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SECRETS, M’LORD: The QC, the footballer and the Lord Advocate who blocked a rape prosecution – and was later appointed as a judge by Lord President Lord Carloway

Crown Office refuse to release discussions on blocked rape case. A LORD ADVOCATE who aligned himself with rape awareness groups & Scotland’s current top judge to demand politicians remove a miscarriage of justice safeguard from the legal system – blocked the prosecution of a footballer for rape after contact with the accused’s QC.

Former Lord Advocate Frank Mulholland was in charge of the Crown Office & Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS) as Scotland’s top prosecutor at the time allegations of rape were raised against footballer David Goodwillie by victim Denise Clair in January 2011.

As Lord Advocate, Mulholland held the last say in authorising a prosecution or deciding to block further action.

The Crown Office decided not to prosecute David Goodwillie and his co- accused, David Robertson – a decision which occurred after contact between Paul McBride QC & the Crown Office – and according to sources – Mulholland.

The revelation of contact between Goodwillie’s lawyer – Paul McBride QC and prosecutors – came following a Freedom of Information request by the Sunday Mail newspaper, in which the Crown Office confirmed contact took place.

The Sunday Mail featured a report on the Crown’s decision to withhold details of communications between McBride and the Crown Office.

Mystery calls between rapist footballer David Goodwillie’s lawyer and court bosses revealed

The Crown Office said: “We do hold some records of telephone discussion between the late Paul McBride and staff at Crown Office”

However, officials at the £113m a year Crown Office refused to release further details on the conversations with the now deceased Paul McBride, stating to do so “would inhibit legal opinions or advice expressed in future”.

Denise fought a five-year battle for justice which this year saw the Court of Session rule she had been raped by footballers Goodwillie and co-accused David Robertson.

The 30-year-old originally sought £500,000 in compensation, but damages were later agreed at £100,000 in the civil action at the Court of Session in Edinburgh.

In late January, Lord Armstrong ruled Goodwillie – the former Scotland international footballer and his ex-teammate David Robertson were rapists.

The judge ordered Goodwillie & Robertson to pay £100,000 damages in what was the first civil rape case of its kind in Scotland – coming after Mulholland blocked all attempts to charge Goodwillie & Robertson who would have had to face a criminal trial if the prosecution had not been blocked by the then Lord Advocate.

As of date of publication of this article, Goodwillie is appealing the ruling.

The mother-of-one maintained she was incapable of giving free agreement to sex because of her alcohol consumption, but Goodwillie, 27, who now plays with Plymouth Argyle, and Robertson claimed the incident had been consensual.

Lord Armstrong, said: “Having carefully examined and scrutinised the whole evidence in the case, I find the evidence of the pursuer (the woman) to be cogent, persuasive and compelling.”

Lord Armstrong said: “In the result, therefore, I find that in the early hours of Sunday 2 January 2011, at the flat in Greig Crescent, Armadale, both defenders (the footballers) took advantage of the pursuer when she was vulnerable through an excessive intake of alcohol and, because her cognitive functioning and decision-making processes were so impaired, was incapable of giving meaningful consent; and that they each raped her.”

The judge said he found neither Goodwillie – who also played for Aberdeen and Blackburn Rovers – or Robertson to be credible or reliable on the issue of whether they had a reasonable or honest belief that she was consenting.

He rejected evidence relied on by the players that Ms Clair was not particularly affected by alcohol and was no more drunk than anyone else in the company they had been in that night.

Lord Armstrong said that prior to the incident the victim – Ms Clair – had enjoyed life, but her life changed following the decision not to proceed with a prosecution.

Lord Armstrong said: “She found that decision difficult to understand and had felt that she had not been believed.”

The judge added: “She felt that her life had been destroyed by something which had happened although, because of her lack of memory, she was not fully aware of what it was that had caused that effect.”

The Crown Office said it stood by its previous decision not to prosecute the footballers – a decision taken during the tenure of Frank Mulholland as Lord Advocate – which is now subject to calls for a full inquiry.

A Crown Office spokesman who refused to be identified said: “As Lord Armstrong stated in his judgement, the standard of proof to be satisfied was that of the balance of probabilities which is a less onerous requirement than the standard in criminal cases, which is beyond reasonable doubt.

“Further, there is no requirement of corroboration in civil cases unlike in criminal cases.

“This case was looked at very carefully by Crown counsel who concluded that there was insufficient evidence in law to raise criminal proceedings. As a result no proceedings were instructed.”

Lord Mulholland now sits on the bench of the Court of Session after having been made a judge by by anti-corroboration co-campaigner Lord Carloway – Scotland’s current Lord President & Lord Justice General.

Lord Mulholland as he is now known – blocked a prosecution of Goodwillie and his co-accused David Robertson for rape – after he gave evidence at Holyrood in November 2013 – demanding msps on the Scottish Parliament’s Justice Committee agree to his plans to scrap corroboration – a safeguard against injustice – which Mulholland ironically claimed blocked the prosecution of rape cases.

