Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Petition PE 1033 - A call for action, review & settlement for victims of the Scottish legal profession's injustice against client complaints.

What good is new legislation to remedy an issue of corruption & public confidence in our legal system, without a review of the past ?

Not much good to anyone, really ... certainly of no use to those countless people who have struggled over the years, even, decades, against the odds after they had lost everything at the hands of their lawyer, and against the legal professions's system of self regulation of complaints against crooked lawyers by the Law Society of Scotland & Faculty of Advocates.

Well, there has to be an answer & a solution to this problem .. as there must literally be thousands of people from over the years who have had complaints against their lawyers made a mess of by the Law Society of Scotland .. and with the passing of the Legal Profession & Legal Aid (Scotland) Bill, it's now time to consider this question.

As a starter to what I hope will be a productive discussion & eventual solution & settlement of this thorny issue, I have raised a petition at the Scottish Parliament, which you can view here.

PE1033 (pdf)

Petition by Peter Cherbi calling for the Scottish Parliament to seek an effective, transparent and wholly independent means of review of cases of alleged injustice, caused by actions and decisions of the Law Society of Scotland and Faculty of Advocates, relating to the regulation of complaints made by members of the public against the legal profession, either by giving such powers to the new Scottish Legal Complaints Commission or by setting up an independent review commission.

You can also read my submission to the Justice 2 Committee consideration on the Legal Profession & Legal Aid (Scotland) Bill, here : Submission by Peter Cherbi to Justice 2 Committee on the LPLA Bill

I have to confess, I am not a person who has much confidence in the Petitions system of the Scottish Parliament .. principally because I know of so much which goes on behind the scenes to kill off the controversial petitions or those which could actually do some good for the country. Let's say .. its a mixture of politicians wanting to kill off the public's ideas, while taking credit for the whole thing at a later date, and pure simple old corruption, where professions & interests who could be badly affected by such nefarious ideas as transparency, honesty & increased consumer rights, lobby, nay .. order the Parliament to drop any such petition which they care to kill off.

However, that aside, it's definitely time for the debate to start on how to resolve the legal profession's 'sins of the past', where countless complaints, frauds, fiddles, & more have been covered up by the Law Society of Scotland to allow crooked lawyers to carry on practicing, at the expense of ruining members of the public & denying a measure of justice which may indeed have prevented the lack of public confidence in lawyers self regulating lawyers getting to the stage it has.

When I use the term 'debate' .. I'm not talking about a useless debate lasting a few years, allowing more stalling tactics from the likes of the hateful Douglas Mill & his colleagues over at Drumsheugh Gardens to prevent the long suffering clients from having their cases finally resolved. I'm talking about the many victims we already know about, and those we don't, coming forward to have the wrongs made against them put right properly, taking into account the wasted years of having to deal with a system which was widely known to be corrupt by everyone from the public to the media, to Government..

We all know who has stood by while the likes of the Law Society of Scotland has carried on fiddling complaints. I'm talking now, of course, about the Scottish Executive and the many politicians who have had constituents writing to them for decades over problems with crooked lawyers, the Law Society of Scotland, and the system of handing complaints against legal representatives in Scotland - which has been an absolute farce - designed that way of course, to allow the legal profession to do as it pleased, and handle it's own dirty laundry, where it could arbitrarily dismiss complaints or fiddle their outcomes, effectively starve & boycott the public from obtaining legal representation to resolve issues of critical & severe complaints .. with there being no one else to turn to .. all this going on while the Scottish Executive stood by, in full knowledge of the situtation, where people suffered previously, lost their wealth, their health, livelihoods .. and nothing was done .. nothing at all, to help anyone.

We have already seen how the likes of Douglas Mill, Chief Executive of the Law Society, has personally intervened in client complaints to delay & fiddle their outcomes, so much that he lied to a Parliamentary investigation, when faced with contradictory content from his own memos .. but as if to prove such a man's feeling of omnipotence, Mill then went on to threaten the Parliament with legal action if it didn't amend the LPLA Bill to the legal profession's own liking. How can the public deal with such a hateful figure ? a man as Mill, who is obviously consumed with hate & ill feeling towards the very clients who provide his membership with their income ...

Here are some of the articles I have covered on the actions of the legal profession when it comes to regulating complaints against its own, to demonstrate the conduct of the likes of Douglas Mill & his colleagues against clients :

The Corrupt Link Revealed - How the Law Society of Scotland manages client complaints & settlements

Law Society of Scotland claims success in gagging the press over Herald newspaper revelations of secret case memos

Scotsman responds to Peter Cherbi and the Herald with a living eulogy of Douglas Mill

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

Using the Master Policy of the Law Society of Scotland to sue a negligent lawyer is impossible

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

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

Having read the above, and many other reports I have made over the last year on this site, I'm sure you will agree, its time for the sins of the past to be put right, and those victims of the legal profession who have suffered previously because of the corrupt practices of self regulation should have their say, and be compensated for their interminable losses.

I am encouraging all of you, to come forward and support this petition, or write one of your own and submit it to the Parliament, and to pick up the campaign, and make it a strong one, to bring a fully independent review & settlement system into speedy existence to remedy the disgraceful sins of the past of the people we entrusted our legal business to, but who failed us in the most disgraceful way possible - with Government & politicians looking on & doing nothing to answer our pleas for help.

It is time to take back justice from these crooks, and end this shame of Scotland's legal system, where the public have indeed, been injured by Scottish Law and those who sought to protect their colleagues, at the expense of us & our lives.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Free Speech defence of QC's 'public' comments out of step with reality

The new rule of free speech, dictated by the Law Society of Scotland, says it's acceptable for the press to report on cases of complaint against crooked lawyers, as long as the tone of the story is sympathetic to the legal profession. Even better if the report is written by a lawyer who has a column in a newspaper.

The new rule of free speech, dictated by the Law Society of Scotland, also says it's not acceptable, for stories to be reported on cases of complaint against the legal profession, if the story comes from the client or 'has a moderate chance of gaining public sympathy against for victims of crooked lawyers'.

This certainly seems to be the rules which the Scotsman are operating under in recent years, as opposed to more impartial times, when they extensively covered my case against crooked Borders lawyer Drew Penman of Stormonth Darling Solicitors, Kelso, and quite a few other cases of crooked lawyers embezzling as much as they could from clients funds - even with the occasional agreeing editorial that self regulation & the Law Society of Scotland should be consigned to the dustbin of history,

However, times change, as we all know, and with two well placed articles in the Scotsman newspaper on Thursday, 25 January, the legal profession seem to be rallying support around one of Scotland's more famous Advocates over charges of making alleged sectarian comments which to most, if investigated and found to be true, by an impartial & independent regulatory body, would bring the profession into disrepute.

In the first of two articles, Campbell Deane, a media lawyer with Bannatyne Kirkwood & France, who also has a column in the Scotsman newspaper, wrote of his 'element of sympathy' for Donald Findlay's famous remarks in the 'smokey-pope' joke, in a somewhat bizarre article on the defence of Free Speech : Have you heard the one about freedom of speech?

Alan Massie then went on in a second article, to have another go at the case involving Findlay, with comments which compare favorably with Campbell Deane's version, but tackling the "PC' or political correctness angle : Having the last laugh at PC brigade

While Campbell Deane can write 'anything but', under a headline of 'Free Speech', things were very different only a few weeks ago, where Deane's professional boss - Douglas Mill, Chief Executive of the Law Society of Scotland, recently threatened the Scottish Parliament's right of free speech & right to determine law, with Court Action if it didn't amend certain parts of the pro consumer Legal Profession & Legal Aid (Scotland) Bill, which brought independent regulation to Scotland's corrupt legal profession.

The reason that Douglas Mill, Chief Executive of the Law Society, didn't like the LPLA Bill, was that it took away the right of lawyers to fiddle complaints against other lawyers - something which has been going on in Scotland for decades. I don't remember hearing Mr Deane saying anything bad about that one, but I'm sure he would probably defend the legal profession's right to Free Speech against anyone who would allege corruption, even when there is a mountain sized box of evidence to support it.

