complaints against their colleagues.

Scotsman coverage of some of the stories relating to Andrew PenmanPrevention is better than Penman : Want to prevent this happening to you ? Avoid going through the doors of a lawyer’s office if you can help it. If you want to avoid what happens next, ask yourself do you really want to put yourself and your family through a living hell dealing with the legal nightmare which comes after dealing with a solicitor. Take it from someone who has already been through the system, if you want to prevent Penman happening to you, think again about how you use your money in these troubled financial times, and don’t go wasting it on the fantasy services provided by many Scottish law firms, services which quickly degenerate into dishonesty and just another escapade in taking as much money from you as possible, without being able to achieve the desired result in law, where you will invariably end up as the victim.

MURDER ON THE LAW SOCIETY EXPRESS : How the Master Policy’s killer streak protects Scots solicitors :

SLCC report headerAfter the release of the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission’s investigation into the claims process against solicitors, harsh evidence emerged of the human cost to clients, where suicides, illness (some resulting in death), family break ups and huge financial losses are the horrific consequences sustained by members of the public who have tried to make claims against the Law Society of Scotland’s ‘Master Policy’ insurance scheme, touted by the legal profession as protecting lawyers and clients but which the ground breaking report released by Manchester University School of Law on Monday reveals “is simply designed to allow lawyers 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.”

One direct quote from the report, depicts a claimant, who was forced to become a party litigant : “I keep fighting cases, and they keep coming at me, and now I have become ill. But they still keep coming at me. They threw me out onto the street, I couldn’t get my medication, I’ve got nothing, I was homeless, ill, sleeping in the car. Now I am appealing. But I can’t get a solicitor. They are just shutting me down…. My health has been damaged, they kill you off. It’s a proven fact. All of us have stress related problems after years and years of stress.”

The full story of the University of Manchester’s report on the Master Policy and its effects on clients, 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’

Some of the ways in which clients have been targeted by the Law Society of Scotland were revealed in an earlier article, documenting how Private Investigators & corrupt Police Officers have been used to intrude into client’s lives, featured here : HERE & HERE

 

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Hacking your life ? The Law Society of Scotland & its insurers are experts. Memos & more proved information sharing, surveillance, hacking of Scots public goes right to the top

Douglas Mill 4Strong questions and a lack of custard pies in 2006 ensured Law Society Chief Executive fell on his information gathering memos. IN a favourable comparison to yesterday’s Westminster Culture Committee session in which hardly anything new was gained from the questioning of Rupert & James Murdoch & Rebekah Brooks on a what did they know and when did they know it theme regarding the News of the World “phone hacking” scandal, readers may wish to take note us Scots visited this same topic in 2006, where, albeit accidentally, the ‘dark art’ of information sharing & hacking into the lives of the public was revealed during questioning the Law Society of Scotland’s then Chief Executive, Douglas Mill by the now Scottish Cabinet Secretary for Finance, John Swinney.

Hacking for some seems to, suspiciously, focus only on hacking phones, yet as we all know, hacking into your own life can mean a lot more. Legislation such as  the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act, with our own Scottish version (RIPSA) has effectively promoted an uncontrolled culture of hacking throughout the UK so should we be surprised certain sections of the media felt left out and did their own hacking ? No.

Things like, hacking your medical records, hacking your financial details, hacking your mail, hacking your email, hacking into your home, hacking into your legal aid, hacking into your relationship with your own lawyer, hacking into your family life, and all done pretty much without so much as a whimper from anyone willing to stop it. We have seen it all before, yet nothing has ever been done until now. Did the same happen in Scotland ? Yes, although in the case of Scotland, you can be assured there will never be a Westminster style inquiry into it, ever.

As documents came to light at the Scottish Parliament in 2006 which touched on the subject of the legal profession hacking into the lives of clients, no one thought to ask the appearing Law Society officials exactly what methods they had used when intervening in the lives of members of the public to block their access to justice.

By today’s standards, not pursuing such a line of questioning when faced with documentary proof those before you had personally intervened in the lives of members of the public, gathered information which could not have been obtained in many cases, legally, had applied that information to blocking legal representation or interfering in court cases, or had knowledge that the Police had been used to thwart investigations, would in itself be suspicious. This is exactly what happened, and nothing more was said, nothing more was done.

