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YOUR BANK, M’LORD? The £40m trail of secretive judicial interests, billionaires, aristocrats & offshore trusts in Hampden & Co, Scotland’s latest bank

Judges, mega rich & offshore money mix in new Scots bank. A RICH LIST of investors in Hampden & Co – Scotland’s first new bank in 30 years – reveals members of the judiciary including a suspended judge – among the ranks of billionaires, aristocrats and anonymous offshore trusts who have pumped in £40 million into the financial institution – located in Charlotte Square, Edinburgh.

Among the ranks of investors in the new bank are figures from the judiciary such as the now suspended Sheriff Peter Black Watson – who was suspended from his current judicial duties by Lord President Lord Gill in February of this year – in relation to legal writs linked to the £400m collapse of hedge fund Heather Capital.

Other judicial figures include Court of Session judges and former EU judge, Scottish lawyer & academic Sir David Edward KCMG QC FRSE.

Today, the Judicial Office for Scotland refused to comment on, or confirm the identities of any judges who hold shares in the new bank.

Hampden & Co annual return reveals wealthy shareholder list. In accounts filed by Hampden & Co, Edinburgh, a Michael Scott Jones – is the registered as owner of 200,000 shares.

The Judicial Office refused to confirm or deny if this is the same Michael Scott Jones who is Court of Session judge Lord Jones.

The accounts for the bank also reveal Peter Black Watson is the holder of 400,000 shares.

While the Judicial Office refused to confirm if this is the same Peter Black Watson who was suspended by Lord President Lord Gill earlier this year “to maintain public confidence in the judiciary”, Watson’s identity as one of the shareholders of Hampden & Co has been confirmed in a report in The Scottish Sun newspaper earlier this week.

Speaking to the media today, the Judicial Office refused to be drawn on the issue of judges investments and the need for a register of judicial interests to enable the public to scrutinise judges interests and links to big business, banks and other vested interests.

A spokesperson for the Judicial Office for Scotland would only say : “Personal investment decisions are a matter for individual judicial office holders.

“Judicial office holders are bound by the Statement of Principles of Judicial Ethics and in the event of a case presenting a potential conflict of interests, by reason of an investment or otherwise, will recuse themselves. These recusal decisions are a matter of public record”.

However, it is a matter of public record not one Scottish judge has declared a financial interest in a case which has resulted in a published recusal, and one senior Sheriff – Sheriff Principal Alistair Dunlop – who held shares in Tesco – did not recuse himself in the case involving the supermarket giant.

No public record of any refusals or failures of judges to recuse themselves have appeared in the list of recusals published by the judiciary.

Neither have any financial details of members of the judiciary appeared in the list of recusals.

A petition currently under consideration by the Scottish Parliament – Petition PE1458: Register of Interests for members of Scotland’s judiciary – calls for the creation of a single independently regulated register of interests containing information on judges backgrounds, their personal wealth, undeclared earnings, business & family connections inside & outside of the legal profession, offshore investments, hospitality, details on recusals and other information routinely lodged in registers of interest across all walks of public life in the UK and around the world.

The petition has cross party support from msps who backed a motion urging the Scottish Government to create a register of judicial interests at Holyrood on 7 October 2014 – reported along with video footage and the official record, here: Debating the Judges.

In an investigation earlier this week by the Scottish Sun newspaper, it was revealed there are fears among some of Hampden & Co’s shareholders of a second independence referendum, tax rises and how the business climate in Scotland will fare under policies of the SNP Scottish Government.

The bank’s investor list reveals predominantly rich, unionist shareholders such as tycoon Alastair Salvesen, self-storage tycoon Alister Jack, Greenock-born financier Malcolm Offord, Dobbie’s garden centre chief James Barnes, Edinburgh art dealer Alexander Meddowes and Stirling-based construction tycoons Duncan Fletcher & Duncan Ogilvie, both worth over £50million. Aristocratic customers includes the Queen’s cousin David Bowes-Lyons and the Earl of Rosebery’s daughter Lady Caroline Primrose.

Euripides Investments Ltd, the new bank’s second largest shareholder, is based in Jersey — meaning its ownership is secret and that owners are likely to pay less tax on profits than individual UK shareholders.

Another major shareholder is Guernsey-based Kusapi Ltd.

Hampden & Co are refusing to reveal the identity of a major Chinese investor – Cai Dang Fang – listed in Companies House records as Hampden’s fourth largest shareholder. But it’s not known whether that is a person or a company — and the bank won’t say if they are based in the UK or overseas.

The private bank’s headquarters in Charlotte Square, Edinburgh, are just a few doors away from First Minister Nicola Sturgeon’s Bute House residence.

However, many of Hampden’s super-rich backers are staunch unionists who fear their savings may be hit by a rampant SNP push for full fiscal autonomy and another independence referendum.

Speaking to The Sun – Founder & Chairman Ray Entwistle (70) insisted “we have absolutely no intention of racing into any kind of decision”.

But referring to the SNP’s election success he warned: “I suspect a host of businesses that were anxious over the referendum last year remain partially anxious about what happened last month.

“This bank is registered in Scotland, the head office is in Edinburgh and we have a large number of friends we want to do business both in Scotland and in London.

“We are going to wait and see what happens over the next few months. “And I suspect that a lot of other businesses are waiting to see what transpires politically.”

Commenting on the bank, Deputy First Minister & Finance Secretary John Swinney said: “We have a world-leading financial services sector and a talented workforce, making Scotland a great place for new businesses to locate. The Scottish Government has been clear about its approach to taxation. This will be based on ability to pay, certainty, convenience and efficiency of collection.”

