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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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Vested interests ‘run Scotland’s courts’ as judges rule £90K & £120K civil jury awards over accident deaths ‘were excessive’

Lord_Hamilton_03Decision to ‘guide’ juries on civil awards shows vested interests have free run of our courts. A RULING in Scotland’s Court of Session by a five judge bench under the retiring Lord President, Lord Hamilton that damages awards made by civil juries to relatives of two people killed in separate accidents ‘were excessive and the claims should be heard again’ will prove to many that vested interests of professions, big business & insurance firms have the ability to skew justice in their favour in Scotland’s courts. The ruling, made earlier this week is seen by some as the thin end of the wedge to ending civil juries in damages awards in Scotland’s courts are over ‘paltry’ sums which not even a Banker would accept as a bonus or a judge would accept as an annual salary or retirement pension..

Previously, civil juries at the court of Session had found negligence on the part of the defenders had caused the deaths, where in the first case, KIRSTY MAY HAMILTON Pursuer and Respondent; against FERGUSON TRANSPORT (SPEAN BRIDGE) LTD Applicant and Defender: jurors awarded Kirsty Hamilton £120,000 after her mother, Caroline (aged 50) died in a road traffic accident when her car was crushed by a lorry near Fort William. Ms Hamilton was 17 at the time of her mother’s death. In the second case,  GILBERT DENNIS THOMSON Pursuer and Respondent; against DENNIS THOMSON BUILDERS LTD Applicant and Defender, Dennis Thomson, was awarded £90,000 by a civil jury for the death of his son James, then aged 26, who died in an accident on a building site. Mr Thomson senior was 57 at the time of his son’s death.

However, the five judge bench – Lord Eassie, Lord Clarke, Lord Emslie, Lord Brodie and Lord Hamilton who heard the appeals of the companies previously found to be liable for the cause of the two fatalities, have now decided the compensation claims of the relatives should be heard again, and this time, the jurors should be given “guidance” from the presiding judge in assessing damages, with the judge suggesting a spectrum in which the award might lie.

The implication of the judges decision is that any further awards made in the cases should be much less than originally made by the earlier jury, leading many to conclude that vested interests are controlling the Scottish courts and the public’s access to justice.

In a telling excerpt from the opinion of the court, Lord Hamilton, sounding more like he was more concerned with curtailing publicity & growing enquiries over the disparity of justice where the amount of financial awards made by judges in damages actions without juries are falling well short of awards made in cases where a civil jury has made it’s decision, said : “If greater regard than hitherto is not had by judges to jury awards then the disparity between the judicial and jury awards is likely to remain.” Lord Hamilton went onto claim such a “state of affairs which lacks the consistency which is one of the hallmarks of a mature system”

The now retired Lord President commented that the absence of directions about sums awarded in similar cases by a civil jury, as opposed to that awarded by a judge was a “less than satisfactory aspect of civil jury trials”. Lord Hamilton went onto say it was time “to set a framework for civil juries against which they can address levels of damages”which may easily be interpreted as an attempt to deprive a civil jury from making any kind of award which does not sit easily with a judge, or the vested interests of insurers & big business.

Lord Hamilton suggested several ways to address the disparities between awards made by judges & civil juries in Scotland’s Courts, saying : “The objective must now be to seek to narrow that disparity and to eliminate, in so far as practical, that lack of consistency. That can be done by three measures: first, by judges, sitting alone or in the Inner House, having significantly more regard to available jury awards (particularly where they demonstrate a pattern); secondly, by juries being given by the presiding judge fuller guidance than hitherto as to the level of damages which, consistently with other cases, might reasonably be awarded by them; and, thirdly, by appellate courts continuing to intervene, where necessary, on comparative justice grounds as envisaged under statute since 1815. This is a process which will take time and experience to mature.”

In what some may interpret as comments intended to stave off any intervention by the Scottish Parliament (similar to the asbestos damages bill) to remedy what many will perceive as a huge injustice in the cases of the deaths of the two persons, Lord Hamilton wrote in his opinion : “There is no reason to suppose that Parliament intended that awards by juries should have priority over awards by judges – or vice versa. Judicial and jury awards give different but complementary guidance for what is a just award of damages. In an age when life may be thought to be more precious than it may have been thought to be by earlier generations, and where consequentially the loss of the life of a close relative may seem a greater loss than it might have seemed earlier, the input of jury awards, reflective of the views of the community, may, in death cases, be particularly important.”

