Monday, February 26, 2007

A picture is worth a thousand words - Images of fraud reveal corruption & deceit by lawyers & accountants in the Scottish Borders

It's always good to put a face to a crook - as an old retired Policeman friend of mine says ... and to be sure, a 'big wheel' in the Roxburghshire Bar Association has obliged, by sending me a picture of the infamous Norman Howitt - the accountant who was executor of my late father's estate, and not content with ruining that, he decided to steal my mothers money too.

Norman Howitt, Chartered Accountant, JRW Group Galashiels :

Norman Howitt Welch & Co Accountants Hawuck & Galashiels

To my surprise, a well known Borders lawyer has broken ranks and sent me a big fat file on Norman Howitt and his firm, Welch & Co, Accountants - where there seem to have been a few problems with clients swept under the carpet .. in true tradition Howitt style.

In fact, Howitt seems to have a few sidelines as well as his main business as an Accountant, all the worse for the poor people of the Borders sadly ... where rip off after rip off is the norm. I certainly wouldn't be trusting a man who stole a pensioner's state pension book, bank book & tried to take the rest of her assets, not to mention causing the occasional client to go bankrupt .... and I will show you some of what I mean the following images of fraud, deception and greed ...

You can see why I don't care much for Norman Howitt in this next picture, which is of my mum's pension book, which Norman Howitt stole for himself.

Mrs Cherbi pension book confiscated by Norman Howitt

Bit odd that one, isn't it ? An accountant, stealing an old age pensioner's state income book ? garnishing it for his own custody ? How many accountants keep clients pension books for themselves - and who at the Benefits Agency handed over the pension book in the first place ?

What, pray tell, could Howitt's defence be on that one ? Something like perhaps " Oh, m'lord, I desperately needed an elderly woman's pension book to keep by my bedside ..."

Bit sick, isn't it ? .. and even worse ... some bent official at the Benefits Agency in Galashiels gave Mr Howitt my mum's pension book - no strings attached ! .. then covered up the whole thing when enquiries were made as to what happened to it. Could it be a few palms were greased by Mr Howitt on this one ?

No wonder the lawyer who sent me a batch of files on Mr Howitt's antics for other poor clients, says Howitt is now known to some as "Pension Book Howitt" .. after what he did to my mum. Do you know any accountants, or indeed, other 'so-called' professionals such as lawyers & the like, who confiscate their clients pension books ? Answers in the comments section please.

Norman Howitt's greed didn't stop there though .. oh no ... it got much worse .. just look at these next images of a bank book belonging to my mother ... where, again, Norman Howitt confiscated the Bank book for himself (after setting up the account in the first place) and it was then systematically drained over a few weeks, until my very tearful & upset mum broke down in the house and told me she was being robbed blind by Howitt and a long lost relative, Susan Begley, who was about to go bankrupt & saw my mum as an easy target to con 15,000 plus as much more as she could get - all with the blessing of Norman Howitt.

Bank Book Mrs Cherbi Page 1Bank Book Mrs Cherbi Page 2Bank Book Mrs Cherbi Page 3

It gets worse of course - much worse. Not content with taking my mum's pension book and bank accounts, Norman Howitt decided to take everything she had, and create a secret trust which he would manage himself, and of course, force my mum to pay him for doing so, all done in collaboration with my mother's crooked lawyer Nigel Hall of Haddon & Turnbull Solicitors, Hawick. Here are copies of the secret trust documents which were drawn up by Norman Howitt to keep control of my mum's money for himself .... :

Trust document coverTrust document page 1Trust document page 2

You might be wondering how on earth Norman Howitt was able to do all this, and how my mum appointed him to represent her affairs. Well, as you can see from this next letter, which my mum told me she had to write out from a typed letter which was put in front of her to copy, she was forced by her niece, one Mrs Susan Begley, of Charlesfield, StBoswells, Scottish Borders, & Norman Howitt to write and sign the letter - without a witness or consultation with anyone, appointing Howitt and Welch & Co Accountants - Norman Howitt's company, as her agents. The most important condition of this signing, was, that the whole thing was to be kept secret from me !