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

Campbell Deane is no stranger to the arguement of free speech ... having twice taken the Sunday Herald newspaper to Court for Lord George Robertson over allegations in a forum posting on matters surrounding the Dunblane massacre. There was a settlement in the first action for Lord Robertson (although it denied Deane his claim of a wide ranging ruling against online free speech which he told us to expect in one of his Scotsman articles), and of course, Lord Robertson lost the second action against the Sunday Herald, with the Court of Session dismissing his case.

I reported on some of that here : A rare day of common sense in the Scottish Courts

Deane, also, of course, was also quite famously, part of Tommy Sheridan's legal team in the News of the World libel case, but was then allegedly sacked, after Sheridan's Counsel accused a witness of having a criminal record, when she did not.

The incident involving Sheridan's Advocate & the false accusations in Court, turned into a complaint against Deane, made by Anne Colvin - the witness who was wrongly accused by Mr Sheridan's junior counsel, advocate Graeme Henderson, of having received an 18-month sentence for credit card fraud.

Quoting a report in the Herald newspaper, "After the trial last August, Ms Colvin complained to the Law Society about Campbell Deane, Mr Sheridan's solicitor, who would normally have instructed Mr Henderson's questioning.

She expected to discover the source of the claim against her, but was told that, as she was not Mr Deane's client, she could not see his explanation of events or the results of the investigation.

It has now emerged that Mr Sheridan has refused to waive his right to confidentiality with his solicitor in the case, thereby blocking efforts by Ms Colvin to find out more on the incident."

That's a bit of a strange explanation though, comparing my own experience with dealing with the Law Society of Scotland & their dubious investigations of crooked lawyers.

I understood that my complaint against Andrew Penman - LSC/94/1149, made in 1994, had established the right of a person with an interest to make a complaint & see all the evidence submitted by the lawyer in response to that complaint. At least, that's what I was told at the time, and certainly with many of the other complaints I have had to make over the years against lawyers who poorly served my family in some way or another, that rule always worked.

I wonder why now, the Law Society has changed it's tune for Anne Colvin, insisting that Mrs Colvin can't have access to the details of the investigation unless Tommy Sheridan wave his right of confidentiality with Campbell Deane, his solicitor, whom he reputedly fired anyway, due to the accusations by Graeme Henderson.

I think Ms Colvin should go back to the Law Society and demand the information on the complaint, along with Deane's explanation of events ....

You can see how some of Mr Deane's case histories & the case against Findlay compare ... it's acceptable for a QC to make alleged jokes against religions (because some claim he wasn't acting in his capacity as a QC at the time), and it's acceptable for a QC to make false allegations against members of the public (because, in the Sheridan case, he was acting in his capacity as a QC at the time) - confusing ? yes- it all seems to be within the roles ... but what it tells us is that its acceptable for members of the legal profession to say what they like, when they like, no matter how racist, how bigoted, how sectarian, how crooked, or how untrue, it may be.

Its high time to end this culture of 'do as you like' which the legal profession operate under.

Deane claims "It is understood Findlay was given the option of "putting his hands up" and paying a relatively modest fine, but flatly refused. He now faces prosecution at a formal disciplinary tribunal"

This from a source at the Faculty on the Findlay case :

Donald Findlay was given the option of a fine by the Complaints Committee, which had the power to pass sentence on him but instead decided to send his case to a Disciplinary Tribunal for sentencing - if Findlay agreed.

Findlay refused, so the Faculty reverted to rule 5 (7) e of the rules which puts the whole case back to a Disciplinary Tribunal headed by a retired judge.

This is possible, as my source said, under Rule 5 (7) d of the Faculty rules, which state that the Disciplinary Committee's powers under rule 5 (7) c give the Committee power to impose a maximum fine of £7,500 and a years suspension. The Disciplinary Committee must also be satisfied beyond a reasonable doubt of the charges before it can make a ruling.

The actual wording from the Faculty of Advocates regulations follows :

Action where facts disputed

5.(7) Having considered the facts found, the evidence obtained by the Investigating Committee and any comment thereon, the Complaints Committee may:

(c) uphold the complaint in whole or in part and impose, if it thinks fit, one or more of the penalties set out in rule 6 below;

(d) with the consent of the member, uphold the complaint in whole or in part and remit it to the Disciplinary Tribunal for the imposition of one or more of the penalties set out in rule 11 below; or

(e) remit the complaint to the Disciplinary Tribunal for determination and disposal.

Well, if everyone is interested in a fair hearing of this complaint, they should refrain from public comment, either praising or critisising Findlay for what he said, but I think Deane & Massie's articles should at least, be entered into the Faculty's Disciplinary Hearing on this case - to ensure fairness for all. After all, usually the lawyer who is the subject of the complaint, quotes any press coverage or comments a client makes ... so why not be thorough and include what appears to be articles sympathising with Mr Findlay.

So we are back to the point - On orders from the legal profession, it's ok for the press to report on stories which praise members of the legal profession in client complaints, but they can't report cases where the client has brought the complaint to the attention of the press.

Just what is that all about, Campbell ? Isn't that restriction of Free Speech for us poor members of the public when we are up against your colleagues ? or is it a policy straight out of Drumsheugh Gardens designed to minimise press coverage on stories like lawyers who go out to rape children ?

The following articles from the Scotsman, and lastly from the Herald on the Sheridan case, for your reading.


Have you heard the one about freedom of speech?

ODD-one-out round. Donald Findlay QC, Chief Constable John Vine, Gerald Ratner and the Times's political editor, Angus Macleod. The answer is that, while the first three have got into hot water for making jokes, the latter had a joke told about him without any consequences.

Last year at the Perth Bar Association dinner, Vine, a former president of the Association of Chief Police Officers in Scotland, took the fateful decision to tell the audience a joke about bombs. It was the one about al-Qaeda fathers comparing notes about the careers of their suicide bomber sons with the punchline "Ah, kids, they blow up so quickly these days".

Gerald Ratner effectively killed his own jewellery company when he joked in a speech that one of his firm's products was "total crap", and boasted that some of its earrings were "cheaper than a prawn sandwich" and unlikely to last as long. The speech wiped an estimated £500m from the value of the company.

And of course Donald Findlay is back in the headlines for, among other things, telling a joke at a private function. He was reported to have said: "It's very smoky in here, has another f***ing Pope died?" Following complaints, the Faculty of Advocates agreed he was guilty of professional misconduct. It is understood Findlay was given the option of "putting his hands up" and paying a relatively modest fine, but flatly refused. He now faces prosecution at a formal disciplinary tribunal.

I have to say I have an element of sympathy for Findlay. As any after-dinner speaker will confirm, you need to gauge your audience. In both Ratner's and Vine's cases a room full of lawyers and businessmen were not the ideal. But Findlay was speaking to 140 Rangers supporters from the Loyalist stronghold of Larne, who had paid £22 each for the privilege of hearing him talk. They were there to be entertained by a lawyer with the gift of the gab. Arguably the basis of freedom of expression is such that it should never be restricted. Just because some people are offended should not mean that the joke should remain silent. And was anyone who heard the joke first-hand offended?

Findlay will argue that when he does after-dinner speaking he adopts an entirely different persona. He is not Donald Findlay QC, and surely the two can be separated? If not, then there would be an argument that the Faculty are discriminating against him having another job as an entertainer.

But I have the solution for Findlay's troubles. Give up the after-dinner speaking and get yourself a diary column in a newspaper. You see, last week Lord McPhail kicked out an action brought by award-winning journalist Angus Macleod, who had been described in a diary item as an inventor and compared to Alexander Graham Bell. While you can accuse a journalist of many things, that is a step too far.

McPhail held that the diary had been written for the reader's entertainment, and had contained elements of fantasy. So for all diarists out there, we now have the imperial standard measure of how to defame a judge. Write five pieces with elements of fantasy and then an item about a named judge being biased. I am sure those on the bench will agree it is just banter, after all.