Lord Hamilton continued : “While awards made by juries without the benefit of judicial guidance may be at greater risk of being arbitrary or of having been influenced by illegitimate factors, those made with that (non-prescriptive) benefit are likely to be a valuable source for assessment in future cases. As to the second element, some suggestions are made below (para [76]) as to what procedural arrangements might be put in hand. The objective should be to eliminate, or at least reduce, the disparity between judicial and jury awards while at the same time securing that “awards … in comparable cases … bear a coherent relationship with each other” (Girvan, per Lord Clyde at page 25). If that objective is achieved, then parties whose disputes over damages are litigated can be better satisfied that they have had a fair trial – whether the adjudicating body is a judge or a jury.”

The size of the awards made by the civil juries in Scottish courts may surprise international readers, particularly those from the United States where awards in similar cases would normally run into the hundreds of thousands of dollars, or even millions of dollars. However, Scotland’s justice system has yet to catch up, if ever, with other jurisdictions who allow greater access to justice to victims of injustice, rather than what is seen as the regular influence of vested interests in Scotland’s courts which limits justice, and punishment over the loss of loved ones, to what amounts to little more than a few pennies after legal fees are paid.

As as happened in so many cases before in Scotland’s courts, bankers, politicians and judges can expect bigger bonuses & retirement pensions than any relative can expect via a future award made by a judge or civil jury in a case in a Scottish court.

The full details of the opinion can be read here :  CSIH 52 PD2039/09 and PD1444/09 OPINION OF THE LORD PRESIDENT in motions for new trials in causis (1) KIRSTY MAY HAMILTON Pursuer and Respondent; against FERGUSON TRANSPORT (SPEAN BRIDGE) LTD Applicant and Defender and (2) GILBERT DENNIS THOMSON Pursuer and Respondent; against DENNIS THOMSON BUILDERS LTD Applicant and Defender

Of note is the inclusion in the hearing of counsel from the Scottish Government Legal Directorate appearing for Scottish Ministers.

BBC News reported on the case here : Awards in Highland and Shetland accidents ‘excessive’ judges rule

 

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How Law Society’s ‘cancelled’ prosecution of Borders solicitor Andrew Penman ignited moves to reform regulation of Scotland’s crooked lawyers

Law Society of ScotlandLaw Society of Scotland’s complaints whitewash provoked reforms. THE CANCELLED PROSECUTION OF BORDERS LAWYER ANDREW PENMAN, of Stormonth Darling Solicitors, by the Law Society of Scotland was one of the prime factors in starting a Scotland wide campaign to reform regulation of the legal profession, after the release of the investigation documents which revealed a Law Society Complaints Committee had been bullied into changing an original decision to prosecute Andrew Penman by Penman’s secret representative who attended the hearing, James Ness, a senior Law Society figure, now Deputy Director of Professional Practice.

Scotsman coverage of some of the stories relating to Andrew PenmanScotsman newspaper in better days followed the Penman case, eventually leading to its own editorials calling for self regulation of lawyers to end. As a result of significant publicity in the Scotsman newspaper on the Andrew Penman investigation, further cases came to light where it transpired many solicitors facing serious complaints had been legally represented at Law Society Complaints Committee hearings, particularly on serious issues such as embezzlement, allegations of client fraud, almost all complaints regarding the handling of wills, and even in cases where clients had been convicted of criminal charges. In all of these cases, while solicitors had been represented before Complaints Committees, clients had been denied equivalent representation.

Indeed, the practice of ‘legally’ representing a solicitor in front of a Complaints Committee, had become so common, it became accepted practice, unquestioned by any solicitor or lay members of the Complaints Committees, although deemed so sensitive the policy was kept secret from complaining clients and the general public, fearing claims of unfairness & prejudice. That secrecy broke, however, when due to the publicity on the Penman case, the Law Society was forced to disclose most of the Committee’s deliberations on Andrew Penman, sparking many clients to eventually find out they too had been similarly maligned by a hugely prejudicial policy of allowing a crooked lawyer legal representation before a Complaints Committee, while denying the same right to members of the public.

Law Watchdog faces threat of court fight - Scotland on Sunday 9 August 1999Former Legal Services Ombudsman Garry Watson changed recommendations on Law Society orders. As publicity grew around the Penman case, the practice of lawyers being legally represented before Complaints Committees, and being allowed to submit personal letters of pleadings to Committee members, while clients were denied similar rights, was criticised by the then Scottish Legal Services Ombudsman, Garry S Watson, who recommended the Law Society halt the practice, which it did, for a few months, until the publicity died down, then apparently re-started in secret. Garry Watson also asked for full explanations and disclosure over Penman’s secret representations, which never happened after the Law Society ordered Mr Watson to change his opinion, cancelling his order clients should be informed fully of Committee deliberations. After the Law Society restarted the practice, clients were of course none the wiser as queues of lawyers lined up to send their legal representatives to Complaints Committees, pleading in the first instance, threatening legal action and judicial reviews against Committee decisions if the former did not work.

