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Scots Law in the dock once more as Law Society AGM fails to deliver on public access to justice

This Friday at the Sheraton Hotel in Edinburgh, the Law Society of Scotland will hold its annual conference .. and as one can expect, there will be little on offer for those inside & outside the legal profession who would rather reform Scots justice than leave it in the dark ages.

Indeed, the focus of the Law Society’s ‘agenda for self preservation’ seems to be that of maintaining a hands on control of not only Scotland’s beleaguered legal profession but also on the justice system itself, where elements of the Law Society do indeed seem to be bent on stifling reforming legislation and hindering any prospect of totally independent regulation of an opened legal services market.

Carefully selected speakers will be appearing before the lawyers gathering .. sadly most of them ‘yes men’ to the Law Society’s aims for the future, which does not seem to include much on the interests of the client or public at large.

As I have recently reported, and many have observed themselves, the Law Society seems to be playing a game where they are claiming to support opening the legal services market while qualifying their support with conditions of being the sole regulator of any opened legal services market .. thus continuing the decades old problem of lawyer regulating lawyer, which as we know has failed the public in every way possible.

Notably, one of the chosen speakers is the Justice Secretary himself, claiming that people or businesses will bring their legal business to Scotland. However, with Mr MacAskill’s current attitude towards cleaning up the image of the legal profession, and the sleaze scandal of the appointments to the supposedly independent Scottish Legal Complaints Commission … it would of course be an insane choice for anyone to choose to do their legal business in Scotland under the unsafe & insecure business terms offered by members of the Law Society of Scotland.

Kenny MacAskill – time to address the public interest instead of lawyers interests ?

Anew page needs to be turned, and the legal profession has to wake up to the fact that the Law Society itself is not fit to lead it, based on it’s past performance as the profession’s governing body and ‘defender’ of the client’s interests.

If that new page for everyone is to be turned, regulation of the legal profession must in it’s entirety be taken away from lawyers, and the many regulatory sins of the past addressed and cleaned up under the umbrella of truth & reconciliation. Its not such a hard step to take, and it would benefit everyone, from the public to the profession and even the justice system itself.

Without further ado, read on for the Scotsman’s version of events for this coming Friday. If you feel like going along .. it might be fun ? and don’t forget tomorrow’s Law Society AGM at the Hub, Castlehill, on the Royal Mile at 10.30am for the usual round of lawyers congratulating themselves on ‘injustice well done’ …

What does the future hold for Scottish law?

Ahead of the Law Society’s annual conference, we asked 20 movers and shakers what lies ahead in the next five years

IT IS a time of fundamental change for the legal profession in Scotland. For so long it has been an immovable pillar of tradition in Scottish society, but recent debate has called into question the very way in which firms have operated for many years.

The state of flux for solicitors is not helped by uncertainty over the devolution settlement and simmering discontent over the level of legal aid. Public access to justice and alternative business structures for solicitors’ firms are likely to be hot topics when the Law Society convenes its annual conference at the Sheraton Grand Hotel this Friday.

Led by a keynote speech from acclaimed legal author and journalist Richard Susskind, the conference will consider the future of the profession both in Scotland and abroad.

Ahead of the conference, The Scotsman spoke to a wide range of people within the profession. We asked them to give us their thoughts on where Scottish law would be in five years. In this, the first part of a two-part special, we hear from Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill, as well as from those practising a wide range of legal disciplines across the country.

Some address the alternative business structures proposals, some address technology, others prefer to look at the profession as a whole. All of them provide reasoned and thought-provoking arguments. The debate continues next week.

In addition, Richard Susskind himself speaks to our reporter Jennifer Veitch ahead of his keynote address on Friday.

KENNY MacASKILL, CABINET SECRETARY FOR JUSTICE

AS JUSTICE Secretary and a former lawyer, I am committed to working with the legal profession in the spirit of co-operation and partnership. That is why I made it clear I wanted the profession to lead reform rather than presenting them with a blueprint for change. Both the Law Society and the Faculty of Advocates have consulted their members and produced proposals. I will be considering them and will outline the way forward for the profession within the next few months.

This is an exciting time. There will be great benefits for those who take advantage of the opportunity to grow their businesses. But it is also a time of challenges and I recognise that for some, their businesses will be under pressure. We will do what we can to support the availability of high-quality, competitive legal services for all who need it.

The legal profession in Scotland has served us well for centuries and will continue to do so. My vision is for Scotland to have a strong, independent legal profession that is appropriately regulated to ensure the public is protected and quality is maintained. Scottish firms will compete internationally and businesses will choose Scotland as their destination of choice.

NEIL STEVENSON, HEAD OF STRATEGIC CHANGE, LAW SOCIETY OF SCOTLAND

WE PROBABLY all agree that technology will change the way we deliver services in the future, but I would contend that an era is starting where technology becomes a defining paradigm of our society.

We are entering an on-demand market where only the highly commoditised or the highly personalised will survive, and that applies to the Law Society and legal services as well.

Everything from legal services to gaining a degree is seen as a ‘purchase’ that must meet their requirements and not some standardised model. Flexibility and choice have never been more in demand, and that is a trend that will continue to grow.

Two examples? I see a strong solicitor brand remaining, but one where people work in specialisms with qualifications backed by a sectorised practicing certificate. From the Society, expect to see more podcasts and webcasts providing information and opportunities for CPD, and a more personalised service.

ALAN CAMPBELL, MANAGING PARTNER, DUNDAS & WILSON

IN 2013 lawyers will work quite differently. Even today, information that was previously only available from lawyers is freely available from the web. This is accelerating as search-engine technologies advance. Workflow and automation software will do to the services sector what the assembly line did to manufacturing. We can now do our banking and buy flights, insurance and even vegetables on line. Customers will come to expect the same from legal services.

As a consequence, brand awareness will be more important for professional services organisations. Businesses will promote brands more and individuals less. That said, even the cleverest software only works where there is a process capable of being articulated and replicated. This fits well with services that can be productised but less well for true advice in the sense of exercising judgement. People want advice from people they trust.

Today’s professionals who focus upon advising people, will be tomorrow’s professionals who succeed.

RICHARD KEEN, DEAN OF THE FACULTY OF ADVOCATES.

WITHOUT a willingness to embrace change, the Faculty of Advocates would not have flourished for nearly 500 years. Advocates are acutely aware, however, that a distinguished past provides no guarantee for the future and that the legal profession and the Bar are under intense scrutiny.

An independent referral Bar, with advocates each operating as an independent business provides high-quality legal advice throughout Scotland whether to the clients of a small law firm in Wick or those who consult a large commercial practice in Edinburgh.

The delivery of legal services should be made as simple as possible. An extension of direct access to advocates is inevitable. I have also indicated an intention to review the current prohibition on advocates appearing along with solicitor advocates.

As long as the Faculty is willing to embrace change, I am confident that it will continue to make a major contribution to Scottish life and ensure access to justice for the people of Scotland.

CHRISTINE MCLINTOCK, CONVENER OF THE LAW SOCIETY’S EDUCATION AND TRAINING COMMITTEE.

WHAT might the legal education and training regime look like in five years time?

Our current thinking is that each entrant to the profession should have attained a degree-level, or equivalent, qualification. This need not, however, be exclusively in the field of Scots law, provided that certain core legal knowledge and skills have been acquired. This could lead to more innovation in the provision of legal education, which in turn could offer more choice to students. It would be easier, for example, for a student to combine the study of law with a foreign language or with economics or business management.

We support the retention of a postgraduate course in legal practice and a period of work-based learning but we want to see more integration throughout all stages of the education process. We also want to see, at all stages, a focus on the client’s perspective.

PAUL MOTION, PARTNER IN IP/IT LITIGATION, BTO.

WE ARE still too reliant on paper but reducing its use isn’t the only issue. Better use of IT could be made for litigation support and the way solicitors deal with each other. The Scottish Court Technology Forum agreed in 2007 that PDF files were best for paper-free litigation. Some judges are OK with this. Others worry about “best evidence” where the original has been destroyed.

Europe is pushing for a chipped identity card for all EU lawyers. Lawyers from one jurisdiction could, in theory, log on to courts in another country and file documents remotely. Then there is the PenalNet project, a web platform for secure communication between EU criminal lawyers. Any criminal lawyer on PenalNet will have a directory of criminal lawyers throughout the EU and can establish encrypted communication with them.

The social networking mindset will spill over into the law. We will see the emergence of a legal Wikipedia to which lawyers and clients will contribute. Also the BAILII website will expand as it so rightly ought to: free UK law reports for all!

PROFESSOR STEWART BRYMER, PROPERTY LAW SPECIALIST, THORNTONS, DUNDEE

THE Facebook generation will expect to do business differently and our firms will have to adapt. So what will the practice of conveyancing be like in five years? Put another way, if we started today with a clean slate, would we do things as we do them now? I envisage that transactions will be able to be carried out in a paper-free environment and contracts will be concluded electronically. The transfer of title will also be effected using an intelligent case-management system linked to a fully automated e-registration system. In essence, a full e-conveyancing package will be available accessing a national database of all relevant information about the property being purchased. Pie in the sky? I do not think so. Some of the technology is available now and the rest is under development. The question is, who will provide the service? Does this spell the end for those who practise conveyancing? Not necessarily so. We must evolve with these developments, embrace change and be prepared to do things differently.

PHILIP RODNEY, CHAIRMAN, BURNESS

IT’S an interesting time for the legal profession in Scotland, particularly as, looking forward five years, it may be that the political backdrop will mean there are more devolved issues that we have to advise on. The legal profession has to achieve a balance in Scotland so that, as a jurisdiction, it is no less attractive a place to practice than England while ensuring that the high standards and integrity that characterise the profession here are not lost.

The term “solicitor” is a kite mark of excellence and our starting point must be to maintain that and make sure the quality for which it stands is not diluted.