Having the last laugh at PC brigade

GEORGE Orwell was interested in jokes, even if not making many himself. "It is interesting," he wrote, "to compare the 'Jew joke' with that other standby of the music halls, the 'Scotch joke', which superficially it resembles ... in general, the Jew is credited merely with cunning and avarice while the Scotsman is credited with physical hardihood as well. This is seen, for example in the story of the Jew and the Scotsman who go together to a meeting which has been advertised as free.

"Unexpectedly there is a collection, and to avoid this the Jew faints and the Scotsman carries him out. It would seem vaguely wrong if it were the other way about."

Setting aside the fact that the best Jew jokes have usually been told by Jews, just as the best Aberdeen ones have been told by Aberdonians, and nobody did more than comics such as Harry Lauder, Will Fyffe and Chic Murray - "a true Scotsman keeps the Sabbath, and anything else he can get his hands on" - to fix the stereotype of us as mean and grasping, one finds oneself, quite often, wondering just what it is still permissible to mock.

The distinguished QC, Donald Findlay, for instance, is in trouble again - hauled up before a disciplinary committee of his colleagues at the Faculty of Advocates, it seems - because he told a joke about the Pope at a dinner in Northern Ireland. It wasn't much of a joke, going apparently something like this: "It's awful smokey in here - has another ******* Pope died?"

Not terribly funny, but harmless enough, you might think, and probably went down quite well with most of his audience, consisting of either - I'm not quite clear on this point - members of a Rangers Supporters Club or the Orange Order. (No doubt there is some overlap anyway.) After all, people have been making jokes about His Holiness for centuries, probably since long before the Reformation. "Why does the Pope wear underpants in his bath?", small boys used to ask with a snigger. No doubt you can supply the answer.

Every schoolboy when I was young had an extensive repertory of jokes which began: "There was a Scotsman, an Irishman and an Englishman ..."

Few were very funny, I daresay; all followed the same pattern. The Englishman was sure of himself but stupid, the Irishman clever but silly, the Scotsman had the answer.

No doubt such jokes took a different form the other side of the Border, or across the Irish Sea. They were a variant of a joke I liked about the Greek, the Jew and the Armenian who paid a visit to a church or museum. "That was a really beautiful ruby," said the Greek afterwards, "I wish I had taken it." "Ah," said the Jew, "you wish that? I've got it." "You had it," said the Armenian.

In all cultures, too, there have been jokes about people deemed inferior. So we had the Irish joke, as in "an Irish dog was chewing a bone when its master called and it got up and hobbled away on three legs".

In Ireland itself the Irish joke is told - used to be told? -about Kerrymen; in the United States about Poles, in the old South Africa about a Boer farmer, a simpleton called van der Merwe.

For instance, van der Merwe goes to the cinema three days in succession to see the same film. Asked why, he explains that there's this chap who tries to leap on to his horse and falls off the other side; he wants to see if he's so stupid he'll do it again. All such jokes are in a way expressions of solidarity, of a shared culture; they are intended, if not consciously, to be reassuring.

Sometimes - as in the Aberdonian joke "two taxis crashed in front of His Majesty's Theatre and 15 people were taken to hospital" - they are exercises in self-deprecation, which are at the same time expressions of a sense of one's own superiority.

In the case of the Scots or Aberdonian joke told by a Scot or Aberdonian, or the Jew joke told by a Jew, the sense of superiority is demonstrated by the ability to laugh at oneself.

Otherwise, there is usually an element of affection in the mockery. True anti-Semites don't tell Jew jokes; they are too busy hating them. There were no Jew jokes in Nazi Germany.

Now, in our excessively sensitive time ethnic and sectarian jokes are frowned on. Indeed, they're forbidden. Even mild ones, such as Mr Findlay's, can get you into trouble, in his case because it seems to be aimed at all Roman Catholics and their reverence for the Pope, rather than at His Holiness himself.

But, of course, we still need jokes, laughter being essential to us. So what can you joke about? At what or whom may jokes be permissibly directed? Certain categories - Muslims and gays, for instance - are ruled out. So also, obviously, are the disabled and afflicted. Such jokes are regarded as either dangerous or in poor taste.

However, as an example of the way what is considered bad taste changes, the Royal Family is now regarded as fair game. So, very evidently, are politicians.

Since Spitting Image set the example, so-called alternative comedians have delighted in mocking individual politicians. In the Eighties, they could say what they liked about Margaret Thatcher. Now Tony Blair and George Bush are regularly pilloried, portrayed as buffoons and villains.

Is this healthier? Many will say it is because the objects of these jokes and insults are powerful. They may be right, but what is also clear is that such jokes, aimed at individuals rather than categories, are also crueller.

Jokes about categories of people are beyond the pale, even though categories are abstractions which can't be hurt. Jokes about individuals are deemed OK, even though individuals feel pain and bleed.

Political correctness, which was intended to make life pleasanter by forbidding stigmatisation has, paradoxically, resulted in a nastier form of humour. Very rum.


Witness not allowed to see results of Sheridan investigation
TOM GORDON, Scottish Political Correspondent January 04 2007

A witness in the Tommy Sheridan defamation trial, who complained after it was wrongly implied in court she had a criminal record, has been told she cannot see the results of the Law Society's investigation into the matter.

Anne Colvin, a businesswoman who claimed to have seen the politician having sex with a prostitute, was wrongly accused by Mr Sheridan's junior counsel, advocate Graeme Henderson, of having received an 18-month sentence for credit card fraud.

It has now emerged that Mr Sheridan has refused to waive his right to confidentiality with his solicitor in the case, thereby blocking efforts by Ms Colvin to find out more on the incident.

After the trial last August, Ms Colvin complained to the Law Society about Campbell Deane, Mr Sheridan's solicitor, who would normally have instructed Mr Henderson's questioning.

She expected to discover the source of the claim against her, but was told that, as she was not Mr Deane's client, she could not see his explanation of events or the results of the investigation.

Ms Colvin asked Mr Sheridan to waive confidentiality to allow her to see the paperwork, but he refused.

She said: "I would ask Mr Sheridan to reconsider and waive confidentiality. It would also clear his name. If he did not suggest the question to Mr Henderson then he has nothing to worry about."

Martha Rafferty, Ms Colvin's solicitor said: "Honesty goes to the heart of any defamation case and she thought this was a clear attempt to besmirch her character.

"Having lodged a complaint with the Faculty of Advocates and the Law Society, she is still none the wiser why the question was asked, and considers this most unsatisfactory."

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Scottish Executive fails to block FOI disclosure on records of restricted access to Courts

Despite giving us the Legal Profession & Legal Aid (Scotland) Bill, which brings independent regulation to Scotland's entirely corrupt legal profession, the Scottish Executive put up a fight against an FOI request made by Mr Bill Alexander for the release of correspondence & material surrounding the failure to enact parts of legislation sitting on the statute books which would have opened up the courts to those other than solicitors & clients.

The Executive duly thought the release of such information, was an appalling idea .. appalling, since the material in question, being correspondence between Ministers, elements of the legal profession, and the governing body of Scottish lawyers - the Law Society of Scotland, could give the impression to everyone, that there was a collusion going on for years between the Executive & the lawyers to keep everyone else out of court and maintain a monopoly on legal services - which is in fact, what happened.

If it had been a member of the public trying to get legal representation to break loose a disclosure of papers relating to the restriction of legal markets, they wouldn't even have been able to secure legal representation - so Mr Alexander, the Herald newspaper, and the rest of us are lucky Mr Dunion was there to do it for us.

No such difficulty for the Scottish Executive though - the legal profession provided their best to defeat the FOI disclosure request (at top fees too no doubt), but m'luds felt a bit honest yesterday and found in favour, again, of FOI.

I wonder how much Richard Keen & his team cost the Executive for this ?

I covered the start of Bill Alexander's case here : Scottish Executive thought to be blameworthy for allowing restrictive practices in legal service

Bill Alexander also has a related petition into the Scottish Parliament, which can be viewed at this link : Petition PE1021

Petition by Bill Alexander calling for the Scottish Parliament to investigate (i) the availability of solicitors prepared to act against other solicitors in cases of negligence or inadequate service; (ii) the role of the Law Society in such cases; and (iii) the impact, both physical and financial, of such cases on the complainer.

