Saturday, December 30, 2006

Farewell 2006 - A step forward for Scotland & consumer rights in the fight against crooked lawyers

Well, time for the inevitable review of the year - and 2006 has certainly been an eventful year for those of us who have campaigned for independent regulation of the legal profession.

My blog too, approaches its one year anniversary ... which I started to help along the campaign for the Legal Profession & Legal Aid (Scotland) Bill . It certainly seems to have worked - because the Bill passed the Parliament, albeit with a few tweaks we would rather not have had. Still .. there's time to iron those out when the Law Society acts in it's usual prejudicial, biased & corrupt way .. and there will be plenty of us around to highlight that.

Note to crooked lawyers - don't think just because the LPLA exists, we won't be keeping an eye on your ever more inventive tactics to rip off clients.

Of course, 2006 started with a bang for others too ... and one of the examples of a legal profession completely out of control came with the attack on the ex Chief Accountant of the Law Society of Scotland - Leslie Cumming.

Twelve months on, no one has been caught for the vicious assault - but curiously, one of the theories worked on by the Police is alleged to have been that the Law Society were so incensed with critics, bad press & the upcoming LPLA Bill, they decided to carve up one of their own and implicate their enemies" ... words from someone close to the investigation, to a journalist ..... Makes you wonder, doesn't it ? Just how desperate had Douglas Mill and his merry bunch of gangsters become to retain control of complaints against their colleagues ?

The madness went so far as to take in private briefings to journalists & news editors on particular critics of the Law Society - myself among the most identified ... with 'suggestions' our campaigns had caused the attack on the unfortunate Mr Cumming (who some say had expired his use to Drumsheugh Gardens in the mortgage miss-selling scandal which also implicates many Scottish legal firms).

Several journalists were actually given notes of information on critics of the legal profession - as if stories had actually been written by the Law Society for the journalists to file ... but the plan backfired somewhat, when a certain Law Society senior official asked a television journalist "if it was possible to have campaigners against lawyers called terrorists".

I kid you not on this one ... but if anything killed Drumsheugh Gardens attempt to use the Leslie Cumming attack in their favour against critics of crooked lawyers - that statement was it .... and I had calls from a few journalists to back up what was said about those opposed to self regulation of the legal profession...

The newspapers ran the stories on the attack, but refused to implicate anyone the Law Society wanted framed ... so it was left to Scotland on Sunday to officially contact me for a quote - which also saw the first mention of this blog in the mass media.

Fortunately I had been alerted to what was going on ... and my words reflected that. You can read the article yourself, and give your mind some thought as to why no one has been caught on this one ...

Scotland on Sunday article : Cash laundering link to law chief stabbing & some more on the background to the Leslie Cumming attack can be found here : Sleazy side of legal profession

What lay behind that article was a typical opportunistic,vicious attack on myself & other critics of the legal profession .. but when I talked to the Scotsman .. they were having none of it because simply .. they couldn't get anyone to make a salacious comment .. such as .. well .. you can guess what ... and I was much too diplomatic to fall into that one.

2006 progressed with the call for submissions to the Justice 2 Committee of the Scottish Parliament on the LPLA Bill ... which I covered on the blog and made my submission along with many others.

Submission from Peter Cherbi to the Scottish Parliament on the LPLA Bill & Other submissions to the Justice 2 Committee on the LPLA Bill

The many submissions from the legal profession turned out to come from a template circulated by the Law Society of Scotland ... several legal firms were so incompetent in their 'editing' of the template, they left in the same paragraphs, phrases & spelling mistakes ... but again, it demonstrated the central control over policy related to complaints - and the great desire to retain management of complaints against colleagues - for that eternal feeling of fiddle ...

I went on to cover & comment on many other items in the news - related to Law & Politics ... so many, you will just have to look through the archives and have a read for yourselves ! ... but trust me .. they were certainly all linked to the legal profession, in some way or another.

Some of the more recent powerful articles I did, related to Law Society censorship of the Scottish media. I think you can tell, yourselves, by looking back at the coverage I got on my case in the national media, along with the Scotland on Sunday article on the Cumming attack, just how much the Law Society value control of the media ... and to what lengths they will go to block public publication of criticism .. which recently saw Douglas Mill even threaten the Parliament with Court action if they fully gave in to demands for complete independent regulation of the legal profession ...

I think this was summed up in an email I received recently from a television journalist I know quite well. His name I will leave out, to protect him from Law Society threats to his career, but here are some excepts from what he writes :

Have you never thought about why every major investigative current affairs programmes on Scottish Television has refused to cover the issue of the failings of the Law Society to protect the public from "crooked lawyers" ? Even the Broadcasters have been prevented from taking on the issue for a programme, by the Law Society of Scotland. Please don't think it's only you who have written in, asking for an exposure of "crooked lawyers". there is a huge pile of letters at the BBC which have piled up over the years since you were contacted by Frontline Scotland in 1999.You are one of many people in the same boat, if obviously one of the Captains of that boat, but as long as the Law Society of Scotland send in written protests, demand private briefings with programme makers & journalists, and remind the in-house lawyers to advise against airing the dirty laundry of the legal profession, the issues of "crooked lawyers" and a "crooked regulator" will never see the television screens of the public.

e.g. for you to chew on.

Earlier this year you were contacted by a Sunday asking for comment on a case where a lawyer was alleged to have been negligent, several times over. You were eventually quoted in the story they run. You will never get another word printed in that newspaper now, because the Law Society of Scotland contacted them in a "rage", as one member of staff put it, demanding you were no longer used as a source on such stories. One of their reporters I spoke to actually told me the Law Society had offered a consultation directed against you, to discredit you. The Law Society are adamant that you, and people like you, are not given a chance to speak about your problems with "crooked lawyers", and threatening media organisations has been one of the ways the Law Society of Scotland has kept this issue away from television.It's a disgrace to read Law Society letters sent in to programme staff claiming they have the full support of the Scottish Executive in their role as regulator of the legal profession, then demanding that people like yourselves are kept off the airwaves.You were spot on. The Law Society of Scotland censors the Scottish media from any adverse publicity to the legal profession. I am sympathetic to your problems, Peter. I think there is a great deal of respect for you from talking to others, but there are powerful legal forces at work trying to maintain a silence on what must be one of the most damaging stories to our legal system in Scotland. ...

Well, that says it all I suppose, so I must have hit home on that one then, because never have I received so many emails from journalists in agreement in what I wrote. I also received a few emails & comments from lawyers who it seems, were ordered to have a go at me (they never tire of this). Nothing happened of course - I'm still here to write about it . and Douglas Mill is still foaming at the mouth like some rabies infested dog out for a kill ... calm down Mr Mill - it's all your own doing, you know ...

I must protest though, at this vicious hold the legal profession have over the Scottish media. That has to be ended .. why should the legal profession be able to censor the press over articles regarding their own crooked colleagues, just on the threat of pulling advertising or legal business ... that's not the mark of a free press, is it ?

During 2006, I also got to nominate Drew Penman of Stormonth Darling Solicitors, Kelso, as Scotland's Most Famous Crooked Lawyer in : Scottish Legal Awards - Lawyer Lawyer on the wall, who is the most crooked of us all ? ... a nomination Penman richly deserves Well, Mr Penman, you can sweat a little more at all this coverage on the web over you crooked dealings ... along with you crooked accountant friend Norman Howitt of Borders Accountants firm Welch & Co Accountants, Hawick & Galashiels .. who are always ready to rip off clients & get away with it...

Since Google seems to like Drew Penman's nomination as Scotland's Most Famous Crooked Lawyer, let me also nominate Norman Howitt as Scotland's Most Famous Crooked Accountant. A matched pair of crooks indeed.

The past year also highlighted the willingness of the Law Society of Scotland to lie at the Scottish Parliament - even when faced with evidence they were involved in full scale management of claims against lawyers. The scene between Douglas Mill & John Swinney, arguing over the content of the secret "Mackenzie memos" written by Douglas Mill himself .. sticks in the minds of many, as an appalling example of Law Society corruption.

2006, of course, internationally, ends with the execution of Saddam Hussein .. which will blot out the headlines on just about anything else for a few days, pleasing some, of course.

For me, however, I think 2006 ends with a step forward in the fight against crooked lawyers - something I've campaigned on since 1994, although thinking about it, the first complaint I put in against a crooked lawyer was in 1990 against a drunken Mr William Craib Anderson, of Charles & Rb Andersons WS, Jedburgh.

I think we have to build on the success of the campaign to bring the LPLA Bill into law .. and now also campaign for a full review of the conduct of the Law Society over the decades against clients - which has seen many injustices take place and many lives & livelihoods destroyed, simply to protect crooked lawyers from justice.

Lastly, I was slightly saddened to see the ending of the McKie campaign for a public inquiry - not that there will ever be an effective one of course, because there never has been a transparent, independent clean public inquiry in the history of the British Isles yet.

Slightly saddened on this one, because, well ... when you enter a campaign such as that .. I don't really see that there is a chance to step away from it, until the final outcome is realised.

I'm not saying that in a selfish way .. because I do understand the need for people to have a life - a life which the likes of crooked lawyers, or crooked officials take away from you to protect their own colleagues from investigation ... but I do think there is a measure of responsibility on the part of a campaigner to see something through to the end .. otherwise, well, there isn't much point in starting it in the first place, is there ? I'm afraid, that 'having a life' is one of the sacrifices that one must make a little, to campaign to such a degree on an issue of such importance.

Having said that, what McKie demonstrated is that the Scottish Executive have a significant degree of guilt attached to them, as the 'bystander' to a lot of corruption, not just in the criminal legal world .. but also in the civil legal world - and one of those charges of guilt, I believe - is a measure of guilt over allowing the Law Society of Scotland and the rest of the legal profession to damage so many lives in their quest to protect their own colleagues. After all .. it's not as if the Scottish Executive hadn't known about it ... for, lets say ... well over 16 years ?

Time for the Scottish Executive to put that one right too then, and compensate all those victims of the legal profession ... because there are a lot of Shirley McKies out there, who have had to endure frame ups, fit ups, rip offs, fiddles & much more .. just so that a crooked lawyer can remain in practice and the Law Society could continue to regulate the legal profession.

