Sunday, April 23, 2006

Peter Cherbi comments on top Scottish Lawyer revealed by the Sunday Mail newspaper to be at centre of 12 Negligence Claims by clients

Well done to the Sunday Mail newspaper for exposing Scottish solicitor John O'Donnell, of John G O'Donnell & Co in Cathcart, Glasgow, who is at the centre of 12 negligence claims from clients.

This article, and the report, exposes something which I have been saying for years now - solicitors can go about their business, supported by the Law Society of Scotland and the rest of the legal system, while they have disgraceful regulatory histories ... all covered up of course by their colleagues at the Law Society of Scotland, and their allies at the Scottish Executive, so we, the Scottish public, never get to know ...

Solicitors up and down the length of Scotland - and the rest of the UK, can, and frequently do, have long records of client complaints ranging from negligence, embezzlement, theft, faking up files, overcharging bills, drawing out legal disputes & business just to bump up their own fees, stealing from deceased's wills & estates so that family get nothing, selling clients houses to lower bids from colleagues in the legal & financial profession for favours .. and much much more ... and while Scotland's 10,000 solicitors accumulate even more complaints on a daily basis, the Scottish public never gets to know about this ..... so literally, a solicitor can (and does) rip off hundreds of clients for the same thing, each client never knowing about the other (unless of course they know each other or see a press report on their crooked solicitor - like today's Sunday Mail article)

Mr O'Donnel has so many other complaints of negligence against him .. and clients were going to him for services while he and his Master Insurance Policy Insureres (Royal Sun Alliance) were settling (probably with great attrition against the pursuers). is actually, quite common.

In my own experience of dealing with the legal profession & Scottish solicitors, being contacted by many people to look into paticular solicitors, and of course, the complaints I have filed with the Law Society of Scotland, I have discovered that ALL the solicitors have poor regulatory records, which is why I am asking for the Cathy Jamieson to revoke the exemption of the Law Society of Scotland from the Freedom of Information Act, and further, for the Justice 2 Committee and the Scottish Executive to attach wording to the Legal Profession & Legal Aid (Scotland) Bill, which would grant Regulatory Disclosure as a matter of course to existing and new clients of solicitors.

This is as simple as someone going into a supermarket and looking at a can of baked beans - if there are too many artificial additives, etc ... or if it says - genetically altered - mostly people avoid it .. .similarly, people should have the same choice with legal services and those who are trusted with what is often the most important parts of our lives - dealings with the law, which if they go wrong, can prove disasterous.

If I had known the regulatory history of the lawyers I had used - i would never have touched them with a barge pole - and likewise - anyone else would do the same ...

For instance, would Mr X use a lawyer to invest money if his neighbour had used the same lawyer, who had embezzled his money & ruined his life, and the neighbour had told Mr X ? No way !

... so everyone should have the right to know what these lawyers are up to, how many complaints they face/have faced, how many times they have had to settle, etc ..

I am also of the opinion that there should be some kind of solicitor rating system similar to the Driving license put in place, to give clients a quick indication as to a solicitor's current status in regulatory terms ..

Such a system could warn prospective & existing clients where having so many points on a lawyers practicing certificate should restrict a lawyers qualifications, ability to represent clients in particular matters, and if too many points exist against them due to bad legal practice against clients, they should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law, and kicked out the legal profession for good, because at the moment - as things stand, this case of Mr O'Donnell being actually quite common, a lawyer could be in a position where they have 50 or a hundred or even more complaints against them, for the same kinds of offences, or even more serious, possibly have settled small financial amounts with clients in 30 or 40 cases, and still go on practicing and ripping people off for the same thing, over & over again .... that is certainly not a good thing for the consumer's point of view - and after all, it is the consumer who is keeping the legal profession in business ....

A good statistic and a sobering thought for us all - there were about 5000 complaints against lawyers last year - and since I took up the campaign against self regulation of lawyers in 1994 there have been about 2000 - 3000 ++ complaints a year against lawyers (although usually the figures are fiddled down by the Law Society of Scotland & the Faculty of Advocates, to keep complaints statistics low, of course) .

There's under 10,000 lawyers in Scotland - so the FACT is that there isn't a legal firm or lawyer in Scotland who hasn't had serious client complaints made against them ...something EVERYONE and even the Corporate sector in SCOTLAND should think about BEFORE employing a Scottish lawyer to do work.

Link to the Sunday Mail article at :

EXCLUSIVE Brief who's making a career out of failure
By Russell Findlay

THIS is the high-flying solicitor at the centre of a remarkable 12 negligence claims.

John O'Donnell, 54, makes a comfortable living from conducting complicated property transactions.

But we can reveal insurers Royal & Sun Alliance have already been forced to pay out £350,000 on seven negligence claims against him. And at least five more worth £200,000 are still being contested. His firm, John G O'Donnell & Co, is based in Cathcart, Glasgow. The Law Society for Scotland, who govern the conduct of lawyers, keep his record of complaints a secret.

O'Donnell has also been accused of misconduct but the Law Society, รข„¢ has not brought any cases to the Scottish Solicitors' Discipline Tribunal. The claims centre on complicated transactions involving property and mortgages. 9 One case settled with an £81,000 payout involved Glasgow boxing promoter Alex Morrison, 67, for whom O'Donnell acted in the 2002 sale of his Sydney Street gym to Scottish Enterprise for £130,000. The sale money should have gone to Morrison's offshore firm, Decafarm Ltd, but was instead issued to O'Donnell's.

Decafarm complained to Strathclyde Police fraud squad but the procurator fiscal decided not to prosecute. 9 In other cases, his clients took out two mortgages on property and sold the property, paying off one mortgage. The others lender then had to pursue the solictor for negligence to get their money back - and his insurance paid out.

Last night, ex-SNP leader and legal reform campaigner John Swinney said:

"This appears a clear example of why a robust and independent complaints handling system is required.

"I hope forthcoming legislation to be considered by Parliament will address these issues."

Peter Cherbi, of Injustice Scotland, said: "If you buy a tin of beans, you can see the ingredients on the label. If you're paying a solicitor, you should be aware of what he or she has been up to.

"I'm also asking Justice Minister Cathy Jamieson to revoke the exemption of the Law Society ofScotland from the Freedom of Information Act."

Last month, it emerged that complaints against lawyers had risen 30 per cent in a year to almost 5000.

But a Law Society of Scotland spokesman said: "The consumer protections for clients of Scottish solicitors are second to none."

Last night, a legal firm issued a statement on his behalf. It read: During 2000-2002, John O'Donnell received treatment for a mental illness. He was diagnosed with clinical depression. During those dark days, Mr O'Donnell accepts his own high standards slipped.

"Indeed, when making a determination, the Law Society of Scotland makes reference to his illness, citing this as 'extenuating circumstances'.

"In 2003, Mr O'Donnell started a new legal practice and has many loyal and satisfied clients."

Two years ago, the Sunday Mail revealed that O'Donnell's office was searched by police as part of a money-laundering probe into McGovern crime family lieutenant, Russell Stirton, 46.


Anonymous said...

congrats on the quotes in the papers. good to see someone level headed is standing up for us clients. i like your idea about lawyers complaints and history disclosure so get the Parliament to make this happen pronto

Mike said...

like the other person said, good idea to get their track record.
I'd take a tin of beans over a crooked lawyer any day !