Rumours seem to indicate today, the legal profession demanded the Scottish Executive fight the case, as the lads at Drumsheugh Gardens, and those over at the Faculty of Advocates, definitely did not want any evidence revealed which may indicate a legal profession stitch up over legal services & restriction of business markets.

A well placed source who contacted me earlier this morning, informed me the Law Society had also tried to insist any correspondence from itself to the Executive should be exempt from the FOI request, as the Law Society of Scotland has an exemption from FOI !

I doubt Kevin Dunion, the FOI Commissioner will be having anything of that one though .. but only time will tell on what is published ... and if there is anything missing in the trail of correspondence, ministerial meetings with the bosses & leading [crooks] lights of the legal profession .. I'm sure it will be down to some politicians & leading crooks of the legal profession getting together to protect their own fiddles of the law.

There seems to be no doubt then, the present Scottish Executive, and it's previous incarnation, the Scottish Office, colluded with the legal profession to form an unofficial policy of restricting access to the courts & maintaining the monopoly of rights to legal representation by forcing the public to use members of the Law Society of Scotland & Faculty of Advocates.

More importantly though, as can be seen by Mr Alexander's petition to the Scottish Parliament, there is also little doubt among critics & campaigners against the decades of injustice practiced by the Law Society against members of the public, that the Executive has assisted the Law Society's clearly prejudicial policy of obstructing & denying legal representation to any client trying to raise a claim of negligence against a Scottish solicitor.

Maybe we should be asking which politicians got cheap deals on house & land purchases & other legal services, for keeping these laws from being enacted ... I'm sure there are a few trees to be shaken on that one .. all things being corrupt, that is.

Just a quick word on my recent articles.

My take on the exposure of the legal aid strike by lawyers as being fake got me in a wee bit of bother. I'm talking about this article : Lawyers protests over low legal aid fees revealed to be fake as Law Society's own research points to increase

Apparently, the Law Society are "looking for me to give me a good seeing to" .. Well, I've heard nothing yet, but if any threatening letter comes in, of course, I will publish it .. and if there's any polonium in my sushi, I will be calling the Met !

Similarly, Marsh & the Royal & Sun Alliance PLC are a wee bit upset over my comments on the Master Insurance Policy of the Law Society, and my exposure of their vast web of insurance relationships with the professions, which I wrote about here : Corrupt Insurers of the Scottish legal profession linked to Scottish Executive

Again, if the threatening letter arrives, I will publish of course .. but I can't see how there can be any denials .. after all, what I wrote is all true .. and there's quite a bit more scandal to go with it !

Anyway, read on for today's Herald report on Mr Alexander's FOI case - and remember to support Petition PE1021 at the Scottish Parliament.

I have my own petition also going in over some related matters .. which I will report to you in due course.


Court ruling triumph for FOI
PAUL ROGERSON, City Editor January 24 2007

The Scottish Executive has failed with a landmark bid to block the release of highly sensitive documents explaining why Scotland's "closed shop" for legal services has never been opened up to competition.

A Court of Session ruling yesterday should force the disclosure of correspondence on the subject between senior politicians, lawyers and officials.

They include the late First Minister Donald Dewar, Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott and former Lord Chancellor, Lord Irvine of Lairg.

In a 26-page ruling, the Lord President, Lord Hamilton, together with Lord Nimmo Smith and Sir David Edward, dismissed the executive's arguments that certain documents were exempted from disclosure under the freedom of information legislation.

They made the same ruling in a second case in which the executive refused to disclose documents, requested by The Herald, concerning plans to dump waste in a protected Scottish quarry.

Both cases are a triumph for the Scottish information commissioner Kevin Dunion, who had ordered ministers to publish the documents.

Mr Dunion welcomed the decision, saying: "This is an important judgment in my favour. The court has agreed it was wrong of the executive to conclude that it would be harmful to release information which it characterised as belonging to a class or type - for example, advice to ministers - without regard to the content of that information. I have consistently maintained this is not what parliament intended."

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

"I am pleased the law has been clarified. Hopefully, everyone can now move forward in getting greater access to justice for the people of Scotland," he said.

Here's the shorter Scotsman version .. with a little debate going ...


Court defeats for ministers

SCOTTISH ministers yesterday failed in the country's highest court to prevent the release of documents which had been sought under the Freedom of Information Act.

In two cases heard in the Court of Session, rulings against ministers by Kevin Dunion, the Scottish Information Commissioner, were upheld.

The cases involved information on why legislation passed in 1990, designed to promote competition in the provision of legal services, had not been brought into effect, and why ministers had decided in 2004 not to "call in" a planning application for a waste disposal and ecological conservation area at Treane Quarry, north Ayrshire.

... and here is the Press Release from the Scottish FOI Commissioner,


News Release: 24 January 2007

Commissioner welcomes Court ruling in landmark freedom of information case

The Scottish Information Commissioner today (24 January 2007) welcomed a landmark Court of Session ruling which upheld his decisions in relation to two appeals brought by the Scottish Executive under the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002 (FOISA).

The ruling concerned two separate decisions issued by the Commissioner, in which he found that the Executive had acted incorrectly in withholding specific information from release. One case involved documents concerning legislation passed over 15 years ago, part of which the Executive had still not carried into effect in Scotland. Sections 25 to 29 of the Law Reform (Miscellaneous Provisions) (Scotland) Act 1990, if implemented, would allow professionals, other than advocates and solicitors, rights to conduct litigation on behalf of members of the public, as well as rights of audience in the courts.

In bringing its appeals to the Court, the Executive argued that the Commissioner had wrongly interpreted FOISA when considering the content of withheld documents on an individual basis. The Executive argued that certain types, or “classes”, of documents should automatically fall within the scope of particular FOISA exemptions.

Following its consideration of the case, the Court rejected the arguments put forward by the Executive. In reaching this conclusion, the Court described the “class” arguments put forward by the Executive as “ill-founded”, and concluded that the Commissioner’s methodology of considering the specific content of individual documents, and the potential impact of release, was correct and appropriate. A number of other criticisms made by the Executive were also rejected by the court. As a result, the Court refused both of the Executive’s appeals.

Kevin Dunion, the Scottish Information Commissioner, said:

“This is an important judgement in my favour. The Court has agreed that it was wrong of the Executive to conclude that it would be harmful to release information which it characterised as belonging to a class or type, e.g. advice to Ministers, without regard to the content of that information. I have consistently maintained this is not what Parliament intended and is not what the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act allows. In my view, the effect of the release of such information can only be gauged by considering the content. I am pleased that the judgement clearly supports my position.”

The Commissioner added:

“At the heart of these cases is whether the public is given access to information which allows them to understand why decisions have been arrived at. With regard to the Law Reform Act, I took the view that a democratic society is entitled to expect that legislation passed by its elected representatives in Parliament will be brought into force unless there are good reasons for not doing so, and citizens are entitled to know those reasons unless there is a greater public interest in keeping them secret.”


For further information contact Claire Sigsworth or Paul Mutch on 01334 464610, out of hours, 07976 511752

Notes to Editors:

Court of Session Opinion

  • The Court of Session heard the appeals in December 2006.
  • The Opinion of the Court was issued on 23 January 2007 .
  • The Opinion of the Court of Session on this case is available to view online here: www.scotcourts.gov.uk/opinions/2007CSIH08.html

Commissioner's Decisions

The Commissioner's Decisions to which the Court of Session's Opinion relates are:

Decision 057/2005 – Mr William Alexander and the Scottish Executive

• Mr Alexander requested information relating to the commencement of sections 25 to 29 of the Law Reform (Miscellaneous Provisions) ( Scotland ) Act 1990. Sections 25 to 29 of this Act, which have yet to be implemented, set out arrangements which would ensure greater competition in the provision of legal services in Scotland .

• The Scottish Executive refused the request, arguing that most of the information either related to the formulation of policy or would prejudice the effective conduct of public affairs, and was therefore exempt from release under FOISA.

• The Commissioner found, following consideration of the content of each document, that, while much of the information did indeed fall within the scope of an exemption, other information did not, and should therefore be released. The Commissioner also found that some information, while falling within the scope of an exemption, should be released in the public interest.