Anyway .. as I have already wished you all a Happy New Year ... let's all have a rest for a few days .. and see what 2007 brings ...

Friday, December 22, 2006

Law Society of Scotland & Freedom Of Information - End the Exemption Now.

A quiet week after the passing of the LPLA Bill ? Not likely .. but certainly time to spark new debates & campaigns on other aspects of the Scottish legal profession which need amending .. and reports in this week's press show the need for further reforms, from legal aid, to how the legal profession disciplines itself & interferes in legislation, and perhaps more importantly, throwing out the FOI exemption of our legal crooks at Drumsheugh Gardens, which allows the Law Society of Scotland to happily blank out the corruption of its members from public view.

What with reports of lawyers forming a new Union (in addition to all the other unions & nefarious organisations they have to protect their own interests) : Hundreds to join new lawyers' union ..and 'sing'a'long' Donald Findlay being named as top of .. (it was actually £361,800) ... its business as usual for Scotland's legal profession.

There's also Bill Alexander's FOI request to disclose information on why certain parts of Law were held back to protect business markets of the Scottish legal profession too : Scottish Executive thought to be blameworthy for allowing restrictive practices in legal services

Lawyers forming a new union to protect their interests .... what's wrong with the likes of the Legal Defence Union ? Law Care ? and all those other organs of the Law Society of Scotland which protect crooked lawyers from getting off the hook ? Why bother with yet another organisation, which will always play second fiddle to the Law Society of Scotland ?

Some quotes from the Scotsman article on the new lawyers union : :

Solicitors from across the country are drawing up a constitution for the new representative body, which they hope to launch next month.

They say there is growing frustration that their voices are not being heard amid the biggest reform of the legal professional and justice system that Scotland has seen. They insist a grass-roots organisation, provisionally to be named the Scottish Bar Association, is needed to aid communication among solicitors and to mobilise increasingly militant legal aid lawyers.

Ministerial reforms of the legal aid system have raised the threat of strikes and boycotts among both civil and criminal lawyers - action the Law Society of Scotland, which represents the country's solicitors, is unable to support due to its statutory obligation to represent the interests of the public as well as the profession.

The thought of gangs of crooked lawyers drawing up'constutitions' conjures up images of sacrificial ceremonies involving the odd goat or sheep (whichever is closer for grabbing, no doubt) ... for we can be sure their 'constitution' will include clauses to rip off the client & get away with it.

Frustration their voices are not being heard ? My goodness .. how loud do they want to be ?

The Law Society of Scotland just last week, threatened the Scottish Parliament with Court action if they didn't pass the amendments they wrote for Bill Aitken to pass (yes the Law Society wrote many of those amendments themselves .. because some are just too .. well .. you know ... D'oh ! to come up with such wording ...) I covered that one here : Scotland lobbies Scottish Parliament to pass anti consumer amendments on LPLA Bill threatening Court action if demands not met

Well, it's all a bit of a diversion .. and far from it being frustration with the Law Society of Scotland, it seems those at Drumsheugh Gardens are secretly supporting these new ideas .. if only to use such threats of the break up of the legal monopoly in Scotland as a political weapon & bargaining tool for professional interests.

The Law Society of Scotland are still the puppet master, you will all be pleased to hear.

Apart from 'sing-a-long' Donald taking the prize of legal aid top earner this week then, the only other thing I would like to raise would be the Law Society of Scotland's exemption from FOI.

I noticed, this week, there are posts from people claiming to have attended Complaints Committee hearings at the Law Society of Scotland, where one says one thing, and one says another. I don't know of many Complaints Committee members who have the guts or honesty to deviate from the Law Soceity line that all lawyers are honest .. so I will reserve judgement on the first anonymous post ... unless they choose to contact me & confirm their staus.

Well, in my own experience, and from what I have read on other cases, the Complaints Committee members selected by the Law Society of Scotland are simply 'Yes" people who won't rock the boat, and do exactly what they are told like puppy dogs when their legal thugs at the end of the table make their decision.

No doubt some of these people think they are doing a good thing and performing a valuable service to the community - dropping prosecutions against crooked lawyers, fiddling evidence, joking about clients complaints, laughing about clients personal misfortune & family members deaths, listening to the pleas of crooked lawyers before them of "oh .. I studied for so long to become a lawyer, it's not fair I should be kicked out just because I stole half a million from a client" ... and then of course, letting them off the hook because they are a nice well studied lawyer who shouldn't be thrown to the dogs just because they are crooked.

Well, drug users on a high also think they are performing the same valuable community service

I remember, once, this Priest, who was on one of the Law Society Complaints Committees when the Scotsman were running almost daily stories of crooked lawyers .. big headlines too, as you can see from some of the coverage I received against a lawyer I nominated for the position of Scotland's most famous crooked lawyer - Drew Penman of Stormonth Darling Solicitors, Kelso

Well, this Priest 'was motivated by external means' (no, not God), to write into the Scotsman's letters page and protest the valuable work he did as a Complaints Committee member .. and also condemn from on high, those of us (including myself) who doubted the words of the Law Society when it came to prosecuting crooked lawyers.

I think the Priest though, had become lost in the steak & wine dinners & socialising with all those crooked lawyers & other Committee members at Drumsheugh Gardens .. as he forgot to mention anywhere in his letter he was even a Priest - either that or he was too busy obeying his orders from the Law Society chiefs to get right in there and furiously write letters condemning Peter Cherbi, he had simply forgot his 'primary mission' in life ...

My goodness .. it seems the Law Society of Scotland can even make a Priest put his duty to let crooked lawyers off the hook before his 'vocation to God' .. which is one of the things required for the Priesthood, isn't it ? .. and such condemnation of clients by this Committee member led me to check out who else was on the Law Society Complaints Committees. It was then quite easy to understand why swathes of crooked lawyers were getting off the hook - the Committees were populated by 'Lay persons' the Law Society carefully selected to ensure their crooked colleagues were safe.

I've heard a lot more about other members of the Complaints Committees ... how they joke & ridicule many complaints that pass their eyes ... ridicule & laugh about the misfortune of clients who have lost everything due to a crooked lawyer ... and even joke about the deaths of clients members of family, in the hope it will get rid of them from sight .... a nasty bunch surely, if ever there was one... but certainly in line with their lawyer colleagues at the end of the table, who seemingly are never short of a sharp, vicious word or two against members of the public.

Of course, we would know all about this if the Law Society of Scotland didn't have an exemption from Freedom of Information legislation, wouldn't we.

We would know a lot more about the inner workings of the Law Society of Scotland if it had to adhere to FOI ... things like the Mackenzie memos' would have been released to the Mackenzie .. rather than having to be leaked ... but we now can clearly see why the Law Society demanded and got an exemption from FOI ... to cover up their own corruption & control of the legal system.

Time to end that exemption then... after all .. we now have the Legal Profession & Legal Aid (Scotland) Bill passed at the Scottish Parliament ... surely any exemption from Freedom of Information legislation which the legal profession enjoys is now incompatible with the spirit & terms of the LPLA Bill, which is designed to regulate & oversee all those crooked lawyers we keep having to complain about.

Oh ... we will get arguments such as .. 'but if we have to obey FOI, then pursuers & defenders will be asking for FOi requests on each others affairs & worse ..." .. nothing of the sort of course ... we are talking about the Law Society of Scotland here - not the Law. The Law Society of Scotland is a regulatory body .. and classed as a public body at that ... therefore making it compliant with FOI will certainly be a benefit to the consumer.

After all - why on earth should the likes of Douglas Mill & his crooked band of lawyers enjoy an exemption status from Freedom of Information ? .. when we have all this corruption going on around them ? fiddling evidence against negligent & crooked lawyers, meddling in client complaints, even, threatening the Parliament on the passing of legislation ? ... why on earth should such an organisation have an exemption from FOI ?

Who can end that exemption ? Cathy Jamieson, the Justice Minster can do something about it - so get writing to her everyone - and make sure the legal profession in Scotland don't hold onto the exemption from FOI, just as a pretence to maintain confidentiality of business & affairs ... it's nothing to do with that at all .. as we all know .. it's to maintain the secrecy on the disgraceful conduct of the legal profession over all these years, to keep its business monopoly and to keep from the public, the huge regulatory problems of armies of crooked lawyers ripping off clients throughout Scotland. Ripping off - YOU.

Lastly, for today - may I wish you all a Merry Christmas & Happy New Year.

I hope 2007 brings happiness, good health & good fortune for all of you, wherever you are in the world, and particularly for those of you who have suffered an unresolved injustice.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Scottish Executive thought to be blameworthy for allowing restrictive practices in legal services

Harboured any criminals lately ? If you did, you are liable to be arrested as an accessory after the fact' ... involving whatever nefarious venture your criminal friend did.

Even worse, if you learn of a crime and give some form of assistance to it, you could be arrested as an accomplice, or "accessory before the fact" .... because of course, you are part of the criminal venture .. even more so than just standing back and keeping silent.

Interesting case then, when, the Government Department responsible for running Scotland - from (at least during the time of my own case) the Scottish Office , to the present Scottish Executive , has known all along, of problems with the regulation of the legal profession - while doing nothing.

Well, of course, it wasn't the case they did nothing, as we shall see ....

It has usually been the case, certainly with myself, and everyone else I know who has had difficulties with the Law Society of Scotland & crooked lawyers) that people have written to their constituency politicians seeking help because of slow progress or bare faced corruption on the part of the Law Society of Scotland during investigations of client complaints against lawyers.

After a person wrote to their constituency MP, or MSP (after the formation of the Scottish Parliament in 1999, legal affairs were devolved to Scotland), typically their request would go through a well worn process where their politician would write to the Law Society of Scotland, and also the Scottish Office (pre 1999) or the Scottish Executive (post 1999), to the relevant Minister responsible for Justice.

Just as in everyone else's case, the same happened in mine. Archy Kirkwood wrote to Henry McLeish , when he was a Minister in the Scottish Executive during 1999. The usual response was - "we can't do anything, the Law Society is mandated by the law to represent the interests of the client & the profession, and if you aren't happy with the outcome of the Law Society's investigation, you can approach the Scottish Legal Services Ombudsman to look at the way the Law Society handled your complaint' ... everyone was told the same - and all the politicians who wrote all these representations for all their constituents who asked for assistance - knew what the response would be.