Targeting clients : John Swinney asked stern questions of Law Society Chief Mill in 2006 which exposed lawyers using information to undermine members of the public. (Click image to view video)

John SwinneyCabinet Finance Chief John Swinney (then in opposition in 2006) knew how to ask some questions, yet he should be asking more. You can read more about the content of Mr Mill’s memos to the Law Society of Scotland President & the disgraced insurance firm Marsh, who were convicted of criminal offences in the United States, here : Law Society boss Mill lied to Swinney, Parliament as secret memos reveal policy of intervention & obstruction on claims, complaints. The memos between the Law Society & employees of an insurance firm portrayed an information sharing agenda on members of the public which existed in order to undermine any court actions or access to justice for those victimised by the legal profession. Clearly a degree of spying against members of the public was being practised by the Law Society and its insurers, and clearly the legal profession had undermined an earlier Scottish Parliamentary inquiry, yet no searching questions were asked.

In one of the memos, sent from Alistair Sim, the Director of Marsh UK to Mr Mill, Sim suggested collecting information on clients while in another memo, Mill refers to a proposed Scottish Parliament Justice Committee 1 inquiry into regulation of the legal profession in Scotland, which was held in 2002-2003 under the Convenership of the Christine Grahame MSP, who is again, coincidentally of course, the Convener of the Scottish Parliament’s Justice Committee.

It was clear from the content of the memos Law Society officials & Marsh employees were involved in an attempt to undermine the 2003-2003 Justice Committee hearings and prevent anyone attending who might have exposed the hacking culture at the Law Society of Scotland and its insurers which was going on in the name of protecting the legal profession’s Master Policy, a massive multi million pound client compensation scheme. which oddly enough, hardly ever pays out.

During the 2002-2003 inquiry, not one single member of the public was allowed to testify before the Scottish Parliament’s Justice Committee after the Law Society of Scotland demanded members of the public be banned from speaking at Committee hearings. The 2002-2003 inquiry under Christine Grahame did not discuss the memos made available to John Swinney, and Ms Grahame’s team subsequently went onto conclude regulation of the legal profession should remain as it was, under the control of the Law Society of Scotland.

It took a second inquiry into regulation of solicitors, held in 2006 by the Scottish Parliament’s Justice 2 Committee, initially chaired by Annabel Goldie (who resigned due to a conflict of interest) subsequently replaced by David Davidson, which brought the Law Society’s meddling in cases & client’s lives to the fore.

During the 2006 enquiry,  members of the public were allowed to testify before the Justice 2 Committee and subsequent to Mr Swinney’s encounter with Douglas Mill over the secret memos, Mill was forced to resign, albeit only after video footage of the incident was posted to video sharing website You Tube. Yet amid all this, no searching questions were asked by MSPs as to exactly what methods the Law Society of Scotland and its insurers employed to intervene in the lives of members of the public.

As readers will now be well aware, the creation of the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission has done nothing to clean up the corruption in the world of regulation of the legal profession, in fact, probably worsening it. My previous coverage of the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission, itself branded a “Front Company for the Law Society of Scotland”, can be found here : Scottish Legal Complaints Commission : The story so far

Readers can find out more for themselves in my previous coverage of just how the Law Society of Scotland and agents acting for its Master Policy insurers hack into the lives of clients, here : Spies, Lies, Hacking & Facebook : Law Society Master Policy snooped on ‘difficult clients’ to undermine damages claims, complaints about lawyers & here : Suicides, ill health, financial ruin : Will SLCC’s latest Master Policy report deliver solution to Law Society ‘pro-crooked lawyer’ insurance scheme ?

421Who headed the hacking ? Law Society’s now former Chief Executive Douglas Mill & Philip Yelland, head of Client Relations. Regular readers will be well aware I was significantly targeted by both Douglas Mill who personally blocked my legal aid, and the Law Society of Scotland’s Director of Regulation, Philip Yelland, who personally intervened with my solicitor at the time and ordered him not to take my instructions. Correspondence which revealed the actions of Mill & Yelland against me, can be viewed HERE & HERE. I can assure you all, these people and agents working for their “Master Policy” made my family life and my access to justice, a living hell. Almost, a death sentence, all in the name of protecting crooked Borders solicitor Andrew Penman of Stormonth Darling Solicitors, Kelso. The Andrew Penman scandal was heavily reported in the Scotsman newspaper during the 1990s.

