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Election day, Scotland 2016 – Today is a good day to vote …

Who do you trust to represent your best interests? PEOPLE in power and people with power – always vote. Vested interests – always vote. And, so should you.

Who you vote for is up to you. This is your choice, your voice, and your vote – so vote today.

Regardless of the blurb and spin thrown your way, the fact is, these days Governments are only as good as their opposition.

If there is no strong, substantive & coherent opposition, a Government can say what it likes, lie as much as it likes, do what it likes, to whom it likes.

Who wants such a Government? Well … you know who.

The vested interests of this world, big corporations, banks, money lenders and Lord No-No’s wearing their ermine & pound sign clad garments just love to wallow in the omnipotence brought by unaccountable governments & politicians who back them to the hilt.

A fracking project here … a sale of an airport there … things can all be arranged for the highest bidder – just as long as any dodgy deal can be spun in some grubby Press Release written by … you know who …  and paid for by you.

When deals are made behind the back of transparency by governments who claim to act in your name, you know it is time to say we want to know what you are doing – in our name …

When you hear some politician or power broker claim they must be so innocent because they received no mention in the Panama Papers (while doing their secret deals in Qatar instead) .. you know it is time to disbelieve or distrust much of what else they say.

The true voice of Scotland is you – the Scottish people.

You have the greatest vested interest in Scotland advancing with an accountable government, accountable public services, and yes – an accountable & transparent justice system.

Why not? After all – you pay for it. All of it.

Today, it is your choice, your voice, and your vote. So use it wisely. However you decide to vote, you have the right to decide for yourself.

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Scotland 2015: Someone said there is a General Election …

Look up, and you can see Scotland from anywhere in the UK. SCOTLAND should have a strong voice at Westminster. That much is certain.

We are a berth for the UK’s nuclear submarines. We build the ships of the Royal Navy. We are so popular (and important) bears fly off our coasts and sneaky submarines sneak around our fishing boats.

We contribute to the UK’s economy and the fabric of the country as a whole (regardless of the denial brigade) so much, London could never bear to let us go. It’s true!

And – yes – we house a collection of 700 year old judges hell bent on protecting their highly secretive and dubiously achieved judicial wealth from prying eyes.

It is also true our little, big, country is a possible candidate for vested interests & big business to frack for their own gain. Yes, their gain, not the wider community at large.

Vested interests, corporate boards and Chief Executives do not toast champagne over throwing free money at citizens or vital public services without some fiddle in the background. Fact.

And – sadly – we are an outpost of dodgy financial & legal services who go to extreme efforts to avoid scrutiny, accountability, regulation & transparency. Heather Heather. And some Capital.

In any case, there is a General Election this Thursday, and it is your right as a citizen – to vote.

Will anything change next week? Not really.

The NHS will still be in crisis. Statistics on crime (and everything else) will still be fiddled beyond plausibility. Increasing numbers of people across the UK will be forced to use Food Banks.

Oh .. Shocker. People in power you rely on for help will write back to you saying they cannot help.

Lord Gill – the Lord President & Lord Justice General – almost Napoleonic in title, will still be in Parliament House dancing to “Mysterious Ways” – or perhaps “Insidious Ways” – gaming out his latest military style exercise against judicial transparency on his WOPR WarGames computer.

Oh yes – and the rich get richer while the poor get poorer.

But, once every few years – when you – the electorate – are needed – it is YOUR chance to hold Government and all it’s fantasy and all it’s power – to account.

As you hold Government to account this week with your vote – think on this.

Some might say … a Government is only as good as it’s opposition. Inevitably, a Government is only as good as those who vote for it.

A strong opposition can – or at least should – hold a Government to account.

A strong, independent media often holds, and frequently advances the line on transparency and accountability – which helps hold Government to account.

Thursday 7 May 2015 is your choice, your voice, and your vote. Think. Don’t be bullied by vested interests or false and fantastical promises.

However you decide to vote, you have the right to decide for yourself. But please, do vote.