A neat way of making work then perhaps ? Almost ... a merry go round, one could say ?.

Yes - that would be an almost perfect description of the whole thing from start to finish. Passing the buck - even though the Scottish Executive knew full well, there were significant problems with prejudice, bias, even, corruption in the way the Law Society of Scotland self-regulated their army of 10,000 solicitors.

But .. how does that fit in with telling thousands of people to do the same ?

Is it acceptable to know of crime, criminality, corruption, bias, prejudice, racism, sectarianism, abuse, embezzlement .. and tell thousands of people who report such matters, to go through a process which, knowingly, has no chance of success in preventing or halting the crime, criminality, corruption, bias, prejudice, racism, sectarianism, abuse, embezzlement ? Doesn't that sound a little bit .. crooked ?

So, we are back to who knew what, when, and why nothing was done about it.

Well, it turns out the Scottish Executive were & have been getting over 1000 representations per year from members of the public & their elected politicians .. on .. complaints about the way the Law Society of Scotland & Faculty of Advocates handle investigations of complaints against their members. This is, of course, one of the reasons the Legal Profession & Legal Aid (Scotland) Bill, has come into being - because media attention to scandals on crooked lawyers, and campaigns such as mine, and those of others, have brought out this issue into the public domain, to the point something had to be done about it.

Sounds a bit like the McKie case, doesn't it ? Scottish Executive knew something was wrong at the SCRO, but it looks like both sides - the McKie's and those officers at the SCRO were played royally against each other in a political battle to keep the lid on a creaking legal system, full of corruption & political favours in exchange for the legal profession 'leaving alone' certain parts of Scottish Law which are highly prejudicial to receiving fair trials or fair hearings .. one of those instances of course, being .. complaints against so-called 'professionals' such as .. lawyers.

In a case which may shed some light on why the Scottish Office & Scottish Executive sat on the fence, knowingly, while all was crooked & corrupt in arena of self-regulation of the legal profession, Bill Alexander, another campaigner on this subject, has the assistance of the Information Commissioner, Kevin Dunion, in a case which opens today at the Court of Session, seeking disclosure of ministerial correspondence and memoranda from the last decade concerning the enduring ban on people other than solicitors and advocates being paid to represent clients in the Scottish courts.

Put simply, Bill Alexander wants to know why, when sections 25-29 of the Law Reform (Miscellaneous Provisions) (Scotland) Act 1990 should have abolished the ban on non-lawyers applying for rights of audience.

These sections of the Law Reform (Miscellaneous Provisions) (Scotland) Act 1990 are still sitting on the books - inactive ... because it is thought, they have been the subject of a political deal between the legal profession & the Scottish Executive, to keep a status quo and protect the monopoly which solicitors & advocates enjoy in the legal services market for who represents clients in Court.

There is no 'official' explanation why the sections were never enacted, but the Scottish Executive has refused to adhere to an order from the Information Commissioner to release the material requested by Bill Alexander .. and, as the Herald Newspaper reports, has employed Richard Keen QC to defend their position and prevent or at least prevaricate for as long as possible the release of such information - which may well go to prove the government stood by, knowingly, while the markets for legal business and opportunities for the client were stage managed by the legal profession in a monopoly which was allowed to continue - by the inaction of the Government.

You can read the decision of the Information Commissioner here : Decision 057/2005 Mr William Alexander and the Scottish Executive

Mr Alexander wouldn't find anything out on this from the Law Society of Scotland using FOI - that's because the Law Society of Scotland are exempt from FOI.

Imagine that - the Law Society of Scotland - a self regulatory body which has stage managed the legal services sector for decades in Scotland, was allowed an exemption from the Freedom of Information act, despite everyone, including the politicians & Government knowing full well it suffered from charges of corruption, bias, prejudice, restriction of who actually gets legal representation ...

Let's hope the Court of Session find in favour of Mr Alexander's request for the relevant information on the stitch up of legal services & delay of legislation, just as the Court of Session found in favour of the Information Commissioner on December 1st, ruling that the Common Services Agency of the NHS (National Services Scotland) should provide information on the incidence of childhood leukaemia in Dumfries and Galloway.

It certainly seems the Scottish Executive are determined on spending vast amounts of public money to defend against disclosure of material which should really be in the public domain ... all this information seemingly indicating a variety of scandals which have been covered up.

I say the Scottish Executive is guilty of allowing the suffering of clients to go unremedied for all these years while the likes of the Law Society of Scotland routinely fiddled client complaints against it's member solicitors & stage managed legal services in Scotland to maintain it's monopoly on rights of audience. The Executive, and the Scottish Office, were clearly aware of this.

It's time the Executive did something about their sitting on the fence for all these years, and make financial amends to all those victims of crooked lawyers,who, over the years, have had to face the knowingly corrupt & prejudicial practices of the Law Society of Scotland in regulating the legal profession.

Read on for the Herald article on this case, link to follow.

Freedom of information, the law and the public purse
PAUL ROGERSON December 18 2006

The Scottish Executive has appointed one of the nation's most eminent advocates to try and block the release of sensitive documents that could explain why Scotland's legal services market has never been opened up to greater competition.

Richard Keen QC's fees, which are understood to be as high as £6000 a day, will be met by the taxpayer.

However, ministers are still refusing to say why they are spending so much public money to thwart the release of information on a subject which is no longer a political hot potato.

The landmark case – the bill for which could run into six figures – begins in the Court of Session tomorrow.

Last year Bill Alexander, a longstanding campaigner for wider consumer access to
legal services, used freedom of information legislation to seek disclosure of ministerial correspondence and memoranda from the last decade concerning the enduring ban on people other than solicitors and advocates being paid to represent clients in the Scottish courts.

Sixteen years have passed since sections 25-29 of the Law Reform (Miscellaneous Provisions) (Scotland) Act 1990 should have abolished the ban on non-lawyers applying for rights of audience. Somewhat mysteriously,the sections were never commenced.

At the time, commencement of the sections was deferred indefinitely, amid bitter controversy.

Ministers gave an undertaking that the sections would not be implemented until other reforms in the 1990 act – in particular, the introduction of solicitor-advocates – had been given time to bed down.

However, the fact that the measures remain on the statute book but are still not active has provided ammunition for critics of the lawyers' "closed shop". It has also attracted the attention of both the Office of Fair Trading and the House of Commons Trade and Industry Select Committee.

Holyrood ministers are refusing to comply with an order by Scottish information commissioner Kevin Dunion to publish the documents sought by Alexander, which include letters from the late First Minister Donald Dewar to both Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott and Lord Irvine of Lairg, the former Lord Chancellor.

As The Herald reported earlier this year, the case constitutes the first occasion since freedom of information legislation took effect that the Executive has elected to fight its case before the courts.

Industry observers are puzzled why ministers are going out on a limb on the issue, especially since commencement of sections 25-29 is part of the legal profession bill currently at committee stage 3 at Holyrood. Suspicions have inevitably arisen that the documents sought by Alexander could prove embarrassing to members of the New Labour hierarchy and senior Scottish lawyers past and present.
Keen, whose recent cases have included acting for Tommy Sheridan in the News of the World libel case, will be supported by junior counsel Kenneth McBrearty.

The information commissioner will be represented by another eminent brief, Paul Cullen QC.

The Herald asked the Executive why it continues to block publication of the documents sought by Alexander, when it supports, and indeed is legislating for, commencement of sections 25-29. A spokesman said:

"The appeal process has an important part to play, for example in ensuring proper interpretation and application of FOI legislation. For the Executive, the commissioner has issued decisions in around 56 cases – in three of these we have considered that it's appropriate to appeal. This is one of those cases.

"Those cases are currently sub judice, however, so it is inappropriate for us to make any further comment at this point."

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Legal Profession & Legal Aid Bill finally passed by Scottish Parliament, with amendments.

At around 5.31pm on Thursday, 14th December 2006, the LPLA Bill was finally passed by the Scottish Parliament - seven years after myself & several others asked the Scottish Parliament's Justice & Home Affairs Committee of 1999 to consider the issue of corruption within the Scottish legal profession & rampant prejudice in responding to complaints against solicitors & advocates.

The passing of the LPLA Bill, did, however, not go unconditional, as you saw in my article on the day of the debate : Law Society of Scotland lobbies Scottish Parliament to pass anti consumer amendments on LPLA Bill threatening Court action if demands not met ... and many anti consumer amendments, demanded at the point of threat of Court action by the Law Society's Chief Executive Douglas Mill, were passed by what seems to be a roll of MSPs infatuated - or maybe even on the payroll, of the Law Society of Scotland. At least, however, the ₤20,000 fine limit - which pro-crooked lawyers msp Bill Aitken demanded be reduced to a paultry ₤5,000 was left alone.

I covered the Law Society of Scotland's threat to take the Parliament to court on the LPLA Bill here : Law Society of Scotland threatens Court challenge against Scottish Executive over LPLA legal reform Bill

I think you can describe some of those politicians who passed the Law Society's amendments, as enemies of the people. After all, what I said on Thursday is true - these MSPs helped criminals amend the Law, so they can go on being criminals - albeit they will have to be a little more inventive on how they get round the new Laws. Sick isn't it ? but what can you expect from a desperate bunch of people as lawyers - who have infiltrated our parliamentary democracy & run it for their own private dictatorship - while we have to pay.

Doubt me ? Well, you have already seen how easy the Law Society of Scotland have censored the Scottish Media, in articles I wrote here : Law Society of Scotland actively censors the Scottish Press to kill articles on crooked lawyers & here : Scottish Legal Profession censors the Press to kill off bad publicity - Part II .. so neutering the Scottish Parliament would have been easy.

After all, a few of it's members are juts crooks too .. such as this example ;Scottish Parliament withholds documents as Deputy First Minister faces allegations of questionable mortgage arrangements - milking their expenses & giving false information on mortgages so they can get the taxpayer to pay them off and then of course there's this example : Scottish Labor Politician rents his own son's flat for £7000 a year, charging it up to taxpayers .... so it would be easy to nobble that lot then ! ... plenty dirty secrets to hide in exchange for favourable votes .. and please note how Nicol Stephen msp & John Home Robertson msp voted - for the crooked lawyers anti consumer amendments .... makes you think, doesn't it ?