Video footage of Frank Mulholland’s evidence to MSPs urging they repeal corroboration – to enable him to prosecute rape offenders, can be viewed here:

Lord Advocate Frank Mulholland evidence to MSPs on removal of corroboration from Scot’s Law – Scottish Parliament Justice Committee 20 November 2013

Mulholland also blocked criminal charges against the driver of the Glasgow bin lorry which ran out of control in December 2014 killing six people in the centre of Glasgow while injuring 15 others.

Lord Mulholland recently featured in an investigation into judicial use of taxpayers cash to find overseas trips & junkets. Mulholland took a £1,200 trip to the European Court in Luxembourg for three days funded by public cash.

TAX FIDDLE DEAL DEATH – Frank Mulholland’s Crown Office headline appetite for VAT tax carousel case ended in death of top QC:

A case disastrously gone wrong for the headline craving Crown Office under Lord Advocate Frank Mulholland – was a secret deal to bring back alleged tax cheat Imran Hussain from Pakistan.

To this day, Mr Hussain stands accused of a £300million VAT Carousel Fraud.

A media investigation coupled with Freedom of Information probes revealed secret discussions had taken place between Paul McBride QC and Mulholland’s Crown Office – over a move which would have seen the then Lord Advocate grab credit for prosecuting and convicting what is thought to be Scotland’s highest ever value fraud case.

In a Freedom of Information response, the Crown Office admitted to holding one ‘single email’, in which McBride had made contact with Lindsay Miller – who was the then head of the Serious Organised Crime Division in the Crown Office.

It was the same Lindsay Miller who responded to the FOI requests from journalists.

Commenting on Lindsay Miller’s response to the FOI request, a COPFS review undertaken by Gertie Wallace, the head of the Criminal Justice and Disclosure Team at the time said:

“In the reply from Lindsey Miller, Head of Serious and Organised Crime Division on 4 May you were advised that information held by COPFS was contained in one email indicating Mr McBride made contact with the Head of the Serious Organised Crime Division in COPFS on 16 January 2012 regarding a Mr Hussein.”

“The reference to Mr McBride’s contact with Mrs Miller is contained in an email between COPFS and Crown Prosecution Service dated 16 January 2012. There is no further information held by COPFS regarding contact between the late Mr McBride and COPFS regarding his client Mr Hussein.”

“I understand that information held about Mr McBride’s contact with Mrs Miller about Mr Hussein has also been provided to you following your request for information dated 6 June seeking documents and discussions on correspondence between Crown Office and Crown Prosecution Service between Paul McBride and COPFS, to which you have now received a reply dated 14 June from Mrs Miller.”

A Sunday Mail investigation uncovered deal between Crown Office & McBride to bring tax cheat back to Scotland:

DEAL ME IM: £300m tax dodge fugitive launches bid to return to Scotland

Imran “Immy” Hussain, 34, has been on the run from HMRC investigators for eleven years over a VAT scam in which he allegedly stole £300million from UK taxpayers.

It is understood that top QC Paul McBride, 47, met fugitive Hussain during the trip to Pakistan where he died in March 2012.

Prior to McBride flying to Pakistan, he met and discussed the case with Crown Office staff including Mulholland.

However, the secret between the Crown Office, McBride and involvement of the Inland Revenue went wrong – after McBride died of a heart attack while in Pakistan to meet Immy Hussain to discuss a secret deal allegedly involving a trial and what the Crown may ask for on sentencing.

Media reports at the time in 2012 quoted a friend of Mr Hussain, saying “He wants to come home – but not to spend 20 years in a cell.”

“His preferred outcome [believed to have been the deal on the table from COPFS] would be to hand over a large amount of his money and do a light sentence – that way, the authorities could say justice has been done and point to the cash seizure as a success.”

It was also reported at the time – McBride told a friend that he was going to Lahore to meet a wealthy client wanted for a major fraud in the UK.

Legal sources and friends of the lawyer, who was found dead in his room at the Pearl Continental Hotel, believe he met Hussain.

McBride travelled to Pakistan with solicitor Aamer Anwar – who said the lawyers attended a wedding during their stay.

Hussain had been living the high-life in Dubai, where he owned two luxury houses, a fleet of cars and a yacht. He also travelled to Europe by private jet.

He spent fortunes on wild parties and thought nothing of buying Rolex watches for his pals.

But he was forced to leave the desert kingdom when HMRC investigators were sent to track him down.

Hussain, from Newton Mearns, Glasgow, had already been in contact with HMRC about a possible deal.

Sources have described communication between Hussain and HMRC as “very sensitive”.

One legal source said: “Paul was in Pakistan in his professional capacity as an advocate.

“He was there to meet a Scottish Asian who is wanted for VAT fraud and wants to come back to Scotland.

“His contacts at the Crown Office were at the highest level and he operated and negotiated at such a level.”

Another associate of Hussain said: “Things got a lot more difficult for him when he had to leave Dubai. He realised that HMRC weren’t going to give up on him and he has now been in Pakistan for the last couple of years.”

