Proving that sometimes, the press can get a crooked lawyer or two, the Daily Record earlier this week, exposed a Glasgow Solicitor, Mr Robert Taylor, who runs his own legal firm in Bath Street Glasgow, who apparently was giving clients money to illicit legal aid business by handing out cash for them to sign legal aid claim forms.
However, what Mr Taylor did, is more common than even the Daily Record knows,... because this kind of scam has been reported to me several times over the years I've been involved in legal matters, up and down the length of Scotland.
For instance, I know of a criminal law practising lawyer in Kelso, the Scottish Borders who, it has been reported to me, has certainly paid a few 'quality clients' to generate legal aid business .. a big wheel himself as he likes to think, in the Roxburghshire Bar Association .. but hated, by many of his own colleagues, who are only too willing to dish the dirt on his business practices. .. but one of many I'm sure.
The Scottish Legal Aid Board have apparently confirmed to the Daily Record they will investigate the matter ... although a SLAB investigation against a lawyer usually ends up in a fiddle, where nothinc gets done.
I've been involved in investigations into lawyers fiddling legal aid cases myself, where evidence comes & goes right out the window & nothing is done whatsoever, principally because of course - lawyers don't like to prosecute their colleagues and with their neighbours across the road - the Law Society of Scotland .. many a lawyer who has fiddled a few legal aid cases to boost his/her income has got off scot free .. a total disgrace ..
The Law Society of Scotland are a bit lukewarm in the Record story though ... no doubt they will be upset of the revelations in the first place .. particularly when the Law Society itself had authorised a family law case boycott campaign against the Scottish Executive over legal aid payments, which of course, lawyers up and down the length of Scotland were alleging were not enough to cover their work. It might turn out, if the Record keeps enough pressure on Taylor, the Law Society will have to do something .. but we shall see. Maybe Douglas Mill doesn't want an office full of heroin users so he might be content for Taylor to carry on practising ...
However, I wonder how Taylor's little scam - which is widespread in the legal profession .. will fit into that campaign now ?
Read on for the article, from the Daily Record, at :
7 November 2006
BUNG TO RIGHTS
Record exposes lawyer who dishes out fivers to addicts for legal aid work
Exclusive by Derek Alexander
A LAWYER who bribes junkies to give him legal aid work is facing a fraud probe.
Legal Aid bosses began a probe after the Daily Record gathered evidence of greedy Robert Taylor's actions.
Taylor, 58, a solicitor for more than 30 years, dishes out £5 notes to heroin users who sign legal aid documents.
Each of the documents - known as advice and assistance forms - earns Taylor up to £80.
He also pays addicts to bring new clients to his Glasgow city centre office to sign more of the lucrative forms.
Taylor's shady practice is a serious breach of both Law Society of Scotland and Scottish Legal Aid Board codes of conduct.
It could see him face criminal charges and be banned from working as a solicitor.
One legal source said: "This is a clear abuse of the system and it must be stopped.
"Taylor is a man whose integrity is supposed to be beyond question. It's shocking that he should take advantage of his trusted position."
Married Taylor runs his own law firm from an office in Glasgow's Bath Street.
The Record decided to investigate after learning he paid members of the public who signed advice and assistance documents indicating they had asked him to perform warrant searches.
The simple task involves a lawyer checking with the procurator fiscal whether a warrant has been issued for a client's arrest.
Three of our investigators visited him a total of seven times during a two-week period and walked away with cash on each occasion.
Their meetings with Taylor, during which he did not bother to check if the investigators were even eligible for legal aid, were secretly recorded.
On several occasions, Taylor got our reporters to sign more than one form.
A solicitor can claim a fee of up to £80 from the Scottish Legal Aid Board each time a client signs one of the pink documents, known officially as AA/APP forms.
SLAB bosses rarely examine the forms because solicitors are trusted not to abuse a self-certificate system.
Investigator One visited Taylor at his office while he was on a break from court and asked him to perform a warrant check.
Taylor then passed a folded £5 note to the investigator and said: "That'll cover your expenses."
As our man was leaving the office, Taylor followed him out to the landing and said: "Tell your pals to come up if they've got any citations or indictments, things like that."
Our investigator asked: "You want me to bring guys up to you?"
Taylor replied: "You can act as my agent, know what I mean?"
Investigator Two then visited Taylor and also asked him to perform a warrant search.
Again, Taylor reached into his left pocket and handed him a neatly folded fiver and said: "There you go."
The pair then discussed whether Taylor wanted our man to also bring him new clients.
Taylor replied: "Of course."
Our man asked: "Would there be something in it for me?"
Taylor said: "Yes. But we'd judge each case on its own merits."
As Taylor showed our man to the door, he repeated twice: "It's all confidential."
Both our investigators visited Taylor again.
Investigator Two asked him: "Do you want me to sign one of those forms?"
Taylor replied: "Can't. The last one is still lying on my desk but there's your expenses anyway."
Taylor then handed our man another fiver.
The Record sent a third and final investigator to Taylor's office this week.
Posing as a new client, our reporter was introduced to Taylor by Investigator Two. Taylor took Investigator Two into his office and asked about Investigator Three's background.
He then gave Investigator Two a £10 note and said: "There's a double dose for you."
Taylor then took Investigator Three into his office and gave him an advice and assistance form after being asked to do a warrant check.
He then reached into his pocket and gave him a folded £5 note.
He said: "Thanks for coming up, that will cover your expenses for getting here."
The Record has all the cash that Taylor handed to our investigators in safe keeping.
A source said: "Robert has done so many warrant checks for me I couldn't even begin to give an accurate figure.
"It's well known round Glasgow's drug addicts that he's good for money.
"All you have to do is sign a form and he'll give you the cash.
"He always makes sure you put the money in your pocket before you leave his office.
"I've been in to see Robert twice a week for warrant checks before.
"Robert is just making more money from legal aid and he keeps addicts happy by giving them a fiver.
"He's taking advantage of their addiction and the legal aid system to make more money for himself."
Last year, Scotland's legal aid bill topped £152million. Experts say next year's figure will reach £168million.
And lawyers such as Taylor have helped make sure this rockets.
The Scottish Legal Aid Board make it clear that solicitors cannot offer inducements, even expenses, for business.
But Taylor, who lives with his wife in Bearsden, Glasgow, clearly ignores this rule.
Our evidence has been made available to the Scottish Legal Aid Board and the Law Society of Scotland.
Last night, a SLAB spokesman said: "The Scottish Legal Aid Board has confirmed that it will be investigating information provided by the Daily Record about solicitor Robert Taylor.
"We thank the Record for bringing this to our attention.
"We take allegations such as this very seriously. The board has an ongoing programme of monitoring and investigating legal aid expenditure involving both applicants and the legal profession.
"Under its powers, it can stop solicitors undertaking criminal legal aid work.
"Where it has concerns about lawyers, it has made formal complaints to the appropriate regulatory body. It may also forward cases to the Crown Office for consideration of police investigation or prosecution."
A Law Society of Scotland spokesman said: "The Society takes accusations of breaches of professional rules seriously and would welcome information about concerns people have about a solicitor.
"The society can prosecute solicitors before the independent Scottish Solicitors Discipline Tribunal for breaches of its rules and there are a number of sanctions available."
Taylor refused to comment.