You can see who voted for & against the amendments in the Official Report from the Parliament on the LPLA Bill debate at Holyrood.

Only John Swinney & Colin Fox really seem to have taken consumer interests to heart with comments they made in the chamber - comments which will be most unwelcome at Drumsheugh Gardens, where no doubt, Douglas Mill will be ripping what little hair he has left, out in a beetroot red rage.

Here is what John Swinney said in comments relating to how an ex Boss of the Law Society, Kenneth Pritchard, intervened in a case to protect crooked lawyers, and thus obstruct the law :

Later on in the debate, John Swinney, again, makes comments on a story I covered here : Chief Executive of the Law Society of Scotland branded a liar after FSA denies claims of intervention to block complaints body on how the current Chief Executive of the Law Society of Scotland, Douglas Mill, was caught out lying in the newspapers over the remit of the Financial Services Authority, in a campaign of legal profession sponsored isinformation against the public :

What now for the LPLA Bill ?

Well, it will, or should go into law .. unless some unforeseen happens ... but for those of us who have campaigned for so many years (since 1994, myself ... others just as long) ... this is only the beginning of a new battle ... to ensure the new Scottish Legal Complaints Commission actually does it's job and the public do get justice and proper compensation when they find their crooked lawyer has messed up their legal affairs - or worse, embezzled all their money .. something typical of the Scottish legal profession - go to a lawyer, and expect to be robbed - that should be pasted onto each lawyer as Government Health Warning - just like a packet of cigarettes.

If I can be a little more cinematic on it, let me quote Winston Churchill's Mansion House speech to the Lord Mayor's Luncheon on 10 November 1942 ... "This is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning." and that is where we now stand on the issue of crooked lawyers in Scotland - more to come, folks ...

Read on for the reports of the LPLA Bill passing the Scottish Parliament, from the Scotsman & Herald newspapers, links to follow with the articles.

Complaints against lawyers procedure amended

MINISTERS bowed to warnings from the legal profession yesterday and changed the proposed new complaints procedure for lawyers, introducing a right of appeal for the first time.

The Legal Profession and Legal Aid (Scotland) Act was passed by Holyrood yesterday, creating an independent commission to deal with consumer complaints against lawyers.

But lawyers had warned of legal action and a possible breach of European human rights law if ministers went ahead with their original plans, which would have refused a right of appeal to lawyers against decisions of the commission.

During the final day's debate in parliament Johann Lamont, the deputy justice minister, said ministers accepted the need for a right of appeal and this was added to the bill before it was passed.

Labour MSP Jackie Baillie lodged the amendments to allow a limited right of appeal.

"They [the amendments] would preserve the essence of the current policy, not undermine them," Ms Lamont said.

The changes to the bill will mean that lawyers must seek leave to appeal to the Court of Session before they are able to challenge a commission decision. The grounds of all appeal are limited to error in law, procedural impropriety, that the commission has "acted irrationally" or where its findings are not supported by the facts.

The Executive accepted moves to distance ministers from the appointments process for the new body, handing over responsibility for this to the Lord President.
Lawyers win right to appeal consumer watchdog decisions
ROBBIE DINWOODIE December 15 2006

Lawyers were yesterday given a limited right of appeal against a new independent commission to deal with consumer complaints.

The profession, which remains deeply uneasy about the Legal Profession and Legal Aid (Scotland) Bill, had claimed that without any form of appeal the new procedure would fall foul of the European Convention on Human Right and the legislation could become the first at Holyrood to be struck down as incompetent.

The Scottish Legal Complaints Commission will have the power to bring the Society of Advocates or Law Society of Scotland before the Court of Session on contempt charges if either of the professional bodies fails to implement its recommendations.

The bill also provides for compensation payments of up to £20,000 to clients found to have received poor service. An attempt by a Labour back bencher to have this reduced to £15,000 failed in a vote.
The current £5000 level was raised from £1500 only in the past 18 months.

A spokesman for the Faculty of Advocates said: "The faculty will require to consider in further detail whether or not these and other amendments do address the concerns which have been raised about compliance with the convention."

Douglas Mill, chief executive of the Law Society of Scotland, said: "The parliament has taken steps today to try to ensure the legislation is both legal and fair.

"A number of other positive amendments were also brought forward, which, it is hoped, will improve the legislation to ensure that it can work in practice, something the society has promoted from the start of this process."

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Law Society of Scotland lobbies Scottish Parliament to pass anti consumer amendments on LPLA Bill threatening Court action if demands not met

Just imagine you were a politician for a minute, and someone you knew committed a murder or another serious crime, but got away with it.

This criminal, then came to you, asking you to amend the Law so they could murder someone else and get away with it, and just to keep themselves happy, they want you to also write amendments to the Law so they could abuse, murder & steal to their hearts content - and get away with it.

Would you do it ? Would you help a murderer or a fraudster or a child abuser, amend the law so they could carry on murdering, stealing, or abusing and get away with it ?

That is precisely what the Scottish legal profession is asking MSPs to do today in the Scottish Parliament in the debate on the Legal Profession & Legal Aid (Scotland) Bill , which aims to bring independent regulation to the legal profession, and take away the current crooked self regulation system operated by the Law Society of Scotland - which has seen thousands of complaints fiddled against crooked lawyers so clients get little or no compensation while the crooked lawyer gets off the hook from many client complaints & keeps on practising & keeps on robbing other clients who cant get anywhere trying to recover their lost money

Such cases as TOP LAWYER AT THE CENTRE OF 12 NEGLIGENCE CLAIMS are all too common, and from my own experience, just look how crooked lawyer Drew Penman was - and got away with it, to carry on being a crooked lawyer, so much I nominated him for Scotland's Most Famous Crooked Lawyer in Tueday's article Scottish Legal Awards - Lawyer Lawyer on the wall, who is the most crooked of us all ?

The Law Society of Scotland are today, promoting Jim Wallace MSP, former Deputy First Minister and Justice Minister, and Jackie Baillie, former Social Justice Minister and current member of the Justice 2 Committee as allies in their battle to prevent the public from getting a fair hearing when it comes to complaints against crooked lawyers.

Bit strange, isn't it ? that a Former Justice Minister would support a gang of criminals ? would support a profession which has ruined peoples lives, embezzled all their money, even caused the death of people - to save a lawyer from prosecution over fraud, corruption, embezzlement, rape, abuse, drugs dealing .... what kind of politician would support such a group of people ?

It's not just Jim Wallace though - as you can see from the amendments listed for the Parliamentary Debate - there are several other MSPs who have come forth to support Scotland's twisted & corrupt legal profession - hellbent on killing any chance of independent scrutiny of their corrupt behaviour towards clients.

Link to the Amendments: Marshalled List of Amendments selected for Stage 3

Please note Bill Aitken - Conservative MSP for Glasgow - he seems to be one of the Chief mouthpieces for crooked lawyers in this war against consumer reforms it seems - and he is so in love with the idea that crooked lawyers should be allowed to embezzle your money & get away with it - he demanded the proposed maximum fine of £20,000 for crooked lawyers be reduced to a mere £5000 in his Amendment No.179.

How do you like that idea then ? An MSP - a politician you elected, but now a mouthpiece for the Law Society of Scotland, wants a crooked lawyer to only have to pay £5000 at the very most - if for instance - they ruin your business, ruin your life, take your home, embezzle all your money. What kind of punishment or deterrent is that ?

Jackie Ballie MSP - former Social Justice Minister & Justice 2 Committee member isn't far behind Bill Aitken with anti-consumer amendments either - she also proposed the lowering of the £20,000 for crooked lawyers be reduced to £15,000 ... what a rip off ! - and why should there even be a limit of fine ?

How about when a lawyer ruins your business and you lose £100,000 or more ? You won't get much back from the £5,000 or £15,000 fine limit these MSPs are proposing ... and it's no use saying get a lawyer to sue the lawyer - that doesn't work as we all know - and which is why we are here today with the LPLA Bill.

In fact, it seems, out of 129 MSPs at the Scottish Parliament, only a few have stepped forward with any motivation at all on the part of the public - John Swinney MSP (SNP) and Colin Fox (SSP), to mention the most daring. Everyone else has kept a brutal silence on this issue - despite the fact every single MSP knows full well the corruption in the Scottish legal profession and how endemically corrupt the Law Society of Scotland's self regulatory complaints regime has been for decades.

Other MSPs who posted a variety of amendments to the LPLA Bill are : Jeremy Purvis (LibDem) , David Davidson (Conservative), Johann Lamont (Labour), Stewart Maxwell (SNP) & Hugh Henry (Labour)

The Law Society of Scotland has done its utmost to kill off the LPLA Bill, even having groups of lawyers meet with MSPs - even members of the Justice Committees themselves, where lawyers have privately warned some MSPs the LPLA Bill is not to become law unless it writes the amendments itself - and with the amendments proposed by Glasgow's Bill Aitken MSP - it looks like the Law Society of Scotland have done just that.

It's almost as if the Law Society of Scotland wants to censor the Scottish Parliament - just as it has done with the Scottish media - which I wrote about here :
Law Society of Scotland actively censors the Scottish Press to kill articles on crooked lawyers and here :
Scottish Legal Profession censors the Press to kill off bad publicity - Part II

The Law Society of Scotland is running so scared of the LPLA Bill, the legal profession have now threatened to boycott legal work - all because of the fact that lawyers won't be able to fiddle complaints against themselves with the advent of independent regulation of complaints in the LPLA Bill .. and an article today in the Herald Newspaper quotes those threats - so the crooked lawyers aren't going to take on all those cases such as executry, conveyancing or court work, for which the law requires they are registered as practicing solicitors.

Good ... that means they wont be able to rip you off for vast fees for selling your house or buying a house, or ripping off dead clients wills - like crooked lawyer Andrew Penman did with my dad's will, and they can't prolong Civil Court work you asked them to do for you - so they can fatten up the account at the end of the work done ... It might just bring a new more honest breed of person into the legal arena who is able to undertake the work for you without all those fat inflated bills to feather the high living lifestyles of all those crooked lawyers.