Hussain is suspected of heading a Europe-wide operation who set up hundreds of bogus firms linked to VAT fraud, also known as carousel fraud. Gangs claim back VAT on goods they say were imported and then exported.

But the goods – usually small but high-value items such as computer chips and mobile phones – never existed.

In an astonishing turn of events caused by the death in Pakistan of Paul McBride – while he was there at the behest of the Lord Advocate – Frank Mulholland and many others from the world of politics including First Minister Alex Salmond, and figures from the legal establishment attended Paul McBride’s funeral held at (name the church) in wherever during the year.

Previous articles on the Crown Office and Lord Advocate Mulholland’s exit from COPFS,  can be found here: PASS THE CROWN: As one Lord Advocate exits, another is set to take charge of Scotland’s ‘institutionally corrupt’ Crown Office & Procurator Fiscal Service

For previous articles on the Crown Office, read more here: Scotland’s Crown Office – in Crown detail

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MSP says Justice system must be ‘open & representative’ as QC Paul McBride calls for reform of jury selection, tests & declarations for jurors

Top QC Paul McBride calls for jurors to sit tests to establish their suitability to be on a jury. REFORM of the current system of juror selection is a must if their verdicts are to be respected, says top Scots QC Paul McBride who believes jurors should be made to sit tests to establish their suitability for sitting on juries in Scotland’s courts. Mr McBride’s remarks come after the puzzling verdict in the Neil Lennon assault case, where a Hearts fan was acquitted of a sectarian assault after the jury removed the reference to making a sectarian remark from the charge relating to breach of the peace, and returned a not proven verdict for ‘aggravated by religious prejudice charge’.

Currently, the only requirements for people to serve on a jury in a Scottish Court are that they be over 18, be registered to vote and have lived in the UK for at least five years. However, the perception these requirements are somewhat lacking has been considered & debated for some time by leading law figures & observers of the way the courts operate, although many of those attending courts have observed over the years there are significant problems throughout the entire courts system from the judiciary down, not just with how juries are selected.

Scottish Justice in the dock as QC calls for juries to be reformed : Paul McBride QC on Neil Lennon Celtic v Hearts assault verdict (click image to watch video)

Mr McBride, speaking to the Herald newspaper, said he would like to see jurors be required to disclose their employment and whether they have been a victim of crime. The Herald reported : “This is an area that lawyers have been discussing for some time. Judges and lawyers undergo a high standard of training. The only area where there is no scrutiny at all on the people who actually make the decision, which is baffling. “You don’t have to be able to read or write or speak English. “We have got 15 people deciding whether a person is guilty and we know nothing about them.”

Mr McBride continued : “In Scotland, unlike any other country on the planet, a person can be convicted by one vote. Following the Lennon verdict a lot of people, and newspapers were asking about the selection process for juries. In every other country there is some kind of jury selection process to determine whether they have got the basic skills and whether they have committed a crime. A lot of trials are conducted by police statements. If a member of the jury can’t read or speak English that’s a bit of a disadvantage.”

It is noteworthy these calls for jury reform have only re-entered the arena of public debate after a case involving sectarian charges pursued by the Crown Office against a Football fan were found not proven by a jury, while coincidentally, the Scottish Government are pursing legislation in the form of the Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications (Scotland) Bill which it is claimed, will give the Police more powers to deal with sectarian offences and threatening behaviour. Scottish Law  Reporter covers the issue in more detail HERE.

However, legal observers note there are arguably many more problems in the justice system relating to sectarianism than solely with jurors who might not manage a verdict which happens to be favourable to current legislative plans. Earlier this year, Scottish Law Reporter featured coverage on a report which the Scottish Parliament’s Petitions Committee had debated whether to publish or keep secret, academics had established there was evidence to suggest the courts system itself was sectarian due to studies on sentencing statistics involving religious minorities. The report, by Dr Susan Wiltshire of the University of Glasgow can be read online or downloaded here : OFFENDER DEMOGRAPHICS AND SENTENCING PATTERNS IN SCOTLAND AND THE UK and readers can draw their own conclusions.

John lamontJohn Lamont MSP, Scottish Conservative. Asked for comment on Mr McBride’s calls for jury reform, John Lamont MSP, the Scottish Conservative’s Justice spokesman said : “Jurors have a vital place within our justice system and it is important that we take the greatest care in choosing them. The idea of having more detailed information to help select juries is worthy of further consideration.”

Mr Lamont continued : “However, we must not undermine the principle behind trials by jury. We need to ensure that the privacy and impartiality of juries is maintained as they must always continue to represent all sectors of society if they are to provide a balanced judgement. The right to jury trial ensures that one class of people don’t sit in judgment over another. The public must have confidence in an open and representative justice system.”