Scotsman 8 January 1999 Independent watchdog for lawyers proposedLaw Society’s reversal of prosecution helped bring consumer led reforms to regulation of lawyers. The Andrew Penman case, which clearly should have went to the Scottish Solicitors Discipline Tribunal as a prosecution, with Mr Penman being struck off, but did not, through the Law Society’s determination to “Save Private Penman” as some have said over the years, did bring gains to consumers in terms of revealing the thoroughly corrupt practices of self regulation carried out by the Law Society of Scotland, and its will to keep such practices secret, and of course, long lasting until even the present day.

Would Granny Swear by the Law Society - The Herald June 5 2006Douglas Mill, brought down by his anti-client memos, and relentless policies to save crooked lawyer Andrew Penman from prosecution. ‘Saving Private Penman” helped bring two [costly] Scottish Parliamentary inquiries into regulation of the legal profession, the first one Chaired by Christine Grahame (a dud – the enquiry, I refer to, of course) and the second, chaired by David Davidson MSP, which after hearing of even more revelations of secret anti-client behaviour such as the Douglas Mill ‘memo’gate affair’, brought to light by the now Cabinet Chief John Swinney, resulted in the passage of the Legal Profession & Legal Aid (Scotland) Act 2007, which created the hapless and Law Society controlled Scottish Legal Complaints Commission, which would have been good, had perhaps someone such as John Swinney managed its formation process, instead of the hapless Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill, who simply allowed the Law Society to pull all the strings, and fill the SLCC with a slew of Pinnochios whose noses stretch from here to the planet Pluto.

Jury  still out on law in the dock - The Scotsman 2 March 1998Law Society covered up details of decision not to prosecute Andrew Penman. The failure to prosecute Andrew Penman for offences which many solicitors since have been prosecuted and even struck off for, some even sent to jail such as ex solicitor Michael Karus, still reverberates around the legal profession, and has given clients the strength to complain against many a crooked lawyer – a good thing. Penman has also shed a much needed light on the very secretive nature of Scotland’s legal profession and how the Law Society of Scotland controls, or denies access to justice to anyone it so feels like intimidating. Again, another plus, if a costly one to Scotland, as generally one can conclude, the Scottish legal profession are not a very trustworthy bunch, either in legal service to their clients, or when it comes to regulating their own colleagues.

Here, at the request of several law students who are studying ‘regulation’ of the legal profession in Scotland, is the full report on Borders Solicitor Andrew Penman of Stormonth Darling Solicitors, Kelso. I would certainly not recommend anyone use that law firm, as reading the following will reveal.

Law Society of Scotland report on solicitor Andrew Penman Stormonth Darling Kelso Page 1Law Society investigating lawyer found that Andrew Penman had tried to fake the files. The Law Society report said : “The reporter had found it extremely difficult to obtain from the file a clear picture of what had taken place in the executry. The files had not been well kept and it was noted that throughout the files there were correspondence and telephone notes which were not in chronological order. It was noted that at several points there was correspondence which appeared not to have been dealt with and not to have been put on file as it was received but to have been put on at a later date. The reporter noted a number of’ instances which suggested that correspondence had simply been accumulated off the file and then dealt with in a fevered bout of activity in order to deal with matters which had long been delayed. The reporter noted there was also evidence of what appeared to be a bungled and unsuccessful attempt to put the file into order. Correspondence of July 1990 and July 1991 had been put on the file at a point which clearly related to July 1992.“

“The reporter noted that the files disclosed numerous lengthy and unexplained delays and a repeated failure to respond to correspondence. There were dozens of letters on the files apologizing to third parties for delays in dealing with executry matters. These delays in many cases amounted to several months and in the case of the capital taxes office there were several delays, one of 18 months.”

Law Society of Scotland report on solicitor Andrew Penman Stormonth Darling Kelso Page 2Law Society investigating lawyer found Andrew Penman deliberately mislead the Royal Bank of Scotland, amounting to professional misconduct. Page two of the Law Society report said : “The reporter noted there was a complete failure on the part of Messrs. P. & J. Stormonth-Darling to deal with this matter. They completely failed to acknowledge the instructions they had received from the Royal Bank in this connection and failed to take any steps to deal with the matter. The reporter was of the view that the substantial and unnecessary delays which had taken place in the executry might amount not only to an inadequate professional service on the part of Messrs. P.& J. Stormonth Darling but professional misconduct on the part of Mr Penman the solicitor dealing with the matter up until the time the complaint was lodged with the Law Society on 17th October 1994. Further the reporter was of the view that the apparent deliberate attempt to mislead the Royal Bank in regard to the Banco di Roma account may amount to professional misconduct.”