Not content with threatening to boycott legal work, the Law Society of Scotland has also issued a Press Release with a threat of a Court Challenge to the Parliament against the LPLA Bill if the legal profession's demands of amendments are not met. How's that for dictatorship then ! .... has Douglas Mill now become the new Saddam Hussein ? We get rid of one Dictator and another one springs up - but this time, it's at home - and Mr Mill & the gang of political control-freak lawyers in the Scottish legal profession are far more dangerous to the public & the judicial system than any politician - as has been proved time & again.

Douglas Mill's threat of a Court challenge to the LPLA Bill is well known, because he called the newspapers to publish his threat in early November- I covered it here : Law Society of Scotland threatens Court challenge against Scottish Executive over LPLA legal reform Bill,. but it just goes to show how far the Law Society is willing to go to keep complaints handling to themselves - all this to keep crooked lawyers in jobs - who would otherwise be in jail if they tried their wholesale client rip offs, embezzlements & other activities anywhere else.

Peter Cherbi's message to the Scottish Parliament today :

Resist the threats & intimidation of the Law Society of Scotland & the legal mafia. Pass the Legal Profession & Legal Aid (Scotland) Bill without all those so obviously anti consumer amendments and give the public a chance to be heard for once. You all know we are right in what we say - and how long all of us victims - the seen & unseen have suffered - do something about it, and bring honesty to the Scottish legal profession. Give the public a reason to trust the people who must represent us in the Courts & legal system - because at the moment, we have no one to trust with our legal affairs. No one.

Herald article here :

Law change ‘may harm clients of solicitors’
DOUGLAS FRASER December 14 2006

Solicitors may walk away from mainstream legal work if there is too much regulatory burden placed on them by legislation which is entering its final stage at Holyrood, the Law Society of Scotland has warned.

A spokeswoman said yesterday that if the costs of remaining as a solicitor are increased by the charges for sustaining a new complaints system, including fines of up to £20,000, that may encourage solicitors to redefine themselves as lawyers or legal advisers instead.

If they do not carry out executry, conveyancing or court work, for which the law requires they are registered as practising solicitors, they would be free to carry on without that badge – on commercial work, for instance.

The spokeswoman said solicitors would prefer to remain as a unified profession, but added that costs and regulation could change that. The outcome would only harm customers' interests, it was claimed, taking many lawyers outside the remit of the new complaints system. It may also make lawyers more selective in the cases they are willing to take on.

The Law Society of Scotland has made repeated warnings about the Legal Profession and Legal Aid (Scotland) Bill, on which MSPs will take their final decisions today.

With key amendments facing them, one of those warnings is that the bill as it stands this morning could become the first piece of Holyrood legislation to be struck down for being incompatible with human rights legislation.

Press Release (or declaration of War against the Scottish public & Parliament) by the Law Society of Scotland here :

Former Ministers Back Society's Calls for Change to Legal Reform Bill

TWO influential MSPs have backed the Law Society of Scotland's concerns and will bring forward vital amendments to the legal Profession and Legal Aid (Scotland) Bill tomorrow (Thursday 14 December).

Jim Wallace MSP, former Deputy First Minister and Justice Minister, and Jackie Baillie, former Social Justice Minister and current member of the Justice 2 Committee, are among those who have put forward amendments to the Legal Profession and Legal Aid (Scotland) Bill.

The Society has warned consistently that the Bill, which includes setting up a Scottish Legal Complaints Commission to handle service complaints against lawyers, could breach the European Convention on Human Rights. Unless its flaws are addressed it could become the first Act of the Scottish Parliament to be struck down as incompetent.

The former ministers' amendments, as well as a series of amendments by the Scottish Executive and David Davidson MSP, seek to correct flaws highlighted by the Society. They include the need to provide a right of appeal to the courts against SLCC decisions and involvement of the Lord President in the appointment of Commission members.

Douglas Mill, the Chief Executive of the Society, stressed that the Stage 3 debate tomorrow (Thursday December 14) was the final chance for MSPs to ensure that the new process for making complaints against solicitors is better than the current system.

He said: "The Society backs the principle of establishing an independent body to handle service complaints against solicitors in Scotland but that must be an improvement on the existing system for the public and legal profession alike.

"We have made our concerns known on a number of occasions and a large number of amendments have already been tabled during the parliamentary process which have led to some improvements but the question of ECHR compliance and the independence of the SLCC from government are fundamental and must be addressed tomorrow.

"The Society hopes the amendments brought forward at the Stage 3 debate will correct the flaws in this Bill and ensure it does not face a court challenge at a later stage."

Other changes that the Society hopes will be agreed during the debate include lowering the maximum compensation levels for individual findings of poor service by lawyers from £20,000 and ensuring greater accountability of the work and costs of the SLCC.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Scottish Legal Awards - Lawyer Lawyer on the wall, who is the most crooked of us all ?

Would you nominate anyone for the 2007 Scottish legal awards, was a question put to me yesterday. I'm talking about these awards : Runners and riders for Scottish 'Oscars'

Well, I wasn't aware that anyone outside the legal profession could ! but if the general public did become involved in what is really just an 'industry awarding themselves ceremony' ... then I'm sure you would see more interesting categories of nominations such as :

Scotland's most famous Crooked Lawyer,

Most skilled & imaginative embezzling lawyer who embezzled the most,

Lawyer who managed to swindle the most from a client,

Lawyer who told the most lies to clients & his colleagues,

Lawyer who faked up the most files,

Lawyer who managed to get away with the most client complaints,

Lawyer with the most negligence claims against them,

Most respected lawyer who trafficked in drugs to clients & others.

Lawyer who managed to defraud the most from the Scottish Legal Aid Board,

Lawyer who overcharged the most clients with the highest bills,

Lawyer who stole the most properties from clients to sell on to their colleagues,

Lawyer who mis-sold the most dodgy mortgages to clients,

Lawyer who broke up the most families,

Lawyer who lied the most times in Court,

Plenty categories there then .. and none of those will get a mention in the 2007 Scottish Legal Awards, which are sponsored by Bank of Scotland Corporate, with The Scotsman as the media partner.

Why on earth would a Bank sponsor legal events ? Simple - they get a lot of business of course from the lawyers and legal firms - things like - all the clients money & accounts lodged with them - so your lawyer gets a lower rate of interest on loans & mortgages for personal use ... using your money as a bargaining tool for themselves. Of course, the lawyers don't tell you about that one at all - do they ... they just present you with a big fat bill for doing nothing - or prolonging a case for weeks, months or even years - just to bump up their charges to you.

One of the great tricks of the legal trade for earning preferential finance rates for themselves, & fat profits for the Banks, is when a client dies - and the legal firm end up managing the dead client's estate.

Almost the first thing the lawyer does, is open a nice fat overdraft account - with a top rate of interest - some of these overdraft accounts for instance, have been opened at 20% interest !!! - that's a wee bit steep, don't you think ? ... but its been going on for years .... Scottish lawyers consider the milking of deceased clients estates as one of their top earners - and I know that myself from the way crooked lawyer Drew Penman of Stormonth Darling Solicitors, Kelso, ruined my father's legal affairs & estate.

Don't think it's just the Bank of Scotland though who are in on this. ALL the major High Street Banks in the UK have deals with legal firms to steer client business their way, in return for preferential finance rates & services to legal firms & lawyers.

How do you feel about that then ? You are paying your lawyer to work for you, then when it comes to selling your home, or handling investments, or handling your dead loved one's will - the lawyer then uses your own assets to barter with Banks for even more personal profit & gain they would never tell you about ? Bit of a rip off, isn't it ? ... almost, like a double rip off .. like you are mugged by a robber, then when you turn the corner, the same robber comes back and robs you again !

As for the Scotsman - well they are in it for publicity of course .. and other newspapers are involved in the same kinds of industry self congratulatory events ... but beware of these legal awards .. they mean nothing when it comes to honesty & client care .. after all ... could a lawyer ever really, be honest - considering the way the Law Society of Scotland have treated thousands of clients over the years for daring to question why their lawyer ripped them off ?

Well, if I was to nominate a lawyer to be the most famous crooked lawyer - I would of course, nominate Andrew Penman of Stormonth Darling Solicitors, Kelso.

Of course - there could be others - Douglas Mill, the Chief Executive of the Law Society - who lied to the Justice 2 Committee during the LPLA Inquiry .. and even continued lying while memos he wrote himself contradicting his lies were put up as evidence by John Swinney msp ..and I'm sure you can think of plenty others .. Angela Ballie - the drug dealing lawyer, Julian Danskin, John McCabe .. Jennifer Carpenter ... oh the list is endless ... endless it is !

But for me of course, it must be Penman. After all, it was crooked lawyer Drew Penman's dirty tricks, deceptions, faking up of files, frauds & swindling of my family which started my campaign to bring independent regulation to the Scottish legal profession - which, after two previous tries to get the Scottish Parliament to tackle the issue of crooked lawyers, we will finally get with the forthcoming Legal Profession & Legal Aid (Scotland) Bill

There you go - Drew Penman (Andrew Penman) of Stormonth Darling Solicitors, Kelso - Scotland's Most Famous Crooked Lawyer, nominated by Peter Cherbi.

Go collect your award, Mr Penman. As the master swindler of the Scottish Borders, along with your friend & Chartered Accountant Norman Howitt, you richly deserve it, for all the heartache you caused my family - other clients you ripped off, and of course, the lasting damage you have done to the Scottish legal profession.

Doubt me ? ... well, here's some headlines to help Mr Penman along with his nomination :

Andrew Penman of Stormonth Darling Solicitors, Kelso - The Scotsman & Scotland on Sunday articles 1994 - 2001

Scotsman 18 October 1994 Son threatens to walk away from inheritance after legal row

Son threatens to walk away from inheritance

By William Chisholm The Scotsman Tuesday 18 October 1994

A 20-year old man from Jedburgh speaks of disinheriting himself after battling almost five years for a share of his father's £300,000 estate.

Peter Cherbi, 20, from Jedburgh, says the years since his father Gino died in January 1990, have been a living nightmare which shows no signs of ending.

He has lodged an official complaint with the Law Society of Scotland seeking an inquiry into the alleged failure of administrators to settle his late father's affairs.

