Sunday, October 08, 2006

Scotland gets a new Lord Advocate - will anything change ?

Last week saw the pantomime of Colin Boyd's resignation from the post of Lord Advocate take up headlines in the press, provoked by some of the members of Scotland's legal profession who were busy whispering words in the ears of many that Scottish law was falling to bits .. because of the planned reforms put forward by the Scottish Executive .. one of those, unsurprisingly, being the Legal Profession & Legal Aid (Scotland) Bill.

So, was Boyd's departure the self-motivated resignation he claimed it to be ? or more of a well planned and cafefully orchestrated protest at reforms to the legal system, which the Law Society, Judiciary & Faculty of Advocates, all want to kill off ?

I believe it was the latter .. and it certainly gave those at the Law Society & Judiciary a 'well timed' chance to jump up & down in a frenzy claiming they were needed to keep the legal system on an even keel ... which they haven't been doing for the past 50 years ...

We were even treated to critisisms of the appointment of Elish Angiolini as the new Lord Advocate .. before the appointment had even been made .. with lawyers & even retired members of the judiciary running around at all hours of the day briefing journalists on the woes of not appointing a trusty member of the Faculty of Advocates to the position ... to follow in the vein of Colin Boyd QC & his predecessors. Even worse for some, was the fact the new appointment was to be a woman .. which allegedly drew scathing private remarks from some who should know better - who should even practice what they preach ...

In any case, now the fuss has died down, Ms Angiolini has spoken of her priorities ...the usual things we can expect .. but will she also look at the running of the Crown Office ?

For years, the Crown Office, full of lawyers itself of course, has turned a blind eye to corruption in the legal profession ... putting off the public's pleads for criminal inquiries into crooked lawyers as a 'civil matter' ... and it has been extremely noticable over the years, that even those lawyers who have been convicted of criminal offences in trials .. have gotten off lightly compared with say, someone who wasn't a lawyer .. or fellow professional. Indeed, some of the Crown Office's own Procurator Fiscals ... lawyers themselves, have got off lightly in criminal cases against them when it has come to sexual offences, corruption .. and a lot more, and the Fiscals Service has a regulatory & complaints procedure which is just as corrupt as the Law Society of Scotland.

For those of us who have ever tried to get the Crown Office to investigate a complaint against a crooked lawyer .. the battle has often been an uphill one, with the inevitable result the Crown Office turns on the member of the public making the complaint .. and either sets the Police on them in an attempt to shut them up .. or has let the Law Society of Scotland know some things, on the side .. in an effort to discredit the complainant & save their fellow lawyer ... not a very pretty picture at all .. the Police & prosecution service being used to defend crooked lawyers against their comeupence, is it ?

I often wondered, for instance, why crooked lawyer Andrew Penman of Stormonth Darling Solicitors and Estate Agents, Kelso didn't get arrested & prosecuted for fiddling & deceiving the Inland Revenue & conducting a fraudulent deception of a Bank .. after all, it was all in the Law Society of Scotland report on what he did .. and just how crooked he was .. but .. no criminal prosecution, of someone who has obviously been engaged in criminal acts (and in how many other undiscovered cases ?) ..

Also, looking deeper into the actions of crooked Borders Accountant Norman Howitt of the equally crooked Borders firm of Welch & Co Accountants, Hawick & Galashiels , who also robbed & looted my family with the backing of their colleagues at the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Scotland

I wonder why Norman Howitt wasn't prosecutied in a criminal case for also deceiving the Inland Revenue .. a Bank .. and also even using the local Police to try and cover up the fact he had sold my late father's car to a close friend & business associate ? .. why no prosecution there then ? of two obvious crooks who should be behind bars ... and certainly not still working as a lawyer and an accountant ...The Lord Adocate knew all about it at the time, and so did Boyd .. but did nothing. Last time I looked, it was a crime to defraud or lie to the Inland Revenue .. or gain from a deception of a financial institution .. and well .. using the Police to cover up a crime itself, by providing false information ... well .. that would certainly be a crime too, wouldn't it ?

The truth though, is much worse of course .. as there are many like me in Scotland who tried to get the Crown Office to investigate crooked lawyers & their partners in crime ... but not one letter to successive Lord Advocates over all these years, by a wronged client of one of Scotland's glorious legal professionals has resulted in a successful prosecution & jail term. I wonder why ? Was it that successive Lord Advocates were happy with this ? .. that doesn't say much for law & order then .. after all, a crime is a crime, no matter who it's committed by.

Will the new Lord Advocate change the policy of letting the white collar crooks off the hook .. just because they are members of the legal profession, or some other hallowed bastian of corruption which runs Scotland tehse days ?

I hope so, rather than just concentrating on the easier to get criminals in society to satisfy political spin & statistics used by the Executive to spin a yarn the prosecution service is doing it's job .. which it clearly isn't .. but the truth is, it's up to us, the victims & the public, to campaign .

To test the new Lord Advocate's resolve, a man from Dumfrieshire has lodged a complaint against Colin Boyd, in a matter which has seen allegations of evidence tampering by the Crown Office, alteration of writs in the Court of Session .. and even a recent favourable decision by the Information Commissioner, Kevin Dunion, in favour of the complainant who had apparently been wilfully obstructed by his local Police force in FOI disclosure requests, which you can read about here ; Here

In the light of the Information Commissioner's decision for Mr James Duff in his case, I would actively encourage anyone who has made a complaint against a member of the legal profession, which has resulted in the use of the Police to threaten or harrass them .. to make a similar FOI request to their Police Force as Mr Duff did ... and publish the results for all to see. I wonder how Ms Angiolini will handle these cases .. and the many more to come ?