THE SUSPENDED SHERIFF

Lord Gill (73) suspended Sheriff Peter Black Watson (61) after demanding sight of a multi million pound writ against Glasgow law firm Levy & Mcrae – Watson’s former law firm –  which is one of several companies being sued by Heather Capital’s liquidator, Ernst & Young, after the fund’s collapse in 2010. Watson was a director of a company called Mathon Ltd, and another – Aarkad PLC – key parts of the Heather empire.

The collapsed hedge fund Heather Capital – run by lawyer Gregory King is now the subject of a Police Scotland investigation and reports to the Crown Office. Gregory King – a lawyer – is named along with three others – lawyer Andrew Sobolewski, accountant Andrew Millar and property expert Scott Carmichael in a police report.

An earlier statement from the Judicial Office for Scotland on Watson’s suspension reported: Sheriff Peter Watson was suspended from the office of part-time sheriff on 16 February 2015, in terms of section 34 of the Judiciary and Courts (Scotland) Act 2008.

“On Friday 13 February the Judicial Office was made aware of the existence of a summons containing certain allegations against a number of individuals including part-time sheriff Peter Watson. The Lord President’s Private Office immediately contacted Mr Watson and he offered not to sit as a part-time sheriff on a voluntary basis, pending the outcome of those proceedings.

Mr Watson e-mailed a copy of the summons to the Lord President’s Private Office on Saturday 14 February. On Monday 16 February the Lord President considered the matter.  Having been shown the summons, the Lord President concluded that in the circumstances a voluntary de-rostering was not appropriate and that suspension was necessary in order to maintain public confidence in the judiciary.

Mr Watson was therefore duly suspended from office on Monday 16 February 2015.”

BANK OPENS AMID GLARE OF PUBLICITY:

Today, 18 June 2015 – Hampden & Co., the first private bank to come through the new process to obtain a banking licence, has opened its doors to clients after securing final regulatory approval at the beginning of June. It is the first private bank to be set up in the UK for 30 years and will address the significant demand in the UK for a new, high quality banking service.

Founded in 2010 by Ray Entwistle, the former Chairman of Adam & Company, the bank has recruited an impressive team of over 50 qualified professional bankers and support staff, headed up by Chief Executive Graeme Hartop, formerly CEO of Scottish Widows Bank.

The bank will deliver a traditional private banking service built on long-term client relationships and personal service from offices initially in Edinburgh and London. Capital of nearly £50 million has been raised for the launch, which demonstrates the confidence investors have in the business opportunity.

Ray Entwistle commented: “There is strong demand for a new private bank which delivers the right quality of service with long-term continuity of personnel and speed of decision making. Over 250 shareholders have come to the same conclusion and they have been prepared to back our experienced team with the capital required to launch our new bank.”

Graeme Hartop added: “The timing for launch is ideal as we continue to experience an improved economic environment, strong client demand and a favourable competitive landscape as a large number of the existing banks continue to deal with significant legacy issues. We will deliver a traditional client-led private banking service, fully focussed on client needs and not product sales targets, which will lead to strong client-to-banker relationships. We are delighted to be welcoming clients on board.”

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Human Rights, Scottish wrongs : Scots rights to Supreme Court hearings must be maintained against victorian, inflexible Scots legal system

Alex_SalmondSupreme Court battle : Alex Salmond’s understanding of Scots Law & Scots human rights appears flawed. In a week where the vast majority of headlines concerning the Scottish legal system have been taken up by the continuing arguments over the Supreme Court’s ruling in the Nat Fraser case, pitching the misunderstandings of First Minister Alex Salmond & threats from Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill against the need to maintain the human rights compliance of Scots law with European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), it may be worth reflecting on the simple fact that in this case, the Scottish Government are very very wrong and very much at odds with the protection of human rights of individual Scots, whether the case be criminal law, or civil.

MacAskill tight lippedScotland’s Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill said Supreme Court judges knew Scots Law only through visiting the Edinburgh Festival. The Herald newspaper reported on Tuesday of this week that Mr MacAskill, who clearly disagrees with the Supreme Court’s ruling in the Fraser case, had accused the Supreme Court judges (two of whom are Scottish) of being part of a ”court in London that is made up of a majority of judges who do not know Scots Law, who may have visited here for the Edinburgh Festival”. Mr MacAskill is further quoted in the article : “We just want to be treated the same as other legal systems – we’re not, because we’re undermined routinely by a court that sits in another country and is presided over by a majority of judges who have no knowledge of Scots law, never mind Scotland.”

Mr MacAskill also said the Scottish legal system should have direct access to the European Court in Strasbourg rather than the route of the London Supreme court, however, as cases can take years to reach the European Court, and Legal Aid funding from the Scottish Legal Aid Board is not always obtainable if the applicant’s face doesn’t fit, forcing Scots to wait four or more years for a fair hearing at Strasbourg rather than a trip to the Supreme Court is rather impracticable, not to mention breaching the rights of Scots to fair hearing in European law within a reasonable time.

On Wednesday of this week, the Herald newspaper reported the decision of the Scottish Government’s Cabinet to set up an expert group to examine Scotland’s relationship with the UK Supreme Court, quoting First Minister Alex Salmond as saying : “It is that desire to ensure Scotland is allowed to make its own decisions that fuels this Government’s desire for reform of the current position of the UK Supreme Court in Scottish criminal cases.”

He said it was “most certainly not”, as had been suggested by Supreme Court judge Lord Hope, “a misunderstanding of the law and the facts on the part of the Scottish Government”, adding “Our concerns are shared by senior members of the Scottish judiciary and respected legal figures, including Lord Fraser, the former Lord Advocate.” Mr Salmond is further quoted : “This is a practical and moral issue which concerns the rights of victims and their families, whose search for justice is delayed, and leads to cases being decided by a court where the majority of judges are not expert in Scots Law.” yet there are many more respected legal figures who dispute the First Minister’s version of events and view that Scots seeking justice should be forced on the long road to Europe rather than the shorter road to London.

