Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Victims of the Scottish Legal Profession testify before the Justice 2 Committee, Scottish Parliament

Last Tuesday, 23 May 2006, the victims of the legal profession in Scotland finally got to have their say at the Scottish Parliament`s Justice 2 Committee ... but only in answering carefully crafted questions from Committee Members .. rather than actually being able to report the full horror of their dealings & experiences with the Scottish Legal Profession and the likes of the Law Society of Scotland ...

See the following links for Injustice Scotland`s coverage of that meeting and the actual report from the Scottish Parliament itself, and go down about 3 quarters of the way in the report to read the actual testimony from some of the victims of the legal profession.

Summary minutes of meeting & attendence :

Meeting Papers :

Minutes of the meeting & Official Report :

One of the best things I heard from the hearing was .... if a lawyer was being tried for murder, would it be acceptable that 4 members of the jury were lawyers ?

Well, would it ? of course, NOT ...

So, why have we had to put up for decades with the Law Society of Scotland stuffing Complaints Committees with near majority lawyer membership, on the pretext that lay members might not be able to understand the intricacies of law and issues arising from client complaints ? .. and why, again, with the propsals contained in the "Legal Profession & Legal Aid (Scotland Bill" are we still faced with proposals to have a lawyer membership of Committes which are to consider client complaints ?

Lawyers should be completely removed from the regulatory process altogether, as many people, including myself, have said over the years ... and the Law Society of Scotland - as crooked and corrupt as it is, should be left in the role only as some form of `trade union` - left to try and teach their members not to be crooks - if that is possible ....

For one thing - does everyone think that when the new Scottish Legal Complaints Commission comes along, there will no longer be crooked lawyers ? ... no chance of that, I`m afraid ... just in the same vein that just because there is a Police force, criminals don`t stop committing crimes.

if anything, lawyers will just become more imaginative in the way they rip off their clients ...and of course their professional bodies such as the Law Society of Scotland, the Faculty of Advocates, Law Care, the Legal Defence Union, and the rest of the pack .. will come up with more rules, dodges, political arm twisting and other dirty tricks to get crooked lawyers off the hook ..

Mike Lloyd at the J2 hearing said that there should be no limit to the financial penalties which could be imposed on a crooked lawyer for what they did to a client - and this is something the Justice 2 Committee should look into carefully, with a recommendation that the currently proposed maximum financial penalty of £20,000 be replaced with a no limit maximum.

Mike Lloyd pointed out that the new SLCC would probably never award up to the maximum proposed figure anyway, which is quite true in comparison if you look at other regulatory bodies and court awards in the UK in comparable cases of client complaints ... and since lawyers have been known in Scotland to ruin clients of hundreds of thousands of pounds ... what use would a maximum fine of £20,000 be ? .. not much deterrent there if the crooked lawyer embezzles £800,000. from a client, knowing that they will only be fined a maximum of £20,000.

Another good issue which came up before the Justice 2 Committee, was the idea that the insurance scheme for lawyers - the Master Insurance Policy for Professional Negligence, should be replaced, or supplemented at least, by an equivalent insurance for the Client, so that any legal work the lawyer did for the Client, was insured.

This has to be one of the best ideas which have come out of the short public evidence hearings which the J2 Committee have allowed ... just think of it .. if the lawyer is insured for professional negligence, and the client is insured for the quality and service of the work the lawyer has done - then if any claim arises from the client against the lawyer - the two insurance firms fight it out between each other for the compensation award.

This would certainly be much better than the current arrangement where a client has to get a lawyer to sue a lawyer .. which is impossible as we all know .. and also of course, there must be independent scrutiny of this process too ... so that the insurance companies and the lawyers don`t try and cut deals .. which is also currently the case in the crooked world of the Master Insurance Policy, operated by Marsh UK, and Royal & Sun Alliance PLC Insurers.

The actual exchange at the Justice 2 Committee between Maureen MacMillan and Stewart MacKenzie :

Maureen Macmillan: ... Would it help if the commission were to be given a power of oversight in relation to the problems that exist?

Stewart Mackenzie: Absolutely. There is no question about that. That was first identified by the ombudsman just over a year ago. She was of the view that an oversight role on the master policy is crucial. Much about the master policy has been hidden. For example, it has become known only recently that less than 1 per cent of claims actually get to court and that the policy paid out £10 million last year. That is what the Law Society has told the committee. It is my view that the policy has wrecked clients' lives over the past 15 to 20 years.