 
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Posted by on May 5, 2015 in Law, Politics, Scotland

 

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No man is an island … Scottish Independence and all that jazz

No man, no country is an island. WE all like to think otherwise – you know the feeling … invincible youth …that we can all do it on our own, that independence is a great thing, but the truth is, sometimes, actually, more often than not, and when the need is most great, everyone looks to someone else for a helping hand. It is that kind of world, that kind of harsh reality. It is nature, folks, and we have to deal with it.

For those of you who suffer injustice in Scotland – there are many, and increasing in number, the need for assistance and the overwhelming desire to overcome a predicament you and your family have been placed in by others, is a natural and reasonable expectation.

But, as we have so often seen in our laws, in our public bodies, the justice system and the courts, all presented to us as saviours to overcome such problems, these institutions do not actually work, at least not in our favour.

We are constantly told it will change. It never does. Never. Review after review .. all just lies. Years later the same promises of change never materialise.

A baby dies in a hospital, it is covered up – many times over. A family loses a business, are tossed out of their home by a greedy bank, and a lawyer ends up with everything for a pittance, no one gets to find out. A political party donor or hospitality provider is awarded a megabucks public contract after a nod and a wink, and then some regulatory body is brought in to rubber stamp the motion as honest and above board. In reality it has all the sleaze of a drugs deal.

And what of the big name high ranking heads of these institutions given £100’s of millions a year to uphold the law or run the courts.

Well, it turns out they would rather sit down to dinner & sword dances with dictators and lap up a gold watch and an offshore fiddle, than sit down and do what is necessary to help a family out of poverty, or put someone’s life back in order after it has been mangled by the system.

This, is Scotland. It could, be you.

Today, it is your choice, your voice, and your vote. So use it wisely. Think. Don’t be bullied by vested interests. However you decide to vote, you have the right to decide for yourself. And, whatever you decide, good luck to us all.

 

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2012 New Year message from Scotland : Become the hunter and not the hunted. Stand your ground & rise up to those who cause you injustice

raptor visitorHappy New Year 2012 to readers & campaigners fighting injustice in Scotland & around the world. EVER EAGER to stand up for itself and survive is the garden visitor which has been picking off the habitually greedy fat pigeons that eat all the food put out for the smaller birds to survive. Of course, you just know the visiting raptor might well have a few of those small birds if things get tough but the fat greedy pigeons who never miss a chance to take everything stand out – they are much easier to spot, a bit like those in the community who hide behind a cloak of respectability, surviving by taking over other people’s livelihoods, possessions, splitting up families, even taking life itself, and ultimately making death a business of personal plunder, for profit to pay for their own lifestyles. You all know who I mean.

During last year, 2011, I received many contacts from people who were depressed, at their wits end, some at the end of their life and all because of the trust they had placed in politicians, public servants, banks, doctors, self-branded ‘financial experts’, debt advisers, and of course, members of the legal profession who were brought in to resolve legal problems yet ended up taking more from their clients than they put in.

Some people spoke of committing suicide because of what had been done to them, yet no help was on offer and everyone in authority turned a blind eye to their predicament. Some were at the end of their tether over the lack of help they were receiving from people elected to office who are supposed to be ‘public servants’ and a growing number of people felt there was no hope left to them, that life was not worth living after solicitors and the legal profession had ripped through their lives leaving a path of destruction it is simply not possible to recover from.

For those of you in Scotland and around the world whose lives are held hostage to injustice, whether the injustice is at the hands and actions of prejudicial self-serving & self-motivated politicians, an unjust, corrupt justice system and those within it, or at the brutal hands of a profession or vested interests, make 2012 a turning point by doing something about it. Take back your lives and make a start by publishing your story of injustice, naming & shaming those who commit these crimes and injustice against you. Protest if you like, as it is your right to do, tell your fellow man and do whatever you can, all within the law. Do something, don’t do nothing.

Wherever you are, make 2012 your spring by breaking out of the perpetual winter handed to you by those who clothe their naked villainy with old odd ends, stolen forth from you by unjust writ, and seem a saint when most they play the devil.