The same day, Wednesday, Scotland’s Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill threatened to cut funding to the Supreme Court, reported again in the Herald newspaper. The Herald article quotes Mr MacAskill as saying : “When I go to the Law Society I say that I will not routinely fund ambulance-chasing lawyers. It should be said that I am not going to pay for ambulance-chasing courts. As a Government we have to pay for the Supreme Court of the UK and I think they should recognise that we’ll pay for our fair share of what goes there.” Mr MacAskill is further quoted : “But I am not paying money that would come out of the police budget, or prison budget or community payback budget because they are routinely taking cases that we as a country do not think should be going there. He who pays the piper, as they say, calls the tune.”

Surely Mr MacAskill’s threat of withdrawing funding from the Supreme Court is a product of desperation in an argument where clearly, with the failure of Scottish judges to understand ECHR & comply with it in rulings in Scotland, Scots should be even more actively encouraged to seek rulings in London, rather than as the Lord Justice Clerk Lord Gill said himself, Scotland’s “Victorian” justice system.

However, in a twist to Mr MacAskill’s position on the funding question, with the Justice Secretary clearly feeling he can withdraw funding for Scottish cases to the Supreme Court, a move many could say is intended to frustrate an individual’s access to justice, Scottish judges themselves have taken an opposite approach and appeared before Holyrood, arguing they should have the power to ensure funding from the Government if justice requires it.

Lord Hamilton judicialScotland’s Lord President, Lord Hamilton argued Courts should have power to compel funding for justice. Indeed, the current Lord President, Lord Hamilton appeared before the Scottish Parliament’s Justice Committee, telling msps judicial independence should be maintained and also saying the justice system should have the power to ensure funding is made available for it. Lord Hamilton said : “In difficult financial times, it could be important for the courts to be able to say to the other organs of government that, to maintain a proper judicial system in a democratic society, they require funding of a certain minimum level to discharge that responsibility. It is in that provision that you have the responsibility of providing that for us.” Video footage of Lord Hamilton speaking on the question of funding for justice is available here : Lord President Lord Hamilton says the courts should have power to compel funding from Government for justice system to work properly

Today, Friday, the Herald newspaper reports the First Minister as having been forced to defend ‘Little Scotlander’ Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill over his comments against the Supreme Court and accusations against its judges. Mr Salmond, replying to questions in the Scottish Parliament said : “I fully endorse the Justice Secretary in all aspects of his excellent work.”

Clearly, the human rights of Scots are caught up in a game of political football by Supreme Court hating politicians, who are concerned a court which is generally outside their influence is showing up the Scottish justice system to be the archaic, Victorian and prejudiced model we all know it to be, words spoken by some of its own judges and officials on the ground, rather than those living in ivory towers of St Andrews House.

It should also be noted that while the Scottish Government are content to huff & puff, playing to an agenda which seeks to deprive Scots of human rights rulings within a reasonable time, not one single press release or ministerial statement has appeared on the Scottish Government’s own website this week over the Supreme Court debacle, not even a hint of the Justice Secretary’s threat to pull funding for the Supreme Court.

Readers may wish to view the following two interviews and judge for yourselves, who is acting in the public interest to protect Scots rights of access to justice & access to Human Rights :

Making politics : First Minister Alex Salmond claimed the ruling was the replacement of Scottish Law with Lord Hope’s law, even though Lord Hope is a former Lord President of the Court of Session in Scotland.

Making sense : Professor & solicitor Tony Kelly : “If the Supreme court constantly has to overturn the decisions of the Scottish Court there is a problem..”

 

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Beware of the one ‘fiddled’ independence referendum & one stooge managed Scottish Referendum Commission coming right up

Scottish GovernmentScottish Government wants a new one-shot quango to stooge manage independence referendum. I tend not to stray too far into reporting political news, principally because there are so many scandals involving the legal profession and its many tentacles, I am kept busy indefinitely on that subject. However, reading about how the Scottish Government are attempting to create a new quango with yet more stooge appointments, simply for the purpose of pushing the referendum on independence agenda, in a time when basically, Scotland is broke, deserves some attention.

If anyone came along & knocked on your door, telling you they were going to demolish your house to build a new road, you might say, oh, I’m going to fight this, take legal action, and either win, preventing your home being demolished, or walk away with a suitable compensation figure after a lot of haggling and letters.

If however, someone came along, knocked on your door and said, we are going to demolish your house to build a new road, and oh, by the way you cant take legal action, you have to appeal to this new quango we’ve created which is run by the company who are building the road, you might be forgiven for thinking you are being led up a one way garden path by the road builders. So alas, are we all being led up the same one way garden path with the plans exposed by the BBC on the Scottish Government’s planned referendum on independence, to be announced later this week.

logo_electoralcommissionElectoral Commission to be kept out of Scottish independence referendum on. Normally, the Electoral Commission, oversee elections in the UK. This has worked fairly well as we all know for many years. Yes, a few nags and niggles, but as always, we get who we vote for, regrets or not. However, the Scottish Government do not want to use the Electoral Commission for their independence referendum plan, which is certainly no surprise to me, because this time the SNP wont be able to get away with stuffing the ballot with a title “Alex Salmond for First Minister” as they did in the last Holyrood elections. That was certainly unfair on all concerned, and everyone being wise to that, I’m sure it will never be allowed to happen again, hence, no Electoral Commission please, we know your tricks .. you will spot any fiddles in the questions tout de suite so cant allow that.