dictated letter Mrs Cherbi was forced to sign authorising Norman Howitt as her agent 1991

Now, one might think that's a bit strange, my mum appointing Norman Howitt as her agent .. because Norman Howitt was executor of the estate of my father, who my mum had obtained a divorce from in 1989 .. so how could the executor of my late father's estate also represent my mother, who had a claim on my father's estate ? ... bit of a conflict of interest there one might say ? .. well .. yes .. but as you can see, going back to the terms of the secret trust deed which Norman Howitt set up for his own control - he was obviously hell bent on keeping every single penny of my late father's estate for himself - not allowing me, my mum or anyone to have a claim or secure any inheritance on it .. and my mum was simply used as an excuse to obtain full control over the money & estate for his own ends .. along with of course, the ends of crooked lawyer Andrew Penman, who knew every detail about this extensive con for some time ... We now come to a letter which Norman Howitt, Susan Begley, and my mother's lawyer, Nigel Hall, who saw a great benefit to himself in what Norman Howitt & Begley were proposing, forced my mum to sign, again without consultation to anyone else, and under tight condition of secrecy, instructing that any money my mum receive, be given direct to her con artist relative, Susan Begley.

dictated letter  Mrs Cherbi was forced to sign, sending 15,000 via Norman Howitt to Susan Begley  account 1990

Now, there's a problem with this letter as you can see - a fairly major problem ... THE DATE. If you co back to the handwritten letter my mum was forced to sign appointing Norman Howitt and Welchs Accountants as her agents .. you will see the date on that letter is 30.10.1991 but the typed letter which requires that my mums money be given direct to her con artist niece, Susan Begley (a close friend of Norman Howitt by now) .. has a date of "April 1990" which would make that 17 months earlier. It seems the incompetence of faking files & documents & arranging the secret theft of much of my mum's money grew even more of a strain for Norman Howitt, Susan Begley and crooked lawyer Nigel Hall, because we now come to a letter typed by Nigel Hall, dated 20th February 1992, confirming that the payment of 15,000 had been made to Susan Begley (Mr & Mrs James Begley).

Letter from crooked lawyer Nigel Hall to crooked accountant Norman Howitt

So what he have here folks, is a rather complicated embezzlement of my mum's money, by a crooked accountant, a crooked lawyer, and a long lost niece who was on the verge of bankruptcy .... and each of the players certainly seemed to enjoy their part to the hilt - they certainly profited from it extensively. Norman Howitt, of course, got off with not even a slap on the wrist from the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Scotland, because as you can see from the investigation of my complaint against crooked Howitt's activities, the Director of Legal Services for ICAS - Tom McMorrow, covered the whole thing up in his response to my complaint.

ICAS whitewash investigation of Norman Howitt page 1ICAS whitewash investigation of Norman Howitt page 2ICAS whitewash investigation of Norman Howitt page 3ICAS whitewash investigation of Norman Howitt page 4Heads of Complaint against Norman Howitt Page 1Heads of Complaint against Norman Howitt Page 2

Funnily enough, there is no mention in McMorrow's investigation of Howitt's stealing of my mum's pension book, bank book & the secret trust .. as well as a few other things, but Tom McMorrow is well used to covering up for crooked accountants, so that's no surprise at all. If you think that's bad ... remember Norman Howitt also filed false reports with Lothian & Borders Police at Wilton Hill, Hawick to try and cover up the fact he had stolen my late father's car and sold it to a friend ... which I wrote about here : Complaining against a lawyer ? You should expect a knock from the Police .. and even worse was to come ....

When my mum died in tragic circumstances, through hospital negligence, Norman Howitt, Andrew Penman, and the Bosses at the Law Society of Scotland thought they had won the lottery

.My mums death - coverage in the Daily Record  June 2000

Norman Howitt was busy celebrating with crooked lawyer Andrew Penman that the death of my mum would take such a toll on me, betting that I would also die, and that would be the end of their problems. They were of course, wrong.

