Saturday, April 08, 2006

Resignation of Linda Costelloe Baker - the Scottish Legal Services Ombudsman

The resignation of Linda Costelloe Baker this week (well, she actually resigned in January), only leaving her position last Friday ... would certainly be one of the most damning indictments so far this year of the performance of the Law Society of Scotland AND the Scottish Executive when it comes to regulation of the legal profession ....

Personally of course, I have had a LOT of dealings with Linda Costelloe Baker in her post as Scottish Legal Services Ombudsman and I'm sure she will remember the name Peter Cherbi along with plenty other clients of crooked lawyers for some years to come ...

Costelloe Baker has considered many complaints for me, and recently recommended that a complaint be reopened against an extremely crooked lawyer by the name of David Reid, formerly of Alex Morrison & Co, then of Morrison Bishop WS, then of Campbell Smith WS .. and now a Law Accountant who prepares clients accounts (better watch yourselves there when you get your solicitors bills for work done ! )

I would say on balance, Linda Costelloe Baker has probably been the more effective Scottish Legal Services Ombudsman we have had ... but of course, there's not been much to choose from, with her predecessor Garry S Watson being no more than a puppet of the Law Society of Scotland, always willing to do as he was told .. then moving on to the Scottish Parliament to fiddle complaints against MSPs prior to Jim Dyer getting the job (and following in the same vein ....)

Costelloe Baker has went from supporting self-regulation in the past - most notably when she appeared before the Justice 1 Committee "Regulation of the Legal Profession" inquiry to now condemning self-regulation with her recommendation for a fully independent system of regulating complaints against the legal profession in Scotland ....

Costelloe Baker has said in the Herald that she is quite upset over the way her office has been prioritised by the Scottish Executive (very low, of course) .. and why would the Scottish Executive give low priority to her office ? ... well maybe her change of heart over the complaint system as operated by the Law Society of Scotland had something to do with it ... and some of those secret briefings & steak dinners between the big guns of the Law Society and Scottish Ministers have had their effect .... because of course, she lost her backers at the Law Society of Scotland once she went against their corrupt practices in the way of complaints investigations & recommended independent regulation ....

Yes, I would say that what has happened to the Office of the Scottish Legal Services Ombudsman has probably proved without a doubt, the power of the legal profession in Scotland - where once they supported the existence of the Ombudsman over the years and even trumpeted the office as more often than not, siding with the Law Society against clients .. now the same Law Society has helped to undermine and sideline the office - even it looks like, interfering in the funding requests put forward by Costelloe Baker for additional staff .....

.... and there are good reasons for me saying this - there are currently several very important complaints being considered by the Scottish Legal Services Ombudsman's office against the Law Society of Scotland and the Faculty of Advocates, and it is in the Law Society of Scotland's interest to either delay or destroy these complaints before the Justice 2 Committee of the Scottish Parliament consider & finalise their recommendations for the new Legal Profession & Legal Aid Bill which is going to give us independent regulation of lawyers and legal agents .... it's that simple, folks !

The article following, from "The Herald", is quite damning of the Scottish Executive and Justice Minister Cathy Jamieson .... and it is of note that the Justice Minister didn't even bother to answer Costelloe Baker's letters on the lack of a new appointment ... is the Scottish Executive so shambolic ? or are they just too busy faking up more evidence in the McKie case and other cases to keep their criminal treatment of people a secret ..... this remains to be seen .. but there is one thing for sure - whether it's fiddling legal complaints or dragging dead birds around to grab headlines from other stories .. we certainly can't trust our Government in Scotland these days ....

You can visit the Scottish Legal Services Ombudsman's website at it hasn't been updated yet though with Ms Costelloe Baker's resignation ....

Link to the article on Linda Costelloe Baker's resignation from "The Herald", at :

Executive drags feet over appointing new watchdog
PAUL ROGERSON April 03 2006

Scotland's legal services watchdog bowed out on Friday after six years in the role with a parting shot at the Scottish Executive's Justice Department.

Linda Costelloe Baker is unhappy ministers have failed to ensure a smooth transition for her Edinburgh-based office by appointing a successor.

The position was not advertised until Friday, despite her repeated promptings. As a result, dozens of people face lengthy delays in the handling of their complaints about the law society or Faculty of Advocates because adjudications cannot be signed off until the job is filled.

"It's a disappointing way for me to go," Costelloe Baker told The Herald.

"I am very upset about the way the handover has been managed. Clearly this office is a very low priority."

Costelloe Baker tendered her resignation to Justice Minister Cathy Jamieson in January and wrote to the executive in both February and March to try and move things along.Her letters were not acknowledged.

"I am very concerned because even if I had completed my full-term of office, ending in June, my understanding was that the position would be advertised in January."

Costelloe Baker has personally signed about 200 letters to lawyers and complainers admitting she has no news of when her successor will be appointed or when outstanding complaints will be resolved.

She presently has about 130 complaints on her books and will return to the office for one day next month to sign off several more decisions. The remainder – and any recommendations made by the investigations team in the meantime – will effectively remain "in limbo" for weeks, if not months.

Another regret for Costelloe Baker is that her turnaround times have slipped because her resources have not been increased in line with the number of complaints to her office. In the financial year ended March 31, she received nearly 500 complaints, compared with just over 100 in 2000-01.

She asked the executive for an office manager but was told there was no cash to spare. She is presently reaching a decision on about 40% of complaints within her 13-week target maximum.

Some cases had dragged on for six months but the maximum has now been reduced to about 20 weeks – an achievement now jeopardised amid the uncertainty over her successor.

Costelloe Baker can certainly look back with satisfaction on her six-year tenure. In her first annual report, she complained of the inadequacy of Scotland's regime of legal self-regulation. Her last report will be published as the Legal Profession and Legal Aid (Scotland) Bill ushers in a new independent watchdog to handle complaints about Scotland's 10,000 lawyers.

One consolation for Costelloe Baker is that the new interim ombudsman will at least be a full-time position. Sheis technically employed four days a week but is known to have worked the fifth day as a matter of course.

Her successor will probably be in post for about two years, until the new commission is established in mid-2008. Where that commission will be based remains to be seen.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

one of the most interesting blogs I've read. Good luck on your quest, sir. Prevail against those who did you wrong !