While I have no problem per-se with a non-lawyer owning equity in law firms, we must avoid conflicts of interest. There could be some plusses in widening the equity. One could see the benefits of share-incentive schemes benefiting non-lawyers. However, if, for example, a financial institution were to own part of a law firm, could it act independently where that institution has an interest in the provision of its services to the client?

‘Europe is pushing a chipped identity card for lawyers…’

CATH KARLIN, HEAD OF FAMILY LAW, HBJ GATELEY WAREING

THE future of family law in Scotland is bright. There is at last recognition for same-sex couples, although not yet in relation to adoption. However, this looks likely to be rectified by the turn of the year.

Both clients and lawyers are also much more aware of the psychological effects of divorce/separation. Family lawyers have changed their approach, and many are members of the Comprehensive Accredited Lawyer Mediators and the Scottish Collaborative Family Law Group, promoting a sensitive approach to dispute resolution. Lawyers who belong to these organisations have had to rethink the way they approach cases. They understand that to resolve disputes successfully is to aim for an enduring peace, as opposed to the imposed “quick fix” that court tends to offer.

The area of family law is arguably one of the most important, as the fallout has such a massive social impact. Five years from now, alternative dispute resolutions, such as mediation or collaborative law, will be the norm.

ALISTAIR MORRIS, CHIEF EXECUTIVE, PAGAN OSBORNE

FIRST and foremost, I believe that the legal market will actually be a very different place in three years’ time.

In my view, it is better to plan for the changes required by 2011, and to see them as a significant stepping stone to where you want your law firm to be in the longer term.

Freeing up the structure of Scottish legal firms will allow far greater flexibility, particularly in terms of succession planning and providing many more opportunities and avenues for solicitors to take their businesses forward.

These opportunities have quite simply not been open to the profession before.

On the one hand, this could lead to many more mergers and acquisitions of legal firms.

However, on the other, the braver and more pioneering organisations in Scotland, this could mean anything from joint ventures to even franchising their brand and business operation.

and if you want a little antidote to that bout of spin from the Law Society, here’s a story from the Sunday Mail, showing that sometimes, the less lawyers there are .. the faster things run !

Lawyers’ protest backfires as court runs quicker without them

May 18 2008 Exclusive by Campbell Thomas

A WORK-TO-RULE protest by lawyers flopped when their court ran quicker without them.

Briefs refused to take custody cases at Kilmarnock Sheriff Court in a bid to cause chaos on one of the busiest days of the year. They are fighting to keep their £60-an-hour fees paid by the public in Legal Aid cases.

But two solicitors obliged to work whisked through more than 40 cases in two hours less than normal. One lawyer who defied the protest during the local bank holiday weekend accused his colleagues of greed.

Neil McPherson said: “When I look at my colleagues and their top-of-the-range cars, the houses they live in, the holidays and meals they talk about and all the rest of it, then they refuse to do their professional duty, the only common denominator is greed.

“We have been given a position in society and I feel very privileged to be a lawyer. It’s an appointment that is well reimbursed financially. But I also have a duty to my clients to do my best for them. “When workers go on strike they give up their pay on a point of principle but all these lawyers did was disrupt the court system and make sure they didn’t lose a penny. It’s abominable.

“The biggest irony is that the court ran quicker and more smoothly without them. The 40 plus custodies were processed by 4.15pm with only two duty solicitors. “With that number of custodies the court would normally still be running after 6pm.”

Christine Cockburn, sheriff clerk at Kilmarnock, added: “There was no disruption and we were able to process the cases very quickly.”

The Law Society of Scotland had advised its members not to take action. But its spokesman Oliver Adair admitted they were not employed by the Crown and therefore free to do whatever they saw fit.

He said: “We appreciate there are legitimate concerns about the package. “However the progress we have made is quite extensive and we think there is more prospect of resolution by remaining inclusive rather than seeking confrontation.

“There have been a number of concessions and we are encouraging non-confrontation because the Scottish Government is still listening. “We are pleased that one of our members has followed Law Society of Scotland advice in this regard.”

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Lack of protection for ‘too trusting’ elderly & incapacitated against those who take the most must be corrected in law

Aside from the seemingly endless ranks of crooked professionals who take advantage of the elderly, ill and incapacitated when there is a hint of controlling their money, those who can be or appear to be closest to a person, can pose the most risk to that individual they are protesting to care for – as many stories in the national press have revealed over the years.

Endless examples exist of the likes of lawyers, carers, doctors, accountants, etc, who seemingly take it upon themselves in what would appear a noble gesture, to look after someone not only doing so as the professional they are, but also as a friend.

My own mum, sadly, was a victim of such a scam, where a relative, and the executor of my late father’s estate, who both hated me intensely, decided to claim everything for themselves, and followed the well trodden routes those people who engage in these scams do.

I wrote about what happened to my own mum here : A picture is worth a thousand words – Images of fraud reveal corruption & deceit by lawyers & accountants in the Scottish Borders

The documents which accompany the above article are a fairly straightforward presentation of how people go about taking their victims money, little by little, then the lot, from the poor informed person they protest to be ‘looking after’ or seeing to their interests … all the while only doing it for the money of course, spreading no end of poison, hurt and lies against people who may pose a threat to their little scheme to take the money, and sparing no effort to split families, relatives, friends, even communities, to cover their tracks at every turn until of course, they are found out and exposed.

Firstly, it begins as a few suggestions, perhaps attempts to disgrace close members of the victims family so they are kept out of the picture, making sure no one gets to find out what is going on, then the work of the con artist begins, of taking control over a victims money, their entire estate, taking the ‘power of attorney’ (which effectively is giving your life away when you agree to it), and the poor victim being coerced into handing over enormous ‘gifts’ such as property, huge sums of cash, bank transfers, and ‘loans’ (never to be repaid of course), and investments which obviously no one would hand over unless they had been bullied or coerced into doing so.

Heres a fairly typical example reported in the media of someone preying on an informed victim : Iain Catto, a former solicitor and senior Scottish Conservative, still with many connections within the Tory party, who robbed his disabled client, whom Catto called a ‘friend’.

Iain Catto, offered to look after the finances of Francis Fleming, 59, after he became partially paralysed following a savage assault.

Catto, who was sacked from his job as a solicitor for gross misconduct, was found by the court which sentenced him to jail, to be regularly taking money from Mr Fleming.

Jail term for former councillor

A former Conservative councillor who stole £70,000 from a disabled client who depended upon him as a close friend has been jailed for 27 months.

Disgraced Iain Catto, 41, offered to look after the finances of Francis Fleming, 59, after he became partially paralysed following a savage assault.

Catto, who was sacked from his job as a solicitor for gross misconduct, was regularly taking money from Mr Fleming.

Catto pleaded guilty at Edinburgh Sheriff Court to the theft.

You callously took funds from Mr Fleming to support yourself when you knew that he depended on that money and you
Sheriff Kathrine Mackie

He was stealing sums of £11,000 and £9,000 at a time between December 2002 and 2004 from the criminal injuries pay-out his client had received.

He even sold some of his victim’s shares to get more cash.

Sheriff Kathrine Mackie told him: “You callously took funds from Mr Fleming to support yourself when you knew that he depended on that money and you. It was a gross breach of trust.”

Mr Fleming’s son Frank MacLennan, 42, hit out at the sentence outside the court.

He said: “That is not long enough for what he did to my father. He should have been given at least three or four years.”

Bank statements

Edinburgh Sheriff Court had heard that Catto, a member of Lothian Regional Council from 1990 to 1994, frequently asked Mr Fleming to sign blank cheques pretending to look after his finances and had bank statements sent to his home address.

Mr Fleming, who was left partially paralysed and impaired following an attempt on his life in 1968, trusted the solicitor so completely he even gave him a key to his Craigentinny Road home in Edinburgh.

Meanwhile, Catto was buying himself airline and train tickets for the UK and abroad, hotel rooms, restaurant meals, computer software, £300 worth of goods from Oddbins and expensive haircuts.

‘Bled father dry’

Catto carried on with the scam until he was found out by Mr MacLennan, who moved from Inverness to Edinburgh to look after his father in July, 2004.

Mr MacLennan said outside of court: “He bled my father dry. We had been planning to move to Spain but now that idea is gone. He lied to my dad and me from the start.

“Although he has repaid the money he cashed in shares that were earning my dad an income. I discovered the stealing when I saw my dad writing blank cheques and looked into it.

“I feel very angry and my dad is devastated and hurt. He considered him to be a very close friend and depended upon him.”

I wrote about the Iain Catto story here : Don’t trust your lawyer or accountant when they say they have your best interests at heart …

Mr Catto of course, always protested he had the best interests of his poor client & ‘friend’, Francis Fleming, at heart – this being a common protestation of those who loot and plunder the vulnerable.

Another not too distant example of this kind of ‘feasting off the elderly, infirmed & vulnerable, came with a Daily Record exposure of a Priest, who took control over a frail widow’s affairs.

Father Azad apparently flew back to his native Pakistan, reported the Daily Record in the following article, when the Police were called in to investigate the affair …

FLYAWAY PRIEST AND WIDOW’S £1 MILLION

Jan 24 2007 Exclusive by Karen Bale

Catherine, 85, lets him control her fortune

A FRAIL widow with dementia signed over control of her £1million fortune to her priest.

Catherine MacNeil, 85, gave a £120,000 house to Father Mustaq Azad, and he took control of the affairs of her disabled son.

Fr Azad flew to his native Pakistan after police were called in to investigate the affair. His superiors in the Catholic Church had told him repeatedly to give up his involvement in Catherine’s finances.

Catherine’s angry niece, Morag O’Halloran, 45, of Irvine, Ayrshire, said last night: “This has been an absolute disgrace. A priest is in a position of trust.

“Anybody knows an 85-year-old with dementia is not in the frame of mind to make huge decisions, like handing over her home and rights to a man she hardly knows.