So, Norman James Howitt, Chartered Accountant, is still at large, according to my legal source from the Borders, ripping off clients again ... and has worked his way into a Directorship of the well known Eildon Housing Association in the Borders, and is also a Board member of the Borders College in Galashiels . Norman Howitt is also an official with Scottish Building - where he can be contacted to recommend building companies for work.

You can all see why I don't really care much for Norman Howitt, or these crooked lawyers such as Andrew Penman, Nigel Hall, and the rest. Howitt wanted me dead. He still does, because he hates me publicising this story on what he did and got away with. He lied to the Police, he lied to his own regulatory body, ICAS, he lied to clients, and he lied to everyone who asked him what he had done. He is definitely a dangerous person, a liar, and a thief, and be warned - he will do the same to anyone, as he did to my family, and preying on the elderly, as he did with my poor mum, came very easy to him.

This is all, sadly, just another example of how a fraudster can get away with fraud ... as Norman Howitt certainly seems to done .. but its always good to put a face to a crook, as my old retired Policeman friend says .... and it's good to publish what that crook did .. just incase others fall to the same fate ... and maybe, just maybe, it might work to get rid of the way in which crooked accountants fiddle complaints against other crooked accountants ... as happened here.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Crooked Solicitors Property Centres attack single property survey on fears of losing business

Property & lawyers - a dangerous mix when it comes to ensuring you get a good deal for your purchase or sale - and Solicitors Property Centres up and down the length of Scotland have done more to corrupt the housing market than ever before - leading to crooked price fixing deals on properties, monopolistic advertising deals on property sales cutting out the competition, and deal fixing so favoured clients & even legal colleagues get the cream of properties, either for their own use or for pure speculation & profit, driving up the market & pricing out the locals of their own communities - all for personal profit.

Over the years, I have seen firsthand, some of the most complex frauds in the property market - mainly in the Scottish Borders which was my locality during the 1980s& 90s, where lawyers had a free for all in robbing clients properties for their own ends.

Many good properties which came up for sale, usually ended up in the hands of a fellow lawyer, or worse, a favored client who coincidentally owned a construction company. I saw a lot of the latter in Jedburgh, where one of the two crooked firms of lawyers in the town specialised in obtaining properties at a very cheap price for their local construction company clients, not to mention a few partners in their own firm too of course.

To make the scheme work, many of the surveyors in the Scottish Borders were involved in the operation - quite an easy thing to do in a small region like the Borders, where there is a low population, and not much movement on the property market ...and from papers I saw at the time, several surveyors actually had meetings with the lawyers to 'decide' on favorable valuations & survey details, to either put clients off properties, or reduce their value so that the client would have to settle for a lot less than the property was actually worth (a bid from a mystical buyer then purchased the property, usually after a protracted selling attempt .. and in time, that mystical buyer, turned out to be either a partner in the same legal firm, a colleague from another legal firm, or a favoured client who also owned a construction company.

I was a target of this same fiddle, where a crooked lawyer Andrew Penman of Stormonth Darling Solicitors, from Kelso had several sets of fiddled valuations done on my father's property for executry valuations at the rate of about 1 a year - and remember, crooked lawyer Drew Penman and his legal firm had my father's property in their thieving hands for 4 years.

The property was supposedly up for sale by the terms of my father's will, and was duly advertised (even in the Scotsman newspaper). Several people had the property surveyed (by the same firm which did the survey for the crooked lawyers in charge of it as an executry estate) and got basically the same survey, with a few words changed.

However it came to light there was a scam going on between the crooked lawyers, a firm of Estate agents later brought in to try and 'move' the property (in an entirely false operation, only designed to burden the estate of my dead father with more bills) and the surveyor, as every time someone tried to put a bid in, the lawyers claimed it was off the market. The interested parties then enquired to the surveyor if they knew anything (to be told the same) and I only found out about it when those prospective buyers came direct to me, informing me of what was going on - and waving their costly surveys at me, which were identical to the ones provided at huge cost each year to the crooked lawyers in charge of the executry.