 
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Posted by on January 1, 2012 in Consumer Protection, justice, Law, Politics

 

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Voting on 5th May ? Keep in mind Scotland’s Justice system remains far too dishonest, far too “Victorian”, for independence from the UK

In case you didn’t notice, there is an election in Scotland tomorrow, May 5 2011. If you are eligible to vote, it is your privilege, right & duty to do so, no matter how cynical or critical you are of our politicians, the justice system, Scotland’s economy or even if you have a beef with the coalition Government at Westminster. However, as you are probably here to read topics of justice, rather than politics, there are some things you may wish to take into account before casting your vote …

The short version of what I am about to say is “If you are here looking for advice on who to vote for, vote for a party other than those leading the polls so at least there’s a chance of the winners being held to account, and reigned in on any daft, crazy policies which will ultimately do Scotland a great deal of harm.” Remember, Annabel isn’t so bad after all, and unlike some this time around, she does make a lot of sense.

Now, the dreaded long version. One thing which has been glaringly obvious over the past four years since 2007, and indeed much longer than that, probably going back to the ‘re-imagined’ Scottish Parliament of 1999, is that our beloved Scottish justice system is simply not up to the mark, not up to any real level of honesty, in fact, perhaps our beloved Scottish justice system is up to far too much dishonesty to merit & justify Scotland’s independence from the rest of the UK. I mean, really, what use to Scots is independence if the justice system is bent ? None, as far as I can see, and as we know, the justice system has more bends in it than a corkscrew hazel tree.

Individuals and entire groups or classes of people have been discriminated or prejudiced against at the hands of the Scottish justice system, some even thrown in jail for crimes they did not commit, others persecuted by the very legal system itself for daring to criticise it, stand up to it, take issue with their own circumstances by demanding a fair hearing, and there are of course, even those who have suffered at the hands of the legal profession itself, who have used the law & courts as a weapon to deny anyone they do not like, access to justice. It happened yesterday, it will happen today, and it will happen tomorrow.

While the arguments & excuses still rage over the now famous Cadder v HMA ruling at the Supreme Court in London in October 2010, you only need to look back to the Cadder case and what happened to understand that the Government of the day in Scotland, in this case, the SNP, and indeed all previous administrations believed it was right for anyone arrested by Police to be questioned without a lawyer present. Good for a quick guilty verdict of course, saves a lot of detective work and of course a lot of money along the way for the likes of the Legal Aid Board.

Amazingly while such a highly dubious arrangement of interrogating suspects has not been practised in the rest of the UK, and indeed quite a few countries around the world for many years (some jurisdictions would call such interrogation without a lawyer “unconstitutional”), no one in the Scottish legal establishment bothered to raise it as a case until the European Court ruled in Salduz v Turkey and made the law as it now stands.

Did a Scottish court react to this change in European Law first, considering there must surely have been a few outstanding incidents where people were denied access to a lawyer while being held by the authorities ? No. After the European ruling, it took a court based in England, the UK’s Supreme Court to rule on the Cadder case, and decide Scots, like everyone else in the rest of the UK and many other jurisdictions, had the right to a lawyer being present while being interrogated by the authorities.

Take it from me, Scotland’s Court of Session would never have done the same. Indeed, this is exactly why the Cadder case ended up in the Supreme Court in London, because the Court of Session thought it was fine (and I dare say would like it still to be fine) to hold someone, whether guilty or not, and get an admission without the right to having a lawyer present. Easy money for the judges, the prosecution team, and someone put away with a protracted press release touting yet another “successful prosecution” and triumph for the authorities. Great, until someone realises the wrong person is behind bars.

If the Supreme Court had not ruled as it did, as Scots, we would still not have the right to a lawyer being present during interrogation, and the courts would be fine with it, but of course Cadder and its outcome goes much further than that, sending a shot across the bows of Scotland’s antique justice system where the right to a fair hearing, the right to legal representation, or even the right to have funding for legal representation all appear to be a right too far those in the legal establishment who sometimes feel it is in the interests of the justice system to deny justice to certain individuals or cases.