So, as appears to be tradition, when an organisation might not give Ministers the result they want, they call in, or better still create a new body to give them the result they want .. and hence here we are now reading about a new Scottish Referendum Commission, which will be doubtless stuffed with quango style appointed people who have one track minds to hand over the one result the current Scottish Government want – a “Yes” for independence, at any cost, and as garbled a set of questions to the electorate that no one will be able to fathom out.

I’d say that is a fit up, but don’t take my word for it, look through the Freedom of Information disclosures obtained by the BBC and released yesterday.

Personally, I am left wondering what they are going to call this referendum quango .. how about the Scottish Legal Independence Referendum Commission ?

Surely it could be modelled on the entirely dishonest failure & quango fat cat ridden expenses lined Scottish Legal Complaints Commission .. who are serving the legal profession unbelievably well, considering it was actually set up to give the public a chance against, well … the same rogue lawyers Mr MacAskill professed his Scottish Government owed a big debt for their election ‘success

At a time of huge public service cuts, rising unemployment, our banks still on the rocks, and the national debt (mainly thanks to those on-the-rocks banks which had to be saved) sky high .. I could think of a lot more better use for public funds, and legislative time at Holyrood. Anyway, arent we all supposed to stick together in times of crisis ?

Read the full exchanges obtained by the BBC under FOI [2.91MB] (pdf)

A selection of those FOI disclosures obtained by the BBC, well worth reading (click on images for larger size) :

Scottish Independence Referendum Plans FOI release to BBC_21 Scottish Independence Referendum Plans FOI release to BBC_22 Scottish Independence Referendum Plans FOI release to BBC_23 Scottish Independence Referendum Plans FOI release to BBC_24 Scottish Independence Referendum Plans FOI release to BBC_25

Scottish Independence Referendum Plans FOI release to BBC_26 Scottish Independence Referendum Plans FOI release to BBC_27 Scottish Independence Referendum Plans FOI release to BBC_29 Scottish Independence Referendum Plans FOI release to BBC_30

BBC News reports :

Plans for special body to run independence referendum

The Scottish government plans to set up a special body to run a future referendum on independence.

Ministers do not want to use the Electoral Commission which overseas Westminster elections.

The plan was revealed in minutes of meetings which were obtained by the BBC under Freedom of Information.

The draft bill on the independence referendum – which could take place as soon as 30 November – is expected to be published on Friday.

Email from the Scottish government, 13 march, 2009 – “We are now looking at what the question in an independence referendum might be and at some point will need to show we have properly assessed it for intelligibility, neutrality, etc.”

Electoral Commission minute, 22 September, 2009 – “Scottish government officials confirmed… that there was currently no provision to consult any organisation as to the intelligibility of the referendum question.”

Electoral Commission minutes, 6 November, 2009 – “There seems little regard to the remit and role of what the Scottish Referendum Commission would actually do.”

The Electoral Commission has a statutory role to run referenda called by Westminster, but has no formal role in those called by the Scottish Parliament.

In the minutes obtained by BBC One’s Politics Show, civil servants told the commission they planned to set up a new body – the Scottish Referendum Commission – to run the election.

The paperwork also revealed the concerns of the Westminster commission over the wording of the questions and that the timescale towards the poll was too short.

A minute from September last year said: “Scottish Government officials … confirmed that there was currently no provision to consult any organisation as to the intelligibility of the referendum question”.

No Scottish minister would comment on the FOI minutes, however, a spokesperson said that Scottish voters already had quite recent experience of a multi-option constitutional referendum.

The Electoral Commission said that when the government sets out the referendum on full independence, it would “consider it and submit a response” using experience of planning for referendums in the UK.

It added: “We are not able to comment until this public consultation is opened.”

and the latest today on this can be read here : Referendum ballot ‘rigging’ claim

 

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Legal Complaints Chief Jane Irvine to appear at Perth Sheriff Court as Law Society investigates Tayside law firm Kippen Campbell

SLCC squareScottish Legal Complaints Commission in the dock over complaints. PERTH SHERIFF COURT will shortly see a first for board members & officials of the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission, who are to appear as witnesses in a case involving Perth law firm Kippen Campbell, who are currently being investigated by the Law Society of Scotland over a complaint made by a client who was being represented by the law firm in a personal injury claim against Arriva Motor Retailing Ltd & Reg Vardy plc.

Jane IrvineIn the dock : Jane Irvine, Chair of the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission. Documents revealed today show the SLCC’s Chair, Jane Irvine and at least one SLCC investigator are to be cited as witnesses to justify their investigation into the Perth law firm after parts of the SLCC’s complaints investigation were filed at Perth Sheriff Court in connection with a legal action launched by Messrs Kippen Campbell against their former client, for alleged outstanding but disputed fees.

Kippen Campbell Fee NoteFee note released during the SLCC’s investigation shows Kippen Campbell tried to charge for dealing with the Law Society over complaints. The Scottish Legal Complaints Commission began an investigation into complaints made late last year against Messrs Kippen Campbell by their client, a Mr William Gordon over issues related to their representation of Mr Gordon in the personal injury claim. The SLCC’s investigation was ‘complicated’ according to legal insiders, but it has now emerged in court documents seen by journalists that the law firm had, among its now disputed charges to Mr Gordon, charged a fee note to their client for a phone call to the Law Society of Scotland over the actual complaint made by Mr Gordon, an action which sources at the Law Society say is severely frowned upon by the regulatory body as solicitors are ‘not allowed to charge clients for dealing with complaints.

Leading figures from Scotland’s legal profession said this evening the move to cite senior officials of the regulatory body as witnesses in a courtroom ‘was unprecedented’ and would shine a much needed light on the poorly performing Scottish Legal Complaints Commission which apparently has yet to show one single success for ‘protecting consumers’ against rogue solicitors & law firms in Scotland.