The Law Society investigating lawyer went onto demand a prosecution of Andrew Penman, saying : “In respect of the extraordinary delays and the repeated failures to respond to correspondence and the apparent, deliberate attempt to mislead the Royal Bank the reporter was of the view that the professional misconduct was such that it would warrant prosecution before the Scottish Solicitors Discipline Tribunal The reporter was or the view that there had clearly been an inadequate professional service but in the, event of a referral to the Scottish Solicitors Discipline Tribunal this would be incorporated into the complaint.”

Law Society of Scotland report on solicitor Andrew Penman Stormonth Darling Kelso Page 3Law Society Complaints Committee said Andrew Penman mislead the Royal Bank, was a failure at handling an executry. The Committee’s consideration of the investigating lawyer’s findings revealed : “The Committee expressed grave concern at the way that this executry had been handled by Mr. Penman and the extraordinary delays and the complete failure to deal with correspondence in an adequate manner, The Committee were of the: view that there: had been very poor attention paid to the administration of this estate and that whilst the complainer’s uncertainty in certain matters might have caused some confusion there was a general lack of effort on the part of the solicitors to deal with matters in a reasonable manner.. It was noted in connection with the proposed loan by the Royal Bank. to the complainer there was a complete and utter failure to deal with the matter in any way or even to acknowledge the instructions. In connection with the Banco di Roma account the Committee noted the failure on the part of Mr. Penman to deal with matters in a reasonable way. They were particularly concerned at the terms of the letter written by Mr. Penman to the Royal Bank on 29th September 1992 which appeared to be an attempt to mislead the Royal Bank into believing that matters were being actively dealt with when they were not.”

“The Committee concurred with the views of the reporter in this matter indicating that the apparent attempt to mislead the Royal Bank persuaded them that Mr Penman’s acting in the matter were so serious and reprehensible as to amount to professional misconduct.”

“The Committee thereafter considered whether the professional misconduct was such that it would warrant referral to the Scottish Solicitors Discipline Tribunal. The Committee were of the view that the administration of the executry had been so appallingly badly done as to take the issue out of service into that of conduct and coupled with the apparent attempt to mislead the Royal Bank the conduct was such that it would warrant prosecution before the Scottish Solicitors Discipline Tribunal. “

Law Society Complaints Committee decided that Andrew Penman should be prosecuted : “The Committee were of the view that Mr, Penman’s acting in respect of the extra-ordinary delays and failure to progress the administration of the executry and in apparently misleading the Royal Bank of Scotland were so serious and reprehensible as to amount to professional misconduct. The Committee determined to recommend to Council that Mr. Penman be prosecuted before the Scottish Solicitors Discipline Tribunal in relation to the professional misconduct and the service provided and any other matter which the Fiscal feels appropriate.”

Law Society of Scotland report on solicitor Andrew Penman Stormonth Darling Kelso Page 4Andrew Penman begged the Complaints Committee not to prosecute, citing personal humiliation in the media as an excuse, while his legal representative at the Committee, Mr James Ness used his influence among the Committee members to derail the decision to prosecute : “Written representations were then made as to why Mr Penman should not be prosecuted. It was pointed out that the action of the complainer in referring matters to the media prior to the complaint being considered Mr Penman’s natural right to have the Tribunal or the Society decide whether the case was deemed fit for publicity had been denied. As a result of the complaint, and newspaper report Mr Penman had suffered personally and this had been a considerable punishment in itself. It was argued that a reference to the Tribunal would result in a fine and substantial cost to Mr Penman with little or no purpose beyond what the Society could achieve using its own powers given that the Society would be able to order a waiver of part or all of the substantial fee which could be charged for work done together with a compensation award of up to £1,000.00.”

A variety of further excuses were presented by Andrew Penman, through his legal agent Mr Ness, which persuaded the Committee not to prosecute, : “It was also pointed out that the complaint was from a beneficiary and not from the executor in the estate with whom Mr Penman had been working to resolve matters. The Committee considered the representations which had been made. The Committee were of the view that Mr Penman’s dealings with the matter undoubtedly amounted to professional misconduct. They thereafter considered whether in light of the representations which had been made the scale of the misconduct could be said to be so serious as to justify prosecution or whether a reprimand would be more appropriate. The Committee noted that Mr Penman clearly accepted that matters had not been dealt with in a proper manner by him and that there had been delays in progressing matters.”