If we were independent, you can kiss goodbye to the Supreme Court in London. If not immediately, certainly when it issues another controversial ruling requiring Justice-Secretary-for-Life Kenny MacAskill to change the law. You might also kiss goodbye to certain parts or maybe all of European Commission Human Rights Legislation (ECHR) which any future independent Scottish Government may begin to find ‘inconvenient’ to its management, or as we have seen in the past four years, lack of management of Scotland’s justice system.

For another comparison of recent events in the English justice system compared to our own, look at the death of Ian Tomlinson, who, a jury in London yesterday decided had been “unlawfully killed” by the actions of a Police Officer. Does anyone really think a Sheriff presiding over a Fatal Accident Inquiry in Scotland would have came to such a decision in a similar case had some Policeman did the same north of the border ? Fat Chance, and we all know it. The bereaved family would be fighting for justice for years, and they themselves would probably end up being victimised by the legal system for daring to take issue with it.

Look around the Scottish justice system and you will see a litany of miscarriages of justice, where for instance, the say so of dubious witnesses or even Police Officers themselves have contributed to guilty verdicts and long sentences of ‘the so-obviously guilty’, only to be found later the investigation was compromised, perhaps even evidence was falsified, and those dubious witnesses lied through their teeth. Result : Someone ends up being freed after 12 years in jail for a crime they didn’t commit and spends the rest of their life trying to clear their name while politicians sit back, promise much yet do little, and all the while the court, the judges, the legal system carrys on regardless.

How about the Lockerbie case and the long running controversy over the Lockerbie bomber Abdelbaset Al-Megrahi’s conviction & release. Despite all the calls for independent inquiries, calls for, & half hearted attempts at the release of documents to answer the many inconsistencies in the case, nothing has changed other than the fact Mr Megrahi was released back to Libya on compassionate grounds by Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill, so conveniently avoiding any further progress in Mr Megrahi’s appeal at the Court of Appeal in Edinburgh, where the gritted teeth of the judges (one looked like he had bruxism) was much more obvious to most who saw the spectacle rather than any hope the court would turn its attention to matters at hand and quash a verdict which many around the world question. Last time I checked, this farce happened under an SNP administration.

How about Legal Aid ? If you really need it, do you think you might really get it ? It appears if the Scottish Legal Aid Board don’t like the look of your face, or someone, perhaps a someone of very high standing or position in the legal system puts in a bad word for you, perhaps accompanied by a long poisoned pen letter saying why you shouldn’t get legal aid, you don’t get it. No legal aid for you, therefore no access to a lawyer and no access to justice.

Yet over the past four years, certain lawyers as I previously reported, have been claiming hundreds of thousands of pounds of legal aid for themselves, collectively, millions of pounds, yet many of their clients never really had access to justice, and guess what ? the Scottish Government just let it happen. Yes, all those millions of pounds of legal aid, paid for by taxpayers, ended up lining the pockets of a few solicitors who were never prosecuted for one penny of misuse of public funds, rather than that legal aid going to those who really needed it, or to those lawyers who really do represent their clients.

How about the much heralded Scottish civil courts review by Lord Gill, the big “sea change” for our “Victorian” justice system which was supposed to give access to justice for all ? The Civil Courts Review has said much but achieved little under the SNP. Admittedly though, the same could well have been true no matter which political party was in power. Lord Gill’s “groundbreaking” Civil Courts Review is now just another piece of history in the shattered landscape of Scotland’s justice system, a review which itself is now being reviewed, and all the trappings of easier access to justice which many expected to come from it, are but a pipe dream.

Do you think independence might change all that ? No. The same people who still rave about independence did nothing about clearing up the justice system in the past four years and did nothing about giving justice to those who are denied it. These same people will do nothing to clear up Scotland’s justice system. In fact, some of those raving about independence and taking back the oil wealth for Scotland, have in some cases I am privy to, actively blocked access to justice for many people denied it .. even some of their own constituents. To be sure, the only constant here in Scotland is, “Nothing Changes” when it comes to justice.