A legal insider said this evening : “After a year of scandal at the SLCC I doubt very much any of them want to be dragged into a court to explain exactly what it is they do for people but many solicitors and consumers I’m sure will welcome the opportunity for the SLCC’s officials to be questioned under oath on their work.”

A spokesman for a consumer organisation said he was delighted the SLCC may be held to account for its work in an open court. He said : “The SLCC to my knowledge have no successes to show after over one year of operation and all the millions of pounds of money both from the public purse and the legal profession they have taken in.”

He continued : “It is about time someone was able to get a firm idea of exactly what the SLCC stands for, what it does and how it does it. Unfortunately however, it seems in this case the defender, Mr Gordon does not have legal representation and might not be able to ask the same level of technical questions that an experienced solicitor may ask. I would hope this imbalance is corrected immediately to respect the infirmed defender’s Article 6 right to a fair hearing in court.”

SLCC Media releases on Perth Sheriff Court caseSLCC Media release on Perth Court case initially lied over knowledge that officials would be called to give evidence. When questioned about the court appearances, a spokeswoman for the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission’s Chair, Jane Irvine, initially denied knowledge of the case, saying : “The SLCC are unaware of the situation and therefore have no comment to make.” However, after further investigation and media enquiries, the SLCC backtracked on their initial claim to know nothing with Jane Irvine issuing the following statement : “The SLCC has a duty of confidentiality to all parties involved in all complaints and this is under Section 43 of the Legal Profession and Legal Aid (Scotland) Act 2007. In general terms, if an action is raised, either party can submit SLCC documents as evidence without being obliged to inform the SLCC. With regards to the citation of witnesses, the SLCC would not be aware what witnesses either side chose to cite unless a citation was issued to a member of staff or Member.”

Roseanna CunninghamRoseanna Cunningham MSP called in to help constituent’s complaint amid SLCC delays. It has also emerged that Perth MSP Roseanna Cunningham has been called in to help the constituent’s complaint with the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission, after it emerged the SLCC had not apparently fully understood what had actually happened to the client, causing concern the law complaints body had failed to address all the issues put before it, and in a strange twist, a trail of documents between the SLCC and Mr Gordon reveal the law complaints body was slow to involve Ms Cunningham in the loop on the progress of their investigation and findings, despite receiving letters from Ms Cunningham early on in the case.

Law Society of ScotlandLaw Society are now investigating law firm over fee charges. The media attention to the story has now prompted a new development, with an SLCC investigator announcing : “I have also now heard from the Law Society and am pleased to confirm it has accepted the SLCC’s recommendation to look further at your complaint that Messrs Kippen Campbell charged a fee in relation to dealing with your complaint to the Law Society. I understand the Law Society will be in touch with you to obtain information and evidence.”

No one was available at Kippen Campbell for comment this evening.

My advice to anyone dealing with the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission .. if you feel your complaint has been poorly dealt with, and you are fighting a legal case based on issues the SLCC has considered, make sure like Mr Gordon, you cite the relevant SLCC personnel or even board members as witnesses to justify whatever they have said or done in terms of their investigation into your complaints against solicitors & law firms.

 

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Holyrood’s Justice Committee calls on public to submit experiences on using & improving Scotland’s legal services market

Debating chamberScottish Parliament calls for evidence on public use of courts & legal services. If you have used a Scottish lawyer or the courts and felt the service you did not receive was tip top, or bordered on the woefully inadequate, now is the time to put those experiences in writing by 1st December 2009 to the Scottish Parliament’s Justice Committee, along with suggestions for improvement, and your thoughts on the proposals contained in the Scottish Government’s Legal Services Bill, which hopes to give Scots wider choice of legal representation and a more accessible, competent and trustworthy legal services market than the current broken model, monopolised by the Law Society of Scotland and so poorly regulated that consumer complaints statistics have previously reached staggering heights of up to 8000 cases a year against less than 10,000 solicitors in private practice.

You can view the current version of the Legal Services Bill here : Bill (as introduced) (469KB pdf posted 01.10.2009)

The Legal Services Bill concerns the provision and regulation of legal services in Scotland. It takes forward the proposals contained in the Scottish Government’s consultation paper Wider choice and better protection – a consultation paper on the regulation of legal services in Scotland published at the turn of the year. That consultation followed on from reform across the legal services market in the rest of the UK, driven initially by the 2004 report of the European Commission on Competition in professional services and also prompted by a “super-complaint” by consumer group Which? to the Office of Fair Trading.

The Bill’s Policy Memorandum advises that the profession is facing significant challenges, including competition from English firms entering the Scottish legal services market and the effects of the economic downturn. The Bill aims to provide the opportunity to offer new forms of service, improve efficiency and innovation within solicitors’ firms, and provide access to different methods of capitalisation.

In practical terms, the Bill aims to broaden access to high quality legal services, by allowing solicitors to operate using different business models, for example allowing them to enter into business relationships with non-solicitors, allowing investment by non-solicitors, allowing external ownership and more generally freeing up the market.

The Bill proposes a system of licensed legal service providers, overseen by regulators approved and licensed by the Scottish Government. The Bill also includes related measures, for example:

  • to support the modernisation of the governance of the Law Society of Scotland
  • to allow the Lord President and the Scottish Ministers to grant professional and other bodies rights to conduct litigation and rights of audience in the Scottish Courts
  • to provide a more direct route by which other professionals, not just solicitors, might be authorised to deal with executries
  • to give the Scottish Legal Aid Board the duty of monitoring the availability and accessibility of legal services.

Legal Services (Scotland) Bill – call for written evidence

The Scottish Parliament’s Justice Committee is seeking views on the general principles of the Legal Services (Scotland) Bill (The Scottish Parliament: – Bills – Legal Services (Scotland) Bill (SP Bill 30)). The Scottish Government has prepared a Policy Memorandum, Explanatory Notes and other accompanying documents (including a Financial Memorandum) which are published to accompany the Bill.