“My aunt signed her life over to him. And until the authorities got involved, he had control of her finances, around £1million.”

Catherine, of Campbeltown, Argyll, was a regular worshipper at Fr Azad’s church, St Kieran’s, in the town.

She spent much of her spare time there, helping at bake sales and organising events.

Catherine met Fr Azad three years ago, when he took over the parish after arriving in Scotland as a missionary from Pakistan.

The pair became friends and he began to visit her frequently at home.

Catherine had a massive stroke in February 2004 and dementia set in soon after.

Morag said: “It was tragic. She has never been the same.

“She had always been fiercely independent. She had been a district nurse and she dedicated her life to looking after her son.”

Social services began helping to look after Catherine and her son Ian, 49, who has a rare genetic disorder which causes learning difficulties.

Then, in March 2005, Catherine gave Fr Azad power of attorney to handle her financial affairs. Seven months later, the priest took on the same responsibility for Ian.

Fr Azad did not tell Morag about his role in her aunt and cousin’s lives.

Catherine gifted the priest her second home, a £120,000 cottage on the Hebridean island of Barra. And six weeks later, according to Morag, he put the house up for sale.

Morag said: “It has remained on the market for more than a year because the people of Barra are aware of the situation. Nobody wants to hand over cash for the house.”

Catherine is now back in hospital after suffering a second stroke. And Morag claimed that Ian, who needs constant care, was left to “fend for himself” as his mum’s condition worsened.

She said: “We discovered he’d been left without his medication for 10 days and had been cooking himself fish fingers every night in the deep fat fryer.

“He was terribly frightened and in an awful state. He phoned and told me his house was going to be taken away and that he would be homeless.

“Then we found a letter from the council saying Ian was on a list for housing.

“Catherine has enough savings for her and Ian to live comfortably for the rest of their lives. There’s no mortgage on the house in Campbeltown and no reason for Ian to be given council housing.

“We’ve now taken Ian to live with us. We will fight tooth and nail to protect him and his interests.”

In October 2006, social workers told Catherine’s family she needed to be moved to a nursing home.

Morag wanted to place her in a home in Saltcoats, a few miles from Irvine, so she and Ian could visit her.

But as she tried to make the arrangements, she found out that Fr Azad had power of attorney.

Morag said: “We were absolutely shocked. Fr Azad never mentioned it. He had kept us in the dark. We couldn’t believe my aunt would have given him control of her life. She hardly really knew him.

“We spoke to Ian, who said he had found cheque books that belonged to his mum with Fr Azad’s name on.

“He had been suspicious and hidden them, although he was too frightened to say anything.”

Fr Azad refused Morag’s request to move Catherine to Saltcoats.

He also failed to hand over the old lady’s financial records and legal documents to social services. In a bid to force the priest to co-operate, social workers called in police.

A police investigation began. And at a meeting on December 29, Fr Azad offered to resign his power of attorney over Catherine’s affairs.

The Bishop of Argyll, Ian Murray, also intervened, demanding that Fr Azad hand over responsibility to Catherine’s family.

Fr Azad was traced in Pakistan, where he is on leave, on Monday of this week. He agreed to hand over his power of attorney for Catherine, and Mora g immediately began moves to have the old lady placed in Saltcoats.

Morag said: “It is unbelievable that social services were forced to call the police to make a priest help an old woman.

“It is beyond belief. Who knows what he was thinking? She is a very wealthy woman and he knows it.”

She added: “Catherine will be given 24-hour care and is in safe hands. In the hospital she has fallen so many times and doesn’t have the care she needs. They don’t have the staff and they need the bed back.

“We are delighted Catherine will now be in a home where she can see Ian every day. She was pining for him.”

Catherine’s family now plan to force the priest to hand over his power of attorney for Ian.

Morag said: “Ian has a lawyer to fight his case for him.”

A spokesman for the Catholic Church said last night: “We do not condone Fr Azad’s actions. He was told repeatedly that he should give up and hand over the power of attorney.”

A church source added: “Fr Azad was advised from the start not to accept the power of attorney or ownership of the house.

“He was told repeatedly to hand the post back. The Bishop last told him at the beginning of January and expected it to be done immediately.

“It’s a very remote parish and nobody was aware of everything that was going on.”

Robert Hynd, a lawyer acting for Catherine’s relatives, said: “We have finally received documents from Fr Azad and he has agreed to hand over the power of attorney to Catherine’s family and allow her to be moved to a nursing home.”

James McEwan, of the law firm representing Fr Azad, said: “Mrs MacNeil gave the house in Barra to him as a gift. I know she took financial advice.

“She asked Fr Azad to take on power of attorney in case he required assistance to speak on her behalf. He has now handed back power of attorney.”

Police said: “Inquiries were carried out but this is not a criminal matter.” Argyll and Bute Council refused to comment.

‘This has been an absolute disgrace. A priest is in a position of trust. My aunt signed her life over

No word yet on further developments, but the same pattern of control, and huge unexplainable gifts being given by the poor victim to those who seek to control all their money for themselves, exists in all of these cases.

Its not just lawyers, accountants and priests who can do this … as an ex policeman in England proves here : Detective ‘helped himself to widow’s assets’ and who was recently reported by BBC News as being jailed on a related matter here : Detective jailed over card fraud

The same common threads again … best intentions of course, but all the while, its all about the money and nothing else ….. money, and believe me they are not too fussy about how they take their money off their victim .. and when the money dries up, the poor penniless victim and their family are cast aside, perhaps to line up a new target …

So, it seems there is little protection for the elderly, infirmed & vulnerable when it comes to long lost relatives or professionals turning up on the scene when there is a hint of getting some money … surely its time to correct that, and ensure there is a power to detect and intervene in such a situation long before the con artist gets most of the poor victims money, and ultimately gets away with it too while the victim is left penniless, and the family split through the poison of those seeking to take all the money for themselves.

Here, the final example. reported last weekend in the Sunday Mail, of a nurse who certainly got her monies worth from the person she was looking after … in mysterious ways it seems … This must surely stop, and new ways must be found to prevent what is turning into a common type of sting these days …

Nurse Plunders £300K From Dying Patient

Mar 16 2008 By Marion Scott

Exposed: Nurse Who Plundered £300,000 From Doc On Death Bed

A NURSE systematically plundered £300,000 from the life savings of the dying doctor she was supposed to be caring for.

Isobel White was hired from a private agency to look after reclusive GP William Derek Wilson, who was suffering from a chronic brainwasting disease.

Bachelor Dr Wilson, 76, amassed a fortune with his frugal lifestyle.

He wore clothes he’d had for decades, still had his parents’ furniture and spent just £14-a-week on shopping, surviving on a diet of ready-made shepherd’s pie.

White, who earned £36,000 a year as a live-in nurse, was employed by Positive Nursing Agency to provide 24-hour care for the confused OAP.

She quickly transformed his lifestyle …and her own.

She booked a £8000 Mediterranean cruise for them both.

She also bought a house with a £100,000 loan from Dr Wilson then persuaded him to change his will and sign over his £250,000 flat to her.

Court papers even accuse her of forging the doctor’s signature on a £28,000 cheque payable to her.

White was quizzed by the police days after the doctor died of progressive supranuclear palsy – the same condition that killed actor Dudley Moore.

A theft prosecution was dropped but White was sued after lawyers for Dr Wilson’s estate said she used “undue influence” to “induce” him to give her cheques “at a time when he had neither the mental nor physical capacity to do so”.

She could not repay the missing money – now almost £400,000 with interest and legal fees – and was bankrupted.

Two flats she owned – including the doctor’s old home in Pollokshields, Glasgow – were repossessed.

Now she faces being evicted from the £350,000 home she shares with her 79-year-old mum in nearby Newlands.

Last night White, 53, claimed she had planned to pay Dr Wilson back and said she “tried to breathe new life into him”.

She added: “Dr Wilson was a reclusive, withdrawn man who didn’t take care of himself.

“His clothes were decades old and his furniture had been owned by his parents. It was clear he had no real enjoyment in his life.

“I started taking him on outings, encouraged him to buy a new wardrobe and start enjoying life. We became friends.

“I encouraged him to take holidays and accompanied him so he was looked after properly.

“He paid for a 19-day cruise on the Oriana but took ill and had to be flown home.”

White claims she began quizzing the doctor about his will because she was concerned about what to do if he died.

She said: “His first will left almost everything to a cousin he’d told me he didn’t like. When I pointed that out, he called the lawyers and changed it.

“He asked me what I wanted, so I told him I would really like his flat, so he agreed.”

The second will – written in September 2000 – left the flat to White and £400,000 to his friend, accountant Douglas Anderson.

After the doctor was taken to hospital it emerged White had received large sums including a £100,000 “loan”, £60,000 stock transfer and cheques.

She said: “I fully intended paying him back from the sale of two flats – one belonging to me, the other to my mother who was moving in with me.

“But before I could get those properties on the market, Dr Wilson went into hospital.”

He died in Mearnskirk Hospital on May 31, 2002.

A fraud investigation was launched into transactions totalling almost £300,000 but White was told in September 2006 there would be no proceedings against her. She said: “I will go to my grave swearing I didn’t take money from Dr Wilson.

“Those cheques were to pay household expenses such as a special hoist to lift him and an orthopaedic bed.”

White continues to work as a nurse because she is not under the jurisdiction of the Nursing & Midwidery Council.

An NMC spokesman said: “Our code of conduct states nurses must refuse gifts, favour or hospitality that might be interpreted as an attempt to gain preferential treatment.”

Bank papers show 23 cheques totalling more than £4000 paid to White

I took him on outings, encouraged him to enjoy life..we became friends’

 

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The Corrupt Link Revealed – How the Law Society of Scotland manages client complaints & settlements.