Maureen Macmillan: Is that because of the delays?

Stewart Mackenzie: No. A Scottish solicitor wrote in The Herald in 1997 that the Law Society had set up a policy that protected solicitors at the expense of their clients. He then wrote in a subsequent article that he had been threatened with disciplinary action for speaking out and saying that. The policy protects the profession?it is abysmal consumer protection. Oversight would change a lot of that.

Maureen Macmillan: Thank you. That is helpful...

The hearing was quite good in that many issues were brought out by the members of the public who attended, but the length of the session and the way it was structured was very poor in comparison to the rights of audience given to the legal profession and it`s many allies over the course of the hearings so far ... for instance ... while the Law Society and it`s allies are allowed virtual right of way in terms of what they say and state - much of it having no basis in reality at all - members of the public weren`t allowed to read out any statements on their own cases and experiences - only to answer questions put to them by Committee members, and somehow, be able to get some points in on how they had been treated by the legal profession over the years ... not good enough, members of the Justice 2 Committee.

Additionally, as we see today in the latest hearing at the J2 Committee, 30 May 2006, the legal profession have been allowed to put in a barrage of `supplementary submissions` ... which are certainly anything but `supplementary` ... ranging from quotes of legal profession sponsored experts with vested interests condemning the new legislation and the Scottish Executive, to critisisms of issues already raised and how the Bill is progressing ... an almost interference one might say, in the Parliamentary Process ...

You can read some of these `supplementary submissions`from the latest J2 Committee meeting here :

So, will ordinary members of the public also be allowed to make `supplementary submissions` just as the legal profession have been allowed ? ... well, I ahve aswked the Justice 2 Committee that very question today .. and you can bet I will be making my own `supplementary submission` when the time comes ...

Saturday, May 27, 2006

In remembrance of my mum

To remember my mum, who died suddenly of a stroke, at Borders General Hospital, this day on 27 May 2000.

Monday, May 22, 2006

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.

Former Ombudsman: ‘This bill is a mess’

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"

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Former Scottish Legal Services Ombudsman appears before Justice 2 Committee, but who is listening ?

This week saw the appearance of Linda Costelloe Baker at the Justice 2 Committee of the Scottish Parliament, to give evidence in the "Legal Profession & Legal Aid (Scotland) Bill.

You can watch coverage of Linda Costelloe Baker`s appearance before the Justice 2 Committee by going to the main page of the Justice 2 Committee tv archive, which is at ;

On the same day, Linda Costelloe Baker presented her last annual report of her tenure as Scottish Legal Services Ombudsman, showing that complaints against Scottish solicitors had risen a whopping 30% last year, and attacking the legal profession in Scotland for failing to deliver adequate complaints handling procedures for clients of solicitors, who are often ripped off while the crooked lawyer gets away with it ... with the likes of the Law Society of Scotland and Faculty of Advocates fixing complaints so that crooked legal agents get off the hook and clients are never really compensated for lost funds ... despite all the ludicrous claims of the legal profession that all is well ....

In a blow to the campaigns of those who are trying to seek redress for the crooked misselling of mortgages by Scottish lawyers - who knew well what they were doing ... Ms Costelloe Baker said that even the proposed legislation contained in the Legal Profession & Legal Aid (Scotland) Bill would not end the crooked practices of many lawyers selling policies to clients which they know full well to be against the interests of their clients - but of course, well inside the interests of the Banks and financial institutions by which the lawyers also have cosy secret financial dealings with (something the client never gets to know about ...)

Linda Costelloe Baker also supports the handling of conduct complaints by the new Scottish Legal Complaints Commission - something the legal profession is dead against, because of course, they will be trying to get as many complaints into the conduct category as possible - so such complaints can be dealt with in the same old cosy fashion by the Law Society of Scotland ... where the crooked always get off the hook and the client gets totally ripped off.

Some of the claims by the Executive, in response to the questioning of their position in relating to the funding and prioritising of Ms Costelloe Baker`s office are, quite laughable.

Three times as many staff ? ... many of them actually resigned ...and the department was left undermanned for long periods of time.

