Friday, December 08, 2006

Scottish Legal Profession censors the Press to kill off bad publicity - Part II

Whoever said 99.9% of lawyers gave the rest a bad name, must be a genius, for it is true.

While the Government spend millions of pounds of taxpayers money each year attacking other countries for censoring campaigners, censoring the press & restricting free media ... even criticising countries where a person can't access the Internet unless a Government official is sitting next to them ... we in Scotland merrily allow the legal profession to threaten the work & careers of journalists over stories which report on the likes of Douglas Mill lying to the Justice 2 Committee of the Scottish Parliament .. and not one enraged Member of that Scottish Parliament stands up to be counted, attacking such censorship .. for fear their seat at Holyrood will be taken away from them by a vindictive legal profession out for revenge ... and of course, that local law firms & lawyers won't donate to their political parties.

That is, democracy, right ? Something sounding like .... "Hey you, in the press .. write stories about our crooked lawyers and we will pull our advertising, advise our corporate clients not to advertise in your crummy newspaper, fiddle your credit ratings or advise your loans are called in with our client Banks .. and generally make life difficult for you" ... well .. it's a wonder that anything gets in the paper at all if you think about it that way .. but sadly true and this stunt has been tried by the legal profession against more than newspapers - successfully.

Instead of the above, how about .. "Hey .. MSP, get off your backside and put the legal profession in it's place - at the service of the people - not at the service of itself" - or is it they have all of you by the short & curlies too ? Is it a case, perhaps .. of .... too many secrets ? Remember, folks, those who you share your secrets with can just as easily turn on you and eat you for breakfast - as headlines in the past few weeks have demonstrated.

In any case, my article of last Saturday : Law Society of Scotland actively censors the Scottish Press to kill articles on crooked lawyers seems to have ticked off a few people. Why ? Because it's true, that's why. Lawyers censor the media in Scotland. Fact.

Oh .. you can argue all you want it isn't the case at all .. but we all know different. Even the reporters know that to "write a story about crooked lawyers is just about equal to slitting your own throat" - as one senior journalist at the Scotsman recently put it in a call to me.

Every story which goes in a newspaper, has to be looked at by the newspaper's lawyers - that's how it works .. and when a controversial one comes up - even more scrutiny is obviously given to that story. Obviously a paper has to make sure it's not libeling itself with a story - so this is standard, and well advised, practice.

Now, picture this.

A member of the public goes to a reporter, giving them evidence they were ripped off by a crooked lawyer - had their money stolen, lost their house, lost their business , etc ... and went through the works - made a complaint to the Law Society of Scotland & got nowhere, made a complaint to the Scottish Legal Services Ombudsman and got nowhere, tried to get a lawyer to sue a lawyer and got nowhere, wrote to their MSP & MP & got nowhere.

The reporter then writes the story up, identifying the crooked lawyer & legal firm, identifying the Law Society of Scotland & the rest for doing nothing - and telling how this person went through years of torment, lost everything they had, lost even their family, friends, lost absolutely e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g, while, the crooked lawyer happily went on being crooked to other clients & nothing was done.

How do you think the newspaper's lawyers would react to that one when it came across their desk ?

Right ! The newspaper's lawyers call the Law Society of Scotland - and say something like "Hello Drumsheugh Gardens, we have a problem ...."

Guess what happens next ?

The reporter who wrote the story gets a call from, the Law Society of Scotland ... and if they are extremely lucky, they will get a call from Douglas Mill himself - to ask how strong they are going with the story ... a conversation ensues where the Law Society then make the reporter well aware of their position as regulator of the legal profession, with many tentacles which may just snag an errant reporter who might be tempted to cover this or other similar stories. The News Editor also gets a similar call, and the papers lawyers are told to advise against publication.

Result ? ... The story invariably gets killed .. so no publication and no bad publicity for the legal profession. Hooray for Law Society censorship ! Another cover up achieved a-okay !

Why, oh why, do you think there aren't more stories like mines, when there are over 5000 complaints a year against the legal profession ? It's not because the scandals don't happen .. my god .. there are worse stories than mine - people have committed suicide because of the likes of Philip Yelland covering up complaints against his colleagues .. it's just as I said last Saturday. The stories aren't reported, because the Law Society of Scotland censor the press.

If you go to my article last Saturday some of the comments - which rank the article as the most commented on so far. Goody ! If it proves anything, as a tabloid journalist said in an email to me last night - it proves the blog is being read !

One of the commenters wants me to post some of the emailed threats I have received. I might just do that, but if I blank out "the significant points that may identify anything or anyone " I'm sure that 'anonymous' person (who wont use their real name to stand behind their comments) will then claim I manufactured the material. I'd rather let them be forensically analysed when the time comes for me to report them to the Police.

As far as my comments go on the threat by the legal profession to pull the property advertising in the Scotsman - well, again, the 'anonymous' commenter got it wrong.