• The full text of Decision 057/2005 can be viewed online here: www.itspublicknowledge.info/appealsdecisions/decisions/Documents/decision057.htm

Decision 060/2005 – Mr David Elstone / Mr Martin Williams of the Sunday Herald and the Scottish Executive

• Mr Elstone and Mr Williams separately made similar requests for documentation relating to a decision taken by the Scottish Ministers not to “call in” a planning application for Trearne Quarry, North Ayrshire. If “called in”, North Ayrshire Council would have been required to refer the application to the Scottish Ministers for decision.

• The Scottish Executive refused both of these requests, arguing that release would prejudice the effective conduction of public affairs.

• Given the similarity of the cases, the Commissioner issued a single Decision which addressed both requests. The Commissioner found, following the consideration of individual documents, that while some had been withheld correctly, others did not fall within the scope of any exemption and were appropriate for release.

• The full text of Decision 060/2005 can be found online here:


The Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002

• The Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002 (FOISA) provides a statutory right of access to all information held by Scottish public authorities. This right came into effect on 1 January 2005.
• Around 10,000 public authorities in Scotland are covered by FOISA. They include the Scottish Parliament and Executive, police forces, the NHS, local authorities, education institutions, and publicly owned companies.
• Information can only be withheld by a public authority if it falls under one of the exemptions listed in FOISA. If an individual believes an authority is wrong to withhold information, they ultimately have a right of appeal to the Scottish Information Commissioner, who can require release.
• The parties to any case have the right to appeal against the Commissioner’s decision to the Court of Session on a point of law only.

The Scottish Information Commissioner

• Kevin Dunion the Scottish Information Commissioner is a fully independent public official, appointed by the Queen on the nomination of the Scottish Parliament.
• His duties and powers are to ensure that people get the information from Scottish public authorities to which they are entitled.
• His role actively promotes and enforces compliance with FOISA.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Corrupt Insurers of the Scottish legal profession linked to Scottish Executive

INSURERS Royal & Sun Alliance PLC & Marsh UK (a subsidiary of Marsh Inc , of scandal fame in the US & international financial markets) - who also happen to be the same insurers of Scottish lawyers, in the infamously corrupt Professional Indemnity insurance scheme known as the Master Insurance Policy of theLaw Society of Scotland, have been identified in answers given to a question in the Scottish Parliament, as insurers also to Government Departments & many public services..

These revelations have left the Scottish Executive somewhat embarrassed, and unwilling to release much information on exactly how extensive these companies ties to Government are ... and pose new questions on why the Executive has stood by for so long while clients claims against crooked lawyers & other crooked professionals insurance policies have failed against a tide of corruption in the handling of such cases by professional regulatory bodies & insurers.

The revelations came in answers from the Scottish Executive Minister for Finance and Public Service Reform -Tom McCabe to a question from John Swinney MSP (SNP) on the subject of business between Government & the same insurers of the legal profession :

The Question : Mr John Swinney (North Tayside) (SNP): To ask the Scottish Executive what contracts and arrangements for the provision of insurance services it holds with (a) Royal and Sun Alliance and (b) Marsh UK.

The Answer : (S2W-30261)

Mr Tom McCabe: The Scottish Executive does not hold a central record of contracts and arrangements for the provision of insurance services.

The Executive’s finance system (which covers core Executive departments and many Executive agencies and non-departmental public bodies) shows that some payments have been made to Royal Sun Alliance and Marsh UK. However, details of the contracts and arrangements which relate to those payments could only be provided at disproportionate cost.

As a general rule commercial insurance would only be justified in constituent parts of the Scottish Administration if the cost of claims, including in-house and contracted-out administration costs, was calculated as likely to exceed the cost of insurance premiums. However, in certain circumstances there are special factors which may justify commercial insurance being taken out.

So, it would appear from Tom McCabe's response, the Scottish Executive are incompetent at keeping track of public expenditure .. but that's definitely not the case here, because as we all know full well, when it comes to details involving companies who share business & lobbying interests with the professions - particularly the legal profession, the truth, is never easy to determine.

Further enquiries by Mr Stewart Mackenzie, a constituent of John Swinney MSP, have now revealed the amounts of public money paid by the Scottish Executive to Marsh & Royal & Sun Alliance PLC in the last 12 months, are in the area of : £157,000 to Marsh and £16,000 to Royal Sun Alliance.

While the Scottish Executive are definitely not forthcoming in terms of detail on just which Departments or which members of staff are insured by Royal & Sun Alliance & Marsh UK .. certain Scottish Executive Ministerial appointees such as the Scottish Legal Services Ombudsman, who is responsible for investigating complaints against the Law Society of Scotland, is known to be covered by these same insurance companies, which also insure lawyers against negligence claims from client complaints ... and this certainly leaves open charges of a clear conflict of interest when an Ombudsman to an industry, is insured by the same insurers. Little wonder then, the Executive are cagey about revealing the information.

These insurance arrangements have thought to have been in existence for some time, although in the late 1990's, Civil Servants at the Scottish Office claimed in similar inquries made at the time, that the Scottish Legal Services Ombudsman had no insurance for professional negligence of the type which has now been revealed to be the case ...

It seems to be a foregone conclusion then, that the Scottish Executive's Justice Department, and indeed, most Departments, including Departmental Ministers, are probably insured under these same insurance arrangements, for just about everything under the sun, to protect against any eventuality of liability .. but it is thought many more parts of Scottish Government, including the Police, Health, & other public services, right down to Local Government, have most probably fell under the spell of such insurance arrangements linked to 'questionable companies' which the Executive seem determined to keep secret.

McCabe is purposely evasive in his response, not giving any detail away at all .. probably because as I know full well, the tentacles of these insurance firms are quite extensive throughout Government & the public sector. To quote McCabe directly :

"As a general rule commercial insurance would only be justified in constituent parts of the Scottish Administration if the cost of claims, including in-house and contracted-out administration costs, was calculated as likely to exceed the cost of insurance premiums. However, in certain circumstances there are special factors which may justify commercial insurance being taken out."

Let's have a few examples of this to enlighten the public ...

If a Chief Constable is sued by a member of the public for negligence, or any other matter .. the CC is generally insured against such a claim ... so, is it RSA & Marsh UK again ? .. or have the claims been farmed out to some other organisation to keep people from linking up the dots and drawing conclusions of giant conflicts of interest ... when in such a case, the lawyers who would be pursuing the Chief Constable for a client, would be insured by the same insurers.

Try this one for size ... A Doctor is negligent, and allows your family member to die. You engage lawyers to sue the Doctor & the local Health Authority for negligence .. but unbeknown to you, your lawyer is insured by the same insurers, who insure the Health Authority, and possibly even the Doctor ... How about that ? Well, it happens .. and I can attest to that one myself, from my experience with crooked lawyer Michael Robson in the case of the death of my mother at Borders General Hospital.

Housing Associations are also a favourite of Marsh UK it seems, with perhaps the RSA not far behind ? ... I have read of cases where tenants have tried to make claims of negligence, or other kinds of damages claims against their Housing Association landlords, and had the most horrible time of it, with every dirty trick used against them, from even filing false information with Police, the Benefits Agency & other organisations in an attempt to knock their claim out of court, but all the while, the same insurers insure the tenant's lawyer.

Same goes for Scotland's other infamously crooked body - the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Scotland, whose 'CA" (Chartered Accountant) members can be as crooked & criminal as they like - a good example of this being the crooked Borders accountant Norman Howitt who ripped my father's estate off and stole my mother's pension & Bank books for himself ... ICAS were so secretive on their insurance arrangements for professional negligence, they refused to identify the company responsible (I was later told by a Journalist it was Marsh & RSA again) .. and the carefully worded ICAS report into Howitt avoided any mention of negligence .. just as what happens with Law Society reports into crooked lawyers.