 

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‘One complaint upheld’, 928 more sent back to Law Society & £1.8million spare cash : Scottish Legal Complaints Commission’s 2010 annual report

SLCCThe Scottish Legal Complaints Commission received 1452 complaints last year, however it only fully upheld one single complaint. ANYONE hoping for a crackdown on ‘crooked lawyers’ in Scotland will be in for a shock today after the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission, revealed in yesterday’s announcement of the SLCC’s 2009-2010 Annual Report (pdf), it fully upheld only ONE SINGLE COMPLAINT against an ‘unknown legal practitioner’.

The SLCC’s evident unwillingness to tackle head-on the many well known rogue elements of Scotland’s legal profession appears to be the staggering product of a decade long consumer campaign & the Scottish Parliament & Scottish Government’s attempt to bring ‘independent’ regulation to Scotland’s legal services industry in the form of what is now widely regarded as little more than a quango staffed by lawyers, ex-lawyers, retired senior Police Chiefs, legal academics and other multi-job quangocrats.

SLCC Annual Report 2010 How we dealt with complaints Page 14Musical chairs or musical complaints ? For the second year running, the SLCC sent most complaints back to the Law Society of Scotland. The amazing figures released yesterday in the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission’s second annual report also show the famously anti-client SLCC yet again sent most of the complaints it received this year back to the Law Society of Scotland, just as it did last year. The second annual report, covering the period from 1 July 2009 until 30 June 2010 reveals the SLCC received a total of 3,561 enquiries during that period, resulting as it claimed, in 1,452 cases classified as “legal complaints”. However, the majority of these cases (928) were sent back to the Law Society of Scotland or Faculty of Advocates under the SLCC’s controversial policy of refusing to deal with any legal business or cases involving instructions given to solicitors which occurred prior to 1 October 2008, the date the SLCC formally began operating, while others were apparently closed ‘as being out of the SLCC’s jurisdiction’.

After sending the majority of the “legal complaints” back to the Law Society of Scotland, the overfunded Scottish Legal Complaints Commission, which has also received millions of pounds of taxpayers money during 2007-2008, revealed it is now carrying a whopping current cash surplus (dubbed a ‘reserve’) of nearly two millions pounds while only managing to accept a meagre 204 complaints to be dealt with by its highly paid staff & board members, some of whom are pocketing salaries of around £1,300 per week.

SLCC Annual Report 2010 Complaints statisticsComplaints, and how they were handled by the SLCC. Of the 204 complaints the SLCC reported it had or was actually dealing with during the last year, amazingly, the law complaints quango only managed to fully uphold one single complaint, along with a handful of others being ‘mediated’ or ‘resolved’ in ways not fully described. The Annual report states : *17 complaints were resolved through mediation and 17 others still under consideration for mediation at the end of the year; * 170 complaints went to investigation, of which 92 were still in hand at the end of the year; * of these, 23 were resolved at or before the stage of an investigation report; * seven were withdrawn by the complainer; * 48 complaints were referred for determination, of which eight were partially and one fully upheld, 15 were not upheld, one was withdrawn, and 23 were still being considered at the end of the year.

Rosemary AgnewChief executive Rosemary Agnew said the number of enquiries and complaints coming to the SLCC was lower than originally predicted. She commented: “This may be due to a number of factors such as the economic downturn. We have responded by adopting a cautious approach to recruitment, expanding only to meet the needs of our current workload, and at the end of the financial year, we employed 29 members of staff instead of the predicted 45, which was the anticipated figure prior to our opening in 2008.”

Ms Agnew continued : “We have successfully established the ‘gateway’ for all complaints about legal practitioners and deal directly with complaints about inadequate professional service. In line with our aim to resolve complaints at the earliest opportunity, we continue to develop our mediation function and aim for resolution through both formal and informal approaches.”

SLCC Annual Report 2010 Performance Page 0013Breakdown of complaints made against solicitors to the SLCC. The SLCC’s media release reported that the largest proportion of complaints received related to residential conveyancing, areas of business not specified, followed by litigation, Employment Law, Executries & Wills (a favourite client rip-off) and family law. Complaints about a solicitor’s or advocate’s conduct are still referred to the relevant professional body. In the year there were 142 such complaints against solicitors and two against advocates. In addition 216 cases were accepted under the Scottish Legal Services Ombudsman jurisdiction, and 180 opinions completed.

SLCC Annual Report 2010 reveals 1.8million reservesSLCC’s 2010 Annual Report (page 19) revealed the quango currently holds a whopping £1.86 million in ‘reserves’. The SLCC, attempting to play down its controversial gigantic cash surplus (dubbed a ‘reserve’), reported the figure it was currently holding, of £1.86 million, (£1,867,000.) compares with one of over £1.5m for the first nine months of the SLCC’s operation, following which the Commission cut the annual levy payable by solicitors to £235 for the current year. The SLCC went onto claim that “actual reserves” at year end were £1.12m, or just under five months’ operating costs” as it had decided to ring-fence some £740,000 to underwrite the generally levy in the 2010/11 operating year by transferring it from reserves to income – in other words, the SLCC is, of sorts going to hand back £740,000 to the legal profession when it reduces next year’s levy on all legal practitioners which are covered by its regulation.