Unsurprisingly, the property lay unsold from 1990 to 1998, with this scam on the go, which was continued after 1994 when Messrs Turnbull, Simpson & Sturrock WS, another crooked Borders legal firm in Jedburgh took on the 'property sale' .. same old fiddled surveys, more bills to the estate, and no intention of selling it .. and only when I brought in a third firm of lawyers, eventually being able to wrestle control of the estate from the crooked legal firms who were plundering it for their own ends, did the property move.

The Law Society of Scotland did nothing about all this as you know - hence my campaign along with many others who were similarly ripped off by crooked lawyers to bring in the Legal Profession & Legal Aid (Scotland) Bill and of course the crooked surveyors and the bent estate agent brought into the deal as a smoke screen got away with their actions too.

All this has been going on for years in the Borders, even up to the present day, where only just a few weeks ago, a family was told there was no demand for the property their deceased relative had left them .. which has now fell into the hands of a client of that same legal firm who specialises in renovating properties & selling them on a deal which has been repeated many times with the same legal firm .. almost indicating there is an 'arrangement' between these two which many have alleged for years.

Yes, .. a real crooked gang down there in the Scottish Borders if ever there was one, where lawyers, some of the estate agents and the surveyors have a racket going which would rival the mafia - so anyone dealing with property in the Borders should take note of the stage managed market where all is definitely not what it seems.

As for single surveys, I'm all for it. Taking this monster of an empire away from the likes of crooked lawyers, bent surveyors out to rip off as many as possible, is certainly a good thing - and making house purchases & sales easier for the consumer, has been long overdue.

Lets cut out some of the corruption from the property equation ... it seems to work everywhere else .. so how about making it work in Scotland .. and cut out the rip offs.

However, the crooked Solicitors Property Centres & lawyers are going to attack this one with plenty fight, just as they did against the LPLA Bill,... and I'm sure we can expect to see some more revelations on the property deals of certain msps & Scottish Executive ministers, which were inadvertently leaked by a legal firm early last year over those fears of the LPLA Bill and the prospect of independent regulation coming to the legal profession - and I wrote about Scottish Executive Ministers & politicians being involved in housing fiddles long before it appeared in the press ... as you all know.

Link to the story from the Scotsman at :

Solicitors attack 'flawed' single seller survey

* Minister-backed initiative opposed by solicitors group
* Policy aims to reduce buyer expense of buying multiple surveys
* Buyers will be reluctant to accept seller survey as sufficient, says forum

Key quote
"It is naive to expect purchasers to accept a seller's survey as their sole guide to the value of the house. Most purchasers will want to commission their own surveys after their offers have been accepted, in order to get their own independent view on condition and value." - EDINBURGH CONVEYANCERS FORUM

Story in full SINGLE seller surveys will lead to extra, needless expense for house buyers and could depress the property market, some of Scotland's most influential solicitors will warn today.

Ministers intend to launch their final plans for single seller surveys tomorrow. But the Edinburgh Conveyancers' Forum, representing 60 top property firms in Edinburgh and the Lothians, has mounted a final, determined bid to stop the proposals, which it claims are "flawed and not necessary".

Under the Scottish Executive plans, everybody selling a house from the middle of next year will have to provide a "purchase information pack". This will include a report on the energy efficiency rating of the house being offered for sale and, controversially, a full survey of the property, commissioned and paid for by the seller.

The aim of the single seller survey is to stop potential buyers from wasting hundreds of pounds on surveys for houses they fail to buy. It is also designed to stop surveyors from making thousands of pounds producing identical surveys for different customers who want to buy the same house.

Ministers ran a series of pilot projects to test the scheme two years ago, but these were not at all successful. It had been hoped that 1,200 seller surveys would be commissioned in the trials but, in seven months, there were only 74 instructed - 65 in Glasgow, five in Inverness, three in Dundee and only one in Edinburgh.