As an observation from someone who has seen many cases where the legal system has been used as a weapon against those who take it on, or those who dispute the legal establishment’s line on all things justice, Scotland’s justice system is probably worse off now than it was in 2007, and that’s saying something. All of those people who said the system will change with a new party in power after 2007, where are they now ? Still fighting the same battles, still arguing over the finer points of detail and still knee deep in inquiries which will end up changing nothing.

It is certainly not my job to tell you who to vote for, but you must vote if you want to have a say in Scotland’s political future. By this, I’m not telling you not to vote for the SNP, and I’m not telling you to vote Labour, Scottish Conservative or Liberal Democrat, or Independent, or Green or for any of the other parties out there, but I am asking you TO VOTE, and to ensure that consensus politics, fairness and even justice is delivered in this next Scottish Parliament.

Make the next five years Scotland’s five years, make the next five years your five years to give all Scots a say in our country, access to justice, and the right to be heard against those groups & vested interests who regularly talk over or even interdict our expectations of reforms, jobs, financial security, justice and life for the better. If you want to be part of something positive, vote, and vote to make sure those who you elect are held accountable to you.

 

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Vested interests take priority as Calman Implementation Group ‘contaminated’ by Law Society of Scotland’s ‘reform blocker’ appointment

Michael ClancyMichael Clancy, the Law Society of Scotland’s Director of Law Reform. MICHAEL CLANCY, the Law Society of Scotland’s Director of ‘Law Reform’, famed for frequenting both the Scottish & Westminster Parliaments & liaising with politicians on issues the Law Society of Scotland wants to influence, or block, has been invited to sit on the Calman Implementation Group, which has been formed to look at implementing proposals contained in the Calman Commission review of devolution, which produced its final report (pdf) on the ‘experience’ of Scottish devolution in June 2009.

The Calman Implementation Group, co-chaired by Scottish Secretary Michael Moore and Exchequer Secretary to the UK Treasury, David Gauke, met on Monday, 26 July in Edinburgh, to discuss how the proposals would be taken forward. The BBC News report of that meeting can be viewed here : Calman plans ’empower’ Holyrood . You can read more about what the Calman Commission actually recommended, in terms of its review of Scottish devolution, here : Digesting the Calman report

While Mr Clancy’s membership of the Calman Implementation Group was welcomed by the Law Society of Scotland, many in Scots political life know Mr Clancy as being more of a ‘reform blocker’ than a reform promoter, particularly when it comes to bringing the legal profession itself to heel in legislative changes affecting the way it regulates Scotland’s 10,000 plus solicitors. Several MSPs who, over the years have asked pointed questions on subjects relating to the justice system, and in particular, regulation of the legal profession have found themselves ‘called in’ by Mr Clancy to explain the Law Society’s point of view, which coincidentally led to those same MSPs closing off their inquiries into the Law Society of Scotland & the legal profession’s inability to represent client’s best interests …

Petition PE1033 Law Society closure released by Scottish ParliamentMichael Clancy ordered reforms to the SLCC blocked at Holyrood. Among Mr Clancy’s noted interventions against consumer orientated reforms was his action against attempts to reform the ‘independent’ Scottish Legal Complaints Commission, with a Holyrood petition to allow it to re-investigate cases of historical complaints where the Law Society of Scotland had covered up for ‘crooked lawyers’ theft of client funds, in some cases numbering in the millions of pounds. Mr Clancy on that occasion ordered suggested to Holyrood’s Petitions Committee it should cease its study into any ideas of widening the scope of the SLCC’s remit, which you can read more about in a previous report, here : Truth & reconciliation fails as MacAskill follows Law Society orders to Parliament on attempt to heal public confidence in legal profession

After Mr Clancy and the Scottish Parliament’s Petitions Committee killed off Petition PE1033 in September 2007, the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission voted to refuse investigation of historical complaints.