Clients do sometimes place advertisements with the Scotsman for property sales - but it usually comes via a recommendation from their solicitors to do so - even, in many cases, the solicitors office actually deals with the Scotsman advertising section themselves. I know this for a fact, because that's what crooked lawyer Andrew Penman of Stormonth Darling Solicitors, Kelso was doing with my late father's property. That was back in the early 1990s .. and it hasn't changed to this day. I know of many other instances where this is the case.

The threat to pull advertising not only related to property sales though. I was told today that lawyers had actually said they would advise their corporate clients to stay away from the Scotsman if they continued to run stories on crooked lawyers & editorials calling for independent regulation of the legal profession.

I was told of a specific incident which related to the Stuart Usher case : Fall of the House of Usher - the famous Borders Aristocrat whose family lost their wealth to crooked lawyers who managed their Estate.

Apparently, during one of the Scotsman stories in 1996 on the Usher claim against Brodies LLP , a member of the public found documents relating to the Earl of Seafield's Estate and his will, and a host of legal documents relating to other clients such as Sir Ian Tennant which Brodies had dispatched to this person's house by taxi.

The Earl of Seafield was none too happy over that one - and the person had remembered the documents in her house because she read the Scotsman story on Brodies & the Usher claim against them. Apparently, Brodies lost corporate business after that one - as did a few other lawyers - and the Law Society of Scotland were quite ticked off with the Scotsman - to the point that "harsh words were exchanged" between the two sides - as I heard yesterday.

Quite a story - itself demonstrating that when stories of crooked lawyers appear in the papers, others remember details & incidents which bring more reports of scandals involving the legal profession in an almost chain reaction. That's the same thing which happened to me .. when the stories ran on my case in the Scotsman newspaper, they were deluged with members of the public calling in about how their crooked lawyer ripped them off, and how the Law Society of Scotland fiddled their complaint so they got nowhere.

Stuart Usher then formed Scotland's only campaign group against crooked lawyers - Scotland Against Crooked Lawyers and many joined his cause - but the Law Society have, unsurprisingly, spent a lot of time undermining SACL - even occasionally, envagling the Scottish Executive into using taxpayers money to pull down their website

No wonder the Law Society of Scotland wants to censor the press then - and no wonder the Scotsman used to run editorials calling for the end of self regulation of the legal profession.

Think about this for a second. There are 5000 plus complaints a year against lawyers in Scotland - it's been like that for years.

5000 divided by 365 (days) is about 13.7 .. so in theory we could have 13.7 separate reports on complaints against crooked lawyers in the daily papers, every day !

Just think how lawyers business would suffer if the newspapers were reporting on the same lawyer or legal firm week after week being involved in serious client complaints such as fraud, embezzlement, theft, looting properties, fiddling the property market in areas & pricing out the locals from their own towns, selling dodgy mortgages, even, ripping off corporate clients & estates. Clients would avoid those lawyers & legal firms like the plague - and their corporate clients would desert too - because, companies don't like to be ripped off either (time they woke up on that one a bit though).

If the newspapers & media published all those stories, - someone would have done something about it long before 2006/2007 & the Legal Profession & Legal Aid (Scotland) Bill - which I have been campaigning for since around 1994 - to bring independent regulation to the Scottish legal profession would have been here probably in 2001.

As far as there being a case to answer for crooked lawyer Andrew Penman- well, even the Scotsman lawyers at the time, along with the occasional Council Member of the Law Society said Penman 'should have been drummed out the legal profession' - he was only saved because James Ness, Director of Law Care, faked evidence to the Complaints Committee & directed them to withdraw the SSDT prosecution - and thats why my case was killed off.

My aim in all of this has been to gain legislation to help everyone who has been & is, a victim of the Scottish legal profession. The coverage I got in the press should be shared by everyone & anyone, so hopefully, the same thing doesn't happen to them - and as I always say - the sins of the past by the Law Society of Scotland still remain to be put right, and my case is but one of many awaiting resolution.


Poirot said...

Good links, all very convincing, but you should also be looking at who owned the Scotsman during that period, which political party they support, and who was the leader of that party at the time.

Comparing those headlines of yours with the lack of similar stories in recent times, is convincing enough to me on your arguement.

Good show again Mr Cherbie, and fuck you very much Douglas Mill.

Anonymous said...

I agree with some of what you say but as someone who has made a complaint against a lawyer you are wildly misled if you think that every complaint against a solicitor should be covered in a newspaper.

My complaint was upheld and I recieved a satisfactory explanation. I think even you would agree that this does not warrant column inches.

I work in an industry where complaints are recieved and they will range from not responding to a telephone quickly to far bigger issues. I imagine the same is true of the legal profession.

Anonymous said...

I'm with you on this one.

Dundas & Wilson killed off a story we sent onto the Scotsman on an Advocate who was misusing clients assets.

The Faculty of Advocates did the same to the complainer as the Law Society did to you over Mr Penman.

Dundas & Wilson were the Scotsman lawyers at the time, not sure if they are presently. Worth you looking into, Peter.

Anonymous said...

"A member of the public goes to a reporter ..."

That is exactly what happens. You wrote that almost as if you were in the office !

Anonymous said...

Lawyers probably do censor the press, but the Scotsman certainly allow you a good shout in their forums !