The memos & articles above, are self explanatory … Officials of the Law Society of Scotland and the Master Insurance Policy collude to fiddle client complaints, making sure that no one gets any compensation when they are ripped off by a crooked lawyer. Plain, and simple.

You can read more relating to Stewart MacKenzie`s experiences with the Law Society of Scotland & more in his submission to the Justice 1 Committee of the Scottish Parliament at : http://www.scottish.parliament.uk/business/committees/historic/justice1/inquiries-02/j1-lps-pdfs/lps-024.pdf

My own submission to the Justice 1 Committee is at : http://www.scottish.parliament.uk/business/committees/historic/justice1/inquiries-02/j1-lps-pdfs/lps-066.pdf

But of course, this is commonplace … not just limited to the MacKenzie case or even my own, .. and look at what Douglas Mill did to my own case … he even interfered with my application for Civil Legal Aid, then his colleague, Philip Yelland intervened with my own lawyer, and instructed them not to proceed my case … again … something which is common to most cases of complaint against crooked solicitors where the client – either Stewart MacKenzie, myself – Peter Cherbi, or anyone else, tries to get a lawyer to sue a lawyer …

So, the question is, being aware of all of this – why did the Justice 2 Committee of the Scottish Parliament let Douglas Mill off the hook when he claimed “never once have I, any member of my staff, or any office-bearer dabbled in a claim” … ?

Clearly, the evidence is to the contrary, and since this evidence has been in the publoc domain for quite some time, why did it take John Swinney MSP – Stewart MacKenzie`s own MSP to stand up and question Douglas Mill`s claim to the contrary .. while Justice 2 Committee members sat and looked on ?

Would it now be reasonable for the Justice 2 Committee to recall Mr Mill and his band of merrie men before the Committee to explain their obviously false testimony ? surely, the answer to that must be “Yes“.

Would it also now be reasonable to take this issue further and follow the Scottish Legal Services Ombudsman`s request to the Scottish Executive that research be done into the problems of clients trying to use or obtain the services of a lawyer to sue another lawyer ? surely, again, the answer must be “Yes” … and furthermore, the Justice 2 Committee should make an order calling for the release of details on similar cases such as the MacKenzie case and my own, which the Law Society of Scotland have famously fiddled with, dabbled in, etc … over the years …

Douglas Mill – your grandmother must be spinning over your claim to the Justice 2 Committee that “never once have I, any member of my staff, or any office-bearer dabbled in a claim” ….

What a lie you told that day, Mr Mill, … and what a lie you and your colleagues have maintained over the years, to protect your crooked colleagues … many of whom have poor service records and long histories of client complaints against their services as solicitors … while you and your colleagues manage client complaints and make sure we never get the chance to get a lawyer to sue a lawyer … and even when we do .. you interfere in our cases to make sure they get nowhere.

Verdict from Peter CherbiThe Law Society of Scotland is guilty of corruption on a grand scale. Scrap it as a regulatory body – and review the cases of the past to clear up the injustices against the public which have taken place in the name of protecting crooked lawyers.

Read on for today`s excellent “Herald” article, by Paul Rogerson, link at :
http://www.theherald.co.uk/business/63315.html

Would granny swear by the Law Society?
PAUL ROGERSON June 05 2006

THE Law Society of Scotland continues to fret about the prospect of independent oversight of its controversial master insurance policy, which covers compensation claims against Scottish solicitors arising from negligence, fraud or dishonesty.

For years, critics such as the Scottish Consumer Council have complained that the policy gives rise to suspicions that solicitors, broker Marsh UK, and the insurance companies are in league to the detriment of complainers.

One oft-heard allegation is that lawyers will not take up negligence cases against other lawyers because, if they are successful, this will push up their own premiums.

The society vehemently denies any collusion. Last month, chief executive Douglas Mill felt moved to swear on his “granny’s grave” to Holyrood’s Justice 2 Committee that “never once have I, any member of my staff, or any office-bearer dabbled in a claim”.

Back in 2001 Alistair Sim – a Marsh executive and member of the Law Society of Scotland – told predecessor committee Justice 1: “The society is not involved in the handling or resolution of individual claims.”

Really? Mill’s extraordinary oath followed the production of evidence by MSP John Swinney apparently showing Mill, office-bearers and society officials becoming deeply involved in the resolution of a claim, never mind dabbling. The former SNP leader came brandishing what some have dubbed the “smoking memo”, written in 2001 by Mill to Martin McAllister, the then president.

The document concerned complaints against solicitors brought by Stewart and Susan Mackenzie, from Pitlochry. It discussed not only the merit of the complaints, but also the character of the Mackenzies.

Mill told McAllister: “I have discussed the matter with Alistair Sim and I think a holding letter is ideal … there is a saga here.”

He added: “The Mackenzies, I would say, are different from some of our other complainers in as much as they have several valid claims, they have been let down by a series of solicitors but they are unreasonable in their expectations of quantum et cetera. Rather than trivialise matters I would recommend that the four of us, i.e.: you, me, David Preston (vice-president) and Alistair Sim … have a summit meeting on the up-to-date position looking at both the complaints and claims aspects.

“There is no doubt Mr Mackenzie is (an) intelligent and well-organised individual (sic) who could, unlike some of the other thorns in our flesh, come over very well at (an) investigation.”
The full text of the memo was only made public last year after the commendably persistent Swinney demanded to know why parts of the document were excised “for legal reasons” in submissions to Justice 1made public in 2001.

Paul Grice, chief executive of the Scottish Parliament, wrote to Swinney admitting “mistakes” were made in the editing and sanctioned publication of the full text. Who leaked the memo in the first place remains a mystery.

MSPs will have to decide whether Mill’s granny is now spinning. Addressing Justice 2, the society’s chief executive explained away the apparent contradiction thus: “

The layer of insulation between the society and claims handling is Marsh the broker. Our then president (McAllister) got a letter from (Mackenzie). Many of the letters that our president gets do not have the same degree of foundation as lies behind Mr Mackenzie’s issues. I was asked to give a briefing on the matter. I quite properly inquired of Marsh, ‘I seek an assurance that these claims are being progressed quickly.’ That is what I do in such situations. I give my president an assurance that I am satisfied, having been satisfied by Marsh.”

If Mill was solely concerned about the expeditious resolution of the Mackenzies’ claim, it is unclear why he thought it appropriate to comment on both the amount of the claim (“unreasonable”) and liken Stewart Mackenzie to a “thorn” in the society’s flesh.

John Swinney is not reassured. “The memo is plainly at odds with what the Justice 2 committee is being asked to believe,’ he told The Herald. “None of the answers given to Justice 2 give me any confidence that the society’s position is as stated in Mr Mill’s evidence.”

The semantics experts on Justice 2 may ponder how looking at the “claims aspects” can be distinguished from “dabbling in a claim”. The dictionary defines “dabble”, incidentally, as: “To undertake something superficially or without serious intent.”

One might also ask why the society is worried about independent oversight if the master policy is working so well for claimants.

Michael Clancy, the organisation’s in-house lobbyist, gave an answer in a letter to Justice 2 on May 25. He wrote: “The society does not accept that the ‘light touch’ approach in the (Legal Profession and Legal Aid (Scotland)) Bill will be maintained throughout the life of the (Scottish Legal Complaints) commission. There is no evidence that the master policy (does) not work in favour of the client. There is no evidence of undue delay of treatment (of) master policy issues.”

A decade ago dozens of Westminster MPs, some of whom are now MSPs, begged to differ. In February 1996, 49 members of parliament signed an early day motion condemning the operation of the master policy as fundamentally hostile to the underlying principles of Scots law.

Their number included several big-hitters: David Steel, Charles Kennedy, Ken Livingstone, Martin O’Neill – former chairman of the Department of Trade and Industry Select Committee – and the current UK parliament speaker, Michael Martin. One signatory – Malcolm Chisholm – is now an executive minister.

The late Gordon McMaster tabled the motion after learning of the plight of Paisley housebuilder Iain McIntyre, a constituent who suffered estimated losses of £2.7m following a 10-year legal nightmare involving a string of incidents of negligence and bad faith at the hands of various law firms.

The motion stated: “Inherent conflicts exist between the Law Society of Scotland’s duties to guard the public interest and protect its members’ interests, which have forced Mr McIntyre to endure the loss of his business (and the) forced sale of his home … it is unjustifiable that the Law Society holds the master professional indemnity insurance policy which has built into it penalties and bonuses which give solicitors a vested interest in minimising negligence claims at unfair levels”.

The MPs were “convinced that the principle of Scots law that everyone is entitled to independent legal representation has been breached by the Secretary of the Law Society of Scotland actively encouraging one firm of solicitors to cease acting for Mr McIntyre”. They were not alluding to Mill but a predecessor.

Justice 2 will doubtless ask itself whether such a large number of MPs would have made such a damning statement without compelling evidence. Commenting specifically on the operation of the master policy last week with reference to the 1996 early day motion, the Law Society said:

“In 2005, the Office of Fair Trading endorsed the master policy by closing their investigation with no recommendations for action on professional indemnity. The OFT recognised the protections for the clients of Scottish solicitors and this follows similar scrutiny by the European Parliament, the UK Parliament and the Scottish Executive, with similar results.”

It is certainly true that the OFT could find no “strong and compelling” evidence that the master policy was anti-competitive by denying legal firms the right to seek cheaper insurance cover. Whether its investigation amounted to an “endorsement’ is another matter.

The watchdog’s written judgement asked searching questions about the Scottish public’s access to justice when complaining about solicitors, a subject beyond its formal remit. It said there was evidence that some Scottish consumers have found difficulty in finding another solicitor to represent them when they lodge malpractice claims. The watchdog admitted it did not have enough evidence to prove collusion, but added: “In the absence of such evidence, we consider that the difficulties experienced by some legal services clients in gaining representation ought to be considered as an access to justice issue.”