50% increase in funding ? ... still not enough to tackle the huge workload - caused of course by crooked officials at the Law Society of Scotland letting crooked lawyers off the hook in client complaints .... the very reason people actually complain to the Scottish Legal Services Ombudsman.

I was quite pleased to see Ms Costelloe Baker come down against the Law Society of Scotland in terms of it`s position as regulator of the legal profession .. but I have always been of the opinion that much more could have been done by her office .. and many times the power to publicise the poor complaints handling by the Law Society of Scotland was never used ... only in cases where the actual complainants kept badgering the Ombudsman so much that she had to use her powers.

Of course, however, on the face of things, Ms Costelloe Baker was certainly a great improvement over the former Legal Services Ombudsman - Garry S Watson - which whom I had many run ins and queries over his taking orders from the Law Society to bury complaints and even some of his own recommendations.

Interestingly, Mr Garry S Watson was also on the Complaints Committees of the Institute of Chartered Accounants of Scotland (ICAS) - another crooked gang of self regulators - who regulate accountants in Scotland and I wonder how Mr Watson has faired in his position at ICAS ..... (the mind boggles)

You all know what I have written about the crooked accountants self regulatory society in Scotland - ICAS, and how they and their Director of Legal Services fitted up an investigation into a crooked Borders Accountant ; Norman James Howitt - who now even has a position on one of the ICAS Committees himself (keeping all the crooked together of course) - you can read about that article here :

Here are the articles on this weeks appearnce by Linda Costelloe Baker at the J2 Committee, along with articles on her annual report, all from "The Herald"

Mortgage mis-selling: no hope of making lawyers pay

Scotland's legal services watchdog warned yesterday that legislation aimed at tightening the regulation of lawyers will not prevent the mis-selling of mortgage policies.

In her final annual report, Linda Costelloe Baker, Scottish legal services ombudsman, said that last year she handled a record 482 complaints about the way the Law Society of Scotland and Faculty of Advocates handled complaints about their members ? nearly five times as many as 2001 and the vast majority involving the society.

Over a quarter of her workload related to alleged endowment mis-selling after the society was itself inundated with 1800 mis-selling complaints.

The Scottish Executive's new bill will create an independent commission to handle complaints about lawyers, but Ms Costelloe Baker warned that this is inadequate because it leaves the society in charge of practice rules.

"When I was looking at the bill I had endowment misselling complaints very much in mind," she said. "I kept on asking myself would this bill stop this happening again, and it wouldn't. Not while the actual regulation is done by the profession.

"For example, the society did not expect solicitors to keep business files relating to the sale of endowment policies, so there is little or no evidence on which to base an investigation."

Tens of thousands of people in England and Wales who bought endowment policies have already received pay-outs.

However, 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 through the society but only to a maximum of £1000.

Endowment injustice
Editorial Comment May 17 2006

Leave-takings can be jolly affairs. They can also be maudlin. Linda Costelloe Baker, who has completed her term as legal services ombudsman, opted for neither approach when presenting her valedictory annual report to the Scottish Parliament yesterday. She went out with all guns blazing, as befits the champion of consumers on legal matters.

Mrs Costelloe Baker has been a thorn in the side of both the Law Society and the Faculty of Advocates. In her eyes, they have failed to get the balance right between investigating complaints and defending a vested interest under the current system of self-regulation.

Yesterday, however, she was pleased to record the highest-ever level of satisfaction with the way both had handled complaints. She said they had learned these had to be taken seriously.

However, she also reported that complaints alleging mis-selling of endowment policies had continued to rise, and accounted for more than one-quarter of the ombudsman's workload.

These complaints relate to policies bought through solicitors before December 1, 2001, when a compensation scheme administered by the Financial Services Authority (FSA) was established.

This allows for more generous compensation than is available for complaints upheld by the Law Society for older policies. The Law Society sets tougher criteria to meet, and caps compensation at £1000 for these policies.