The Edinburgh Conveyancers Forum said it will use the 12-week consultation process to try to persuade ministers to drop plans for a single seller survey. The forum said most people looking for property put in bids "subject to survey" which saves them from the expense of commissioning a survey until they have won the bidding process.

The forum also warned that house buyers would be reluctant to accept a survey prepared by the seller and most would commission their own survey before concluding missives, making the seller survey system redundant.

A spokesman for the forum warned of the effects on the housing market and the expense for purchasers who would have to pay for their own survey and cover the costs of the seller's survey.

He said: "There is a real concern that stagnation of the system caused by the seller's survey and the lack of independent advice could result in a slump in property values."

And he added: "It is naive to expect purchasers to accept a seller's survey as their sole guide to the value of the house. Most purchasers will want to commission their own surveys after their offers have been accepted, in order to get their own independent view on condition and value."

But a spokeswoman for the Scottish Executive said ministers were determined to push ahead with the plan. She said the scheme had been designed to "suit the distinct circumstances of the Scottish housing market".

Friday, February 16, 2007

Reforming Scotland's Judiciary at the point of a Judge's Gun

I'm beginning to wonder when the ghost of Roland Freisler is going to be dragged out by Scotlands desperate lawyers & judges, to defend the 'self-given' right of Scotland's legal fraternity to recommend, appoint & regulate its fellow members of the Judiciary .. such is the dictatorial way & lack of honesty with which the legal establishment protect their own privileges.

When one mentions the word reform, one expects a little more than what we usually get, and this is certainly the case with the proposals for reforming Scotland's antiquated Judiciary which you can view in pdf format at : Judiciary (Scotland) Bill

Don't expect things like, open transparent selection of Sheriffs & Judges ... no we won't get anything like that .. and you can forget a decent code of conduct on how those on the Bench are to behave in Court ... that would be like going back to ancient Rome & asking the lions not to eat those thrown into the Circus Maximus.

Why no real big changes then ? - because the Judiciary don't want change, that's why.

Unsurprisingly, the Lord President is being put in charge of most of the operation - this to throw off the notion there could be any 'political interference from Ministers & the Executive in issues of regulating & selecting the Judiciary, and also, particularly the issue of regulating conduct issues, which will see a Tribunal, chaired by a Judge and composed mostly of - yes you guessed it, fellow members of the legal profession, investigate the conduct of the Judiciary in terms of complaints, behaviour & other issues. There will be one lay member on this 'Tribunal' - I understand possible candidates include Judges pets, (excepting those which have more than four legs), and the deceased.

This Lord President is going to be a busy chap then .. because he's also been put in charge of appointments to the new Scottish Legal Complaints Commission, so we will have to be on the lookout for bent staff migrating from the Law Society of Scotland to the new SLCC, posing as those 'unrelated to the legal profession' .... and from a hot tip earlier this week, I understand the Law Society's plans for infiltrating the new SLCC are well underway ... which begs the question, will the Lord President be told to let the Law Society's chosen 'independent' investigators & staff through the gates on a nod & a wink ?

A quote from the Executive in the Scotsman article states : "The public expect a certain standard of conduct from the judiciary and we believe having a lay member on the tribunal would give the public greater confidence in the judicial system,"

Well, yes we do expect a certain standard of conduct from our Judges - but we haven't had that before now, have we ? .. and we certainly aren't likely to get it while the likes of Lord McCluskey and the rest of the legal profession have their way in protecting any of their colleagues in true crooked lawyer protects crooked lawyer fashion.

The Sheriffs Association oppose all this too of course, and no wonder, since all their members are former lawyers - some with quite disgraceful regulatory histories, all covered up by the Law Society of Scotland so they can progress to the Bench and be an even more powerful spokesperson for the legal profession.

Incidentally, the Sheriffs Association threatened the Justice 1 Committee/Parliament with Court action in 2001 if they went ahead with an investigation/review of Sheriffs & the Judiciary.