The same applies for many other public services, and also the commercial sector, as Marsh Inc & the Royal & Sun Alliance claim themselves to be one of the biggest providers of insurance cover for professional indemnity to virtually every walk of life .. and particularly the financial sector .. where all of those who have been trying to make negligence or other kinds of claims against Banks & other financial institutions, may have failed to realise, the same insurers who insured the Bank, also insured their lawyer .. who perhaps .. failed to progress the case very much .. or fail to win such a settlement as what should have been awarded ...

However, some say there may be much more to this secrecy than just the Executive wanting to keep it's insurance arrangements secret just because they link up Government to the same crooked insurance companies which have prevented thousands of cases from ever getting near the courts, through using the most dirty tricks possible & prevaricating the public in negligence claims against the likes of crooked lawyers, while the Scottish Executive stood by, knowing all the time the reasons these cases would never be successful.

Not to mention another lurking factor in this .. well .. these same companies are known for making political donations in the USA .. obviously to the party which best represents their business interests .. and as we have seen over the years, with the complex arrangements of donations to political parties, which may well have brought business in and held onto established markets .. certainly such as the legal & financial sectors. Could it be perhaps, that New Labour have had a few donations from the insurers to maintain their business interests ? ... It may be so.

So, could this be the holy grail of links between the likes of crooked lawyers & our Scottish Executive, which have prevented for so long members of the public, such as myself and many many others, from getting anywhere near a court to make a negligence claim ? Could this be one of the main reasons that the Law Society of Scotland has been allowed to fiddle it's way through tens of thousands of client complaints against crooked lawyers over the years .. while the Executive and many politicians have stood by and done nothing ?

I think it may well be the case that we are looking at one of the major reasons why many claims against the likes of crooked lawyers, negligent medical staff, the Police, Courts, and all sorts of so-called professions, Government Departments, etc , have failed over the years - because the Government has been using the same insurance services to defend themselves against such claims. Quite a simple answer there .. and quite realistic.

One could almost call this cosy arrangement of using the same insurers a 'partnership against the public' .. certainly at the very least, it shows a gigantic conflict of interest when it comes to members of the public trying to get justice in their cases against those referred to above .. all the while, our legislators are using the same insurance services .. and offer us no help at all in cases where help is certainly required.

Time for this 'partnership against the public' to be ended ... we don't need the same corrupt financial & insurance companies insuring the professions and Government, do we ? No wonder no one can progress their claims to court .. everyone from the lawyers we use, to the Court staff, to the Judge, to the Government, seems to be insured by the same cartels of insurance companies.

It's time for an investigation into why this has gone on for so long ... and time for those in Government to admit their guilt in standing by for so long, while the public have begged for help and received none against the likes of crooked lawyers & other crooked professionals ..

How about also asking why the Government has been paying public money to a knowingly corrupt insurance company for so long ? .. and not bothered to investigate it's insurance practices in the UK .. when so many reports of corruption have been made by members of the public in dealings with these companies and claims against their insured clients ...

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Lawyers protests over low legal aid fees revealed to be fake as Law Society's own research points to increase

The so-called 'strike' by Scotland's legal profession over the alleged lack of payments of legal aid in the Fixed Fees system, seems to have been rubbished by research from the Law Society of Scotland itself, throwing into question the validity of the claims of local Bar Associations of impoverished Solicitors having to boycott everything from family law cases to Criminal cases, .. just to get that wee bit more legal aid into their pockets.

I covered this story back in October, here : Scottish legal profession supports using family law cases to blackmail Executive for more legal aid fees & less reform. and here :
Legal Aid dispute continues to be used by lawyers against planned reforms of legal profession by LPLA Bill

However, today in the Scotsman newspaper, we have the legal profession spinning out an 'unpublished report' - which was actually conducted under their own auspices by Cyrus Tata & Professor Frank Stephens of Manchester University .. showing the Legal Aid reforms announced by the Scottish Executive back in 1999 have failed to stem the rise of legal aid payments to lawyers.

Wait a second though ... didn't lawyers up and down Scotland only a couple of months ago claim they weren't getting enough money .... so they had to strike & boycott legal cases to gain increased legal aid payments ?

Well, as of this morning so far, the Law Society of Scotland haven't joined in the fun with a press release of it's own on the shrill cries of Executive bury's evidence of legal aid reform failure. That in itself, is unusual, as the Law Society usually fire out a Press Release to accompany whatever story they wished published for the next day, unless of course, they don't want it to look as if it's been managed that way .. which incidentally, it does.

So, Cyrus Tata and Frank Stephens report in their findings that when fixed fees were introduced, £30 million was being spent a year on summary legal aid in sheriff courts. Following the introduction of fee-capping, that fell to £27 million. But by 2002, the bill had increased to £32 million with an extra 10,000 cases being funded by legal aid.

How does this square with the recent claims by lawyers they were impoverished and had to strike, boycotting a range of civil law & criminal law cases to gain increases in fixed fees from the Executive - which of course they did - after their strike.

Lawyers even went off to form a new national Bar Association on the pretext the Law Society wasn't up to the job of lobbying for their interests Hundreds to join new lawyers' union - with regard to legal aid payments & the loss of regulating (fiddling) complaints against their colleagues and up & down Scotland, local Bar Associations organised strikes & boycotts of cases, causing even delays to criminal trials of the likes of sex offenders, .. all because lawyers were getting paid more legal aid ?

Well, thanks for clearing that one up, Mr Tata & Mr Stephens. The claims in the strike were obviously bogus. Lawyers were getting more money all the time, & claiming for things they weren't claiming for before .. we never heard anything of that in the legal profession's protests & briefings on the alleged lack of legal aid payments.

This time certainly, I don't think the blame lies with the Scottish Executive at all on the allegations of burying the evidence - this is Law Society sponsored research - that's why it appeared in the Journal of the Law Society - their own publication. Why didn't the Law Society do their usual open press briefings, releases & multiple phone calls to all the newspapers to ensure the story was going in ?

If we want the Executive to publish every little bit of research into the legal profession, maybe we should expect stories appearing on the Executive site like this Daily Record expose on lawyers bribing clients to fill out legal aid forms: BUNG TO RIGHTS .. which is more common than some would have the public believe ..

For that matter, does the Executive have to publish all the Law Society's paid opinions such as the one of FibDem peer Lord Lester of Herne Hill QC who concluded it would be a breach of lawyers human rights to have complaints against lawyers independently regulated so they basically couldn't continue to fiddle client complaints against their colleagues ? ..... I think we don't need to hear propaganda from the legal profession coming straight out of the Executive.

Such a pity the Scotsman didn't put a link in the story to the summary of Tata & Stephen's report published by the Executive on 7th December, rather than that long tedious description of where it lies in some 'sandwiched state'... which is obviously just for effect .. after all .. links to You Tube videos on vandalism in the Capital & reports on everything from health to the McKie case, have made it to the Scotsman website .. why not be a little more consistent .. or is it just because the legal profession says so, this story appears.

With all respect to Kenny MaCaskill & the rest at Holyrood, I wish he was more tuned into the way the legal profession handles the media & stories like this, although it is ironic the 'unpublished' research, which the Law Society actually did publish itself, kills off the legal profession's own protests of lack of legal aid .... How about someone point that one out please ? .. or is it even too much of an effort to state the obvious these days.

I'll be kind and link to the Journal of the Law Society's published version of this 'unpublished research'. See it here : Fixed payments: a real impact?

As for me, well, I like my sandwiches with plenty bacon, or even a salad for that healthy touch.. but I never .. NEVER .. bury my sandwiches between sandwiches !

Article from the Scotsman :


Legal aid cash saving plan is a flop

* Unpublished report shows legal-aid reforms have been unsuccessful
* Lawyers now making claims where previously they would not have
* Executive accused of 'burying bad news' in failure to publish

Key quote
"We are in danger of seeing the Executive covering up and the legal-aid board simply burgeoning as a bureaucracy, not as a service-provider. The whole legal-aid system is in meltdown." - KENNY MACASKILL, SNP

Story in full LEGAL-AID reforms aimed at saving millions of pounds have been a failure and the Scottish Executive has been accused of concealing damning evidence.

The Scotsman has learned that a study completed two years ago - which has yet to be published - found that fixed fees for lawyers have failed to deliver an anticipated £10 million cut in Scotland's legal-aid bill.