 
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Posted by on October 3, 2007 in Law

 

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Last words from former Scottish Legal Services Ombudsman condemn the Scottish legal profession

Famous last words … from the Former Scottish Legal Services Ombudsman, Linda Costelloe Baker … “This Bill is a mess” …. and she would be correct of course.

How unusual, for someone who has been concerned with the Scottish legal profession to come out and say this …. particularly when they have been appointed by the Scottish Executive (the Scottish Executive being well known for stifling change for so long in terms of complaints procedures operated by the Law Society of Scotland)… but how true Ms Costelloe Baker`s words are ….

Last week at the Justice 2 Committee, Ms Costelloe Baker answered questions on her duties and experiences in investigating complaints against how the Law Society of Scotland and Faculty of Advocates had investigated lawyers and advocates. However, the questions she was asked did not apparently give her such leeway to critisise the legal profession as much as she has done in her interview with “The Herald” Newspaper, printed below for your reading.

In Ms Costelloe Baker`s interview, she calls for the complete removal of self regulation of the legal profession – something we, as clients and complainers against crooked lawyers and advocates, have been doing since 1990.

Linda Costelloe Baker – “That is why the first step in this process has to be to have a more independent regulator, like the Financial Services Authority, which does not deal with complaints at all. That first step has not been taken. This bill is a mess. It tinkers with an already unsatisfactory position and does not put right fundamental problems such as who makes the rules. The (executive’s) attempt to keep the professional bodies very closely involved by splitting off conduct complaints will increase costs and increase confusion. It’s also very doubtful whether the required degree of cooperation between the commission and the professional bodies will actually work in practice.”

Her statement mirrors exactly what we have been saying for so long, and something this Justice 2 Committee should address fully … the right of self regulation of the legal profession has to be ended, completely … and their role should be restricted to that of a trade union … something I personally have said in my submissions to the Justice 1 Committee, the Justice 2 Committee, and in the past in press articles on the subject … and something every single client of a solicitor who has had cause to complain about their actions to the Law Society of Scotland, would also agree with.

I also liked the part of the interview where Ms Costelloe Baker goes on to mention the difficulties people have with obtaining a lawyer to sue a lawyer – something which is, in reality, almost impossible to do.

Linda Costelloe Baker – “The justice minister has still not addressed my question of why people can’t get a solicitor to act for them in a negligence action” ….

yes, well, this is the exact same reaction I and many others have got from asking the exact same question since 1994 to Scottish Secretaries of State : Ian Lang, Michael Forsyth, and First Ministers : the late Donald Dewar, John Reid, Henry McLeish, Justice Ministers : Jim Wallace & Cathy Jamieson, Msps & Mps : Murray Tosh, Euan Robson, Annabel Goldie, David McLetchie, Roseanna Cunningham, Christine Grahame, David Mundell, Archy Kirkwood, and civil servants from the likes of … Malcolm Pringle, Mike West, etc ..

In Scotland, trying to get a lawyer to sue a lawyer, is impossible, and even though the Law Society of Scotland in latter years brought in a “Pursuers Panel” .. it is simply a fake.

My own experience in the case of trying to sue crooked solicitor Andrew Penman of Stormonth Darling Solicitors, Kelso .. is as good an example of this as any.. where the most senior officials of the Law Society of Scotland interfered in my case so much I could not even get my Legal Aid applications through to take legal action … and I also found out that senior Law Society officials directly instruced my own solicitors not to proceed my case …. and then of course solicitor after solicitor refused to take on representing me in legal matters … even in the death of my own mother at the hands of a negligent Borders General Hospital … and events subsequent to that.

So, why can`t the Justice Minister answer the question why we can`t get a lawyer to sue a lawyer ? – well, maybe Cathy Jamieson continues to argue that this question is for the legal profession to deal with … as they have always done .. `passing the buck` … but with the former Scottish Office which went on to become the Scottish Executive giving the same hollow response for 16 years seems a bit tired … it seems … a bit of a fiddle, doesn`t it ? Maybe the legal profession don`t want the Justice Minister to answer the question .. and admit there is a problem in finding a lawyer to sue a lawyer ? – something which we, as clients of crooked lawyers, all know to be true.

The good news is, that, tomorrow, 23 May 2006, a good friend of mine, Stewart MacKenzie appears before the Justice 2 Committee to tell of his experiences at the hands of the crooked Law Society of Scotland, and I`m sure that Stewart will be able to tell the J2 Committee just how bad he, and all of us have suffered while the lawyers have literallly gotten away with murder.

As for me, well, according to a source at the Parliament itself, there was “considerable opposition to myself appearing before the Justice 2 Committee” .. something I always knew would be a problem … so, I won`t be giving any testimony before the J2 Committee on this matter for now … but of course, the Committee members can always read my blog .. if they are allowed to read it, of course … and I have made my written submission, which I await to see on the Parliament`s website soon.

So, good luck to those who are allowed to speak as victims of the Scottish legal profession tomorrow, and here is the article from “The Herald”, reporting their interview with Linda Costelloe Baker.

http://www.theherald.co.uk/business/62387.html

Former Ombudsman: ‘This bill is a mess’
PAUL ROGERSON May 22 2006

SCOTLAND’S legal services watchdog for the past six years delivered her last word on the governance of the profession in an interview with The Herald last week. Linda Costelloe Baker’s valedictory observations are provocative and will make for uncomfortable reading – not only for the Law Society of Scotland, but also for a Justice Department whose reforms of complaints- handling are aimed at bolstering public confidence.

Costelloe Baker made her final appearance as Scottish Legal Services Ombudsman at a Justice 2 committee hearing. Speaking afterwards, she was arrestingly blunt:

The Legal Profession and Legal Aid (Scotland) Bill is “a mess”. Law firms who gripe that they will be deterred from offering certain services by a higher compensation threshold “shouldn’t be in business”. The role of the society and Faculty of Advocates, she insists, should be heavily circumscribed – with their right of self-regulation scrapped and responsibility transferred to an independent body.

The bill comes nowhere near to doing this, of course. The remit of the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission, which would be created by the bill, will be limited to addressing complaints of poor service by lawyers. Complaints alleging misconduct and the professional rules by which Scotland’s 10,000 lawyers operate will continue to be determined by the society and sister body, the Faculty of Advocates.

Costelloe Baker caused a stir by reminding MSPs and the public in her annual report of the hopeless predicament faced by hundreds of Scots mis-sold an endowment policy by a solicitor.

Tens of thousands who bought endowment policies in England and Wales have already received payouts. By contrast, Scots who bought policies from solicitors before December 1, 2001, when the Financial Services and Markets Act came into effect, do not qualify for a deal from the Financial Ombudsman Service. They can seek compensation from the society, but only to a maximum of £1000.

People trapped by this loophole can sue their solicitor, of course – in theory. But how easy is it to find a lawyer to sue another lawyer in Scotland ? This is a question Costelloe Baker put to ministers 12 months ago and she never got an answer. The Office of Fair Trading has also raised the issue with the Scottish Executive.

“The justice minister has still not addressed my question of why people can’t get a solicitor to act for them in a negligence action,” Costelloe Baker pointedly observed.

Won’t the new bill stop a scandal like endowment mis-selling from recurring? “No,” says Costelloe Baker. “The new Scottish Legal Complaints Commission is not going to be a regulator and it is the regulator which sets down practice rules. People in Scotland who bought an endowment policy from a Scottish solicitor are far less protected. Yes, it could happen again.

“The commission can only assess a complaint against what is set down as adequate practice ? the Law Society decides that. And the Law Society decided (solicitors) didn’t need to keep the relevant documents. So there was nothing to investigate.

“That is why the first step in this process has to be to have a more independent regulator, like the Financial Services Authority, which does not deal with complaints at all. That first step has not been taken. This bill is a mess. It tinkers with an already unsatisfactory position and does not put right fundamental problems such as who makes the rules. The (executive’s) attempt to keep the professional bodies very closely involved by splitting off conduct complaints will increase costs and increase confusion. It’s also very doubtful whether the required degree of cooperation between the commission and the professional bodies will actually work in practice.”

Reform in England and Wales is more coherent, as regulatory oversight as a whole is being transferred to an independent board with the complaint-handling body accountable to the board. “Putting it bluntly, in Scotland the cart is being put before the horse,” Costelloe Baker told Justice 2.

I suggest that Costelloe Baker’s prescription would reduce the society’s role to little more than that of a trade association. She does not demur, but observes:

“They can still do legal education and training, and advise the government on legislation.”

The society has made political capital out of the ombudsman’s findings that it has greatly improved its complaints-handling processes. Its “satisfaction rating” for complaints cases passed to her office reached a record 60% in 2005/06, an increase of more than 10% on the previous year.

These improvements are undeniable and might be construed as a compelling reason for leaving the society to get on with the job. Costelloe Bakerbridles at the suggestion. It is increased scrutiny by parliament, she believes, and the prospect of complaints-handling being removed which has concentrated the society’s mind. Were the executive to backtrack on reform, she insists, the institution would simply revert to bad habits:

“There is little doubt that without the threat of legislative change the law society would, once again, be driven by its members’ views and preoccupations.”

Where is her evidence for such a statement ?

“You can find it in the annual report,” she stresses. “It is now 12 years since my predecessor Garry Watson recommended that lawyers issue engagement letters (outlining, among other things, how fees will be charged). The society just kept saying no, no and again no until – whoops! – parliament is looking at us and then the answer is yes. The same applies to changes to complaints handling. For years they opposed an independent body and then – whoops again – parliament’s looking at us so the answer is yes, we support that.”

The society recently warned that small legal practices will have to cut back the services they offer if the executive presses ahead with plans to reform the profession. Parts of Scotland could become “legal advice deserts”, it argued.

Under the new bill, Scots who receive poor service from their lawyers will be able to claim up to £20,000 in compensation, four times the present maximum. Law Society president Caroline Flanagan also told Justice 2 the cost of funding the watchdog, which will fall on solicitors, could prove a “crippling burden”.