We also had these same protests from the Judiciary last year - well organised by the Law Society of Scotland & the rest of the legal profession, where McCluskey & the many more Chernenko types came out to threaten the public good & protest over any reforms to the way in which the Judiciary does its business ... claiming of course, it would breach their own 'independence' from Government and also the question of if being against the Judiciary's Human Rights to fiddle complaints against their colleagues came into it ...

Why then, are the Sheriffs & Judges so hell bent on protecting their extensive legal empire ?

Well, the fight certainly parallels the problems which the Legal Profession & Legal Aid (Scotland) Bill suffered, in terms of the Law Society motivating all its allies under it seems heavy payment, to defend their right to self-regulation & fiddle complaints against crooked lawyers.

Just about everyone, from FibDem Peers to University Professors, to escapees from Robert Mugabe were brought out to intimidate the Scottish Parliament on that one - capped by the act of Douglas Mill, Chief Executive of the Law Society of Scotland, threatening the Scottish Parliament with Court action on ECHR grounds if it didn't pass certain amendments from Law Society mouthpieces in Parliament such as Bill Aitken - who wanted to all but kill off the proposed increases in fines for crooked lawyers.

One of the main weaknesses of the Judiciary, is their past - what they got up to when they were lowly lawyers ... running around the Courts, representing clients, and doing what comes naturally to Scotlands army of solicitors .. and we all know what that is ...

How would you feel, if you knew that a lawyer who had embezzled your money, was being tried in front of a Sheriff, or Judge, who himself, had amassed a long list of client complaints during the time when he was a lawyer, some of those complaints relating to embezzlement, which were of course swept aside by colleagues at the Law Society of Scotland under the corrupt system of lawyer investigates lawyer.

If you were a 'pursuer' in such a case, against a crooked lawyer as I have written of above, you would be a bit upset, wouldn't you ? perhaps, you might wonder if there was a conflict of interest ? right ? YOu might even wonder why that Sheriff had actually got his job ?

How about this ....

A Sheriff tries a rapist - or maybe sex offenders, yet has been implicated by his own wife in charges of alleged rape, which the local keystone cops refused to investigate because of the Sheriff's position & connections ?

Just think of the havoc that one could cause ... lawyers would be able to heave that Sheriff off the Bench in hearing any such case immediately .. oh but wait a second there .. it's happened .. and the lawyers did nothing .. just why was that now ? Want me to name the case ?

Yes, the issue of 'regulatory histories' has to be one of the main weaknesses of the Judiciary in terms of their service as a lawyer, but conveniently, there is no need for a disclosure of said regulatory history to the Executive prior to a Sheriff being appointed, soo one gets to know what some of those up on the bench have been up to in the past.

I suspect if someone was brave enough to do the story in the press, there might just have to be a few early retirements ...... however, given the way the Scotsman has swung in the legal debate, I think it may well be up to us bloggers & 'resistance members' to dish the dirt on some of those wigs up there which really shouldn't be running our political system - because we don't elect them.

If Lord McCluskey is so concerned with the public good, and Justice, and clearing up the sins of his colleagues ? I wonder if he would sign my petition to the Scottish Parliament ? PE1033 awaits you, Lord McCluskey in it's e-petition format .. show your true colours and support a review of the conduct of your legal profession colleagues against members of the public ... oh wait .. perhaps not .. there might just be a few lawyers among the list of cases of injustice which have been 'elevated to the Bench' ... I wonder indeed how that one is going to be answered !

Articles from the Herald newspaper & Scotsman to follow - good thing we have the Herald, everyone .. for that more impartial view on things in the legal world.

Ministers bow to pressure over judicial reforms
DOUGLAS FRASER, Scottish Political Editor February 15 2007

Ministers have bowed to pressure from lawyers over judicial reform, promising statutory protection for judges' independence.

The executive further accepts that Scotland's top judge, who is to take charge of the entire judiciary including sheriffs, should also have some say - so far unspecified - in the running of courts.