The research concludes that fee-capping for summary criminal work, introduced in 1999, may in fact have increased the overall legal-aid bill by encouraging lawyers to submit thousands more claims.

The findings have led to claims of a "meltdown" in the legal-aid system, which last year cost taxpayers £148 million.

And the failure to publish the research has also prompted fresh accusations that ministers and senior civil servants are suppressing information.

A spokesman for the Executive said the research was being held "for a variety of factors", but was unable to explain what these were. However, he said researchers had been given permission to present their findings at conferences and in journals.

He also said that a brief, three-page summary of the report's findings was posted on the Executive's website last month.

Fixed fees of £300 for cases in the district court and £500 for those in the sheriff courts were introduced to cut costs by speeding up the system.

Writing about their research in the latest issue of the Law Society Journal, Cyrus Tata and Frank Stephens, from Strathclyde and Manchester universities, said that prior to fixed fees, lawyers often did not bother to claim for all advice and assistance given, instead only billing for main cases.

But they found that after the fees were introduced, lawyers were far more meticulous in their billing, making up shortfalls from individual cases by submitting more claims.

When fixed fees were introduced, £30 million was being spent a year on summary legal aid in sheriff courts. Following the introduction of fee-capping, that fell to £27 million. But by 2002, the bill had increased to £32 million with an extra 10,000 cases being funded by legal aid.

Kenny MacAskill, the SNP's justice spokesman, said the Executive's failure to release the report was "utterly unacceptable".

He added: "We are in danger of seeing the Executive covering up and the legal-aid board simply burgeoning as a bureaucracy, not as a service-provider. The whole legal-aid system is in meltdown."

Margaret Mitchell, the Scots Tories' justice spokeswoman, accused the Executive of "burying bad news".

"They have sat on this report for 18 months, putting a sledgehammer through their claims that this would be an open, accountable and transparent government."

A spokesman for the Executive said allowing researchers to present their findings "demonstrates our willingness to have the findings in the public domain". He added: "We are hoping to publish the full report very soon."


A SUMMARY of Cyrus Tata's and Frank Stephens' findings was posted on the Scottish Executive website on 7 December.

The paper boils down to three short pages, 14 months of research, involving analysis of legal-aid board data over five years and scores of interviews with solicitors.

No press release was issued to announce the release of the long-awaited findings, which have been kept under wraps for nearly two years. The document was instead posted among hundreds of other papers in the website's "publications" section, which can be entered by clicking on a link on the home page.

It can be found sandwiched between the chief fire and rescue service inspector's annual report, and a justice department circular on "the implementation of the integrated case management process from 1 June, 2006".

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Lawyers complaints system thought to have caused intimidation of clients for years

From the emails & posts I have received to my last article, on how lawyers use the Police against clients who complain against them, it seems the practice is certainly more common than even I could have imagined. I am trying to get through all your emails on this issue, so please bear with me.

There seems to be a growing adversarial feeling from the legal profession that if all else fails to silence a cantankerous client' a targeted campaign against a complainer, or indeed anyone who challenges the legal profession's position is the only solution .. and it seems anything goes when it comes to targeting a complaining client .. even .. violence. What also seems clear is, when a lawyer is in trouble, it's not only the legal profession which steps in to defend them .. their relatives also lend a 'helping hand'.

Today, I ask : How do the family members of a crooked lawyer react when their lawyer relatives are faced with client complaints such as embezzlement, theft, service or conduct complaints or are perhaps, even accused of crimes ?

Well, I have to say, in my own experience of such cases, usually the family of the lawyer either [rarely] go silent, or [more commonly] support their accused relative.

Even worse awaits the complainer in these circumstances, as in some cases reported to me, and admittedly from my own experience, a lawyer's family will go out and attack the client & their family, maybe spread some lies, gossip, give the odd false tip to the Police ... that kind of thing.

Certainly, from my own unpleasant experience with crooked Borders solicitor Drew Penman of Stormonth Darling Solicitors, Kelso .. I know this to be true .. his family certainly spread plenty lies about me throughout the Borders, in an effort to get their dearly beloved crooked Drew off the hook .. and the same was true of crooked Borders accountant Norman Howitt of Welch & Co Accountants, Hawick & Galashiels ... his family all set out to support their wee crook Norman .. who, like Drew Penman, used all his contacts in the Borders to make my life & my family's life a misery. And they succeeded.

Yes .. filing false tips with the local Police, phoning round the local Banks to see if I did business with them .. spreading lies, inciting people to 'have-a-go' at me .. was all par for the course for these two famous crooks & their families... and certainly, with the misery I experienced from when I made my complaint to the Law Society of Scotland against Drew Penman - I can sympathise with anyone who has gone through the same .

You know what ? It's common. Common in many complaints - and often used as an excuse by the Law Society of Scotland to let the crooked lawyer off the hook ... because the crooked lawyer was doing it for his own family ... robbing you .. to support his own family .. and because he was doing it to support his own family, and lavish lifestyle, why should he be punished just because he ruined a client - because a solicitor's family takes priority over a client's family - so Law Society policy dictates.

It's common because nothing has really been done about it .. and with many solicitors appearing before Complaints Committees and using issues regarding their own family to shield them from significant complaints, all are in agreement that when it comes to a solicitor's family - they take priority over a client's family.The mere mention of anything related to a solicitor's family at a Complaints Committee hearing - whether it's true or not, is usually enough to get them off the hook, from even, say .. a complaint where a lawyer has embezzled £500,000.

Many of the stories put forward by lawyers in defence of their actions, seem to be completely false .. but the Complaints Committee members never think (or are either too stupid or too much in the back pocket of the Law Society) to check out the stories put to them by a crooked lawyer .. such as a case which was brought to my attention where a crooked lawyer claimed... "Oh please, I only took the £400,000 to pay for my son's ill health, and anyway, the client is just a piece of crap, I studied so long & so hard for so many years at University, so you should find me not guilty of what I did" .. and, yes, you guessed it - the Complaints Committee let him off the hook and dismissed the complaint. Another interesting case I heard over the past few days related to a lawyer claiming his son had cancer and wasn't expected to live (the stress of it all had caused the lawyer to fiddle several client accounts & see that legal colleagues got preferential deals on clients property sales (his colleagues bought the houses of clients on the cheap) ... the lawyer in question though, didn't have a son .. he had a daughter .. and no one on the Complaints Committee bothered to check.

Here's an example from my own case on what goes on at Complaints Committees :

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

You can see from the above Scotsman article, Law Society Complaints Committees are quite corrupt in terms of the evidence they allow to be thrown against clients by accused lawyers & their representatives. Virtually anything goes .. there are no normal rules of substantiating evidence .. claims can be made by crooked lawyers & their allies, however spurious or ridiculous they may sound, and Complaints Committees accept them against anything the complaier can provide .. even running counter to material evidence & external witnesses.

However, what generally goes unreported is that after a complaint has been made by a client against a lawyer, invariably, the family & relatives of the lawyer facing the complaint, turn their attack on the client and their family .. and as has been demonstrated over the years, these attacks by family members of crooked lawyers have become increasingly violent.

The Law Society of Scotland are well aware of these kinds of incidents of course, and it seems solicitors have the blessing of their profession to carry on in this way as nothing is done to curb such behaviour. The Crown Office, interestingly, refuses to admit collating any statistics on issues involving lawyers - even, it seems, criminal charges .. a convenience, but there are private admissions that public reports against lawyers conduct are widespread.

A thorny issue to tackle, said one journalist to me a few days ago .. but the fact is that the family of crooked lawyers go all out to get their relative off the hook from even the most serious charges - even criminal charges ... and even telling lies to the Police, providing alibis to child abusing lawyer relatives seems to come quite easy to the family members of accused crooked lawyers. Imagine that .. a close relative giving the cops an alibi on their lawyer family member .. who had been out abusing underage youths for several years ... Sick, isn't it

Well, my journalist contact said to me .. 'it's not surprising, if the crooked lawyer has been sending his kids to private school and buying his wife a new merc estate and a lavish new house on the back of his clients, is it ' ... and, he has a point. That's certainly the way it was with Penman & Howitt in my own case ... so .. no surprises to me then .. and that's the way it is with most crooked lawyers ... spending their looted client's money on themselves & their family ..