A sense of injustice has been heightened by the fact these limits do not apply to English policies taken out before 2002. This is because very few householders bought endowment policies through solicitors. Policies bought from life companies or through banks, building societies or financial advisers were aggressively sold, whether in the best interests of the customer or not (invariably not). Redress was easier to pursue, and compensation awarded at higher levels. The Legal Defence Union, solicitors advising the profession, says most solicitors kept their endowment policy files and these showed advice was given that investments could fall as well as rise. But it is easy to understand the grievance felt by Scottish policyholders who have received no compensation and face having to sell their homes to pay off their mortgages, compared with English policyholders who have the same or similar policies but have fared much better. Ivan Lewis, the Treasury economic secretary, has conceded that the treatment of Scots amounts to a scandal but has warned against holding out "false hope" of compensation. John McFall, the Treasury select committee chairman, has called on the government at Westminster to address the anomaly.

Mrs Costelloe Baker contributed to the debate yesterday when she warned there was nothing to prevent this situation arising again, despite a new, independent policing body coming into being to replace the ombudsman, and to handle complaints that cannot be resolved between client and lawyer (the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission). She believes the solution lies in handing all regulatory powers over to the commission, including conduct. This is not envisaged under the legislation to create the new body. Of course, all post-2002 complaints are handled under the FSA regime, which helps. But this does nothing for those Scots facing mortgage shortfalls before then, and who are left in an iniquitous situation compared with English policyholders. There is still no justice in that.

Former watchdog bites back over unaudited accounts

Scottish Executive officials were left red-faced yesterday after a former watchdog attacked their failure to audit accounts, while undermining the watchdog's attempts at an efficiency drive.

MSPs were told that justice department officials failed to audit the accounts for the legal services ombudsman over five years or to provide clear financial guidelines, despite being urged to do both.

They were told the watchdog office, on a budget of £400,000 this year, was forced to spend money on an unnecessary new phone network, and that attempts to find savings by sharing services with similar departments did not get support from central government.

The criticism of executive inefficiency and auditing came from Linda Costelloe Baker, who stood down as legal services ombudsman earlier this year. She told MSPs budgetary controls on her were "far from adequate", and that her accounts were never audited.

This is despite a drive by Tom McCabe, minister for finance and public service reform, to achieve savings by sharing services across the public sector, and an MSP review of the burgeoning cost of a growing number of inspectorates, commissioners and ombudsmen.

The public services ombudsman, Professor Alice Brown, has been pressing the executive to help her save money by sharing services with similar watchdogs, and has made a further plea in her submission to finance committee MSPs.

Ms Costelloe Baker said she recommended a central unit to avoid duplication and confusion, but the justice department did "the exact opposite".

She claimed officials saw her budget as too small to concern them: "I'm convinced it's such a small part of an unallocated budget it almost didn't matter ? but it mattered to me, and I think it matters to taxpayers. I would love to have been held more accountable."

Ms Costelloe Baker said she had been raising her concerns for most of her six years in post.

Derek Brownlee, the Scottish Tories' finance spokesman, said: "The evidence raises serious concerns at the budgetary controls across the whole of government in Scotland."

An executive spokeswoman said officials were content that financial measures were open and transparent and met public finance criteria and funding was discussed, not imposed.

She added: "During her period in office, the justice department provided her with a near 50% increase in budget and over three times as many staff as she started with."

Monday, May 15, 2006

Justice 2 Committee at the Scottish Parliament limits victims of the legal profession to 3 minutes each

Testimony continued this past week at the Justice 2 Committee of the Scottish Parliament with the appearance of "Scotland Against Crooked Lawyers" to give their view on the problems with the Law Society of Scotland and a widely corrupt legal profession.

However, while the Law Society of Scotland and their related organisations were given the conspicuous red carpet treatment before the Justice 2 Committee - basically being allowed to say what they wanted in the time they wished, `SACL` were not allowed to read out their opening statements and had to answer questions only from members of the J2 Committee - neatly arranged of course,by the Parliament`s own legal team and phrased in ways to avoid any revealing answers being given on just how corrupt the Scottish legal profession really is. SACL however, were able to get some of their points across on how the Law Society of Scotland has corruptly handled complaints over the years.

Indeed, while the legal profession has been able to produce as many people as it wanted before the J2 Committee (with more to come) ... the actual victims of the legal profession, such as myself, other campaign groups, and the thousands of others over the years the Law Society of Scotland and it`s members have ruined, are to be limited to - 3 MINUTES EACH ..... in an overall deal of 30 minutes in which all of those who want to appear, will have to make do with ....

3 minutes ... to tell the Justice 2 Committee and the rest of Scotland about a lifetime of problems with the Law Society of Scotland and it`s membership of crooked lawyers ...