Indeed, I have not forgotten that during the time of the Scotsman’s coverage, disruptive relationships between the legal & accounting profession who were intent on preventing further media reporting on Mr Penman, and, officers of Lothian & Borders Police came to the fore in several incidents, one of which involved the compromising of a costly & lengthy CID surveillance operation. Details of this scandal may well soon be appearing in a newspaper near you.

In my experience investigating & reporting on the legal profession for five years, and campaigning for legal reforms since the 1990s, information sharing, hacking, operating a policy to undermine critics by any means necessary, including the use of surveillance, and relationships involving the Police, goes right to the very top of any organisation which is very much involved in undermining the public good for its own ends.

 

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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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Spies, Lies, Hacking & Facebook : Law Society Master Policy snooped on ‘difficult clients’ to undermine damages claims, complaints about ‘crooked lawyers’

logoIf your complaint against a solicitor involves negligence, or the theft of your funds, prepare to be hacked. LET’S BE HONEST. Spying hacking or snooping is endemic in daily life. In the name of cutting crime, the last UK Labour Government even passed legislation, the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act, with our own Scottish version (RIPSA), which greatly expanded the number of organisations who could spy or even in some cases, hack into your every move where, for example your local authority could & did use snooping powers which were originally meant to sniff out terrorists, to check if you put recyclables in your general waste bin, if you were trying to get your child into a school outwith your home address area or if your dog made a foul & murderous use of a tree in a public park.

So, while many of us may, or may not be so shocked about the lurid headlines of the past two weeks which culminated in the closure this past weekend of the News of the World newspaper, after allegations were made that former journalists hacked into the phone messages of celebrities, politicians & public figures (crooked or otherwise) and allegedly, murder victims, it should come as no surprise to all of us, the same tactics employed by certain sections of the media to dig up dirt on, well, anyone, have been employed by the legal profession for decades to target those consumers who have been put in the unenviable position of being forced to complain about their solicitors poor service, taking in many subjects & actions which, if committed by the ordinary man on the street, would be classed as criminal.

Spot the difference ? Well that’s easy. Headlines about the News of the World have been in the news for months, if not years. The revelations proved too strong for News International to bear, the advertisers pulled their business, there are rumours yet more allegations are to be revealed, and so, the paper closed.

When it comes to the legal profession and its insurers use of snooping practices to follow clients, dig up dirt on their lives, use friendly pubic servants out for financial gain to intimidate the ‘difficult ones’, put clients on blacklists banning them from ever obtaining a lawyer again, harassing clients families, generally making life difficult, well … such things are not talked about in public and hardly ever, if at all, hit the headlines.

Over the years many people who have contacted me over their complaints about solicitors, have spoke of an almost shared experience, numbering well into the hundreds of people, where for instance, individuals have encountered problems with their mail, problems with their bank, problems with the Police, problems with their local council, and so on, and all these problems beginning, strangely enough, only after they had been ripped off by their solicitor and had felt strongly enough about it to register a complaint with the Law Society of Scotland, demanding compensation for negligence, or lost, stolen or embezzled funds.

Coincidence ? Yes, perhaps, if it happened to three or four people in the past twenty years … but as the numbers built up, and even journalists from various newspapers who referred these increasing numbers of clients to me began to say themselves, “Coincidence flies out the window when dealing with crooked lawyers and the Law Society, these people have been targeted”.

Coincidentally, all of those who suffered many of these reported difficulties brought on by their complaint to the Law Society, were those seeking to take legal action against their solicitor, legal action against the Law Society of Scotland, legal action against an advocate or to pursue a damages claim against the Master Policy, the Law Society of Scotland’s Professional Indemnity Insurance scheme designed to protect crooked lawyers from damages claims for negligence.

I recently reported on the level of intrusion into the lives of consumers by the Law Society of Scotland and persons working for its Master Policy insurance scheme, in an article on the latest SLCC research into the Master Policy, here : Suicides, ill health, financial ruin : Will SLCC’s latest Master Policy report deliver solution to Law Society ‘pro-crooked lawyer’ insurance scheme ?