The Complaints Committee, arm-twisted by senior Law Society official James Ness, and lacking any equivalent representation for my points, then changed their verdict to save Mr Penman so he could ruin some more unsuspecting clients : “Having re-considered the matter and taking into account the representations which had been made the Committee were unanimously of the view that whilst Mr Penman’s acting amounted to professional misconduct they were not such that would warrant a prosecution and a reprimand would be more appropriate. The Committee therefore determined to withdraw their recommendation for prosecution and to substitute a provisional finding of professional misconduct warranting a reprimand.”

Law Society of Scotland report on solicitor Andrew Penman Stormonth Darling Kelso Page 5 & 6Complaints Committee accused Andrew Penman of Professional Misconduct, and did nothing after Law Society intervention. The Complaints Committee in the lead up to their decision, began to excuse their change of mind over prosecution, stating : “It was noted that written representations had been received from the complainer dated 5th and 20th July. Representations had been received from Messrs. P & J Stormonth Darling dated 25th July and the Committee Secretary advised that Mr Penman had confirmed that he accepted the Committee’s preliminary view on matters i.e. that he be reprimanded in respect of the professional misconduct. Having considered the written representations the Committee found no reason to depart from its previous view and, therefore, confirmed their previous findings.”

In addition to the swathe of excuses to explain their failure to prosecute, the Complaints Committee even claimed there had been no financial loss to the estate, which had in reality been ruined through the actions of both Andrew Penman as the legal agent, and Borders Accountant Norman Howitt, acting as the Executor. The Law Society were therefore unable to explain the reduction of a 300K capital residual estate to zero.

The official decision of the Complaints Committee read as follows : “THE COMMITTEE HAVING CONSIDERED THE FURTHER REPRESENTATIONS WHICH HAD BEEN MADE FOUND NO REASON TO DEPART FROM ITS PREVIOUS VIEW AND ACCORDINGLY FIND THAT THE CONDUCT OF MR PENMAN IN RESPECT OF THE EXTRAORDINARY DELAYS AND FAILURES TO PROGRESS THE ADMINISTRATIONOF THE EXECUTRY AND IN MISLEADING THE ROYAL BANK OFSCOTLAND WERE SO SERIOUS AND REPREHENSIBLE AS TO AMOUNT TO PROFESSIONAL MISCONDUCT. THEY REPRIMANDED HIM.”

“IN ADDITION THE COMMITTEE FOUND THAT AN INADEQUATE PROFESSIONAL SERVICE HAD BEEN PROVIDED BY MESSRS. P & J. STORMONTH DARLING IN RESPECT OF THE EXTRAORDINARY DELAYS AND FAILURE TO PROGRESS MATTERS DURING THE PERIOD FROM THE DATE OF DEATH TO OCTOBER 1994 WHEN MR PENMAN CEASED DEALING WITH THE MATTER. THE COMMITTEE DIRECTED THAT THE SOLICITORS SHOULD ONLY BE ENTITLED TO CHARGE A FEE IN RESPECT OF THAT PERIOD TO A MAXIMUM OF £3,000 PLUS VAT IN TERMS OF SECTION 42A(2)(a)(ii) OF THE 1980 ACT. IN ADDITION THE COMMITTEE DETERMINED THAT THE SOLICITORS SHOULD MAKE A PAYMENT OF £1,000 TO THE ESTATE BY WAY OFCOMPENSATION IN TERMS OF SECTION 42A (2)(d) OF THE 1980 ACT.”

As a matter of record, the £1,000 payment Mr Penman was ordered to make, was taken by Norman Howitt, the Estate Executor, to pay bills Mr Penman and Mr Howitt had accumulated themselves on failed advertising.

As a result of the Complaints Committee’s spineless decision, Borders solicitor Andrew Penman was never prosecuted for his actions, and was allowed to continue working at Stormonth Darling Solicitors, Kelso to this day. Insiders at the Law Society of Scotland have confirmed numerous complaints have been made by other clients against the Borders Law firm Stormonth Darling, since the Complaints Committee’s decision not to prosecute Mr Penman all those years ago.

You can read more about Borders Accountant Norman Howitt’s part in the Executry, and more, here : A picture is worth a thousand words – Images of fraud reveal corruption & deceit by lawyers & accountants in the Scottish Borders and you can read about how the Law Society of Scotland prevent clients being able to recover financial damages or take any legal action against crooked lawyers such as Andrew Penman, and the Law Society itself, here : Law Society intervention in claims ‘commonplace’ as ex Chief admits Master Policy protects solicitors against clients

Looking on the bright side, much good came from the Penman case, even if the bad remained.

