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However, today in the Scotsman newspaper, we have the legal profession spinning out an 'unpublished report' - which was actually conducted under their own auspices by Cyrus Tata & Professor Frank Stephens of Manchester University ..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 :

http://thescotsman.scotsman.com/scotland.cfm?id=52402007

Legal aid cash saving plan is a flop
MICHAEL HOWIE HOME AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT

* 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."

BURYING BAD NEWS?

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".

28 comments:

Anonymous said...

BRILLIANT !!!! YOURS IS BETTER THAN THE NEWSPAPERS VERSION !

MARVELLOUS TAKE DOWN OF THE LAW SOCIETYS OWN RESEARCH.

Gordon said...

Hadnt realised you were all over the web so I visited after reading your comments today in the Scotsman

Good site, you seem to know your stuff and the lawyers seem to hate you, so you get my vote !

Anonymous said...

Why are the Scotsman saying the report is unpublished but it appears in that link on the Law Society site you give ? Who is writing the newspaper stories up there - reporters or lawyers ?

Anonymous said...

Well spotted Peter.

The Law Society didn't get away with that one today then!

Anonymous said...

You seem to be a figure of hate for the lawyers, Peter.

Why is that ? Do they fear the truth ? or are they still covering up what they did to you over Penman.

rab said...

Peter, you shouldn't bad mouth the legal profession.
You might upset some of its crooked members enough to be honest for a change !

Have to agree with everyone else so far, you really took out the legal aid arguement today.Bravo!

Anonymous said...

Good thing you aren't a lawyer Peter, otherwise they would have shut you up long time ago.

Archie said...

Pete, i think the lawyers consider you some kind of WMD against their plans for domination ! go for it mate

Eric said...

I think your version is closer to reality than the Scotsman.

The research was as you point out, published by the law society last month, so why the furore and accusations it was buried by the executive.

I checked the law society website, cant find anything on this so I agree with you, a planted story against the Executive which backfires on lawyers legal aid arguements,

Talk about dog eat dog !

Peter Cherbi said...

In defence of the Scotsman's version of the Tata & Stephen's research ... well, the newspaper has to sell editions .. I don't.

I can also just about say what I like, because I have the evidence to back it up .. those in the media have to watch their step though - as what happened last year in the Herald demonstrated ...

Someone on the Scotsman forum said I was good at badmouthing lawyers.

Do I really do that ? I usually speak from either experience, or from cases brought to my attention .. and most of the articles I write contain references to items in the mainstream press ... so badmouthing is not really one of my habits. Stick to the facts, the truth, what happened ... and we all can't go wrong.

StephenB from the Scotsman forum should go visit Douglas Mill if he wants to listen to badmouthing .. but most lawyers seem to specialise in that anyway.

Critising the legal profession for it's endemic corruption is easy .. but they don't like hearing about it in public ... hence the occasional outburst towards me. I'm fine with that though ... I can take critisism, after all, what Andrew Penman and his crooked accountant pal Norman Howitt & the rest of the gang of lawyers did to my family - I can just about stand anything.

I'm still getting through all your emails on the previous articles I did on crooked lawyers using the Police & other agencies to hound clients who have made complaints against them. Please bear with me, there are quite a few cases ... I didn't realise this tactic was so common but I'm sure all the information will come in handy.

Rather than people asking me to speak or write for them, please, how about let's all help each other ?

I'd rather give you all what I can, then you can use it in your own case - that's a much better way of doing beating these injustices I think (proving the numbers at the same time) rather than centering the focus on any one thing or person..

regards to you all and I may have something coming up to help people more .. please bear with me on that one too.

Peter Cherbi said...

Archie ... never thought of it that way !

However, it was the lawyers who caused my campaign to get independent regulation in the first place.

If they are looking for someone to blame - It's Mr Andrew Penman of Stormonth Darling Solicitors, Bank of Scotland Buildings, Kelso, Scottish Borders. .. and throw in Norman Howitt of Welch's accountants, Hawick as the other respomsible party for all this mess .. and of course, the people who helped them get away with it .. Douglas Mill, Philip Yelland, James Ness, Leslie Cumming, David Cullen, Tom McMorrow, Garry Watson, the Law Society, ICAS, SLSO, Executive, several MSPs & an MP, .. to name but a few accessories to the crime

Treehugger said...

Mr Cherbi

I wont pretend to know much of Scottish politics, but from what I read on your blog, it's a big screw up and same goes for your Bar Association & its members.

After reading what you have been through and your references to other cases, I wouldnt use a Scottish lawyer if they were the only lawyers on earth.

I saw your comments on the Scotsman message board after I read your post on this legal fees case.Have you ever considered politics ? If you are as fast on the draw in actions as you are with a pen, you might be an asset to Scotland, rather than some of these liabilities walking around calling themselves lawyers.

Drumsheugh Gardens or Bust said...

seems to me most of your critics resort to badmouthing you so it proves they have no valid arguement against what you say.

keep us all informed on the legal mafia Peter.To be sure, they don't want us to know what you know.

Anonymous said...

Can the increase in legal aid payments, which are for the clients, not the solicitors, due to the massive increase in legislation from the Scottish Parliament? Look at the massive rise in the prison population as an example of the number of people needing legal representation funded by legal aid.

Anonymous said...

Lawyers encourage plenty law suits against others, nice to see them getting a taste of their own.

If Scotland has any sense, it will regulate these turds to the hilt and stop the constant rip offs.