In the earlier article, I reported on the text of a document sent to a solicitor suggesting ways in which to protect himself from a complaint, and an impending claim against the Master Policy. I also reported how John Swinney, the Scottish Government’s Finance Chief revealed the text of a secret memo where a Director of Marsh UK discussed secret moves with the then Chief Executive of the Law Society of Scotland, Douglas Mill, to spy on members of the public by collating information on clients & their claims against the Master Policy.

Marsh UK were identified in memos released by Cabinet Secretary John Swinney during a Justice Committee meeting at the Scottish Parliament, which revealed the Law Society of Scotland & its insurers were engaged in interference in clients legal representation and were also actively blocking damages claims & court cases against crooked lawyers from entering the Scottish courts.

A legal insider speaking to Diary of Injustice some weeks ago alleged several firms of Private Investigators in Edinburgh & Glasgow have been routinely used by law firms working on behalf of the Master Policy to “dig up dirt on difficult clients”. He named several firms and provided information still being looked into.

He said : “If someone becomes publicly involved with the Law Society of Scotland to the degree a solicitor may end up in court or the society faces severe criticism for its actions, that person is checked out. Its been this way for years.”

He continued : “Its common knowledge if a client manages to obtain legal representation to pursue a negligence claim against their former solicitors, their lives will be put under the microscope using any means possible. This has involved using Private Investigators and other bodies to engather information. I’d like to think this is used for honest purposes but I know its not. Put it this way, if there’s no dirt there, it will be put there and used to make someone’s life very very difficult.”

One of the firms of Private Investigators named by the insider initially denied allegations their role “entails surveillance on difficult clients of solicitors”, however in an email received prior to publication of this article this afternoon, they have since admitted working for a key law firm acting for the Master Policy.

Their admission may have been influenced by the fact copies of mobile phone text messages and a dummy letter sent upon my advice from a client who was suspicious about the security of his mail to his new solicitor, ended up in the wrong hands, with the information therein being made available to certain people at the law firm who are defenders in an ongoing legal action. It also transpires Facebook profiles of the client’s son & daughter were also found among papers of the defending law firm, who are fighting allegations with significant proof that they deliberately lost their client’s case against a leading insurance firm.

The firm of Private Investigators, who claim to use former Police officers in their work, have requested a meeting with Diary of Injustice to discuss the matter further and I will report any developments to readers as the story unfolds.

In a recent report on Scottish Law Reporter, it is worth noting the subject of “Police involvement” on the side of an advocate who had been the subject of complaints to the Faculty of Advocates by builders chasing sums allegedly owed to them. Scottish Law Reporter reported the builders had been threatened by a Police Office from Strathclyde Police after a Sheriff and former Law Society Fiscal’s law firm had become involved in the dispute.

The details in the above story as reported by Scottish Law Reporter reads almost the same for tens of clients, who, after making a complaint to the Law Society of Scotland, and in some cases going onto make a claim against the Master Policy, encountered growing problems with their local Police forces, information on which unexplainably ended up with law firms representing & defending ”crooked lawyers” in court.

Recently, the case of Ian Puddick, a plumber who exposed a love affair between his wife and an insurance executive was debated in the Westminster Parliament, where MPs were told actions resulting from the involvement of a “private security firm”  (Kroll) who were hired by the insurance executive “to bury” Mr Puddick led to Mr Puddick being raided by several units from the City of London Police including its Anti-Terror branch with claims over a million pounds of public money were spent on investigating Mr Puddick, whose life was made a misery. It is a fact Kroll were owned by MMC (Marsh McLennan Companies) during these incidents in 2009. In June 2010, Marsh & McLennan Co Inc agreed to sell investigations unit Kroll to a firm led by former Marsh CEO Michael Cherkasky for $1.13 billion.

MMC (Marsh McLennan Companies) is currently chaired by Conservative Peer Lord Ian Lang. MMC is the parent of Marsh UK, who operate the Law Society of Scotland’s Master Policy, and who also provide insurance services for the Scottish Government, much of Scotland’s local authorities & public services, many bodies within the Scottish legal system including the Police.