SLCC LAW SOCIETYLaw Society of Scotland’s ‘Access to Justice’ Committee said the SLCC should be ‘taken over’ by the Law Society. The reported surplus of £1.86 million now confirmed in the SLCC’s 2010 Annual Report also pokes significant holes in the Law Society of Scotland/SLCC takeover spat which hit the headlines last year, when the Law Society of Scotland’s ‘Access to Justice’ Committee alleged the SLCC was supposedly carrying a gigantic six million pound surplus, with Society representatives apparently going onto suggest in the same newspaper stories that the Law Society of Scotland should, in the name of saving the taxpayer some money, take over both the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission and even more worryingly, the Scottish Legal Aid Board.

Readers can find out more about the battle between the Law Society & the SLCC over a suggested takeover, and dubious media fiddling regarding a now wholly untrue surplus figure, here : Dailly’s Law : Law Society ‘takeover plot’ for SLCC & Legal Aid Board backfires over leak of law complaints quango’s alleged £6 million surplus. The idea of a Law Society takeover was, however swiftly rebuffed by one of Scotland’s leading QCs, Paul McBride, who compared the idea to putting Homer Simpson in charge of a doughnut factory, reported here : Doughnuts, principles and no £6m surplus : Law Society’s backroom plot to take over Legal Aid Board attacked by top QC Paul McBride. The argument was closed down when the Law Society issued a media manipulation directive, reported HERE which may well also be aimed at me, bless their souls (if they have any).

Jane IrvineSLCC’s Chair Jane Irvine wrote in her annual message about providing a complaints service. Jane Irvine wrote : “Our priority this year has been to provide a complaint service. In my view, the range of legal services provided means our complaints are very diverse. The range can include complaints about limited advice on dog control, complaints that poor representation was provided in a murder trial or complaints regarding badly drawn up title deeds in a multimillion pound international property development. Every case we receive involves something important to the person who raises it and the person who provided the service, and just like diverse complaints, diverse people’s’ needs do not always fit rigid systems. As a result we must flex our complaint handling powers to ensure we work in a way that meets multiple needs.”

On the issue of the many legal challenges to the SLCC’s powers over complaints in Scotland’s Court of Session, Ms Irvine went onto say : “It is inevitable that new legislation will be challenged. Our board prepared for this by setting aside money to fund any legal processes and during the year, we received 11 challenges with the majority still being heard in the Court of Session at the year end. The outcomes of these appeals are important to us”.

Readers can compare the ‘progress’ the SLCC has made in a year by reading last year’s SLCC Annual Report, which can be read in more detail, here : Scottish Legal Complaints Commission reveals it passed most complaints about lawyers back to Law Society, has failed to act on Master Policy report where the quango revealed it was then carrying a surplus (now called a ‘reserve’) of £1.565 million pounds The SLCC’s full audited accounts for 2009-2010 can be found HERE (pdf)

The Law Society of Scotland’s almost simultaneous Press Release responding to the publication of the SLCC’s Annual Report quickly called for further reductions in the charges levied on all its member solicitors, charges which fund the operation of the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission.

Lorna JackLorna Jack Chief Executive of the Law Society of Scotland, revealed in emails to have apparently bullied Communities Minister Fergus Ewing into threatening the SLCC over the question of its levy rate earlier this year, said: “We are pleased that the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission has said they will be “asking for less” when they set the levy for solicitors later this year. We hope this will be a meaningful reduction given the Commission’s reserves now stand at over £1 million.

Ms Jack continued : “It is important for the Commission to work as efficiently as possible and carefully manage its budget, particularly in the current economic climate when the solicitors who fund the Commission still face tough business decisions. The consultation on the Commission’s budget will begin shortly and we are urging solicitors to contact us so their views can be included in our own submission to the Commission as part of that consultation.”

Philip YellandPhilip Yelland, the Law Society of Scotland’s Director of Regulation & previous Director of the Society’s ‘Client Relations Office, well known for its brutal, even deadly treatment of clients who dared complain about their solicitor, said: “It is good to see a fall in the number of complaints made against solicitors compared with last year, which we believe has been party driven by firms dealing more effectively with complaints at source. However, more work needs to be done to ensure a better understanding of the reasons behind this reduction.”

While the legal profession pats itself on the back for yet another year which has seen such successes as the SLCC board member’s lavish expenses claims, its continuing failure to monitor the Law Society of Scotland’s infamously corrupt Master Policy & Guarantee Fund after more than two years of operation, an unrivalled anti-client attitude openly displayed by many of its board members & staff, and of course, its mounting troubles in the Court of Session with lawyers openly seeking to challenge its remit, any thoughts of consumer protection appear to have taken a back seat against the many rogue lawyers who remain working in Scotland’s legal services market.