In his letter to the Law Society, Mr Cherbi names the accountant Norman Howitt of John Welch & Co, the estate's executor, and the solicitor Andrew Penman of Kelso law firm P & J Stormonth Darling, legal adviser to Mr Howitt.

Mr Cherbi has received demands for council tax and inheritance tax on the estate, even though he has yet to inherit.

None beneficiaries named in his father's will who were to receive legacies ranging from £500 to £2000 have not been paid, according to Peter Cherbi. They include relatives in Italy and France and neighbours in Jedburgh.

Gino Andrew Cherbi came to Scotland from his native Tuscany as a boy in the 1920's. He became a successful businessman in the Borders with a restaurant and shop in Jedburgh. He invested shrewdly in shares and also owned race horses and greyhounds.

At the time of his death at the age of 72, he had a wide ranging portfolio of shares, unit trusts and bank accounts as well as property. He was also the proud owner of a classic 1950s Sunbeam Alpine Mark 3 motor car. In 1990 a Kelso garage valued the car at 」4000. According to Peter Cherbi, it was sold in 1993 for £1,200, although he had received a higher offer.

A document drawn up in1990 showed the estate to be worth £257,211 exclusive of Italian assets. The family had expected administration to take two years.

Mr Cherbi last night said he was so disillusioned he was prepared to give up his inheritance.

"The process has caused me so much emotional strain and expense that I feel like walking away", said Mr Cherbi.

"I have been a victim of my late father's will rather than a beneficiary"

The case is being brought to the attention of local MP Archy Kirkwood, who is a lawyer.

"It would appear legal regulations which allowed this kind of thing to happen must be flawed and should be scrutinised nationally to stop others suffering the same fate as myself", said Cherbi.

"I would be interested to hear from others who have undergone a similar experience"

He is also contemplating court proceedings against the executry for compensation.

Mr Howitt claimed Mr Cherbi's affairs had been extremely complicated. he did not wish to respond to Mr Cherbi's allegations through a newspaper, but would deal with them if they were put to him by Mr Cherbi's solicitor.

Mr Howitt said "I am aware of some of the difficulties but I don't believe Mr Cherbi should have taken his complaint to the press".

Mr Cherbi countered "We have been trying to get facts from the executry for a year via my own solicitor. It was precisely because of the inaction of the trustees that I decided to bring my concerns into the public domain"

Mr Penman said "Some of the issues Mr Cherbi has raised with you have been dealt with. some others are new allegations and comments" Mr Cherbi should have raised his concerns through his lawyer or with the executry, he said.

"If at that point he is not satisfied with our responses, then it would be appropriate for him to take further steps", said Mr Penman. "It would be inappropriate to discuss the details. Those discussions should be a matter between Mr Cherbi and ourselves"

Scotsman 11 October 1996 Iinquiry call over bungling lawyer

Inquiry call over bungling lawyer

Executry dispute - Son queries why Law Society reversed decision to prosecure lawyer

William Chisholm The Scotsman 11 October 1996

The son of a Borders businessman wants a report which investigated allegations of misconduct by a solicitor handling his father's estate to be re-opened.

Peter Cherbi has sent the report to Scottish Secretary Michael Forsyth, with a demand for further action. He wants Mr Forsyth to force the Law Society to reopen the report to allow a prosecution of the lawyer, Andrew Penman, by the Scottish Solicitors Discipline Tribunal.

The Law Society investigation concluded that Mr Penman, of the Kelso law firn of P & J Stormonth Darling, should be prosecuted by the tribunal for the "appalling" way he handled the executry of Gino Cherbi, a Jedburgh businessman whose estate was valued at £300,000, after his death in 1990, aged 73.

But the decision to prosecute Mr Penman has been shelved in favour of a reprimand.

Now Mr Cherbi's son, Peter claims the society's about-face cannot be justified given the findings of the investigation, including "an apparent attempt to mislead the Royal Bank of Scotland, and failure to collect estate assets".

When The Scotsman spoke to Mr Penman, he said the complaint against hiim had been thoroughly investigated by the Law Society and that was an end to the matter. In general, he could not make comments because of confidentiality.

The law Society report outlined lengthy and unexplained delays and a repeated failure by Mr Penman ro respond to correspondence. It also alleged a complete lack of proper management in the handling and progressing of the executry.

There had been a "bungled and unsuccessful attempt to put the files in order".

Peter Cherbi was to have been the main beneficiary from his late father's estate. Others named in the will were to receive legacies ranging from £500 to £2000. But Mr Cherbi has been told there are no funds left in the estate.

A document showed the estate to be worth £257,211 exclusive of Italian finds.

The overseas assets included an account with the Banco di Roma containing some £26,000 which was not collected by the executry. The Society report states that Mr Penman apparently attempted to mislead the Royal Bank on this matter.

The committee of the Law Society which first considered the report in June this year expressed grave concern at the way the executry had been handled.

Members agreed that Mr Penman's actions were so serious and reprehensible as to amount to professional misconduct and recommended prosecution by the Scottish Solicitors Discipline Tribunal.

But the decision was changed after Mr Penman submitted written representations to the society. He claimed the executry had been complex although he accepted matters could and should have been dealt with more expeditiously.

Mr Penman also apologised to the complainer (Mr Cherbi) and to the Law Society

Mr Cherbi said Mr Penman's pleadings "contradicted the society's own findings", adding that the Cherbi estate had suffered substantial financial loss.

When the Law Society committee reconsidered the matter, it was decided a reprimand and a compensation award of £1000 to the estate would be more appropriate.

P & J Stormonth Darling were instructed to limit their fee for work done from the date of death until October 1994 when Mr Penman ceased dealing with the file, to £3000 plus VAT.

Peter Cherbi told The Scotsman "I am shocked at the findings of the Law Society investigation which has uncovered many disturbing facts about the way my late father's estate was handled. I will not be allowing this matter to rest"

The Law Society advised Mr Cherbi not to instigate civil action while their investigation was in progress. He said the completion of the inquiry meant he was now in a position to sue for full recovery of the estate although the society report had been promised 15 months ago.

Mr Cherbi has also asked Mr Forsyth to instruct the Law Society to reopen the files so that prosecution can be taken before the solicitors tribunal.

Following the finding of professional misconduct he has also registered a complaint against Norman Howitt, an accountant with John J Welch & Co, Galashiels, who acted as executor of his father's estate.

In his submission to the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Scotland, Mr Cherbi alleges a lack of control by Mr Howitt over the activities of Mr Penman which resulted in financial loss to the estate.

A Law Society spokeswoman said the complaint had been dealt with and Mr Cherbi had exercised his right to refer the matter to Scotland legal services ombudsman to whom the file had now been sent.

Mr Penman said the Law Society papers with the committee's deliberations showed that a press statement from Mr Cherbi contained many untruths and half-truths. "I would consider that the press release if published as it stands would be defamatory of me" he said.

Law Society may face Euro Court  over whitewash - The Scotsman 9 September 1997

Law Society may face Euro court over 'whitewash'

Son hits out at decision on father's estate

William Chisholm The Scotsman 9 September 1997

The Law Society of Scotland has been accused of overseeing a "whitewash" after rejecting an ombudsman's request for it to reopen a case against a Borders solicitor.

The original investigation by the society into the way Andrew Penman, of Kelso law firm P & J Stormonth Darling, dealt with the £300,000 estate of businessman Gino Cherbi, of Jedburgh, concluded that the solicitor's "appalling" handling of the matter warranted prosecution before a tribunal.

The investigation found "an apparent attempt to mislead the Royal Bank of Scotland and failure to collect estate assets".

The society initially recommended that M Penman be prosecuted for professional misconduct. However, the punishment was reduced to a reprimand after representations on Mr Penman's behalf.

The society gave no explanation for departing from the original intention to prosecute.

Specific difficulties relating to Mr Penman's private life and working life were outlined to the Law Society's committee, according to a senior official.

However, Mr Cherbi's son, Peter, who has been involved in seven years of legal wrangling over the estate since his father's death in 1990, refused to accept the society's decision and took the case to the legal services ombudsman, Garry Watson.

In a report which criticises the society's handling of Mr Cherbi's complaint, Mr Watson writes; "The ombudsman does not accept that the solicitor's livelihood was a factor which should have influenced the Law Society's procedures. In his view, that is a factor for the Law Society in it's capacity as a professional body representing its members, but not a factor in relation to its statutory duty to investigate complaints".

Mr Watson concludes; "it is most important that there is transparency of decision making within committees and that reporters and committees provide their reasons for arriving at decisions.

"It is unclear why the committee changed its view with regard to prosecution after having heard personal representations from the solicitor's council member.

It is recommended that the complainer and the ombudsman are advised of these reasons"

The ombudsman also asks the Law Society to reopen the case against Mr Penman so that the question of loss to Mr Cherbi could be fully addressed. Mr Watson goes on to express concern about the serious delays by the society in finalising its report into the complaint.

Philip Yelland, the Law Society's deputy secretary, has now told Mr Watson that the detail of the representations made to the committee will have to remain confidential.

His statement to the ombudsman adds; "But I can assure both you and the complainer that the representations made in relation to those matters were sufficient to persuade the committee, made up of both qualified and lawyer members, that the more appropriate disposal was by way of a reprimand"

He says reopening the case to take account of the question of loss is not competent in terms of current legislation and so the ombudsman's recommendations cannot be acted upon.

However, the Law Society has accepted the criticisms leveled at it by Mr Watson in relation to the delays and has sent Mr Cherbi a cheque for £250.

Mr Cherbi yesterday attacked the "shabby treatment" he has received from the Law Society and claimed that the ombudsman appeared to be powerless when the society closed ranks to protect its own. He described the £250 "pay-off" as an insult.

"I feel I owe it to my father's memory not to let this matter drop and have instructed my solicitor to apply for judicial review so that Mr Penman can be prosecuted" Mr Cherbi said. "If necessary this issue will be taken to the European Court".

He added; "I was extremely concerned to learn the Law Society received more than 1000 complaints each year about the conduct of solicitors. I sincerely hope other dissatisfied clients get better treatment if they find it necessary to approach the society because I find myself the victim of a whitewash".

Mr Cherbi claimed the inadequacies in the arrangements for investigating complaints against solicitors had led to additional expense. There was a legacy of debts and outstanding inheritance tax thanks to the delays in winding up Gino Cherbi's affairs, he said.