Today, anyone in Scotland who has perhaps at some stage, felt there was someone looking over their shoulder because they complained about their solicitor, or took the matter to court, can take a little heart from the fact the Scottish legal profession are now spying on their own, with the revelation that two ‘representative bodies’ of Scotland’s legal profession are snooping on the lives of staff at the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission, (SLCC), according to documents shown by a legal insider to Diary of Injustice which include printouts of Facebook pages, a list of names and other information gathered on individuals who work at the SLCC.

One has to wonder, if the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission has managed to close down record numbers of complaints yet has only managed to uphold one single complaint against a solicitor, why would information on those working at the SLCC be of such importance to the likes of the Law Society of Scotland and other ‘representative bodies’ of Scottish solicitors ?

 

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Scottish Arbitration : A ‘World Class Disaster’ with Law Society, Advocates, Surveyors, Marsh UK & Fettesgate justice, all backed by Scottish Government

Law Society & Scottish GovernmentScottish arbitration backed by Law Society & Scottish Govt of no use to clients, say insiders. SCOTTISH ARBITRATION, a new ‘business’ which has sprung up in the wake of the Arbitration (Scotland) Act 2010 backed by the Scottish Government, with participants such as the Faculty of Advocates, the Law Society of Scotland and the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors, is “a seedy world full of unaccountable self regulators, dishonest insurance companies and suspect individuals” say legal insiders & consumer groups, warning those who may be considering using arbitration or bringing their arbitration business to Scotland “to forget it and look elsewhere”.

john_murray_qcScottish Arbitration Centre appointed ex Court of Session judge who resigned over ‘officially unexplained allegations’. The recommendation to avoid using the very much self regulator dominated arbitration market in Scotland comes in the wake of a recent report by Scottish Law Reporter, revealing a former Court of Session judge, Lord Dervaird, aka Prof. John Murray QC the judge who STUNNED the Scots legal establishment in the early 1990s by resigning in a cloud of rumours connected to the FETTESGATE ‘Gay Justice Conspiracy’ scandal in which several journalists were arrested to cover up allegations against senior members of Scotland’s judiciary, has been appointed as an Honorary Vice President of the Scottish Arbitration Centre, a ‘joint venture’ opened by the SNP’s Fergus Ewing and backed by the Scottish Government, the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators, the Faculty of Advocates, the Law Society of Scotland and the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors.

marshDisgraced US insurers Marsh operating here as Marsh UK insure many backers of Scottish Arbitration Centre. It can also be revealed that most or all of the organisations participating in Scottish Arbitration market have links to the disgraced insurers, Marsh, who were convicted in the United States of market rigging. Marsh also arrange professional indemnity insurance for the Law Society of Scotland through its notoriously corrupt Master Insurance Policy, itself linked to deaths in an independent report, and also provides the same insurance to Scotland’s Faculty of Advocates. Marsh are also used by many departments of the Scottish Government, local government and the private sector in Scotland for insurance coverage so if your dispute involves a profession insured by Marsh, a fair hearing in arbitration may be very hard to obtain.

Fergus Ewing Jim Mather Scottish Arbitration CentreFergus Ewing, Jim Mather & Brandon Malone nab create the arbitration business. The Scottish Arbitration Centre made the announcement of the appointment of ex judge Lord Dervaird, stating “A former Court of Session judge, Lord Dervaird has experience as an arbitrator and as counsel in numerous international arbitration proceedings. He wrote the National Report, Scotland, in the ICCA International Handbook on Commercial Arbitration in 1995. He is Emeritus Professor at the University of Edinburgh, and lectures on international arbitration at London (King’s College) and Strathclyde Universities.” No mention of exactly why Lord Dervaird was “a former Court of Session judge” was made in the Arbitration Centre’s media release, something potential clients may wish to know.

According to Scottish Law Reporter : The Scottish Arbitration Centre came about after a specific proposal for an arbitration centre was presented by Brandon Malone, solicitor advocate, on behalf of the Scottish Government’s steering group at a meeting last year between Fergus Ewing and representatives of the bodies authorised to act as Arbitral Appointments Referees (AARs) under the Arbitration (Scotland) Act 2010. Mr Malone, who also happens to be Chairman of the Scottish Arbitration Centre, has been involved with the SNP for many years and was the party’s “Assistant Spokesperson on Justice & Equality” in the late 90’s, famed among other things yet to be published, for writing letters in the Scotsman newspaper defending the legal profession and its stance on regulation.