One single complaint fully upheld in a year. Its not much of a badge of success now, is it. We don’t even know which law firm this one complaint involves, nor do we know the identities of all the other law firms, solicitors & others reported to the SLCC, Law Society of Scotland or Faculty of Advocates. However, in England & Wales, their new Legal Ombudsman may soon be publishing the names of solicitors & complaints decision. Now … how about bringing some of that openness to Scotland, so consumers really do know what they are getting into when they walk through the doors of a lawyers office ?

Kenny MacAskillJustice Secretary Kenny MacAskill spent over £2 million of public funds on the SLCC’s lavish start-up costs. I’d also like to suggest, as we are in a recession, and since the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission is so flush with cash, the SLCC should now begin to pay back its start-up costs of two million pounds to the public purse. After all, two million could be better used for hospitals, community care, or even other parts of the justice system such as Policing & anti-crime measures, rather than continuing to give taxpayers money to the legal profession and its anti-client regulatory regime which is anything but independent.

My earlier coverage of the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission and its much less than expected performance as a regulator of complaints against Scotland’s legal profession, can be read here : The Scottish Legal Complaints Commission – The story so far

 

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Having difficulty obtaining legal aid in Scotland ? spare a thought for SLAB’s new board members on £212 a day, Chairman on £301 a day

MacAskill tight lippedJustice Secretary Kenny MacAskill. While many Scots face great difficulty & obstruction in attempting to claim legal aid funds to enable their access to justice or legal services, the many unfortunate claimants among us may or may not wish to spare a thought for workload of the latest appointments to the Scottish Legal Aid Board, announced last week by Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill, where four new board members (Alastair Kinroy QC, Sheriff Ray Small, Ray MacFarlane and Bill McQueen CBE) are to receive £212 a day for a time commitment of 3.5 days per month while the reappointed Chairman, Iain A Robertson CBE, makes do with an even more modest £301 a day for a time commitment of 2 days per week.

While most of us have to make do, or more usually can hardly cope with one job, many of those appearing in this round of appointments seem to have three or more well paid positions on various other quangos & Scottish Government institutions as the following Scottish Government release reveals.

SG lawyers salariesScottish Legal Aid Board appointments

The Cabinet Secretary for Justice today announced the appointment of four new members and the reappointment of the Chairman and two members to the Scottish Legal Aid Board.

The new members are Alastair Kinroy QC, Sheriff Ray Small, Ray MacFarlane and Bill McQueen CBE.

Alastair Kinroy QC has been a member of the Scottish Bar since 1987 and a Queen’s Counsel since 2005. Previously he was a court solicitor in Edinburgh. His practice has been mostly in the Court of Session, with occasional Sheriff Court work. In his early years at the Bar he did a volume of Family Law work; in more recent years commercial work has been a significant part of his practice. His practice has always had a large element of personal injury work and professional negligence cases. He holds no other Ministerial public appointments.

Sheriff Ray Small has been a Sheriff at Hamilton, since 2001, having previously served as a Temporary and Part Time Sheriff, for three years. Before appointment to the bench, he qualified as a Solicitor in 1982 and practised in Glasgow, specialising in civil and criminal court work. He joined the Bar in 1992 and practised there until his Shrieval appointment. Sheriff Small also acts as a Director of Family Mediation, South Lanarkshire, and as an Independent Chair of the Scottish Football Association’s Appeals Tribunals. He was involved in the Youth Court pilot scheme at Hamilton and is a contributor to legal textbooks on court procedure. He holds no other Ministerial public appointments. As Sheriff Small remains a Sheriff, he receives no remuneration for this appointment.

Ray Macfarlane practised as a solicitor in Glasgow before moving into senior management roles with Scottish Enterprise and HBOS plc. She is Deputy Chair of the Scottish Arts Council and Scottish Screen, a Trustee of the National Galleries of Scotland and a Non-Executive Director of the Scottish Housing Regulator. Ray receives remuneration of £2,280 p.a. for the latter role. She holds no other Ministerial public appointments.

Bill McQueen CBE is a former Deputy Chief Executive of the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service and has extensive experience of central government and its sponsored bodies, having also worked in the Scottish Office and Scottish Executive in a number of policy areas including Transport, Management and Organisation, and delivery of Corporate Services. Bill is currently a member of the Accounts Commission for Scotland (£6200 p.a.), a Non-Executive Director of Disclosure Scotland (£215 per day) and a Lay Member of the Employment Tribunals (Scotland) (£174 per day). He holds no other Ministerial public appointments.

Reappointments

Iain A Robertson CBE (Chairman) was chief executive of Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) from 1990 to 2000 having previously spent 15 years with BP, latterly as director of acquisitions and divestitures in the USA. In addition to other senior industry and voluntary sector roles, he has served as a member of several boards, including the Scottish Tourist Board, Locate in Scotland Supervisory Board and the Cairngorms Partnership.