Wouldn't it just be as well to put their hands up and admit the corruption & cover up.. just as in the McKie case, and make some substantive attempt to clear Scots Law ? rather than maintian it in it's crooked state it has existed in for years ?

http://thescotsman.scotsman.com/index.cfm?id=1485022006

Getting tough on petty crime
MICHAEL HOWIE HOME AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT

SCOTLAND'S new Lord Advocate yesterday promised to put tackling anti-social behaviour at the centre of the criminal justice system.

Elish Angiolini said people who commit acts such as urinating in the street and vandalism will be hit with new fines within days of the crime - while courts will be freed up to deal swiftly with offenders responsible for "one-man crime waves".

In her first interview since she was chosen on Thursday to replace Lord Boyd, QC, as Scotland's top prosecutor, Ms Angiolini told The Scotsman she would bring prosecutors closer to people living in communities blighted by anti-social behaviour who, she acknowledged, have lost confidence in the criminal justice system.

She said: "You cannot devise what is in the public interest in the cosy cocoon of an office. You need to be out there, need to be exposed to the communities who are actually suffering.

"There is nothing more instrumental for a prosecutor - who may consider murder as the most serious case which requires very close consideration and urinating up someone's close as at the minor end - to actually go into that close and see what it's like, to live with the smells, with the fact when you have kept a nice garden box someone is using it to dump empty cans.

"That type of anti-social behaviour and quality-of-life crime is what really corrodes the confidence of many communities and makes life utterly unbearable.

"What we need to do now is have a summary justice that is problem-solving in its approach. That has already started with youth courts, domestic courts, drugs courts, but we need to look at how we can make the community feel the current criminal justice system is there to serve them and is responsive to them.

"While the criminal justice system must be independent, that does not mean it has to be isolated. Independence which requires isolation is a very immature view of independence."

Her commitment to tackling anti-social behaviour will be welcomed by Jack McConnell, the First Minister, and Cathy Jamieson, the justice minister, who have come under fire for failing to meet targets to reduce the number of persistent young offenders.

In 2005-6, the number of persistent young offenders recorded was 1,338 - up 10 per cent on the previous year's figure of 1,260 and 16 per cent higher than the 1,201 in 2003-4.

Ministers have repeatedly accused councils of not imposing enough anti-social behaviour orders on serious troublemakers. Since 2004, six dispersal orders, banning groups from gathering in certain areas, have been issued and last year 169 ASBOs were applied.

Ms Angiolini, who has still to be formally sworn in as Lord Advocate, said major reforms to speed up justice would free the hand of prosecutors to target persistent offenders causing the bulk of anti-social behaviour.

Under the new Criminal Proceedings Bill, the maximum fine fiscals can impose on offenders will be raised from £100 to £500. New compensation orders will also be introduced, allowing fiscals to require a minor offender to pay compensation of up to £5,000 to their victim without the case coming to court.

These measures, she said, will "allow prosecutors to be much more creative" and allow for the "court's energies to be targeted on the persistent offender, the one-man crime wave, or one-woman crime wave, who we know have disproportionate effect on the local community".

The fines would also enable those who "take a tentative step into criminality" to face justice more quickly.

"It is something of a legal cliche that justice delayed is justice denied. The importance not just for victims but also for accused of bringing the disposal of the case close to the actual event brings home to them the fact this is serious and emphasises the need for change.

"If you have that disposal 18 months down the line, it does not allow accused to reflect more closely. If you have a fiscal fine, ensuring that is imposed within days or weeks of the event where someone pleads guilty, that becomes much more possible."

She said changes to the management of High Court cases, which have slashed delays and led to a 70 per cent fall in the number of witnesses called to court, would be extended to the sheriff courts, with trials in absence being permitted in summary cases if the accused fails to appear and the court considers it in the interests of justice.

Other changes include giving fiscals the power to apply to the court to "roll up" all outstanding fines against an individual into one single case, even if the charges are from different sheriffdoms - ensuring better use of court time and resources.

"The new reforms will really shake up summary justice in such a way as to remove the delays and the artificial situation which persists where the accused pleads not guilty at the first, second and third trial diet, before pleading guilty at the fourth diet 14 months down the line," she said.

The impact of such abuse of the system, she said, was "totally unacceptable".

But Margaret Mitchell, the justice spokeswoman for the Scottish Conservatives, last night voiced concern about giving prosecutors more power to dispense justice.

"It is very rare that £500 fines are given out in the district court, and they can sometimes deal with some bad assaults," she said. "I wouldn't want the message going out to the victims that these crimes are being pushed aside. It's important to many of them that the criminal is brought to court."

Kenny MacAskill, the Scottish National Party's justice spokesman, welcomed Ms Angiolini's pledge to target anti-social behaviour. "I think she is quite right," he said, adding that we need to inculcate "a culture of responsibility. People have to recognise they have responsibilities as well as rights.

"Summary justice has to live up to its name. We have to ensure basic legal rights are protected, but also that crimes are dealt with speedily and efficiently.

"The system has to work much faster and with less complexity than it does."

2 comments:

Monty Burns said...

Looks like you are right about Boyds resignation but remember Angiolini was Solicitor General for long enough to know what was going on.

If she changes her stance now on corruption within the legal profession and the Crown Office, it will be a hell of a turn around !

PS Dont forget Jandoo tried to silence Ameer Anwar in the Chokar inquiry - you can find Phil Gallies email referring to a parliament motion on the PAIH site at http://www.paih.org

Anonymous said...

There should be an inquiry into Boyd's reign as Lord Advocate, but they would need to find a non crooked person to chair it but since theres no non crooked legal peeps around .. we are screwed.