The executive has also limited the amount of interference that ministers are allowed to have in the decisions of the judicial appointments board, only getting involved in "procedural matters". But they will retain the power to appoint its members.

That remains a major concern for lawyers, who fear that any such ministerial appointments run the risk of political interference in the choice of those appointed to the bench, and also in strengthened powers to dismiss judges and sheriffs on the grounds of unfitness for office.

Their fears were one of the reasons why the Judiciary (Scotland) Bill was withdrawn from the legislative timetable. A revised version was published yesterday, for the incoming administration to take on after the May elections.

It is part of the raft of justice reforms, including High Court and summary court reforms, with a review announced this week of the civil courts as well.

The executive wants Lord Hamilton, as Lord President of the Court of Session, to take charge of a more streamlined and managed judicial administration, but had planned to keep the Scottish Courts Service in civil service hands, answerable to ministers. Since the original plans were withdrawn last autumn, the executive has moved ground on that, under pressure from Lord Hamilton, who has argued he cannot manage the judiciary while having no formal role in the Courts Service.

The proposals set out yesterday by Justice Minister Cathy Jamieson include the power of a tribunal, chaired by a judge and with at least one lay member, to investigate the case for dismissing another judge or a sheriff. The lay member is intended to increase public confidence in the judicial system. It would be for parliament to vote on the recommendation of the tribunal. That change was opposed by the Sheriffs' Association, which argued for no change in the present system, which sees two senior judges investigating a complaint.

A further change from the proposals published last year is that the plans for a statutory judges' council, to gather the collective view of those on the bench, have been dropped. Instead, Lord Hamilton is setting up a non-statutory council.

Executive plans judicial revamp

SCOTLAND'S most senior judge is to be put in overall charge of the judicial system under draft legislation published by the Executive yesterday.

The Judiciary (Scotland) Bill would also modernise the machinery for sacking judges and sheriffs on the grounds of unfitness for office.

Under the proposals, they would be investigated by a tribunal chaired by a judge and containing a lay element.

"The public expect a certain standard of conduct from the judiciary and we believe having a lay member on the tribunal would give the public greater confidence in the judicial system," said the Executive.

This tribunal would make a recommendation to ministers and an order would ultimately be made by parliament.

The change was opposed by the Sheriff's Association, which argued for no change in the present system - under which investigation is carried out not by a tribunal but by two senior judges.

Scotland's current senior judge is Lord Hamilton, the Lord President of the Court of Se ssion.

The proposals have no chance of being passed before the May election but the justice minister, Cathy Jamieson, said they provided "options for action" by a future administration.

The reforms include a statutory guarantee of judicial independence, putting the judicial appointments board on a statutory footing, and giving the Lord President a new role as head of a unified Scottish judiciary.

... and finally, if you can stomach more ... Lord McCluskey's letter in today's Scotsman.

Scottish Executive disregarding expert opinion on the draft law reform bill

I was more dismayed than surprised by the announcement that the Scottish Executive has published the draft bill to "reform" the relationship between the judiciary and the Executive.

The main proposals contained in it were published last year under the title, "Strengthening Judicial Independence". Although only 90 days were allowed for the so-called consultation, the people who know and understand the system in Scotland strongly condemned most of the changes. The grounds for condemnation, contained in the published responses, are too numerous and detailed to repeat here. I shall try to outline them.

Many of them disagreed absolutely with the pretence that the new proposals are intended to "strengthen" judicial independence.

First of all, it doesn't need strengthening; it has a centuries-old tradition of strong independence.

Secondly, does anyone really imagine that ministers honestly want to make judges more independent? On the contrary, ministers on both sides of the Border are for ever criticising judges. Ministers want to exercise pressure on judges, and seek to do so by changing the machinery for appointing, dismissing or promoting judges: that is the machinery for removing independence by threatening administrative sanctions, including dismissal.

Thirdly, the new arrangements will be expensive, time-wasting and bureaucratic.

Fourthly, they are designed to turn leading judges into administrators, acting jointly with civil servants.