Iain is a member of the Accounts Commission (£6216 p.a.), an independent member of the Business Innovation and Skills Legal Services Group Board (£4800 p.a.), an independent member of HMRC Solicitor’s Office Strategic Management Group (£4800 p.a.) and Chairman of the Coal Liabilities Strategy Board at the Department of Energy and Climate Change (£750 per day). He holds no other Ministerial public appointments.

Paul McBride QC joined the Bar in 1988 and became the youngest Queen’s Counsel in the UK in the year 2000. He specialises in criminal defence work and has served as an Advocate Depute. He holds no other Ministerial public appointments.

Graham Watson retired from the Royal Air Force in 2003 as a Group Captain after 31 years’ service. He is a professional engineer with over 30 years of senior management experience in a wide range of appointments. He is currently a member of Fife NHS Board where he is Chair Glenrothes and North East Fife Community Health Partnership for which he receives remuneration of £16,016 p.a.

These appointments and reappointments will be for 4 years and will run from April 1, 2010 to March 31, 2014.

The members posts are part-time and attract a remuneration of £212 per day for a time commitment of 3.5 days per month.

The Chairman’s post is part-time and attracts a remuneration of £301 per day for a time commitment of 2 days per week.

SLAB is an Executive Non-Departmental Public Body established under the Legal Aid (Scotland) Act 1986 to manage legal aid in Scotland. Its primary aims are to deliver efficient, effective and value for money legal assistance services; to broaden access by exploring new ways of providing and supporting quality assured legal advice services; to contribute to the improvement and effective operation of the justice system.

These Ministerial public appointments were made in accordance with the Commissioner for Public Appointments in Scotland’s Code of Practice.

All appointments are made on merit and political activity plays no part in the selection process. However, in accordance with the original Nolan recommendations, there is a requirement for appointees’ political activity within the last 5 years (if there is any to be declared) to be made public.

Paul McBride has declared that he is currently the Advisor to the Conservative Party on Scottish and UK Law and Order and has previously spoken and canvassed on behalf of both the Labour Party and the Conservative Party. None of the other appointees or reappointees have been involved in any political activity.

 

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Legal Aid Board ‘brought into disrepute’ by Legal Services Chief’s criminal charges over rent boy scandal

SLABSLAB brought into disrepute by criminal conduct of its staff. The good work of the Scottish Legal Aid Board in providing access to justice for thousands of poor Scots and their families, has been stunningly brought into disrepute by the disgraceful public conduct of its Legal Services Chief, Douglas Haggarty, who was arrested for a liaison with a ‘rent boy’ in the famous St Enoch’s Glasgow shopping centre.

Law Chief held with rent boy - Sunday Mail 3 May 2009 eSunday Mail exposed legal aid chief’s criminal charges of soliciting a boy prostitute. Douglas Haggarty, who is Chief of Legal Services at the Scottish Legal Aid Board, has sat on various Scottish Government consultation groups which included the most senior members of the legal profession, the Law Society of Scotland, and even senior Police officers. Haggarty participated in the review of the Practices and Procedure of the High Court of Justiciary, chaired by Lord Bonomy, titled “Improving Practice”, and has duties at the legal aid board which include lecturing lawyers on their public conduct.

Paul McBride QCSLAB Board member Paul McBride asked Crown Office to drop charges against Haggarty. It also emerged from the Sunday Mail’s expose that Paul McBride QC, a senior board member of the Scottish Legal Aid Board was representing Haggarty on the criminal charges of soliciting a teenage boy in public, McBride proceeding to ask the Crown Office to drop the charges against his client, on the grounds ‘there was not enough evidence to convict’, and now the Procurator Fiscal in the case has decided against court proceedings and will handle the case by way of a fiscal fine or other means, in order no doubt to avoid too much bad publicity for Haggarty and McBride, both well known members of Scotland’s legal profession.

SLAB board member Paul McBride QC, last year earned over £217,000 in legal aid fees while representing clients in the Scottish courts, and only last week, made a blaze of publicity for himself where he criticised the Labour party for the Damien McBride email smears against the Conservative Party, after which he transferred his allegiance to the Conservatives after his ‘lifelong support of the Labour Party.

However, it transpired the day after McBride’s announcement of a shift to the Conservatives over his own views on ethics, he wasn’t even a subscribing member to Labour , and some now believe he may have been earmarked for a senior legal position in any future Tory administration in Scotland. So, not ok to smear politicians, but rent boys in toilets ? well that’s another matter …

However, criticism of McBride’s involvement in representing Douglas Haggarty in the rent boy scandal came from colleagues in the legal world today, as a legal insider speaking on the news, pointed to a possible conflict of interest in a matter which many now feel brings the Legal Aid Board into disrepute.

He said : “The Legal Aid Board lecture solicitors on their legal aid claims but it looks like there are plenty loose canons at the Board itself.The Legal Aid Board do not seem to want to comment, but clearly Douglas Haggarty’s conduct has brought SLAB’s work into disrepute and he should now be sacked.”

He went on : “I think eyebrows will be raised that Douglas Haggarty was able to secure legal representation from Paul McBride QC, who is also a senior member of the Scottish Legal Aid Board. In the eyes of many that may well constitute a conflict of interest and Mr McBride should have refrained from involvement in the case.”