To ensure any further attempts to present the ideas of Petition PE1033 to the Scottish Parliament were blocked, a legislative amendment to the LPLA Act, the Legal Services Act 2007 (Transitional, Savings and Consequential Provisions) (Scotland) Order 2008 including a section on the SLCC’s investigation of historical complaints, was presented by the Scottish Government to the Justice Committee in September 2008, quietly supported by the SLCC & the Law Society of Scotland and passed by the Scottish Parliament, which ensured no one could ever ask the SLCC again to investigate historical complaints against ‘crooked lawyers’ which the Law Society had deliberately mishandled.

The Law Society of Scotland’s self-congratulatory media release media release on Mr Clancy’s ‘invitation’ to join the Calman Implementation Group, states : “The Law Society of Scotland is delighted that their Director of Law Reform, Michael Clancy, has been invited to sit on the Calman Implementation Group, which will look at implementing proposals contained in the Calman Commission review of devolution.”

James Aitken, member of the Society’s tax law and constitutional law sub committees, deputising for Mr Clancy at today’s meeting said: “The meeting was very positive and I was particularly pleased to see that a large number of the proposals put forward by the Society have already been taken on board and will be implemented. Smaller technical groups will now be created, and we look forward to a number of our members being involved in more detailed discussions on areas that will be devolved.”

“The Society has provided detailed written and oral evidence to the Calman Commission over the last few years, and was pleased to hear commitment from the Government to introducing the proposals in a Scotland Bill this autumn, with full implementation by 2015. The Society was in favour of the Calman review and had substantive comments on a number of areas including the Scotland Act 1998, Schedule 5 changes, especially in insolvency (where this should be reserved) and charity law, tax law provisions and changes to Scottish Parliament procedures.”

The Law Society’s written evidence, submitted in October 2008 can be found HERE, all of which you can be rest assured, benefits the legal profession over the rest of us.

If the Calman Commission is supposed to be so reforming, and good for Scotland, then why invite those to its ranks whose mission it seems, is to destroy reforms for the good of ordinary Scots, and protect the vested interests of big business & the professions …

 

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Law Complaints Chief Jane Irvine secretly lobbied, met Information Commissioner Dunion over FOI investigation into Scottish Legal Complaints Commission

Jane IrvineSLCC Chair Jane Irvine secretly lobbied FOI Commissioner’s office to produce favourable investigation results. DOCUMENTS REVEALING A SECRET WORLD of public bodies directly lobbying the Freedom of Information Commissioner Kevin Dunion and his staff to produce favourable outcomes against FOI requests from the media, amid expectations of transparency & public accountability through the use of FOI legislation, have exposed attempts by Jane Irvine, the Chair of the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission to pressure the Information Commissioner’s office over the results of several critical investigations carried out into FOI appeals against the SLCC’s refusal to disclose information on its now highly questionable role of investigating complaints against Scotland’s legal profession.

Kevin Dunion FOI CommissionerScotland’s Information Commissioner Kevin Dunion’s office was pressured by SLCC. The controversial cases being investigated by the Information Commissioner which provoked such a storm at the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission’s headquarters at the Stamp Office, Edinburgh, eventually leading to demands of direct meetings between the SLCC Chair, Jane Irvine & FOI Chief Kevin Dunion, related to heavily censored Board meetings minutes of the SLCC during 2008, when the law complaints quango was publicly funded to the tune of a whopping £2 million while its Board Members claimed a staggering £130,000 in expenses from the public purse, and also included issues surrounding the SLCC’s Master Policy research, carried out in mid-2009 which linked client suicides to claims against the Law Society’s infamous Master Policy insurance scheme, which is supposed, but fails to compensate victims of ‘crooked lawyers’.