The much hyped Arbitration (Scotland) Act 2010 pushed through by the SNP Scottish Government aimed to promote domestic & international arbitration under Scots Law and seeks to promote Scotland as a place to arbitrate disputes, legal & otherwise. In the over hyped campaign, the then Communities & Justice Minister Fergus Ewing claimed : “Scotland is now well positioned to be a ‘world leader in the lucrative international arbitration scene”.

This latest move on the part of the SNP Scottish Government to create a new business dominated and almost exclusively controlled by Scotland’s closed shop legal services sector, comes on the heels of a FAILED campaign in 2008 by Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill to encourage foreign firms & clients to bring litigation to Scotland. Wisely, international clientele heeded warnings on the perils of the Scottish justice system and stayed away from Mr MacAskill’s bid to attract litigants to the Scottish courts, a campaign which flopped within a few months.

Critics of the Arbitration (Scotland) Act 2010 and its passage through the Scottish Parliament point out the legislation was put through Hollyrood at the suggestion of the Scottish legal establishment to corner the arbitration market, seen as a lucrative business to be controlled before ‘outside elements’ took it over. The legislation seeks to increase the number of arbitrations under Scots Law while also increasing the level of business for arbitration advisers and the number of appointments of arbitrators based in Scotland, as long as they are agreeable to, or members of, or are under the control of the same organisations who are in partnership with the Scottish Arbitration Centre.

jamie_millarFormer President Jamie Millar welcomed Law Society’s new business venture in the guise of independent arbitration. Speaking at the time of the Scottish Arbitration Centre’s opening, Jamie Millar, the former President of the Law Society of Scotland admitted the whole idea of Scottish arbitration was a Law Society sponsored operation. Mr Millar said : “At the request of our members, the Society campaigned for new arbitration laws and was actively involved in the passage of the Arbitration (Scotland) Act 2010 through the Scottish Parliament. We have long supported the idea of having a focal point to promote the value of arbitration to Scottish businesses so are delighted to see that the new opportunities the act presents are being seized, and that international arbitrations are being encouraged to locate in Scotland.”

Faculty of Advocates crestThe Faculty of Advocates were also keen to corner lucrative arbitration business. Alan Dewar QC, Treasurer of the Faculty of Advocates, welcomed the plan, saying : “The Faculty of Advocates is pleased to have participated in the planning and preparations leading to today’s launch of the Scottish Arbitration Centre. It looks forward to playing its part in promoting arbitration (both domestic and international) as a useful, cost-effective alternative to litigation. Quite apart from being a beautiful country to visit, Scotland is ideally placed to offer a first class arbitration service in terms of expertise, facilities and surroundings. The Faculty is delighted that the Centre is to be located at Dolphin House in the Old Town of Edinburgh, very close to the Faculty’s base.”

An official from one of Scotland’s consumer organisations said today the arbitration market in Scotland appears to be cornered & controlled by the legal profession and elements of other professions who themselves are the biggest causes of cases which end up requiring arbitration.

She said : “This is clearly an attempt by a few professions to control the arbitration market for themselves.”

She continued : “There is a danger here where consumers may be fooled into thinking that taking their case to arbitration is a faster, cheaper way of obtaining a resolution to their problem rather than embarking on costly litigation in Scotland’s courts. However those same consumers may not be aware those who are in the arbitration market are backed by the same professions and even the same indemnity insurance companies they already have problems with.  I would therefore advise consumers to view arbitration with a degree of suspicion otherwise they may end up being bitten twice.”

A client who contacted Diary of Injustice about a long running high value negligence case against an Edinburgh law firm has recently been urged by his own solicitors to take his case to arbitration instead of going to court. He was suspicious of the move and asked for advice.

He said : “My own lawyers now want me to take my case to arbitration instead of the Court of Session but I don’t believe arbitration will reveal the extent of my solicitor’s negligence and how a large sum of money disappeared from my business. I want a ruling because my former lawyer is a thief and a liar. I also don’t want my huge financial loss turned into a paltry settlement.The money is missing and it is my first lawyer’s fault, it should be repaid and he should be found out in court.”