Costelloe Baker dismisses these points out of hand. Implicit within the society’s argument is the suggestion that some small firms are presently so incompetent that they could be financially vulnerable to vigorous independent scrutiny. At the moment, firms are subtly protected because compensation claims must be pursued in the courts – if consumers can find a lawyer willing to take their case on. Court claims are “risky, potentially expensive and daunting” for the consumer, as Costelloe Baker points out in her annual report, while lawyers benefit from “playing on home ground”.

“If the society is really saying that there are lots of rural solicitors who provide such poor service that there is a strong possibility that they will have caused £20,000 worth of loss to clients then why are they still in business ? If the alternative is that they have not had any claim against them because people are too frightened to make a complaint or can’t get a solicitor to act for them…

“Similarly, if solicitors themselves are genuinely saying ‘I will not take this or that form of business on because I might make a mess of it and have to pay £20,000’ – then they should not be in business.”

Costelloe Baker accuses the Law Society of pursuing a “double agenda”, employing such arguments to bolster its parallel campaign for a rise in civil legal aid.

What of the mooted threat to small firms stemming from the cost of handling complaints?

Costelloe Baker stresses that large firms will continue to pay a disproportionate share of funding through the general levy.

She adds: “Any commercial organisation pays for the cost of handling complaints. Most of them absorb that cost and are happy to do so. Complaints should not be regarded as a separate industry – they are simply a user-friendly alternative to a court action.”

Interestingly enough .. the former Legal Services Ombudsman – Garry Watson – supported self regulation as operated by the Law Society of Scotland.

Why would he support such a thing ? when clients were being ripped off wholesale by crooked lawyers and the Law Society were obviously letting their members off the hook.

Well … I think Watson liked his position too much to take such action as Linda Costelloe Baker has … and Watson for sure, would never have critisized the Law Society as Costelloe Baker did recently …

Read on for an article from “The Scotsman” from 1999 on my case – showing Watson`s strange support for the devil (The Law Society) and note Watson`s opposing view to that of the Scottish Consumer Council – who carried out a survey and came to the conclusion that independent regulation of the legal profession in Scotland was a MUST.

Independent watchdog for lawyers proposed

Law Society of Scotland’s internal system flawed, says Scottish Consumer Council
Camillo Fracassini – Consumer Affairs Correspondent The Scotsman 8 January 1999

Complaints against solicitors in Scotland should be investigated by an independent watchdog because self regulation is not working, the Scottish Consumer Council will say today.

The recommendation is part of a highly critical SCC report into the way complaints about solicitors are handled by the lawyers professional body, the Law Society of Scotland.

According to a survey made as part of the study, 40% of those who had used the Law Society of Scotland’s complaint’s procedure thought their complaint had not been handled fairly.

The Law Society, the solicitors professional body, is also resposible for investigating complaints.

In the stufy, 415 people were interviewed by the SCC. Even looking at those whose complaints against their solicitors were upheld, shows that a third felt they had been unfairly dealt with.

The report is also highly critical of solicitors.

Of clients who complaint to their lawyers, 16% said they were completely ifnored and only 2% were told they could refer the matter to the Law Society.

More than a fifth of solicitors refused to investigate complaints and 40% of people were ignored, “fobbed off”, told to change lawyers, or advisd not to complain to the Law Society.

According to the survey, two fifths of complaints took between six months and two years to resolve and 17% took more than two years.

One complainant said “The whol experience was very disappointing. The Law Society was totally in favour of the lawyer. Dealing with the society was like talking to a wall”

Derdrie Hutton, the SCC Chairman, suggested “If consumers are to be confident that the procedures are entirely fair, we believe the research suggests that the way forward should be to establish an independent body to deal with complaints about solicitors in Scotland.

The SCC wants the Scottish parliament to review the Law Society’s complaints procedure, with a vew to establishing an independent complaints body.

Solicitors should be made to give clients a letter of engagement, setting out how long the work will take, how much it will cost, and afvising how to complain if they are not happy with the service, it said.

The SCC added that all solicitors practices should also set up complaints procedures and appoint a specific solicitor to deal with complaints.

Martin Evans, the SCC director, said many people felt the system was biased in favour of solicitors : “They do not appear to trust the self regulatory process and do not trust the Law Society to look after the interests of consumers rather than its members. The lack of credibility of the current system doesn’t serve consumers or the legal profession well”.

Mr Evans added solicitors were not handling critisism positively : “Solicitors, as a profession, seem to feel threatened by complaints, rather than see them as something which can help them improve the service they provide.”

Last night, Philip Dry, the president of the Law Society of Scotland, questioned the validity of the limited SCC survey and insisted self-regulation was still the best policy.

He said; “I continue to believe thata the society is best able to deal with client complaints which it does without cost to the public – and that any systen used shoud be open to public scrutiny and constantly adapted and improved to meet the needs of clients of Scottish solicitors.

“The society does not afree with the recommendations made to the Scottish parliament to set up an independent complaints handling body. The recommendation is not supported by the survey results nor is the suggestion that the current system is fatally flawed”.

Mr Dry said the Law Society had significantly improved its complaints procedure since the SCC first recommended the establishment of an independent complaints watchdog in 1986.

In November, it named 11 new lay members to its complaints committee in a bid to tackle the perceived bias.

Between 1994 and 1997 the number of complaints that ended successfully in mediation or conciliation increased by 79% while the number f complaints only rose by 4%.

Gary Watson, the Scottish legal services ombudsman said he remained opposed to an independent body “While I endorse a number of the recommendations made in the report but I would disagree with the prinsiple recommendation for the establishment of an independent complaints body.

“My firm view is that as long as the Law Society is committed to improving the way in which it handles complaints then that is the best way forward for members of the public”

However, Peter Cherbi is still seeking redress more than two years after the Law Society of Scotland overturned its original decision to prosecute a solicitor he claimed was guilty of professional misconduct.

Mr Cherbi, from Jedburgh believes his father’s £300,000 estate was effectively made worthless by the lawyers handling of his affairs.

While a Law Society investigation found that the solicitor should be prosecuted before a tribunal because of the serious nature of the case, the decision was overturned in favour of a reprimand after representations on the lawyer’s behalf.

Mr Cherbi, who plans to sue the Law Society said “The Law Society of Scotland’s complaints procedure is completely biased. There is absolutely no right of appeal for complainants and the ombudsman has no statutory powers – he an only make recommendations which may be refused by the society.

“There must be an independent regulatory for the legal profession with absolutely no ties to solicitors”

 
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Posted by on October 3, 2007 in Law

 

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Conflicts of Interest and Clashes between Lawyers & Politicians hit Justice 2 hearings into Scottish legal profession

The problems mount for the integrity of the Justice 2 Committee this week, where an FOI request from prominent legal reform campaigner Duncan Shields to the Convener of the Justice 2 Committee – Mr David Davidson MSP (Convener) .. resulted in Mr Davidson hurredly declaring that his son was a solicitor, although by excuse of reading some 600 submissions sent to the Committee … some of which apparently are still awaiting being sent to members due to protests from the Parliament`s own legal team and others ….

The latest conflict of interest for Mr Davidson (J2 Committee Convener) shows that Mr Davidson`s son, Mr Justin Davidson,is a partner in Piper,Rudnick,Gray & Cary, apparently as a partner in their Hong Kong Office although he is based in England, his details as follows : http://www.dlapiper.com/hongkong/people/list.aspx?LastName=D

Piper,Rudnick,Gray & Cary have offices in Scotland and have some 20 Scottish solicitors on their books, which certainly gives their firm an interest in the outcome of the proceedings and recommendations from the Justice 2 Committee for their consideration of the Legal Profession & Legal Aid (Scotland) Bill … so it would appear that yet another member of the J2 Committee is now mired in a conflict of interest position incompatible with their status within this inquiry.

Given the precedent Annabel Goldie set upon her resignation as Convener of the Justice 2 Committee due to her own membership of the Law Society of Scotland as a solicitor, it would appear that Mr Davidson`s position as Convener in this matter is untenable and should be reviewed immediately.

Returning to the debacle surrounding the appointment by the Parliamentary Bureau of Margaret Ross to the position of adviser to the Justice 2 Committee .. there are now allegations that members of the Parliamentary Bureau were deliberately misled over issues surrounding Ms Ross position on matters relating to regulation of the legal profession which might have qualified as a conflict of interest (I speak of course, of her stated support of the continuation of self regulation of the legal profession as operated by the Law Society of Scotland at present and her submission to that effect to the Justice 1 Committee)

The appointment of Margaret Ross has now been referrred to the Corporate Body of the Scottish Parliament … and while that may give some people hope for a recall of her appointment, my own experence with officials of the Scottish Parliament Corporate Body would tend to suggest they do as they please, or worse, to suit their friends within other spheres of influence in Scottish public life …. one of those of course, being the Scottish legal profession.

I emailed the members of the Scottish Parliamentary Bureau on this matter, 3 responded to me, Margaret Curran – who informed me the matter was going to the Corporate Body, Bill Aitken, who told me to go to the Justice 2 Committee, and a more complete response from Alisdair Morgan, all of which can be viewed below :

From : Alasdair.Morgan.msp@scottish.parliament.uk
To : petercherbiSubject:RE: Appointment of Margaret Ross by the Parliamentary Bureau

Thank you for your e-mail.

The Parliamentary Bureau does not appoint or approve the appointment of committee advisors. It considers requests from committees who wish to go ahead with the recruitment process for an advisor. If that request is agreed to, then the committee goes ahead to consider specific candidates, but the decision as to which, if any, candidate to appoint is for the committee itself.