Jane Irvine to FOI Staff 21 December 2009Emails from SLCC Chair Jane Irvine reveals FOI staff were badgered by the law complaints chief to produce favourable outcomes so the SLCC could prevent appeals against non-disclosure. Details contained in a slew of emails between the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission & the FOI Commissioner’s staff show Jane Irvine, the SLCC’s Chair was desperate to ensure Mr Dunion’s staff produced favourable outcomes to enable the law complaints quango to prevent the media appealing to the FOI Commissioner’s office each time the SLCC refused to disclose information being requested. Jane Irvine said in her email : “We have asked you about this case. I will however have to keep raising it with anyone dealing with our appeals. We are keen that the Commissioner appreciates the link between the cases. In short terms, your Decision on this first appeal is vital in either setting fundamental precedents for us, pointing to a need to appeal or affecting the way we operate and so pushing up our budget costs which we need to be setting now.”

Ms Irvine’s email concluded, leaving little doubt she wanted Mr Dunion’s staff to produce a favourable investigation result, darkly suggesting to Mr Dunion’s staff if the investigation fell in favour of the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission, all further freedom of information appeals to the SLCC by the media or members of the public could be dealt with or thrown out by the SLCC itself instead of being investigated by the Information Commissioner’s office. Jane Irvine stated : “Put very simply if we had the answer on your case we might be able to halt the flow of appeals to you !”

FOI staff to Jane Irvine 06 January 2010The FOI Commissioner’s staff reminded the SLCC Chair in their reply each appeal to Mr Dunion is considered on a case by case basis. Responses from Mr Dunion’s staff to Jane Irvine’s desperate bid to interfere in their investigation appear to show Ms Irvine being reminded on how cases are investigated. The reply from Mr Dunion’s office states : “I am required to consider each redaction in turn and consider each exemption applied to this information. this has been a time consuming process … However, I must also advise you, noting your comments regarding the importance of this case, that each application considered by the Commissioner is treated on a case-by-case basis and therefore the conclusions reached in this case may not be the same for similar information in a different set of circumstances.”

Jane Irvine to FOI Staff 07 January 2010Further emails reveal the SLCC Chair put extra pressure on investigating FOI staff to produce favourable outcomes, citing high costs to the SLCC of dealing with information requests. In a blistering response to the email from the Information Commissioner’s staff, Jane Irvine, the SLCC Chair rebuked Mr Dunion’s staff for failing to produce a desired outcome for the SLCC, as information requests had allegedly incurred considerable costs to the law complaints quango. Ms Irvine stated in her email : “I’m very aware of the necessity to look at each redaction individually & of the time it takes! I’m also aware that each case and issue is to be considered individually. Equally I am very that we Know what tramlines we’re working within. ****** has caused us to incur considerable costs as have his colleagues this year and our overall FOI case load shows no signs of reducing. Under current law we simply have no option other than to bear the very high costs.”

A further email from Jane Irvine to the Information Commissioner’s staff also alleged the SLCC had “involved legal advisors” in compiling FOI disclosures & responses to the Information Commissioner’s office.

However things were to take a more direct turn as papers now reveal Jane Irvine insisted on a meeting with the Information Commissioner over his office’s investigations of the SLCC’s FOI disclosures.

Jane Irvine to Kevin Dunion 21 May 2010SLCC Chair Jane Irvine, not content with badgering the Information Commissioner’s staff, lobbied the FOI Commissioner himself in a meeting ‘to discuss’ his office’s investigations of the SLCC. A letter only now released from Mr Dunion’s office portrays a desperate situation at the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission in March 2010, provoking the SLCC Chair, Jane Irvine, accompanied by the SLCC’s Acting Chief Executive Rosemary Agnew to meet the Information Commissioner Mr Dunion to lobby for the SLCC’s position with regard to the investigations being carried out by Mr Dunion’s staff. The letter read : “You may recall when we met on 19 March 2010; we discussed the three appeals currently with your office. I think I emphasised that the SLCC was keen to learn of your conclusions. We have chased since and were last told they would be with us this week. I am disappointed they have not arrived and this is because as we explained to you when we met, the outcome of the appeals could significantly affect how we deal with future FOI requests and might also have a knock-on effect to our business. I should be grateful if you could let me know when I can expect to receive your decisions.”