A client who is currently fighting a legal action with legal aid said “I have had contact with Douglas Haggarty in the early stages of my claim when I asked for documents relating to my solicitor’s submissions to the Board.I did not receive very good replies and had to ask several times for the information I was after.”

She went on : “I am totally disgusted to learn that people who conduct themselves in public in this manner are at the heart of our legal system and I find it a disgrace the matter is not to proceed to court. If it had been anyone else other than a lawyer who did it, I’m sure they would have been sent through the courts system but again we see one law for the lawyers and another for the rest of us.”

For my part, well I am not surprised by Mr Haggarty’s antics. There are many ‘personalities’ in the legal world and some at the very heart of the Scots legal establishment & even the Law Society of Scotland who seem to prefer the haunts of toilets and rent boys despite the fact that some of them have wives & families who know nothing of their sick partner’s secret and perhaps deadly conduct, which has in at least one case known to me, impacted fatally on the health of their family.

Lawyer accused of flashing at boy, 13 -  Daily Record April 13 2006QC was accused in 2006 of flashing to child, but charges were dropped. In a similar case a couple of years ago, a senior Advocate, Mark Strachan QC, was charged with similar offences, involving a 13 year old boy, but the case was dropped .. as seems to be common when it comes to catching members of Scotland’s legal profession engaged in criminal activity. I reported on the Mark Strachan case here, where you can also read the Daily Record’s expose : Disclosing the regulatory history of lawyers in Scotland to help give choice to the consumer. You can also read the BBC version of Mr Strachan’s criminal charge of flashing at a 13 year old boy here : Advocate charged with indecency

Clients surely have a right to know their solicitors criminal records, just as much as their solicitors regulatory records. Many clients of solicitors I’ve spoken to today certainly agree with that, while all expressed a view that if they learned their solicitor had been charged with a criminal offence, they would not use them for legal representation of any kind.

In a statement issued late today, a spokesman for the Legal Aid Board said in response to queries on Mr Haggarty’s choice of SLAB board member Paul McBride QC as his lawyer : “It is a matter for Mr Haggarty who he should engage to represent him. Any involvement by Paul McBride QC in representing Mr Haggarty is unconnected with his role as a Board member. Board members are non-executive, appointed by Ministers and are not employees of the Board.”

A legal source retorted by saying : “It seems the heavy guns were brought out in Mr Haggarty’s favour but I can’t always get a QC of Mr McBride’s stature to represent my clients when they are in need. Strange.”

The legal profession which Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill famously said on camera he would defend his legal colleagues to the last, against their detractors most certainly needs a clean up, not only of its criminal element, but also of its morals and ethics.

The Sunday Mail reports :

Law Chief held with rent boy - Sunday Mail 3 May 2009 eExclusive: Legal aid chief arrested with rent boy in shopping centre toilet

May 3 2009 Derek Alexander

A LEGAL Aid boss has been arrested in a public toilet with a rent boy.

Douglas Haggarty, 57, was arrested in a shopping mall after being found with the teenage prostitute.

He is the head of legal services at the Scottish Legal Aid Board (SLAB) – where his duties include lecturing lawyers on their public conduct.

Haggarty was arrested in British Home Stores in the St Enoch Centre, Glasgow.

Security guards alerted police after the known rent boy was seen following Haggarty into the shop’s toilets. Both men were arrested and Haggarty was charged with soliciting in a public place.

The procurator fiscal started summary proceedings against Haggarty. But his lawyer Paul McBride QC – who sits as a member on the Scottish Legal Aid Board – asked the Crown Office to drop the charges, claiming there was not enough evidence to convict.

The procurator fiscal has decided to scrap court proceedings and deal with the case by a direct measure. These are powers available to prosecutors to deal with cases quickly. They include issuing a fine, compensation order and written warning about future conduct. The powers available to procurators fiscal were extended last year.

The rent boy also had court proceedings against him dropped and was issued with a direct measure.

Haggarty, who lives in the Merchant City area of Glasgow, started work as a solicitor in 1975. He helped Lord Bonomy compile his 2002 report on improving the practices and procedure of the High Court.

Haggarty submitted a paper to a Scottish Parliament finance committee on criminal procedure in 2003 and has been a member of other High Court review teams.

The legal aid chief, who declined to comment, has been off work sick since the incident in January. A slab spokesman said: “The Board is aware of the case and that it has not been prosecuted. It’s not appropriate for us to comment further.”

Haggarty isn’t the first SLAB boss to be arrested and dogged by controversy.

Dr Richard Scott, former head of SLAB, was twice arrested over incidents with his wife. Arrest In January 1997 he was charged with three assaults but only convicted of breach of the peace and disorderly behaviour.

Six months later Scott was arrested again when police were called to his home but the Crown Office decided not to bring criminal charges. Scott stood down as head of SLAB in 1999.

 

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