Certainly this specific appointment raises some issues, though I do not know what considerations the committee took into account when making it. Clearly they will be aware that the adviser may have her own viewpoint on matters and will have to be vigilant in that regard. On a more general note, on many general issues it is often very difficult to find an adviser who is both well qualified and informed, but who has not developed views or interests which lay them open to suspicions of lack of total impartiality.

—–Original Message—–
From: Peter Cherbi
Sent: Tuesday, May 02, 2006 1:08 AM
To: Morgan A (Alasdair), MSP
Subject: Appointment of Margaret Ross by the Parliamentary Bureau
Dear Sir,

I would draw your attention to the Parliamentary Bureau’s appointment of Ms Margaret Ross to the position as Advisor to the Justice 2 Committee for their consideration of the Legal Profession & Legal Aid (Scotland) Bill, which will bring independent regulation to the legal profession in Scotland as well as a number of other long awaited improvements.

It has come to my attention, that a conflict of interest in the appointment of Margaret Ross exists in reference to her position and duties as Advisor to the Justice 2 Committee, where she has publicly stated, even in submissions to the Scottish Parliament, that she openly supports self regulation of the legal profession – link to Ms Ross submission on her views regarding the legal profession here : http://www.scottish.parliament.uk/business/committees/historic/justice1/inquiries-02/j1-lps-pdfs/lps-056.pdf

As you are a member of the Parliamentary Bureau, I would like to know if you were made aware of Ms Ross’ background prior to considering her appointment for the position of Adviser to the Justice 2 Committee for it’s consideration of the Legal Profession & Legal Aid (Scotland) Bill.

Mrs Ross is a member of the Law Society of Scotland, and there has already, as you know, been an example set on this inquiry with Annabel Goldie resigning as Convener of Justice 2 due to a possible conflict of interest position arising where Ms Goldie, also, a member of the Law Society of Scotland, would be placed in a conflict of interest in having to consider the LPLA Bill, which could of course, be to the detriment of the legal profession.

I look forward to hear from you
Yours sincerely,
Peter Cherbi
————————-
Sandra.Robinson@scottish.parliament.uk
on behalf of Bill.Aitken.msp@scottish.parliament.uk
To:petercherbi
Subject:RE: Appointment of Margaret Ross by the Parliamentary

Dear Mr Cherbi
It is not a matter for the Parliamentary Bureau to consider the person appointed. The Parliamentary Bureau simply agrees to an appointment being made. As such any query you have on this matter should be pursued with the Justice 2 Committee.

Yours sincerely
Bill Aitken
—————————
From : Margaret.Curran.msp@scottish.parliament.uk
To:petercherbi
Subject:RE: Appointment of Margaret Ross by the Parliamentary Bureau

This was raised at the Bureau and will be referred to the Corporate Body as this lies within their control

Margaret Curran
—————————
While these issues of conflict of interest by Committee members and advisers await resolution, the Justice 2 Committee today confirmed to Stewart MacKenzie that he would be able to give oral testimony before the Justice 2 Committee on his dealings and difficulties with the legal profession and particularly, part the Law Society of Scotland plays in fiddling client complaints.

This is a great boost to the rights of clients of solicitors to be able to testify before the parliament, and I wish Stewart wello, being a personal friend and someone who has truly been thorugh the mill when it comes to the complaints system of the Law Society of Scotland.

I think Sterwart MacKenzie`s position was helped greatly by his MSP, John Swinney, who attended this week`s Justice 2 Committee hearing while the Law Society of Scotland were giving evidence, and challenged comments from Caroline Flanagan, the Law Society of Scotland President, who claimed the Law Society does not get involved with the Master Insurance Policy and clients suing solicitors ….

John Swinney challenged Caroline Flanagan`s commengs, producing a secret memo which showed meetings being arranged between Douglas Mill, other Law Society officials and officials of the Master Insurance Policy .. the terms of which could only imply that a concerted effort was being made to thward Mr Mackenzie`s complaints from ever being resolved ….

In this explosive episode within the Justice 2 Committee hearing this week, Douglas Mill sensationaly intervened, seemingly overrulling the Law Society of Scotland`s own President (and reducing her credibility to zero) .. claiming that he was `trying to help Mr Mackenzie` where then John Swinney took on the issue of Stewart MacKenzie`s case even further by informing the J2 Hearing that even now, 5 years after that secret memo the MacKenzie`s claim had not been settled because they could not find legal agents to represent them (suffering the same discrimination the legal profession througout Scotland makes against clients who try to sue a lawyer, or who complain against a lawyer, or who take on the Law Society of Scotland).

Certainly things are hotting up at the Justice 2 Committee hearings, and I will be putting in my own request to be heard …. and as someone the Law Society has tried everything against .. I would welcome the public platform to release some papers of my own which have been kept secret at all costs over the years ….

 
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Posted by on October 3, 2007 in Law

 

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Scottish Parliament Justice 2 Committee not so interested in their own conflicts of interest

The arrogant response of the Justice 2 Committee to my article of the other day ….. well, after all, this is politics … and what more can we expect from a Government backed up by a political system which these days is mired in sleaze, corruption, bribery scandals, extra-marital affairs (sometimes with the same sex) …. am I perhaps portraying a nation which has ‘gone to pot’ in political terms ? … probably.

Despite the fact that the Adviser to the Justice 2 Committee, Margaret Ross, has under her belt, a major conflict of interest in her status as a ‘leading member’ of Scotland’s legal profession and to boot – being a full supporter of self-regulation of lawyers by lawyers – the Justice 2 Committee has decided to keep her on …

How will that affect people who have made submissions on the Legal Profession & Legal Aid (Scotland) Bill to the Justice 2 Committee ?

Well, if you have had problems with lawyers in Scotland (that seems to be most of the population who have ever used a lawyer) .. then perhaps you can expect your submission to be edited in the interests of the legal profession, by a member of the legal profession – before it gets anywhere near consideration by the Justice 2 Committee … not to mention whether it is actually published or not because of course, Ms Ross is an advocate of self regulation of the legal profession, and since the new legislation is designed to bring independent regulation to the legal profession .. a conflict of interests certainly does exist ….

So how should you proceed if you want to get your views over to the Justice 2 Committee members and bypass Law Society of Scotland members and others at the Parliament determined that your submissions don’t get to those who need to see them ?
Well … we all know who is on the Justice 2 Committee :
http://www.scottish.parliament.uk/business/committees/justice2/index.htm

So anyone who wishes to present their cases where they have difficulties with Scottish lawyers and the way the Law Society of Scotland has handled their complaint, could email or contact the members of the Justice 2 Committee directly, who are :

Mr David Davidson (Convener): David.Davidson.msp@scottish.parliament.uk
Bill Butler (Deputy Convener): Bill.Butler.msp@scottish.parliament.uk
Jackie Baillie: Jackie.Baillie.msp@scottish.parliament.uk
Maureen Macmillan : Maureen.Macmillan.msp@scottish.parliament.uk
Mr Stewart Maxwell : Stewart.Maxwell.msp@scottish.parliament.uk
Jeremy Purvis: Jeremy.Purvis.msp@scottish.parliament.uk
Colin Fox: Colin.Fox.msp@scottish.parliament.uk

It does appear, that the transparency surrounding the Parliamentary process for considering this legislation, is being corrupted by the legal profession and they are truly determined to undermine this inquiry and the chance of the new Bill making it’s way into Law. This is certainly assertion is certainly supported by the intense media campaign mounted by the Law Society of Scotland in recent weeks, which I have already written about in earlier posts… with Law Society sponsored McCrone report and also the Lib Dem Lord Lester’s QC report – also coming in favour of the legal profession.

However, Margo McDonald – the independent MSP who also sits on the Parliamentary Bureau – the body which actually appointed Ms Ross to the position of Adviser to the Justice 2 Committee (she was NOT appointed by the Justice 2 Committee directly), seems not to have been made aware of Ms Ross’ position on such matters relevant to the Legal Profession & Legal Aid (Scotland) Bill and she plans to raise the issue with the Parliamentary Bureau tomorrow (Tuesday) .. so we will see what happens next …but surely. there is such a conflict of interest in Ms Ross’s views that her position as an impartial adviser to the Justice 2 Committee on the LPLA Bill is significantly compromised to the point that a replacement adviser must be found.

After reading through my own information on this matter, I emailed the Parliamentary Bureau members asking what they knew and when … so if they bother to answer, we will all have a better idea or even perhaps, the motives of Ms Ross’ appointment to her position as Justice 2 adviser.

We have still not heard from the Justice 2 Committee as to whether ordinary members of the public who have had difficulties with the legal profession, are to be called to give evidence .. and amidst all the protests of the lawyers inside and outside the Parliament .. together with the Law Society of Scotland’s intense dirty tricks campaign … it looks like those who should be heard in these Parliamentary hearings, won’t be heard .. for fear of creating a queue of victims of the Scottish legal profession .. showing just how really corrupt and dirty it actually is … and raising the question .. why exactly, has this been allowed to go on for so many years ?

A post note from me … Well, I have to be honest – I’d have liked to be the adviser to the Justice 2 Committee myself (I would have done it for FREE) – but of course, I would have had every single person I could have found lined up ready to testify before the Scottish Parliament on their difficulties with the legal profession and the Law Society of Scotland, et all … to make sure everyone knew the size of the problem we were tackling here.

http://www.theherald.co.uk/business/61037.html

J2 committee bats away concern over bias of adviser on reforms
PAUL ROGERSON May 01 2006

The Scottish Parliament’s Justice 2 committee has brushed aside calls for it to dump Margaret Ross as adviser on controversial and bitterly contested legislation overhauling the regulation of legal services.

A spokesman insisted the Aberdeen University academic is the right person to counsel MSPs, choose witnesses and brief on policy, despite allegations that her independence is seriously compromised.

The Legal Profession and Legal Aid (Scotland) Bill proposes to strip the right of the nation’s 10,000 lawyers to police themselves and also seeks to increase access to justice by abolishing the lawyers’ monopoly over paid advocacy rights. Committee hearings on the bill began last week.