Anonymous said...

people need to rise up and end the control these crooked lawyers have over lives of others.

Peter Cherbi said...

@anonymous at 11:57 AM

Well, it appears the rise in legal aid payments are more the responsibility of the lawyers, as the article in the Scotsman correctly points out, rather than any increase in legislation from the Scottish Parliament.

Legal aid is for the clients, not the solicitors ? The Solicitors still get the money though ... it's business, after all - and of some lawyers I know, it's their breat & butter - despite what the local Bar associations would have us believe in their recent strikes to gain increased legal aid payments.

I have to address an issue here with several posts from yesterday & today I deleted, fo the protection of the authors.

Please, people. I understand some feel strongly about how the legal profession has managed to ruin the lives of clients who only took issue with the bad service their legal representative provided.

If you feel strongly about this, please be careful what you say in writing, or in posts to this blog and be careful what you say to anyone on such things, as I'm sure you will be well aware, the likes of Douglas Mill at the Law Society are just waiting for a chance to claim goodness knows what against campaigners, complainers, etc ...

A friend once said to me, focus your anger, Peter. I did, and we now have the LPLA Bill.

If those of you who have similarly experienced fault, corruption & worse at the hands of the legal profession, join in this fight and 'spread the front', so to speak .. much more constructive action & remedy can be achieved, than trying to tackle the monsterous legal profession on it's own, because these people, as you can see, play dirty, and evil.

For people who have been through what I have went through, I am here to help as best I can.

I have & do not seek a 'fighting fund', donations, or anything at all. All I want is to fix this damage, this evil corruption of justice and our lives, which has been done to me, and so many others, in the name of protecting crooked legal thugs such as in my case, Andrew Penman & the accountant, Norman Howitt.

There are many Penmans & Howitts, up and down Scotland, but, I think, together, we can remedy and recover from the damage the legal profession have done to us .. and have certainly come a long way with the passage of the LPLA Bill through the Parliament.

Let's build on our successes, folks, and our honesty. After all, we are the victims here, it's the lawyers who are the criminals .. doing what they have done to us, in the name of representing the Law ...

Peter Cherbi said...

@ Treehugger

Politics ... well, my ideas of politics are very different from what goes on at Holyrood, Treehugger, so I don't think I would be welcome there.

I'm a bit wary of all this party whip stuff and fiddled votes, fiddled expenses & the rest .. and well, from what I know of some of the staff there, I don't know who I could trust with all the dirt I have been passed on some of them ...

Anyway, you have no idea of the hate & discrimination I have suffered at the Parliament, just because of the issues I campaign on ... I doubt I could get anywhere near the place.

@ Drumsheugh Gardens or Bust

Yes I will keep you all informed. You have the Law Society's website in your link ? If you work there, remember to leak me some info please .. email on the blog of course and all confidences respected 100%

Treehugger said...

All the more reason Scotland needs the likes of you rather than the politicians who are pushed around by special interests such as the lawyers.

As a victim of this, you have experience and a good starting point to campaign for others but you will be up against those same special interests who fund the same polital parties who are ruining Scotland for selfish reasons.

Anonymous said...

How can the Parliament be to blame for an increase in legal aid fees ?
The lawyers threaten Parliament if there is a Law going through they don't want, so nothing is going to pass which is against the interests of the lawyers, is it ?

Cherbi has already exposed that one.Time to move on as he says and beat this lot of crooks once and for all.

Alan said...

The whole strike thing over lack of legal aid was based on a lie.
What a disgrace
I agree with everyone else here.Time to throw out these crooked lawyers from controlling Scotland at our expense.

an old fart said...

Give the sectarian stuff in the Findlay story a miss, Pete.

Stick to your stories on crooked lawyers and their friends.Thats what you do best and get plenty of respect for it.

Anonymous said...

I think Kenny Macaskill's pro legal profession commments on this one may show more than a misunderstanding of how the Law Society handles the media.

Don't forget the elections in May, Peter.The legal profession are already collectively bargaining with the parties for their right to be heard, and the SNP are going to get a lot more funding this time around from lawyers intent on having their interests protected.

Mike said...

I agree with that last comment.

If it looks like the SNP are going to get in, the crooked lawyers will be spilling their money into party funds to ensure they get their way.

I wonder how the SNP would tackle that one - accept the money with open arms like all other politicians, or tell them to go to hell ? I think they would take it and you might see them getting their way again

Anonymous said...

If Findlay had said what he did in England, or anywhere else, he would have been forced out.Probably a sign of how sectarian and racist Scotland really is he and his buddies can get away with such hate speech and to think Scotland wants independence ! what a lauch and what a danger for minorities.What next chums ? concentration camps for the minorities & anyone who doesnt agree with nationalism ?

Peter Cherbi said...

#an old fart

I take it you are referring to my comments in SoS on the complaint against Donald Findlay.

Well, I am interested in it purely from a regulatory perspective, as I think most people who read this site and know my writing would guess.

Anonymous said...

You are definitely upsetting the right people Mr Cherbi.

Using the Law Society's own findings against that legal aid strike.
Stroke of genius !

Anonymous said...

Legal aid, the only lawyer who will work his butt off for a client is a lawyer on a no win no fee basis.
Being paid a percentage of the clients damages AROUND 80%, they will be as happy as pigs in the brown stuff.
Legal aid from a lawyers perspective, as Dire Straits sang, MONEY FOR NOTHIN AND YOUR KICKS FOR FREE.