Mr Yelland said yesterday ; " In terms of the ombudsman's act as it now stands we have a duty to respond to his recommendations. We have fulfilled that duty. If Mr Cherbi wishes to pursue matters by way of judicial review then that is entirely up to him.

A separate complaint by Mr Cherbi against Norman Howitt, an accountant with John J Welch & Co, Galashiels, who acted as executor of his father's estate, is the subject of an inquiry by the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Scotland.

Scotsman 2 December 1997 Plea to Dewar

Plea to Dewar for inquiry on Law Society role in wrangle.

William Chisholm The Scotsman 2 December 1997

A MAN who lost much of his inheritance because of a solicitor's incompetence is to challenge a decision not to allow him access to key documents drawn up by the Law Society of Scotland in the course of an eight year legal wrangle.

Peter Cherbi, from Jedburgh, has asked the Scottish Secretary, Donald Dewar, for an independent investigation into the circumstances surrounding the handling of the £300,000 estate of his late father, Gino Cherbi, a Borders businessman.

The demand for an inquiry into the role of the law society and the Scottish legal services ombudsman, Garry Watson, was made yesterday after Mr Cherbi heard that Mr Watson was closing the file on the case.

Mr Cherbi alleges that the society conspired to prevent prosecution of the solicitor who dealt with his father's affairs.

Mr Cherbi also plans to raise a court action against the society to force its officials to release crucial reports int he case.

Written submissions lodged on behalf of a lawyer, Andrew Penman, persuaded the society's complaints committee to abandon plans to refer his "appalling" handling of the executry to the Scottish Solicitors Discipline Tribunal.

Instead, the committee decided that a reprimand and a compensation award of £1000 to the estate would be a more appropriate penalty, despite grave concerns about Mr Penman's professional misconduct.

After the decision, Mr Cherbi took his complaining to Mr Watson, who carried out a separate inquiry into the society's handling of the case.

The ombudsman concluded "It is most important that there is transparency of decision making within committees and that reporters and committees provide their reasons for arriving at decisions".

Mr Watson said the complainer and the ombudsman should be afvised why the complaints committee had changed its mind on prosecuting Mr Penman.

His report also disclosed that a society memorandum contained concerned that a solicitor who represented Mr Penman before the committee had made reference to Peter Cherbi's character and that such references had been considered "unfair".

But now Mr Watson has told Mr Cherbi he has received the written representations made on Mr Penman's behalf on the basis that they remain confidential to the ombudsman's office.

Mr Watson adds "However, I can assure you that these representations solely relate to the solicitor himself; they do not contain any comments with regard to yourself."

Mr Cherbi said yesterday "The Law Society must have tremendous pulling power when they can get the legal services ombudsman to alter his stance.

"They are only interested in protecting their own members. I am not even able to see the evidence presented to the committee on Mr Penman's behalf yet he had access to all of my submissions".

In Mr Cherbi's opinion, Mr Watson was a 'puppet of the law society'. In a letter seeking Mr Dewar's intervention, Mr Cherbi states "I am the victim of a very sleazy cover-up by the law society to protect a very bad solicitor who has already been found guilty of misconduct".

He said he had no intention of giving up the fight to recover his father's estate in full.

Mr Cherbi is to seek judicial review of the law society's alleged mishandling of his complaint.

The society has sent him a cheque for £250 to compensate him for long delays in processing the case, a payment Mr Cherbi describes as an insult.

The Scotsman asked Mr Watson to comment after his decision to close the file in the Cherbi case.

In a written response, he said "I am not in a position to make any public comment on a matter, which, in accordance with my remit, is private between myself and complainer".

Philip Yelland, the law society's deputy secretary, said "Mr Cherbi appears to be expressing concern about the ombudsman's position and it would be inappropriate for us to say anything if he wishes to take further action.

When Mr Cherbi, senior, died aged 73 in 1990, he left stocks and shares, property, and other assets valued at more than £250,000.

There were also overseas assets including an account with the Banco di Roma, containing an estimated £26,000. which was not collected by the executry. The estate has yet to be settled.

A separate complaint by Mr Cherbi against an accountant who acted as executor of the estate is the subject of a separate inquiry by the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Scotland.

Scotsman 2 March 1998 Jury still out on law in the dock - Revelations on Andrew Penman & James Ness

Jury still out on law in the dock

Does the Law Society act in the public's best interest over legal malpractice , asks Jenny Booth The Scotsman 2 March 1998

Like small children utterly dependent on their parents, most of us trust our legal advisers implicitly to protect us from life's little Dickensians - financial ruin, for example - at some of the most important stages in our existence.

We do not expect, having purchased our dream home, to find that planning permission has been granted for a new motorway to run through the garden.

And we would be more than a little upset to discover that a trust find set up to look after our elderly and ailing parents had actually furnished our solicitor's holiday apartment in Spain.

So, who do you turn to when you believe your solicitor has made a mess of your affairs ?

This may be hard to stomach, but at the moment, the first thing to do is to contact another lawyer, or, to be more precise, the Law Society of Scotland, which acts both as the professional body for lawyers and as the first port of call for members of the public with complaints about their lawyers.

Self regulation has been in place at the society for years, and while few would claim it is perfect, the Law Society says it is working well. It believes that lawyers have enough pride in their profession to want to clamp down hard on colleagues who break the rules.

But there are those who do not agree.

A recently formed Scottish organisation called Injured By The Law claims that when it comes to a clash between a member of the public and one of its own members, the Law Society is failing to deliver justice

Peter Paton, the chairman of the pressure group says ; "There are many cases of professional misconduct by solicitors that have been inadequately dealt with by the Law Society of Scotland.The system isn't working. It has inbuilt bias towards their own members. The legal profession has proved beyond a doubt that the Law Society, a self regulatory body, can't regulate its own members. There is no clear redress for victims of incompetent solicitors"

Paton says over 1000 complaints were registered by the society in 1997. "It is clear that they don't have the will to discipline their own members, and when they do, the disciplinary procedure is dismal. Because of this, we feel that this function should be replaced by an independent law commission"

Among the members of the group, one of the newest and angriest is Peter Cherbi, a man who lost his inheritance because the winding up of the estate of his late father, Gino Cherbi, was bungled by his solicitor, Andrew Penman, of P & J Stormonth Darling in Kelso.

When Cherbi senior died in 1990, he left stocks and shares, property, a car and other assets including an account in the Banco di Roma, worth nearly £300,000.

The Borders businessman's will included a few legacies to friends and relatives, and after liabilities were met, the residue of the estate was to go to his son, Peter.

But by the time Penman had finished handling the estate, Cherbi was told there was nothing left to inherit.

The preliminary report by the Law Society complaints committee accused Penman of "appalling" mismanagement and recommended Penman should be reported to the Scottish Solicitors Discipline Tribunal. which has the power to strike solicitors off.

But the complaints committee changed its mind after reading confidential representations from Penman. and hearing in private from Penman's solicitor.

The solicitor's identity was routinely kept confidential. but was later revealed to be a Law Society council member, James Ness, of the firm of solicitors, Austins, in Dalbeattie.

Cherbi says he was later told that at the committee hearing, Ness had questioned his character, and said Penman did not deserve to lose his career over such a man

Eventually the committee decided instead merely to reprimand Penman, and it awarded the estate what Cherbi thought was a derisory £1000 compensation.

This is the statutory top limit that the Law Society can award for the anxiety and distress caused by an incompetent solicitor. If a complainer wants compensation for his loss, he must sue for negligence through the courts.

Cherbi complained to the independent Scottish legal services ombudsman, Garry Watson, who investigated the handling of the case. Watson reported that it was unfair that Ness had been able to make a personal plea to the committee while Cherbi was not invited to be present. This practice has now been reformed by the law Society at the ombudsman's request, and neither side in a dispute can now make final representations in person.

Watson wrote : "it is most important that there is transparency of decision making within committees and that reporters and committees provide reasons for arriving at decisions".

His report recommended that the Law Society reopen the case, but the Law Society declined.

Cherbi wrote to the Scottish Secretary asking for an independent investigation but was advised to take legal moves to have his case reconsidered. He is preparing to apply for the Law Society's decision to be judicially reviewed. "I'm not going to let the matter rest" says Cherbi. "I feel the Law Society has presided over a whitewash. I have struggled to seek answers on my case, but have got nowhere"

While I have mostly been treated with courtesy, which I have reflected in my dealings with the Society,, I have been aware of an undercurrent of inappropriate remarks at senior level against me, as well as a tendency to keep information secret that would otherwise contradict previous Society rulings." "I have been approached by many others who have suffered similar injustices with the Law Society"

But while there is undoubtedly still a phalanx of people like Cherbi, who seem to have very good reason to feel aggrieved, there is some evidence that the problems of the early and mid-ninety's may be becoming a thing of the past.

In general policy as well as individual cases, the legal services ombudsman has been very critical of the Law Society's procedures for some years.

When Watson took over as ombudsman, his first report for 1994, refers to "unjustifiable delay at each stage of the Law Society investigation". In his 1995 report he said there were a number of "rogue investigations" which were " a discredit to the Society".

But some of the most glaring problems had been cleared up by 1996 ; "I am pleased to report that gross delay and rogue investigations with confusion and lack of control have been largely eliminated. Delays and errors continue to arise ... but they are of a different and manageable order of magnitude.

The Scotsman 5 June 1998 Law Society accused of closing ranks as claim fails

Law Society accused of closing ranks as claim fails

William Chisholm The Scotsman 5 June Friday 1998

An unprecedented attempt to force the Law Society of Scotland to prosecute a solicitor for professional misconduct will continue, even though an application for legal aid has been rejected.

Peter Cherbi from Jedburgh, claims that his late father's £300,000 estate has been ruined and rendered worthless because of the way a Borders lawyer, Andrew Penman, handled the affairs of Gino Cherbi who died in 1990.

A Law Society investigation found that the solicitor, a partner in the law form P & J Stormonth Darling, should be prosecuted before a disciplinary tribunal because of the serious nature of the case.

But the decision was later overturned in favour of a reprimand after representations were made on Mr Penman's behalf.