What ‘Penman’ did, was alert the public to the fact the Law Society of Scotland, as a regulator, are thoroughly corrupt, as is the Scottish legal profession, throughout its entire fabric. No solicitor will stand against another, despite claims to the contrary, and those consumers who dare take issue with their ‘crooked lawyers’ face losing any right to access to justice, simply because lawyers consider it their right to fleece their clients, when needs must. Take my advice – don’t let Andrew Penman happen to you …

 

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Scots public urged to take part in Commission’s survey on claims made against lawyers with Law Society’s Master Policy & Guarantee Fund

SLCC squareScottish Legal Complaints Commission has began research into compensation claims against rogue solicitors. Clients of Scottish solicitors who have tried to pursue claims for poor work, fraud, embezzlement, theft and other failures of legal service by their legal representatives are being asked to take part in an investigation into how such claims are handled by the Law Society of Scotland’s client compensation schemes, known as Master Policy and Guarantee Fund.

Researchers from Manchester University, Professor Frank Stephens and Dr Angela Melville have been engaged by the Scottish Legal Services Commission to conduct research into aims and function of the Law Society of Scotland’s Master Policy and Guarantee Fund. Professor Stephens and Dr Melville are particularly interested in people’s experiences of bringing a negligence claim against a solicitor or advocate or making a claim against the Guarantee Fund, as well as views on the operation of the policies more generally

The SLCC has been forced to investigate the alarming failures of the Scots legal profession to pay out damages claims made by potentially thousands of clients against an ever increasing tide of rogue lawyers, due to the fact it has an official monitoring role, which some within the Commission are apparently reluctant to pursue to the fullest extent possible for fear of damaging revelations to the Law Society.

EXCLUSIVE Lawyer sued for 1millionSome lawyers such as John G O’Donnell have 21 negligence claims made against them and still continue practising. Most solicitors who face client claims to the Master Policy & Guarantee Fund, have in many cases financially ruined their clients but still remained in practice due to closed shop investigations by the Law Society of Scotland which have protected thousands of solicitors from client clains & complaints, many of a serious nature involving missing funds, thefts from wills & deceased family members estates, costly case failures, and overcharging on legal fees, which due to the financial downturn, has recently seen many legal firms issue ‘fake’ bills to clients alleging money owed on non existent work.

Dr Angela Melville, speaking to “Diary of Injustice” said of her ongoing research into the Master Policy & Guarantee Fund claims, “We want to know about their personal experiences of making a claim against either the Master Policy or the Guarantee Fund, and their views more generally on the aims and operation of the Master Policy and the Guarantee Fund”.

Anyone wishing to take part in the survey can contact Dr Melville at Angela.L.Melville@manchester.ac.uk or if anyone wishes to be interviewed on their experiences, they can telephone Dr Angela Melville on 0161 275 3580, or leave a message on 0161 306 1262.

Dr Melville suggested some questions for those who wish to contact her with their experiences of the claims process to both the Master Policy & Guarantee Fund :

1. When did you initiate the claim, and was it against the Master Policy or the Guarantee Fund ?
2. What happened that raised a claim ?
3. Did you represent yourself, or did you obtain (or try to obtain) legal representation ?
4. Did you run into any problems trying to bring the claim ?
5. What was the claim’s outcome ?
6. Do you think that you have been dealt with fairly ?
7. How satisfied are you with both the process of resolving the claim and the claim outcome ?
8. What do you feel should be the aim of the Master Policy /Guarantee Fund ?
9. Do you feel that the Master Policy /Guarantee Fund is achieving this aim?
10. Do you feel that there is anything about the Master Policy /Guarantee Fund that needs to be addressed?

Which 2Which? are to be contacted over claims against crooked lawyers research. Dr Melville added the research team would be contacting Consumer Focus Scotland and Which?, who have recently been instrumental through their supercomplaint’ to the Office of Fair Trading, in pursuing reforms of the Scots legal profession’s monopolistic business model which has for years, effectively placed a stranglehold on public access to justice & legal services in Scotland.

Which? and Consumer Focus Scotland also recently supported the McKenzie Friend petition at the Scottish Parliament, calling for the 39 year exclusion of McKenzie Friends from the Scottish Courts to be lifted, allowing party litigants to call on a service engaging a legal adviser to assist them during their representation of their own legal affairs in court.