The Bill was introduced in the Parliament on 30 September 2009 and the Justice Committee has been designated lead committee for Stage 1 of the Bill. (The Finance and Subordinate Legislation Committees will also consider the Bill and report to the Justice Committee.) Stage 1 of the scrutiny process is concerned with the general principles of the Bill, although it is also an opportunity to flag up more specific concerns that could be addressed by amendment at later Stages.

The Justice Committee hopes to consider written submissions and to take oral evidence during December 2009 and January 2010 and to report on the Bill’s general principles by mid-February 2010.

In preparation for this, the Committee invites all interested parties to submit views on the Bill in writing. The Committee is interested to hear the views of all organisations, bodies and individuals on the proposals contained within the Bill and their likely impact. Comments do not have to cover all aspects of the Bill, only those proposals which are of interest or concern.

In making a submission, please indicate clearly whether or not you would wish to be invited to give oral evidence to the Committee (on 5 January 2010) to follow up on points made in your submission. If you do wish to give oral evidence, it is essential that your submission is received no later than Tuesday 1 December 2009 so that the Committee can decide, at its meeting on 8 December, whom to invite for the 5 January meeting. (Please note that the Committee may not invite all those who wish to give oral evidence.) If you do not wish to give oral evidence, your submission should be received by the 1 December deadline, if possible, and in any event no later than Friday 18 December.

How to submit written evidence

Before making a submission, please read the Parliament’s policy on treatment of written evidence by subject and mandatory committees. Written submissions should normally be limited to around 4 sides of A4 but, if they need to be much longer than this, they should be accompanied by a short summary of the main points. Submissions should be set out in numbered paragraphs. Where the submission refers to existing published material, it is preferable to provide hyperlinks or full citations (rather than extensive extracts). The Committee welcomes written evidence in English, Gaelic or any other language.

The Committee prefers to receive written submissions electronically (preferably in Microsoft Word format). These should be sent by e-mail to: lsbill@scottish.parliament.uk However you may also make hard copy written submissions to: Justice Committee, Room T3.60 ,The Scottish Parliament, Edinburgh. EH99 1SP Telephone : (0131) 348 5047.

My previous reports on the Legal Services Bill can be viewed HERE

I would encourage anyone who has used legal service in Scotland, to contribute to the Justice Committee’s deliberations on the Legal Services Bill to ensure that a much fairer system of legal services & wider choice of representation is put in place for all Scots. Your input into the debate will ensure the public’s voice is heard against the special vested interests of the legal profession and those who wish to retain market dominance over your right to choose who you want to handle your legal interests.

 

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Scottish Parliament asks Lord Hamilton & Justice Secretary MacAskill : ‘Do you support McKenzie Friends for Scotland’ ?

Lord Hamilton 2Lord President Lord Hamilton. The Scottish Parliament’s Petitions Committee has written to Scotland’s Chief Judge Lord Hamilton, the Lord President, and the Justice Secretary, Kenny MacAskill, asking them both if they support the introduction of McKenzie Friends for Scotland, some forty years after McKenzie Friends were first introduced to the UK Courts of England & Wales.

Asst Clerk to Lord President Court of Session on McKenzie Friends PetitionLord Hamilton asked if the Court of Session supports McKenzie Friends. Holyrood’s Petitions Committee recently considered Petition 1247 (McKenzie Friends for Scotland) and concluded the next step forward would be to ask the Lord President outright what his position is on the issue of McKenzie Friends. The Petitions Committee writes : “The purpose of this letter is to seek a written response to the following specific question: in light of Lord Gill’s review, what is the position of the Court of Session on the introduction of a McKenzie friend ?”

Petitions Committee to Scottish Government on McKenzie Friends PetitionScottish Government’s Justice Department asked questions on McKenzie Friends. The Petitions Committee also wrote to the Scottish Government’s Justice Department, asking whether it supports the introduction of McKenzie Friends, and querying the ‘timetable’ for responses to Lord Gill’s recent Civil Courts Review. The Committee writes : “The purpose of this letter is to seek a written response to the specific points below and those raised during the discussion on the petition :

*What is its timetable to respond to Lord Gill’s review?

*Does it support the review’s recommendations as far as “McKenzie friends” are concerned and will it therefore introduce a McKenzie friend to assist a party litigant? If so when?

*What is its answer to Margo MacDonald’s point about the decision of Sheriffs to invite a McKenzie friend?”

Margo MacDonald pointed out McKenzie Friends are a right in England & Wales :

MacAskill tight lippedJustice Secretary Kenny MacAskill ‘caught out’ on speed of Holyrood’s McKenzie Friends Petition. Legal insiders today branded the Scottish Government’s response on the petition so far as lacking in direction, claiming the Justice Department had been caught out on the issue of McKenzie Friends and the speed of the actual petition, with Ministers being left red faced and without honest explanations as to exactly why McKenzie Friends had been kept out of Scotland for the past forty years.

A senior solicitor today said : “While many individual solicitors do not have a problem with the introduction of McKenzie Friends to Scotland, I can well imagine the Law Society of Scotland and the Faculty of Advocates will continue their opposition to the introduction of lay people to the court process, on the basis that litigation which may well have been obstructed in the past for a variety of reasons, may now be achievable with the presence of a McKenzie Friend assisting a party litigant.”

He continued : “Clearly the powers that be, and that seems to include the Scottish Government, do not wish to lose control of the courts process where they may well be faced with difficult cases which cannot be so easily buried in the sands of time.”

An official from one of Scotland’s consumer organisations welcomed the continued attempts from the Scottish Parliament to pursue the McKenzie Friends question, urging speedy progress to help party litigants already caught in the mire of complicated & difficult practices in Scotland’s courts system.

