As you have read from the actual Complaint Reporter's report on this blog, the Reporter recommended that Andrew Penman be prosecuted before the SSDT (Scottish Solicitors Discipline Tribunal) ... but it turned out, the sneaky devious Mr Penman hired a senior member of the Law Society to secretly & deviously represent him at that hearing - and he secured Mr James Ness, of Austins Solicitors, Dalbeattie .. to be his rep.
So, Mr Ness got to work before the Complaints Committee - and made sure that they should be of the opinion that Andrew Penman - as crooked and devious a lawyer as he is, has a greater right to be on this earth than myself, and that of course, he was completely innocent of any charges against him (despite what the report said, and what was an overwhelming amount of evidence in the Law Society Reporter's file) ... and, the Complaints Committee being what it is - nothing more than a boys club for lawyers ... reversed their original decision to prosecute Andrew Penman - to a slap on the wrist punishment - which left him able to go ruin and rip off some more clients - which he has actually done, again & again to other clients ...
So, read the article - it's self explanatory - a great rip off of about £300,000.00 a crooked lawyer who gets a boss at the Law Society to lie for him & demand my execution ..., an Ombudsman who has no powers, and a useless courts system which also protects lawyers from negligence suits .... and you know what ? this has happened to many people ... and many more since this article was printed ....
Jury still out on law in the dock
Does the Law Society act in the public's best interest over legal malpractice ?, asks Jenny Booth The Scotsman Law Section 2 March 1998
Like small children uttelry dependent on their parents, most of us trust our legal advisers implicitly to protect us from life's little Dickensians - financial ruin, for example - at some of the most important stages in our existence.
We do not expect, having purchased our dream home, to find that plannign permission has been granted for a new motorway to run through the garden.
And we would be more than a little upset to discover that a trust find set up to look after our elderly and ailing parents had actually furnished our solicitor's holiday appartment in Spain.
So, who doo you turn to when you believe your solicitor has made a mess of your affairs ?
This may be hard to stomach, but at the moment, the first thing to do is to contact another lawyer, or, to be more precise, the Law Society of Scotland, which acts both as the professional body for lawyers and as the first port of call for members of the public with complaints about their lawyers.
Self regulation has been in place at the society for years, and while few would claim it is perfect, the Law Society says it is working well. It believes that lawyers hav enough pride in their professino to want to clamp down hard on colleagues who break the rules.
But there are those who do not agree.
A recently formed Scottish organisation called Injured By The Law claims that when it comes to a clash between a member of the public and one of its own members, the Law Society is failing to deliver justice
Peter Paton, the chairman of the pressure group says ; "There are many cases of professional misconduct by solicitors that have been inadequately dealt with by the Law Society of Scotland.The system isn't working. It has inbuilt bias towards their own members. The legal profession has proved beyond a doubt that the Law Society, a self regulatory body, can't regulate its own members. There is no clear redress for victims of incompetent solicitors"
Paton says over 1000 complaints were registered by the society in 1997. "It is clear that they don't have the woll to discipline their own members, and when they do, the disciplinary procedure is dismal. Because of this, we feel that this function shoudl be replaced by an independent law commission"
Among the members of the group, one of the newest and angriest is Peter Cherbi, a man who lost his interitance because the winding up of the estate of his late father, Gino Cherbi, was bungled by his solicitor, Andrew Penman, of P & J Stormonth Darling in Kelso.
When Cherbi senior died in 1990, he left stocks and shares, property, a car and other assets including an account in the Banco di Roma, worth nearly ￡300,000.
The Borders businessman's will included a few legacies to friends and relatives, and after liabilities were met, the residue of the estate was to go to his son, Peter.
But by the time Penman had finished handling the estate, Cherbi was told there was nothing left to inherit.
The preliminary report by the Law Society complaints committee accused Penman of "appalling" mismanagement and recommended Penman should be reported to the Scottish Solicitors Discipline Tribunal. which has the power to strike solicitors off.
But the complaints committee changed its mind after reading confidential representations from Penman. and hearing in private from Penmans's solicitor.
The solicitor's identity was routinelt kept confidential. but was later revealed to be a Law Society council member, James Ness, of the firm of solicitors, Austins, in Dalbeattie.
Cherbi says he was later told that at the committee hearing, Ness had questioned his character, and said Penman did not deserve to lose his career over such a man.
Eventually the committee decided instead merely to reprimand Penman, and it awarded the estate what Cherbi thought was a derisory ￡1000 compensation.
This is the statutory top limit that the Law Society can award for the anxiety and distress caused by an incompetent solicitor. If a complainer wants compensation for his loss, he must sue for negligence through the courts.
Cherbi complained to the independent Scottish legal services ombudsman, Garry Watson, who investigated the handling of the case. Watson reported that it was unfair that Ness had been able to make a personal plea to the committee while Cherbi was not invited to be present. This practice has now been reformed by the law Society at the ombudsman's request, and neither side in a dispute can now make final representations in person.
Watson wrote : "it is most important that there is transparency of decision making within committees and that reporters and committees provide reasons for arriving at decisions".
His report recommedned that the Law Society reopen the case, but the Law Society declined.
Cherbi wrote to the Scottish Secretary asking for an independent investigation but was advised to take legal moves to have his case reconsidered. He is preparing to apply for the Law Society's decision to be judicially reviewed. "I'm not going to let the matterrest" says Cherbi. "I feel the Law Society has presided over a whitewash. I have struggled to seek answers on my case, but have got nowhere"
While I have mostly been treated with courtest, which I have reflected in my dealings with the Society,, I have been aware of an undercurrent of inappropriate remarks at senior level against me, as well as a tendency to keep information secret that would otherwise contradict previous Society rulings." "I have been approached by many others who have suffered similar injustices with the Law Society"
But while there is undoubtedly still a phalanx of people like Cherbi, who seem to have very good reason to feel aggrieved, there is some evidence that the
problems of the early and mid-ninetys may be becoming a thing of the past.
In general policy as well as individual cases, the legal services ombudsman has been very critical of the Law Society's procedures for some years.
When Watson took over as ombudsman, his first report for 1994, refers to "unjustifiable delay at each stage of the Law Society investigation". In his 1995 report he said there were a number of "rogue investigations" which were " a discredit to the Society".
But some of the most glaring problems had been cleared up by 1996 ; "I am pleased to report that gross delay and rogue investigations with confusion and lack of control have been largely eliminated. Delays and errors continue to arise ... but they are of a different and manageable order of magnitude.