A legal insider studying the papers released from the Information Commissioner’s office was of the opinion the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission had attempted to pressure the Information Commissioner and his staff for outcomes of their investigations which would be favourable to the SLCC.

He said : “The wording of the letters from Jane Irvine to the Information Commissioner and his staff should leave no one in any doubt the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission are determined to put a stop to Freedom of Information requests which appear to have revealed significant shortcomings at the SLCC.”

He continued : “Anyone reading the letters from Ms Irvine to the Information Commissioner and his staff could easily conclude there was an atmosphere of undue pressure put on Mr Dunion and his team by Ms Irvine, to come to conclusions which favour the SLCC while disadvantaging those making Freedom of Information requests or appeals to the SLCC.”

SLCCSLCC now want to handle investigations into FOI appeals against themselves ? A law reform campaigner who has made Freedom of Information requests to the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission said the letters between Jane Irvine & Mr Dunion’s staff amounted to a clear attempt to ensure the investigation of the appeal went the SLCC’s way. He said : “From the sounds of Jane Irvine’s emails & letters it looks like she wants to do the investigating of the FOI appeal and reach the conclusion herself instead of letting Mr Dunion and his staff do their job. This is not how Freedom of Information is supposed to work, is it ?”

A Scottish Government insider commented on the situation, saying : “We all know the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission have been caught out several times with information obtained under FOI legislation. However, if this contact with the Information Commissioner’s office is the SLCC’s attempt to cover up their own failures which have come to light through the use of FOI, it is an entirely inappropriate way to go about it.”

He continued : “If the SLCC want to avoid an unduly high workload on FOI requests & appeals, I would suggest they become more open and publish more of what they do rather than attempting to blame Freedom of Information for their own failures and poor reputation.”

7&8th April 08 SLCC Meeting Blanked outBlacked out FOIs are preferred by the SLCC. The Scottish Legal Complaints Commission have been ‘caught out’ several times with information obtained under Freedom of Information legislation, among those instances, several of which I have reported earlier, such as : MacAskill’s SLCC lied over secret meetings with Law Society & Marsh as quango announces £15k ‘study’ into master policy & guarantee fund, also here : Officials pull FOI disclosures as Guarantee Fund “chancer” emails show Law Society anti-client bias has migrated to Legal Complaints Commission, here : Fresh appointments sleaze at Scottish Legal Complaints Commission as FOIs reveal protests against independent oversight of board member recruitment & here : Censorship & ‘frequent flyers’ at Scottish Legal Complaints Commission reveal attempt to write off consumers evidence in Master Policy report. More can be found HERE

The Scottish Legal Complaints Commission and its Chair, Jane Irvine, refused to give any comment or explanation for their attempt to lobby the Information Commissioner on the investigations involving the SLCC. However, a legal insider close to the law complaints quango claimed late last night the SLCC had now embarked on “a policy to delay, prevaricate and refuse further Freedom of Information requests it considered may be damaging to its operations”.

This latest claim seems to support a recent slew of decisions by the SLCC to intimidate journalists making requests for information as to whether they are requesting it on their own behalf or for someone else.

Curiously, the SLCC is also now operating a policy of terming many FOI requests as “vexatious” even if the subject matter requested has only come to light through the Information Commissioner’s own investigations. However, this latest attempt by the SLCC to stall the flow of information into the public arena will doubtless only result in more appeals to the Information Commissioner’s office, something the SLCC Chair, Jane Irvine, was keen to prevent as she expressed in her emails to Mr Dunion’s office.

Given we are now at the stage where the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission feels it must manipulate Freedom of Information legislation to protect its secrets, it must now lose any lingering trust of consumers forced to approach it over complaints against the legal profession.

It is now time to call time on the grave mistake the SLCC has turned out to be, and give Scots consumers the level of protection which only a fully independent regulator of legal services can provide.

 

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