She said : “I am happy to see the Petitions Committee continue to pursue the Scottish Government & Lord President over the McKenzie Friends petition but it does seem to me that steps will have to be taken by the Parliament to ensure that party litigants have a right enshrined in law to call upon the services of a McKenzie Friend in a Scottish court, rather than leave the whole thing up to the courts discretion on a case by case basis, which in itself is an abuse of the individual’s rights as we see in comparison of how the McKenzie Friend facility is applied, quite fairly, in England & Wales.”

There is of course, no reason why the Scots public should be continually denied a legal right which has applied in the rest of the UK for forty years. Please support the campaign to bring McKenzie Friends to Scotland, ensuring it becomes a right for court users to avail themselves of the services of a McKenzie Friend in Scotland’s courts.

My previous reports on the campaign to bring McKenzie Friends to Scotland can be found HERE

 

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Holyrood debate reveals civil justice reforms & McKenzie Friends may be a long way off as Scottish Ministers stumble over Lord Gill review proposals

Debating chamberScottish Parliament debated Lord Gill’s Civil Courts Review. Last Thursday’s Scottish Parliamentary debate on the Civil Courts Review recommendations made by Scotland’s Lord Justice Clerk, Lord Gill has left most onlookers and legal insiders with a worry that many of the reforms proposed in the two year review on Scotland’s Civil Justice system, including the implementation of McKenzie Friends & Class Actions, will suffer long delays and in some cases, may almost certainly never be implemented in ways which would help ordinary Scots gain significant improvements in using Scotland’s “Victorian” justice system.

MacAskill tight lippedJustice Secretary Kenny MacAskill spoke of Lord Gill’s criticisms of Scotland’s Civil Justice System. The tone of the debate, opened by Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill, began on a ‘positive’ note, where high hopes for improvements to Scotland’s Civil Justice system were aired by Mr MacAskill, along with the usual compliments for the legal system as it currently stands (in failure). Mr MacAskill said : “Scots law and the Scottish courts have served us well in civil matters for many years but, last Wednesday, the Lord Justice Clerk, Lord Gill, presented me with the “Report of the Scottish Civil Courts Review”, which is a hard-hitting report and the first system-wide review in modern times.”

Mr MacAskill went on to say : “In his opening paragraphs Lord Gill pulls no punches. He says: “The basic structure of civil jurisdictions in the Scottish courts remains much as it was in the late nineteenth century”.He continues:”changes in the social and economic life of Scotland … have left us with a structure of civil justice that is seriously failing the nation. Reform is long overdue.”

“Those conclusions are unavoidable. Our civil courts now operate in a rights-based, property-owning, consumer-oriented, insurance-reliant society of a sort that would have been unrecognisable a century ago. A reliance on ad hoc reforms has delivered a system of civil justice that is unfit for today’s purposes. Lord Gill states: “The practitioners of 100 years ago would have little difficulty in picking up the threads of today’s courts. The severe summary is that the structure is “seriously failing the nation.”

Scotland’s Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill opens Holyrood debate on Civil Courts Review :

margo_macdonaldMargo MacDonald MSP asked Kenny MacAskill when justice reforms would begin. Early intervention from independent MSP Margo MacDonald on the question of which areas had been identified by the Justice Secretary for a start, along with comments from the Liberal Democrat Justice Spokesman Robert Brown on points made by Lord Gill that his report ‘was not to be cherry picked and should be dealt with as a whole’, appeared to leave Mr MacAskill grasping for explanations as to what could and could not be done by the current Scottish Government.

Further hints at delays to Lord Gill’s proposals were compounded by questions from Scottish Labour MSP David Whitton, on the subject of McKenzie Friends, which also left Mr MacAskill struggling for an immediate solution to the forty year old McKenzie Friend ‘Scottish problem’ , the blame of which sits squarely with the Courts and Scotland’s legal establishment.

david_whittonStrathkelvin and Bearsden MSP David Whitton asked for introduction of McKenzie Friends in Scotland. David Whitton intervened early on in Mr MacAskill’s opening speech, asking asked the Justice Secretary about the issue of McKenzie Friends in Scotland. Mr Whitton said : “Is one of the issues on which the cabinet secretary thinks we can all reach agreement the introduction of the McKenzie friend process?”

MacAskill tight lipped Justice Secretary MacAskill replied with a less than immediately hopeful statement : “I am more than happy to consider it. Lord Gill commented on that process, as did those involved in providing support through citizens advice bureaux and others. I am more than happy to meet Mr Whitton or his front-bench colleagues to discuss it because we are genuinely open to ideas. We do not insist on any formula. As I said, if we can agree on changes that are within our control, we will seek to do so. If changes are within the domain of others we will encourage them to act, if that is Parliament’s view. Other matters will require to await the outcome of an election and, presumably, the availability of legislative time. The shape of reform will require endorsement and, in some cases, enactment by this Parliament. There will be those in the chamber and beyond with particular interests in the course of reform, whether that involves McKenzie friends or other ideas. They will want to ensure that their interests are protected, be they of the cause or constituency type. That is to be expected and welcomed”

Strathkelvin and Bearsden MSP David Whitton spoke further on the issue of McKenzie Friends for Scotland :

David Whitton MSP said during his speech : “My colleague Cathie Craigie and several other members touched on the need for the introduction of McKenzie friends in Scottish courts. The cabinet secretary knows about my interest in third-party rights of representation. Indeed, only a couple of months ago, the Association of Commercial Attorneys finally earned the right for its members to appear in court, but only after a lengthy process, which at times seemed to involve an obstructive approach from the Scottish legal establishment. It is to be hoped that the recommendation on the introduction of McKenzie friends does not suffer similar delays. That is why I welcome the cabinet secretary’s earlier remarks in response to my intervention.”