He continued : “I wondered why this sudden rush after my own lawyers worked on my case for three years and said I had a good chance of winning. After I found out the Law Society of Scotland were involved in the arbitration scheme and that it has something to do with the Master Policy insurers who are the defenders in my court action, I asked my lawyer who very reluctantly confirmed the facts. He admitted they were all tied up with the same insurers. I will be staying well away from this so-called arbitration, thanks.”

A Scottish Courts insider said today it would be foolhardy for foreign litigants to come to Scotland on the back of claims of legal expertise which do not exist.

He said : “If the Scottish Government wish to attract litigation or arbitration to Scotland they should first address the important recommendations raised by Scotland’s Lord Justice Clerk, Lord Gill in the Civil Courts Review to ensure Scots civil law is fit for purpose. Currently it is not and we now have a situation where the Scottish Government would rather rush through legislation to suit the ends of business & vested interests than reform the civil justice system upon which the likes of civil litigation & arbitration depends.”

Whether you are a company, or an individual, make sure you know the full facts before becoming involved in the Scottish version of arbitration, which more often than not is controlled & financially supported by the same industry or profession you case or dispute involves. Disputes arbitrated by vested interests do not guarantee a fair hearing, rather they guarantee only an unfair outcome.

If you are being pushed into arbitration in Scotland by professionals who themselves stand to make a lot of money out of it, or perhaps want something covered up while making sure you don’t really get the full measure of what a court ruling will provide, stay away from it. Just remember which particular industries & self regulators control the Scottish arbitration market, a state of affairs which clearly makes Scottish arbitration nothing less than a World Class Disaster.

Background of Fettesgate :

Fettes thief cons gay judges probe The SunProbe into gay justice scandal was itself discredited after further newspaper allegations. Fettesgate was the term given to a major scandal involving the Lothian and Borders Police force in the 1990s, from its Fettes Avenue headquarters near Fettes College in Edinburgh.The “Fettesgate scandal”, as the incident was quickly called, began in the early hours of 19 July 1992, when burglars spent three hours in the Fettes headquarters of the police force. The break-in, through an unsecured window of the Scottish Crime Squad’s ground-floor offices in the HQ building, led to several confidential documents being stolen and Animal Liberation Front slogans being sprayed on the walls.

Cases for ConcernMany claimed Police were directed to arrest journalists to cover up scandal in the judiciary. Two journalists who reported on the incident after receiving tip-offs were arrested; Alan Muir, a reporter for The Sun, wrote a story based on an anonymous telephone call on the day of the incident, and was detained for six hours, and Ron McKay, a journalist for Scotland on Sunday found documents after another anonymous call six days later. When he wrote a story based on the documents, he was arrested at dawn, while at his girlfriend’s house in Chatham, Kent. He was held overnight, and charged with reset, the crime under Scots law of receiving stolen property. The charges were dropped six months later. The stolen documents concerned the police’s use of “telephone metering”; recording the destination and duration of suspects’ telephone calls, without listening in on them. Although this was regarded as legal, the controversy led to a debate about privacy and what safeguards were needed regarding information gathered in this way.

How I Mugged Man from the Crown Office the Sun 18 December 1992Lothian & Borders Police were branded incompetent and Animal Liberation Front were blamed to take heat off scandal hit judiciary. The theft of such sensitive material from what should have been such a secure place, under the very noses of the police, led to questions being asked about the competence of the Lothian and Borders force to take charge of the European summit in Edinburgh later that year. It transpired that the Animal Liberation Front had not been involved in the break-in. The chief constable later admitted that the treatment of Mr McKay was tactless and apologised to the editor of Scotland on Sunday.

Aggrieved PoliceScots judiciary & Police were thrown into significant disrepute by gay conspiracy allegations. Nobody has yet been charged with the break-in, leading some journalists who have covered the story to believe that the burglar’s identity (allegedly a police informer) is known to the police, but that they fear he might embarrass the force in court. The return of the sensitive files was allegedly the result of senior detectives reaching an immunity deal with a man close to the city’s gay criminal underworld. An internal report is believed to have been completed by the police force on the matter, but has never been released to the public.

In a typically Scottish move, an investigation & subsequent report was written by members of the Scots legal establishment on the Fettesgate allegations, clearing everyone That report, widely disputed & discredited since its publication, can be read online or downloaded here : the report on an inquiry into an allegation of a conspiracy to pervert the course of justice in scotland by WA Nimmo Smith QC & JD Friel

 

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