Law Society of ScotlandLaw Society of Scotland’s client compensation schemes condemned as corrupt. Both the Master Policy and Guarantee Fund compensation schemes run by the Law Society of Scotland have been regularly criticised from all quarters, including Government Ministers, as being prejudiced in their operation against clients, self serving, self protective of dangerous solicitors who ramp up significant but secret claims records, slow to pay out, deliberately difficult in their claims handling philosophy and of course, corrupt.

The Master Policy, exists to handle client claims of negligence against Scottish solicitors, with the Law Society regularly arguing it plays no part in claims processing to the fund, rather cases are handled by the insurers, Royal Sun Alliance, and the infamously corrupt Marsh, who were themselves caught up & pled guilty to corruption charges in the US several years ago.

Clients have had such difficulty in making negligence claims to the Master Policy against their solicitors negligence, officials from Royal Sun Alliance were forced to admit in staggering revelations to the Justice 2 Committee during their LPLA Bill investigations that less than 1% of claims to the Master Policy reached court.

Claims to the Law Society of Scotland’s Guarantee Fund, which supposedly exists to compensate clients for a solicitor’s theft of their funds, have faired little better, as I reported earlier here : Law Society’s ‘Guarantee Fund’ for clients of crooked lawyers revealed as multi million pound masterpiece of claims dodging corruption.

John SwinneyJohn Swinney revealed Law Society regularly interfered in claims against crooked lawyers. However, it was left to the now Cabinet Secretary for Finance, John Swinney MSP, to tackle Douglas Mill, the ex Chief Executive of the Law Society over startling revelations from Mill’s own memos that the Law Society of Scotland were actively involved on a regular basis in delaying and effectively killing off client’s negligence claims against crooked lawyers.

Douglas Mill 4Douglas Mill was forced out of Law Society top job by John Swinney’s revelations of a claims fixing policy. The video of this confrontation between Mr Swinney and Douglas Mill eventually led to Mill’s resignation as Law Society Chief in early 2008, his position becoming untenable over the raft of revelations of corruption at both the Law Society itself and in the claims handling procedures of the Master Policy and its insurers, RSA, and brokers Marsh UK.

John Swinney’s confrontation with Law Society Chief Douglas Mill led to revelations of a policy of protection for crooked lawyers against client claims & complaints.

You can read an earlier report I wrote on the outcome of the confrontation between John Swinney & Douglas Mill here : Law Society boss Mill lied to Swinney, Parliament as secret memos reveal policy of intervention & obstruction on claims, complaints. and of Mr Mill’s eventual downfall here : Breaking News : Law Society Chief Executive Douglas Mill who lied to Parliament, pursued ‘personal vendetta’ against critics – to resign

So, my advice to all readers is if you have tried to make a claim against your solicitor for a failure of service which impacted on you financially, please take the time to take part in this survey, as the more respondents give their views, the larger and clearer the picture of how the claims process against the legal profession actually works.

 

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Insurance lawyers argue against laws to help asbestos victims asserting part of their suffering ‘is a good thing’

True to tradition, when faced with the possibility of payout due to negligence in any field, be it medical, legal or financial, the lawyers are wheeled out on behalf of affected organisations to argue against any legislation or reforms which may adversely affect their paymasters.

People and lives are far too small a thing to get in the way of money, and anything, any argument can be presented as being honourable or sane, no matter how dirty or beneath contempt it may sound …

This is exactly what happened on Tuesday when insurance lawyers attended the Scottish Parliament’s Justice Committee hearings on the Damages (Scotland) Billl, to argue against the legislation which is intended to overturn the recent House of Lords ruling against compensation to asbestos victims.

Lawyers for the insurance industry went so far to argue the case that the ‘pleural plaques’ “are simply the body’s physiological response to the presence of foreign fibres.” and are thus ‘a good thing’

Dr Pamela Abernethy of Messrs Simpson & Marwick & the Forum of Insurance Lawyers : ‘plaques are a good thing’

I found Dr Pamela Abernethy’s presence on behalf of the insurers not much of a surprise, as she works for the well known Edinburgh legal firm of Simpson & Marwick WS, who are also lead representatives to the Master Insurance Policy of the Law Society of Scotland which insures all solicitors from negligence and other financial claims from clients who have been wronged by their ‘crooked lawyer’.