He continued : “We must make expeditious progress on Lord Gill’s enlightened recommendation on McKenzie friends. The first thing that can be done is for the courts to grant McKenzie friend rights with immediate effect. There is no need for legislation from the Parliament, as it is within the powers of the courts to grant those rights. That would demonstrate the intent that things are going to change. The public want that change, Lord Gill has recommended it, the consumer associations support it, and it is an equitable and compassionate remedy for some of the access-to-justice restrictions in Scotland.

Mr Whitton’s references to the Association of Commercial Attorneys application for third party rights of representation refers to a long battle by the ACA’s Chairman, Mr Bill Alexander, seeking rights of audience under Sections 25-29 of the Law Reform (Miscellaneous Provisions) Scotland Act 1990, which I have reported on previously, here : Association of Commercial Attorneys Rights of Audience in Scotland

The outcome for the ACA was less than fair, due to the fact they were given a heavily restrictive practicing certificate for construction law only, with their application apparently being fought & lobbied against by the legal establishment at every stage. The ACA’s battle to gain rights of audience may also indicate a long struggle ahead on the issue of McKenzie Friends and other access to justice reforms proposed by Lord Gill.

fergus_ewingFergus Ewing caught out on McKenzie Friends issue. While the debate began on a somewhat positive note, the debate certainly ended on a significant stumble by the Communities Safety Minister Fergus Ewing over the question of McKenzie Friends, who indicated in his replies to questions from David Whitton MSP that a quick implementation of even the basic proposals in Lord Gill’s Civil Courts Review such as allowing McKenzie Friends in Scotland’s courts, was not going to be ‘all that quick’

Community Safety Minister Fergus Ewing stumbles over McKenzie Friends for Scotland after 40 years of existence in England & Wales.

david_whittonDavid Whitton intervened once more on the McKenzie Friends question. During the debate’s closing speech by Community Safety Minister Fergus Ewing, Strathkelvin and Bearsden MSP David Whitton again raised the subject of McKenzie Friends and their sooner rather than later implementation in Scotland. Mr Whitton said : “I bring the minister back to my comments about McKenzie friends. He mentioned that there was wide consultation on their use and varying reports about their effectiveness, but I am sure that he acknowledges that Lord Gill recommends firmly that they should be introduced. Indeed, they already work in jurisdictions south of the border, so I do not understand why we need to delay too long before we implement that recommendation.”

fergus_ewingFergus Ewing replied ‘its not an easy matter to be a McKenzie Friend’. Community Safety Minister Fergus Ewing replied with a less than clear cut answer, leaving many to suspect the battle to implement McKenzie Friends in Scotland is far from over. Mr Ewing said : “David Whitton is right that the recommendation is that McKenzie friends should play a role in Court of Session actions. However, my understanding—my recollection of reading that part of the report—is that there is the caveat that it should be at the discretion of the judge who is handling the case to ensure that McKenzie friends are used appropriately for each case. It is not an easy matter to be a McKenzie friend and, particularly if the case is complex, there could be issues with the appropriateness of using one. I think that Lord Gill also states that, in family actions, it may not always be appropriate for a family member to act as a McKenzie friend because of the potential conflicts of interest.”

By clicking the following You Tube links, you can watch the reaction from Scotland’s political parties and several MSPs to Lord Gill’s recommendations, which for the main offered a broad approval of Lord Gill’s report and hopes that many of the issues raised in the two year appraisal of Scotland’s Civil Justice system can be implemented. The test of course will be whether the Civil Justice reforms proposed in the review will be implemented, and how long implementation will take …

Civil Courts Review debate : Scottish Conservative Justice spokesman Bill Aitken MSP

Civil Courts Review debate : Scottish Labour Justice spokesman Richard Baker MSP

Civil Courts Review debate : Scottish Liberal Democrats Justice spokesman Robert Brown MSP

Civil Courts Review debate : Cathy Jamieson MSP

Civil Courts Review debate : Shirley Anne Somerville MSP speaks on Class Action reforms

Civil Courts Review debate : Nigel Don MSP

On the whole I would say the debate was positive, albeit there are obvious indicators the implementation of Lord Gill’s recommendations will take time, and will be met with obvious & stiff resistance from the legal establishment. Several solicitors and legal insiders I have spoken to since the debate point to many uncertainties over Lord Gill’s proposals, resistance from the legal establishment over changes that many within its ranks do not want, and the inevitable arm twisting of politicians by the likes of the Law Society of Scotland, who although have welcomed Lord Gill’s report, are actually fuming over many of the proposals to give the public greater access to justice, and the chance to bypass Scotland’s hugely expensive solicitors to do it.

I honestly feel that as far as McKenzie Friends go, there will have to be some kind of legislation to ensure that having a McKenzie Friend is a Human Right, and not something at the whim or discretion of the court. The court has after all, kept out McKenzie Friends from Scotland for some forty years, and both the governing bodies of Scotland’s legal profession – the Law Society of Scotland and the Faculty of Advocates, do not even recognise the fact that McKenzie Friends are treated as Human Rights issue in England & Wales, and in many jurisdictions around the world.

If we are to have certainty over the McKenzie Friends question, and many other recommendations of Lord Gill, I foresee the legislative route must be used to force the courts to ensure access to justice for all, rather than access to justice only for those the court feels should have it.

The legal establishment and the courts, will again no doubt argue that we are special in Scotland, and have a peculiarly special legal services market which may be damaged by some of Lord Gill’s proposals including McKenzie Friends. However, the truth is, we are only special in Scotland because the legal establishment actively denies access to justice to those it does not want to achieve access to justice.

 

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