Mr Cherbi, who is calling for " more than a slap on the wrist" then took the case to Garry Watson, the legal services ombudsman

He critisised the society's handling of the complaint and said it was unclear why its committee had changed its view about prosecution. Mr Watson asked for the case to be re-opened so that the question of loss to Mr Cherbi could be fully addressed.

But the society decided that course of action was not competent in terms of the law, which emant the ombudsman's recommendation could not be acted upon.

Instead, Mr Cherbi received a cheque for £250 to compensate him for delays in processing the inquiry.

Mr Cherbi revealed yesterday that Henry Mcleish, the Scottish Home Affairs Minister, had twice advised him to seek independent legal advice about any further action he might wish to take.

"The advice I received was to apply for a judicial review, challenging the Law Society's refusal to prosecute Mr Penman", said Mr Cherbi" "Its been impossible to get justice via the society which simply closed ranks to defend its own. Now the Scottish Legal Aid Board seems to be holding justice to ransom, by refusing my legitimate application for legal aid"

The board told Mr Cherbi that his request had been turned down becuase it was not satisfied the application showed he had a probably cause of action.

He believes the board's decision may have been influenced by a letter from Douglas Mill, the secretary of the society. Although no formal objection to Mr Cherbi's application was taken, Mr Mill felt it proper to draw certain issues to the attention of SLAB.

Mr Mill wrote "Mr Cherbi is clearly a person with an interest to complain and was entitled to make his complaint. It is for the Law Society in terms of the relevant legislation, to determine firstly whether the complaint can be upheld and then determine the appropriate penalty. The complainer does not have a part to play in determining penalty"

Mr Cherbi claims the society is keen to head off any judicial interference in its procedures. If his case were to succeed, it would set a precedent in Scots law. He would also be seeking costs.

In a statement to the legal aid board, Mr Cherbi said the interference of Mr Penman's representative at a complaints committee hearing was unfair.

He had not been given access to the evidence and was not allowed to appeal before the committee "commuted the solicitors sentence"

Mr Cherbi's action has the backing of Injured By The law, an organisation which seeks to help individuals who believe they have been denied legal justice. Ray Keddie, it's director said "I am extremely concerned by the actions and conduct of the Scottish Legal Aid Board in denying civil legal aid to Peter Cherbi"

He also criticised the Scottish Office for its "ambiguous advice" in recommending action that required people to apply for legal aid. He claimed it was then rejected on concocted grounds to maintain the status quo of the society and protect positions within the profession.

Injured By The Law was also calling into question the conduct and motives of Mr Mill in his letter to the legal aid board and SLAB's acceptance of the contents. Mr Keddie said ;" The contents are highly unusual and irregular to procedure"

But Fiona Shaw, SLAB's spokeswoman said it was the statutory right of any opponent in a civil case to object to an application for legal aid. She added "We have treated the society's letter in the same way as any other correspondence we receive."

She confirmed that Mr Cherbi's solicitor had asked the board to review the application for legal aid,, and that review was now under way.

In a statement, the society said Mr Mill's letter to SLAB was not irregular in its terms, nor was it an attempt to stall the course of justice.

"Mr Cherbi is entitled to seek judicial review if he wishes to do so. If he does, the society will defend it" . There was no question of the process of judicial review being a dangerous precedent. It was an ordinary legal process and the society had been involved in judicial review proceedings before.

"Any suggestion that in some way the society is interfering with the process of justice is wholly unfounded", the statement concluded.

Independent watchdog for lawyers proposed - The Scotsman 8th January 1999

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 responsible for investigating complaints.

In the study, 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 ignored 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 whole 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 view 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 advising 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 criticism 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 that a the society is best able to deal with client complaints which it does without cost to the public - and that any system used should be open to public scrutiny and constantly adapted and improved to meet the needs of clients of Scottish solicitors.

"The society does not agree 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"

Law Watchdog faces threat of court fight - Scotland on Sunday 9 August 1999

Law watchdog faces threat of court fight.

Client prepares to sue after allegation that ombudsman compromised independence.

By Peter Laing Scotland on Sunday August 8 1999

THE government-appointed watchdog charged with overseeing the complaints process against solicitors in Scotland is himself facing legal action.

Scottish Legal Services Ombudsman Garry Watson has been accused of failing to handle properly a complaint against the Law Society of Scotland, the professional body which represents solicitors.

Peter Cherbi says he intends to sue Watson claiming the ombudsman "took instructions" from the Law Society on what information to release about his case, and, therefore, compromised his independence.

Cherbi, from Jedburgh, says Watson's handling of the case may have harmed his chances of ever recovering a £300,000 inheritance from an incompetent solicitor.

Cherbi has instructed his solicitor to begin legal proceedings against Watson, who could receive a write seeking damages within the next few weeks. It is believed to be the first time anyone has attempted to sue an ombudsman.

Complaints against solicitors are investigated by the Law Society under a controversial system of self-regulation. Anyone who is unhappy with the decision of the Law Society can then ask for an investigation by the ombudsman, who has the power to make recommendations to the society.

But the ombudsman is currently flooded with complex cases, and last month had to apologise for delays of up to a year in handling them.

Cherbi's case started in 1990 when his 73-year-old father died, leaving behind an estate valued at around £300,000.

Four years later he realised the estate, which was handled by local lawyer Andrew Penman, was almost worthless. Cherbi believes the money was lost through avoidable interest payments, fees and the mishandled selling of shares and investments.

Cherbi complained about Penman to the Law Society, who originally planned to prosecute him at a Scottish Solicitors Discipline Tribunal.

But after written submissions regarding Penman were received, they decided instead on a reprimand and ordered him to pay £1000 compensation to Cherbi's estate. Angry at the Law Society's decision, Cherbi complained to the ombudsman in May 1997.

Watson investigated and concluded : "It is most important that there is transparency of decision-making within committees." Watson added he and Cherbi should be told why the Law Society decided not to prosecute Penman.

But un June 1997, Watson informed Cherbi that the Law Society had sent him the written submissions relating to Penman on the basis they remained confidential, and that the case was closed.

For the past two years, Watson and Cherbi have exchanged increasingly acrimonious letters on the subject.

Cherbi said : "In my opinion, by accepting the submissions about Penman on the basis that he would not divulge their contents, he has effectively been told what to do by the Law Society.

"As ombudsman he should be telling the Law Society what to do. I believe he has compromised the independence of his office.

"In my opinion, by not handling my case correctly, and refusing to pass on important information, he has made it more difficult to recover any of the inheritance I lost. For that reason, I have instructed my solicitor to begin proceedings for compensation"

Watson has refused to comment on the case. But in a letter he sent to Cherbi in February last year, he explained why the representations regarding Penman were not passed on.

He wrote "I ascertained that they [the representations] related entirely to the personal circumstances of the solicitor and had nothing to do with yourself. I can certainly see no reason why there should be a need for me to pass on information when it did not relate to, and was not relevant to, yourself. To suggest my actions compromise the independence of my office is patently absurd."

Watson, who was prepared to talk to Scotland on Sunday on general terms, added : "I deny any suggestion that my office is influenced by the Law Society.It is totally independent."

Watson said a new member of staff had been taken on to help bring down the time taken to deal with cases. he hopes to bring the average delay down from a year to two-four months.

The Scottish Consumer Council, in a report released earlier this year, revealed problems with the ombudsman, including that 85% of people whose complaints were not upheld by the ombudsman did not receive a satisfactory explanation.

Legal Profession in the dock over complaints about self regulation Scotland on Sunday February 2001

Legal Profession in the Dock over complaints about self regulation

Peter Laing 18 February 2001 Scotland on Sunday

The power of lawyers to discipline corrupt or incompetent colleagues is to be investigated by the Scottish Parliament amid crowing concern at the perceived failure of self-regulation in the legal profession.

The parliament's Justice Committee is to launch an inquiry after numerous complaints about the failure of solicitors to keep their own house in order.

Members of the public, some of whom have lost thousands of pounds as a result of legal blunders, claim the regulatory system simply allows solicitors to watch each other's backs. The result, they say is long delays in hearing complaints and paltry punishments when cases are upheld.

The Law Society of Scotland, the body which represents solicitors and investigates complaints against them, rejects the claims and will argue that it should keep its powers of self regulation.

Alisdair Morgan MSP, Chairman of the Justice Committee, said an investigation was "high up our agenda" and there was a strong possibility it would start within months.

Peter Cherbi is typical of the determined band of legal victims who feel solicitors should be stripped of their powers of self regulation. He claims a lawyer's error robbed him of a £300,000 inheritance. Ten Years on, he has been offered £15,000 compensation, but faces legal costs of at least £22,000.

Cherbi, from Jedburgh expected to inherit his father's estate when he died. aged 73, in 1990. Four years later, he realised the estate, which had been handled by local lawyer Andrew Penman, was worthless. Cherbi believes the money was lost through avoidable interest payments, fees and mishandled selling of shares & investments.

He complained to the Law Society, which originally planned to prosecute Penman. After written submissions, it decided on a reprimand and ordered him to pay compensation worth £1000.

Cherbi then complained about the Law Society to its watchdog, the Scottish Legal Services Ombudsman. But that has ended in acrimony and a possible legal action against the ombudsman.

A separate action for compensation against Penman resulted in an offer of £15,000 from his solicitors. Cherbi said "That is no use because I have legal costs for fighting my case of £22,000 and the estate is £43,000 in debt.. I am delighted that self-regulation is finally to be looked at. It's a liars' charter written by liars for liars. They sit on each other's committees and they are obsessed with protecting each other. "There has to be independent regulation with public participation. The victim must be able to get a fair hearing"

Phil Gallie, Tory Justice spokesman and a member of the Committee said "I have had a number of people coming to me with cases, four or five in the last six months. Some of these cases have been outstanding for several years"

A spokesman for the Law Society said there had been a 18% drop in complaints between 1999 and 2000, down from 1,338 to 1094 .

UPDATE on the complaints figures 2006 ... Well .. it seems the Law Society of Scotland have been doing a bang up job of regulating the legal profession - as complaints stand at about 5000 plus a year - with the true figure thought to be around 8000 ... so much for self-regulation then,time to go for independent regulation of lawyers - less of the lawyers covering for crooked lawyers