How can a person explain 14 + years of problems, hostility, prejudice, dirty tricks, harrassement, ruined lives, ruined finances, stolen property, embezzled money, hijacked family members wills .. and much more .. in 3 minutes to a Scottish Parliament Committee ? ... the answer is of course, we can`t.

Lobbying of course, by the legal profession, and the many people around the Justice 2 Committee who have various interests in killing independent regulation of the legal profession, have seen to this ... we can`t have a queue of victims of the legal profession appearing before the Parliament, can we now ... so let`s limit the public to 30 minutes in total, with 3 minutes each ... and tell them they can take it or leave it (which is what people have been told by J2 Committee Clerks)

What a sin it is that the professions and vested interests have so much influence at our Scottish Parliament in issues like this ... where the MSPs always seem to side with the professions against the public .. always giving them a let out when it comes to legislation designed to protect the consumer, and make it as difficult as possible for anyone to put their case at the Parliament when it doesn`t suit .. and in this case, it certainly doesn`t suit !.

Why then, doesn`t it suit the Parliament or the Executive to see the victims of the legal profession air their cases at the Parliament ?

Well, of course, the victims of the legal profession can`t take out ministers & politicians to steak & wine dinners, or give financial donations to political parties, or fund foreign trips on `fact finding` pretences .. or even see that politicians and unelected officials get preferential deals on house purchases and other legal & financial related business .... in return for political favours .. so that`s why, among other reasons, the legal profession has so much influence when it comes to lobbying Parliamentary Committees .. and us poor victims of the legal profession can`t hope to better those sweet deals the legal profession can offer our legislators ... yes folks, this is sadly true ... money and influence buys power ... and looking through the movements of certain people in Scotland recently, that is all too evident...

Another reason of course, would be that these problems with the legal profession date back well over 20 years ... so it would beg the question .. why have the politicians stood back so long and done nothing ? despite thousands of letters every year from constituents to their elected officials.

For instance, John Swinney MSP (SNP) took issue with the Law Society of Scotland officials claims that they weren`t involved in matters relating to the Master Insurance Policy .. which then saw Douglas Mill stand up to defend his intervention in a particular case involving Mr Stewart MacKenzie .. which the Law Society were determined to undermine at all costs .. and, from the terms of the memo Mr Swinney revealed, `prevent Mr MacKenzie appearing before any Parliamentary Committee`.... but Mr Swinney is among a very few politicans in Scotland who have stood up to the legal profession .. and is the only one to my knowledge who has turned up at these J2 hearings as an observer each time and actually challenged comments made on the floor by the legal profession.

However, as I have said before, the Scottish Executive itself have received thousands of complaints and representations by politicians and members of the public on dealings with crooked lawyers and the Law Society of Scotland fiddling complaints .. so, why don`t all those msps and mps come forward ? Are they too shy to not say anything ? too shy to not even write a submission to the J2 Committee on behalf of all their constituents with problems with lawyers ? too shy to even deny they have plenty of constituents with problems with lawyers ? or is it that they are worried that if they speak, they will lose perks and financial benefits that aren`t declared ... or that their political party will miss out on funding or become victimised by the legal profession ? or a plethora of other reasons ... none of them setting a very honest example for those we elect to defend our interests.

I`d say the legal profession is having a good attempt to water down the terms of the Legal Profession & Legal Aid (Scotland) Bill .. and that the Justice 2 Committee certainly appear to be in favour of just that .. at least for now ... but this week, we do have the appearance on Tuesday of Linda Costelloe Baker, the former Scottish Legal Services Ombudsman, who resigned amidst protest that her department wasn`t receiving adequate funding or priority from the Scottish Executive ... so Ms Costelloe Baker`s appearance and testimony will be an interesting barometer on how things are swinging in this inquiry.

more to come in the next few days ....

Friday, May 05, 2006

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 :

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 :
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 :

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
on behalf of
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 :
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 ....

Thursday, May 04, 2006

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 :

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):
Bill Butler (Deputy Convener):
Jackie Baillie:
Maureen Macmillan :
Mr Stewart Maxwell :
Jeremy Purvis:
Colin Fox:

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.

J2 committee bats away concern over bias of adviser on reforms

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."