Obviously then, Mrs Crooked Lawyer doesn't want to loose her Mercedes estate & children of Mr Crooked Lawyer don't want to give up their client funded lifestyle, just because daddy has been discovered ripping off all his clients ...

Just think about that for a second ... while you are paying anything up to £150 + VAT for a lawyers letter to someone (the Home Office manages a letter at £11, for comparison), your lawyer is also ripping you off in many other ways, for his own benefit, his family's benefit - and also perhaps for the benefit of having a mistress & even a rent boy on the side, as is happening in one case just now involving one of Edinburgh's 'leading lawyers' .. Poor clients, and the corporate clients too ..if they only knew they were being ripped off right, left & centre.

There is a case, maybe much more than my own which demonstrates what I am talking about. A horrible case indeed .. and one which has terrorised the family of the client so much, they are living in fear of further reprisals ... from the legal profession.

The case I am talking about, where for now, I will refer to the client as "client H", revolves around a complaint made to the Law Society of Scotland against a lawyer, after a series of legal cases were dropped in connection with a land sale & boundary dispute, ultimately resulting in the loss of land, over £70,000 plus to the client, and a significantly reduced valuation on his remaining property. It seems the whole time the lawyer was acting for the client, he was also friends with, and had a financial interest, with the other party in the case.

The Law Society of Scotland took over three years to investigate & consider the complaint which was apparently dismissed, on the insistence of the lawyer members of the complaints committee, along with the representative of the lawyer who was the subject of the complaint. All this despite, apparently, the Law Society reporter in the case recommending prosecution before the Scottish Solicitors Discipline Tribunal. Almost, a rerun of the Penman complaint then ... and there was I thinking lawyers weren't allowed representatives at Complaints Committees after the Penman case .. what a fraud !

There was certainly, from what I see, a considerable weight of material evidence, witnesses, & more which justified the complaint. There was certainly obvious evidence of financial loss, unjustified delays in pursuing court cases despite instructions to proceed issued many times, clearly faked papers & letters, faked files, faked memos, and even a worrying complicity by a major Scottish Bank to cover up a significant deception & fraud by the lawyer in moving his client's money into his own personal & business accounts, and even his wife's accounts.

I am concerned, to say the least, that a 'major Scottish Bank' (you will have to guess which, for now), decided to falsify paperwork on behalf of a lawyer who was clearly embezzling client funds for his own and his family's personal gain. There is no doubt, the Bank did this, to cover up for the lawyer concerned - either arising from a request from the lawyer to do so, or because it was their policy to do so.

Unfortunately, a Bank covering up for a crooked lawyer seems to be a common thing (especially THIS particular Bank). Collusion between a Bank & an accused lawyer has cropped up in many complaints against lawyers .. especially when the question of winding up estates & wills has been the subject of the complaint, so when dealing with lawyers, Banks & Financial institutions in the same issue, clients must be vigilant, because a swindle is certainly on the way, the first chance the lawyer gets.

Further examples of the intimidation against client H :

Four weeks after client H made the complaint against his lawyer, the crooked lawyer threatened Mr H with an action for defamation, quoting he had the support of the Law Society of Scotland in any such case he wished to pursue against the complaining client. The actual 'defamation' was, making the complaint to the Law Society of Scotland. Hardly a defamation .. complaining against a lawyer who was swindling a client ...

The Law Society apparently denied this, but the crooked lawyer had been making sure word of mouth was used around the legal profession to ensure client H would have difficulty in getting legal representation to defend against such a claim, as client H had been to several lawyers after receiving the threat, and they all refused to take on the case. Incidentally, the Law Society of Scotland were seemingly made aware of every single meeting between client H and legal firms on the issue of client H's ex lawyer's claim of defamation, so, it certainly confirmed that lawyers all report home to Drumsheugh Gardens for instructions, when one of their colleagues is caught with their fingers in the till.

Worse was to follow - much worse, for client H, where the crooked lawyer's family members & friends seem to have decided to embarked on a campaign of hate against client H's family, in several acts of intimidation with an obvious motive to thwart the complaint made against their relative.

For example, in one horrific incident, the solicitor's son & some of his friends, threatened to rape one of client H's daughters, unless client H dropped the complaint. The threat was witnessed, and reported. No action was taken other than a warning to the solicitor's son.

The solicitor's daughters who go to same school as client H's children, undertook a campaign of hate & bullying, to support their father, the crooked solicitor, spreading lies around the School & locality that client H's children were abused, were thieves, had criminal records, and were into drugs - all of which was plainly untrue. The solicitor's children were apparently warned several times about their conduct, and admitted they had significantly changed their behaviour at School towards client H's children, because client H had made a complaint against their father. Unsurprisingly, client H's children were eventually forced to leave school because of bullying & lies spread by the crooked lawyer's children.

On several occasions, the crooked lawyer in this case, gave the Police several 'anonymous tips' on client H .. all of which were false and were seen by the Police to have been made in an effort to harass the client. To join in the fun, the lawyer's wife also made several complaints to the Police, including what were thought to be several anonymous tips by phone, of alleged criminal activity by client H. This continued until the lawyer's wife was told in no uncertain terms she may be charged herself with supplying false information & wasting Police time unless she stopped what she was doing - in addition to her "constant following of client H's wife around town" . No charges ever resulted against client H from the false information provided to the Police by either the lawyer or other members of his family, and the Police were statisfied that all information was provided to them on a motive of revenge against client H, however, no action was taken over the false information.

Apparently, client H's wider family has also been affected because of the complaint, with the client's sister sacked from her job because the crooked lawyer befriended her boss, for the sole purpose it seems, of furthering his campaign against client H's family.

Client H's car & house have also been vandalised & broken into several times - this has only happened since he made the complaint against his lawyer to the Law Society of Scotland. The suspects, one of whom was actually caught trying to sell valuables from client H's house, are clients of the crooked lawyer and have been for years, widely known in their community for house burglary, theft, violence & drug dealing. It has been speculated by several people connected with that investigation that the lawyer asked the accused to 'go after' client H.

Client H also had a visit from the Inland Revenue. This was in 'information supplied' in connection with alleged business deals, income from which was not declared. The information of course, turned out to be false, although this was found only after a heavy audit from the Inland Revenue against client H, along with actual searches of his premises. It was ultimately admitted by an Inland Revenue official to client H, the [false] information had come from the lawyer whom client H had complained against, and that the Inland Revenue had been unaware of these events prior to them receiving information on client H. Needless to say, client H doesn't believe that, and from what I have read of the matter, neither do I.

Not to be tamed by client H's complaint, it seems the crooked lawyer in question, has also been swindling a few other clients in the area, on a few property deals, and also on Council house sales to tenants, where deliberate delays to paperwork for more money, & apparently, offers to fund purchases of Council properties have been made (in an effort to gain ownership of a few people's homes & lives). He is a big wheel in his local bar association .. a pillar of the legal community .. .and a crook. A good example then of a crooked lawyer. Maybe .. he is your lawyer ?

Certainly folks - when a crooked lawyer is caught out .. he finds plenty around him to provide as many lies & alibis as possible to get himself off the hook .. even right up to the Complaints Committee hearings & beyond. I know this myself from my own experience - and from the cases you report to me, and while some might say the terms of client H's case are extreme, what happened to client H is far more common than anyone cares to admit, and this has to be stopped.

You can see now, why regulation needs to be taken away from the legal profession. It has to be taken away from the legal profession, because lawyers can't investigate lawyers - all they do is cover up for each other .. and target clients who complain. How can a profession be allowed to police itself when all they do is use that privilege to rip off everyone in sight.

Time then for a little more independent regulation then ? Time for even conduct complaints to be taken away from the Law Society of Scotland, time for a full review of the Law Society's conduct over the years towards clients who have complained against their lawyers, ... and time for these legal thugs to be thrown out of running politics, and the Judicial & legal system in Scotland for their own benefit.