Ross, it has emerged, gave evidence to predecessor committee Justice 1 in 2002 opposing key reforms which the present bill advocates. One MSP dubbed her “an unashamed advocate of self-regulation”, an assertion Ross did not deny.

Even more concerning, perhaps, is the fact that Ross is a senior Law Society of Scotland functionary and until recently sat on two of its committees, including the Access to Justice committee. The Herald noted a fortnight ago that none of the bodies which favour ending the lawyers’ monopoly over paid advocacy rights has been invited to address the committee ・the Office of Fair Trading, the Association of Commercial Attorneys and the professional body representing patent agents. The committee says that the decision not to include them on the list of witnesses was made before Ross came on board.

Ross’s appointment is particularly sensitive given the society’s carefully choreographed media assault on the new bill. The Edinburgh-based body fired its latest salvo last week by issuing a report commissioned from governance expert Professor David McCrone, alleging that the proposals to overhaul regulation could prove a “costly hammer to crack a nut”. Significantly, and presumably at the society’s behest, McCrone set out to undermine analysis of the consultation which gave rise to the bill, showing that a vast majority of respondents favour independent regulation.

The society declined to disclose how much of its members’ money was spent on McCrone’s report and an earlier and equally savage critique by English QC Lord Lester of Herne Hill.
Last December the society apparently underwent a Damascene conversion, coming out in favour of an independent body to handle complaints about poor service by solicitors after years of trenchant opposition. Recent developments suggest this was a tactical retreat than a genuine restatement of principle. For the society to have Ross “on the inside” in such a difficult political context appears to some, including former SNP leader John Swinney, as inappropriate at the very least.

Back in February Scottish Tory leader Annabel Goldie stepped down from justice 2 because her membership of the Law Society clashed with the committee inquiry. Ross appears exempt from such considerations, even though the adviser’s job description stressed that he or she “must be able to advise the committee dispassionately” and “should not be involved in any capacity that would compromise his or her ability to act”.

Independent MSP Margo MacDonald is another politician concerned that Ross does not meet these criteria. She plans to raise the matter tomorrow with the parliament’s business bureau, which is responsible for making committee appointments.

Macdonald said: “It states quite clearly in the adviser’s contract terms that impartial and objective advice has to be given to the committee. It’s ironic that we are talking about the justice committee when clearly justice must be seen to be done. It is very difficult for someone to plead objectivity when that person has gone on record so decisively in favour of one side of the argument, and this compromises the open-minded approach which the committee is required to adopt.”

As far as Justice 2 is concerned, it appears to be a question of hats. In a statement, a spokesman for the new convenor David Davidson MSP, said: “Ross gave evidence to the former J1 Committee as an independent academic expert. As such she was expressly asked to give her personal view on the issue of how best to regulate the legal profession. Her involvement in the J2 Committee scrutiny of the ・Bill is as an adviser, which is a very different role. As set out in the adviser specification, the adviser will advise dispassionately on the basis of available evidence without seeking to persuade it of any particular outcome or approach that he or she may favour.

“Mrs Ross was not involved in the Committee’s selection of initial witnesses for the Bill as her appointment took place after the Committee had agreed the witnesses for these sessions. As previously advised, the Committee will consider the written evidence received in early May and will decide then whether to seek any further oral evidence. To date the Committee has received over 600 submissions from both organisations and individuals, including the Office of Fair Trading and the Chartered Institute of Patent Attorneys.

A Scottish Parliament spokesman said: “While the Committee may receive advice from Margaret Ross, it is for Committee members to decide who to call for oral evidence and what questions to ask of witnesses. The Justice 2 Committee members were aware of Mrs Ross’s Law Society interests at the time of her appointment and her undertaking to cease any involvement in the Society’s Access to Justice Committee.”

 
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Posted by on October 3, 2007 in Law

 

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Scottish Parliament Justice 2 Committee evidence sessions begin on Legal Profession & Legal Aid Bill

Through the miracle of the modern age of internet and global communications, we can all watch the Justice 2 Committee oral evidence hearings into the Legal Profession & Legal Aid (Scotland) Bill.

The Scottish Executive kicked off the oral evidence on Tueday 25th April 2006, where the Committee took evidence on the Legal Profession and Legal Aid (Scotland) Bill from Louise Miller, Mike West and Chris Graham, Access to Justice Division, Scottish Executive.

Mike West .. now there’s a name many people may be familiar with, who have had complaints against lawyers and experienced the full corruption of the Law Society of Scotland and who have felt it necessary to write in to the Scottish Justice Minister, or even the First Minister .

Mr West, a Civil Servant, and some of his colleagues such as Malcolm Pringle have fielded thousands of letters each year from ordinary members of the public who have been ripped off by solicitors … with .. the same response … ‘The Executive cannot become involved, it’s the Law Society of Scotland’s duty to regulate the legal profession in law … you may also take your case to the Scottish Legal Services Ombudsman .. etc …’ and of course, everyone who tries this route gets nowhere, and while all this is going on, the crooked lawyer gets a fat bonus for avoiding your complaint .. and the staff of the Client Relations Office of the Law Society of Scotland give themselves another medal for wiping out another ripped off client.

Even when you involve your politician – be it an MSP or MP … the same tired old letters are fired back and forth between the Justice Department and clients of crooked lawyers … the client ultimately gaining nothing from the experience … but of course .. all the while the client is writing letters to the Scottish Executive in desperation on their cases … the Law Society of Scotland can have access to anyone at the Justice Minister’s office they so wish … and they can do anything they wany .. while most people get absolutely nowhere.

The link for viewing the oral evidence submissions being held at the Justice 2 Committee is : http://www.holyrood.tv/library.asp?iPid=3§ion=22&title=Justice+2

Remember everyone … if YOU have an issue with what is said at these hearings by the likes of the Scottish Executive, the Law Society of Scotland and it’s great many allies who have been invited to give oral evidence, and others, then make sure you take note of what is said, and write into the Justice 2 Committee with your views … because we don’t want the legal profession to get away with any lies in front of the Justice 2 Committee now, do we ? … and we can bet there will be some HUGE lies told to save their crooked skins.

The Law Society of Scotland should be up next Tuesday to give oral evidence – so stay tuned to hear some of the biggest lies ever told …. and make sure you let the Justice 2 Committee know your feelings on their testimony

Who knows … if the Justice 2 Committee are brave enough to call me to give evidence .. then you might just see me there speaking about how the new legislation would improve the rights of clients against a highly manipulative and discriminatory regulatory system which the legal profession in Scotland have used for years against the public … on the other hand of course .. it is highly unlikely that Justice 2 will risk having me before them … so powerful is some of the things I have up my sleave which I will talk about in my own time.

In other news – the day after “Black Wednesday” in the Blairite Camp of Westminster politics, and beyond the realm of ‘Prezza’s affair, Charles Clarke’s negligence in letting loose 1000+ foreign criminals onto our streets, and the rest of it… a new Scottish Legal Services Ombudsman was appointed .. Ms Jane Irvine … who has held various posts relevant to investigating complaints in the past … not much to tell yet, since she hasn’t investigated any cases of complaint agains the Law Society of Scotland … but I will be keeing an eye on this issue of course.

Here’s the Press Release from the Scottish Executive … typically understating matters of Linda Costelloe Baker’s resignation to save political face … really .. on a week like this in British politics .. I don’t know why they even bother.

http://www.scotland.gov.uk/News/Releases/2006/04/26103655

Legal Services Ombudsman
26/04/2006

An interim Scottish Legal Services Ombudsman has been appointed with effect from April 26, 2006.

Jane Irvine takes over from Linda Costelloe Baker, who has resigned to take up post as the UK Visas Independent Monitor, until a permanent appointment can be made.

Proposals set out in the Legal Profession and Legal Aid (Scotland) Bill, currently at Stage 1 of the Scottish Parliamentary process, would see the abolition of the role of the Scottish Legal Services Ombudsman.

A Scottish Legal Complaints Commission, with a non-lawyer chair and a non-lawyer majority, would instead receive all complaints against legal practitioners which it has not been possible to resolve at source.

Jane Irvine has specialised in resolving consumer complaints and reviewing the manner of responses to consumer complaints since 1980. Jane acts as an arbitrator and conciliator in a diverse range of consumer issues from holiday to funeral and financial service complaints.

She also sits on the Disciplinary Board of the Institute of Actuaries, acts as a mediator in consumer and commercial disputes and works voluntarily as a Member of the Mediation Panel for Edinburgh Sheriff Court.

As a past HM Lay Inspector of Constabulary for Scotland Ms Irvine reviewed the manner of responses by Scottish Police forces to complaints by members of the public for three years between 2001 and 2004. She was also the elected Chair of the Scottish Branch of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators 2003-2005.

The appointment of Scottish Legal Services Ombudsman is made under Section 34 of the Law Reform (Miscellaneous Provisions) (Scotland) Act 1990. The post was advertised on March 31.

The post of Ombudsman is independent of both the Executive and the legal profession. The Ombudsman investigates concerns about the way a professional body, such as the Law Society of Scotland or the Faculty of Advocates, has handled a complaint against a practitioner.

The Ombudsman sends a report of her investigation to the complainer, the practitioner and the professional organisation. If the Ombudsman is not satisfied that the complaint has been handled fairly, efficiently and thoroughly she can make recommendations to the professional body, including payment of compensation for inconvenience or distress caused by the way the complaint was handled.

As Interim Ombudsman Jane Irvine will be vested with the same powers as a permanent Ombudsman.

Ms Irvine was chosen by Scottish Ministers for the post. Her appointment is part-time (30 hours per week), with an annual salary of £55,000. Her office is situated in 17 Waterloo Place, Edinburgh, EH1 3DL.

 
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Posted by on October 3, 2007 in Law

 

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