You can find out just how honest the Master Policy of the Law Society is here : Marsh UK and corrupt practices in insuring crooked lawyers

I of course know Simpson & Marwick very well as they defended Scotland’s most famous crooked lawyerAndrew Penman of Stormonth Darling Solicitors, Kelso and believe me, no dirty trick was too low for S&M, Marsh and the Law Society of Scotland to throw against me, as I have covered in previous articles you can read along with the Scotsman coverage as a summary here : Andrew Penman of Stormonth Darling Solicitors, Kelso -The Scotsman stories

Suffice to say … Simpson & Marwick are no friend of asbestos victims by the sounds of things .. or for that, anyone who ends up at the mercy of a crooked lawyer, accountant or other so-called ‘professional;

Now that I see legal agents to Marsh UK appearing in the story, I would just like to remind you all that Marsh UK also provide the Scottish Government and the Scottish Parliament with a wide range of insurance services for many of their departments, which also includes indemnity insurance coverage of the type which Dr Abernethy specialises in. This also includes providing insurance services to the over one hundred lawyers working for the Government Legal Service for Scotland who get their annual subscriptions paid for by the taxpayer !

To sum that up, the lawyers arguing against the Damages (Scotland) Bill, are insured by the same insurers who are arguing against the Damages (Scotland) Bill, and who also insure the same Scottish Government who are sponsoring the legislation to help asbestos claims overcome the recent House of Lords ruling against pleural plaques.

Anyone think there may be some problems ahead ? Having the same insurers, legal firms and professional indemnity insurers all mixed up with the Government, the Parliament and even the lawyers of asbestos victims ?

I am not particularly surprised by the lengths the insurance industry will go to prevent themselves having to pay out over asbestos claims, or any claim involving negligence.

The legal profession has been conducting this exact same policy for decades, arguing that solicitors abusing clients is actually a good thing, and those solicitors, albeit crooked, shouldn’t need to pay out for their misdeeds .. the only difference of course, is that precious few politicians are willing to speak out on such issues, as the various professions and industries usually fund their political parties.

Well, at least the Convener of the Justice Committee, Bill Aitken, will know all about the ways of the insurance industry and their lawyers against claimants, as Mr Aitken spent most of his life working in it.

I also note the same insurance firms which are arguing against paying out to asbestos victims and are trying to kill this piece of legislation, also insure Scotland’s legal profession for negligence …. an interesting coincidence which may see some fancy footwork by friendly politicians to the insurance industry later on as the Damages (Scotland) Bill progresses through Parliament …

You can see more of the testimony from the legal team of the insurance industry arguing against the Damages (Scotland) Bill here :

Bill Butler MSP giving the Insurance industry lawyers a hard time on the argument that suffering is a good thing …

The Damages (Scotland) Bill should succeed in its effort to reverse the unjust ruling from the House of Lords against asbestos sufferers, and on that, I must at least commend the SNP for their effort in this area, if the effort is pressed home to the successful passage of the Bill into Law.

The Herald reports :

MSPs attack lawyer on claim asbestos plaques are ‘good’

ROBBIE DINWOODIE, Chief Scottish Political Correspondent

Insurance lawyers and MSPs have clashed over claims that the lung-scarring condition pleural plaques could be a “good thing” because it proved the body’s defences were working.

The insurance industry yesterday argued strongly against proposed Holyrood legislation designed to overturn a House of Lords ruling that compensation for the condition should be scrapped because there was no proof that it was harmful. Bill Butler, Labour MSP, was among those who repeatedly questioned industry experts on their definition of the condition.

Dr Pamela Abernethy, of the Forum of Insurance Lawyers, said: “The consensus is that pleural plaques are simply the body’s physiological response to the presence of foreign fibres.”

She said the fibres were then “walled off,” adding: “The body’s defence system is operating to prevent them from causing harm.

“My submission is that plaques are a good thing, they don’t cause harm. These plaques are markers of exposure to asbestos.”

Pressed on the statement, she said the presence of the condition was unreliable because people without plaques could develop illness.

Dr Abernethy was giving evidence to MSPs over the Damages (Asbestos-Related Conditions) (Scotland) Bill. The bill is intended to reverse a decision by the House of Lords that people with the condition cannot claim compensation. Defenders of the plan, including Clydeside Action On Asbestos, said the scarring on lungs indicated past exposure to asbestos and could point to a higher risk of developing mesothelioma, a deadly cancer.

Gilbert Anderson, the forum’s regional representative for Scotland, said the bill was “well-intentioned” but wrong in law. Nick Starling, director of general insurance and health at the Association of British Insurers, said his stance against the bill was based on the House of Lords decision.

“Pleural plaques are benign. They do not have any symptoms associated with them, except in the most exceptional of cases.”

However, Harry McCluskey from Clydeside Action On Asbestos said: “To me there should be no argument here today. Pleural plaques should be compensated.”

 

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