Fifthly, these proposals ignore not only the views of those who have been in the courts daily for decades but also the carefully considered views of the Royal Commission that sat for several years under the chairmanship of Lord Hughes. Many other criticisms have been advanced, and are being ignored by the Executive.

The political tactic is clear. The Executive publishes the bill now, in the run-up to the elections in May; it contains the original, much-criticised, proposals but ignores the criticisms. If returned to power in May, ministers will claim they have the support of the electorate for the provisions in the bill. In truth, not one voter in a thousand will have read the proposals or seen the bill. Few would have the knowledge or experience to grasp their true character or effect. Fewer still will have heard the views of the critics of the bill. But ministers will then claim that the bill has somehow gained democratic support and will ride roughshod over the considered objections.

The late John Smith took the first devolution bill through the Commons. I was privileged to play a considerable role in the relevant debates in the House of Lords. The 1978 Act carefully preserved the judiciary and the law officers from ill-considered initiatives by the devolved administration. The 1998 act unfortunately abandoned that concept. It saddens me to see that this administration is determined to disregard the wisdom of those who have real experience of how the justice system should be administered and to act in this fashion to bring the judiciary to heel.

JOHN (LORD) McCLUSKEY, House of Lords, London

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

A time for truth, reconciliation, & settlement of injustice between the Scottish legal profession and the public

As I have previously said - and I'm sure many of you would agree with .. What good is new legislation to remedy an issue of corruption & public confidence in our legal system, without a review & settlement of the past injustice ?

As you all know, I have filed a petition at the Scottish Parliament calling for such a review to take place, and I wrote about that here : Petition PE 1033 - A call for action, review & settlement for victims of the Scottish legal profession's injustice against client complaints.

You can read my petition here : Petition 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.

Last week, the Scottish Parliament asked me to file an e-petition on this issue, to stimulate discussion, and hopefully, gain signatures to progress the petition to Parliamentary consideration and action, so last Friday, I did just that, and the e-petition is now up on the Parliament website, which you can all go and see here :

Readers, friends, fellow victims of the legal profession, and those of you who value an honest, transparent, robust legal system, dedicated to serving the interests of the public & justice, in an honorable way, I ask you to support this petition - even, if you like, make it your own, or even a collective effort, so that the past sins of the legal profession against the public, can be accounted for and put right - and that the legal profession can learn a lesson in how to treat clients properly and conduct their business in an honest, transparent manner.

It is vitally important, I believe, that, together with the new legislation of the Legal Profession & Legal Aid (Scotland) Bill, which I and many others have tirelessly campaigned for since the early 1990s, there is now, a root & branch review of the way in which the legal profession's governing bodies - the Law Society of Scotland & the Faculty of Advocates, treated members of the public who had difficulties with their lawyers, to the point of extreme prejudice & discrimination which has widely been reported over the years in the media, by consumer organisations such as the Scottish Consumer Council, & by many ordinary people just like ourselves who have struggled against the odds on the issue of reform to the legal profession.

Why do I say truth, reconciliation & settlement ? Well, that's an easy answer.

There can be no truth without reconciliation, and there can be no reconciliation without the truth - and both are needed if we are to progress out of this mess and a cery corrupt image for Scotland's legal profession & legal system. Settlement of course, is required to all those who have suffered grievously under the corrupt system of self regulation which necessitated the campaign to bring reforms such as the Legal Profession & Legal Aid (Scotland) Bill.

The legal profession, have to recognise the fact they failed in their duty to represent the interests of the client and their own members. Countless scandals over the years where the public have been robbed blind by their legal representatives, with nothing being done about it, little or no compensation being paid out to those clients who lost everything over a crooked lawyer, and members of the public being actively obstructed by the most senior ranks of the Law Society of Scotland in trying to pursue cases in the courts against errant solicitors. [insert example of Douglas Mill Memos etc]

The Scottish Executive also have to recognise they also failed in their duty to the public as they sat by, having the evidence from many reports & complaints direct from members of the public & their elected representatives, that self-regulation as mandated in law to the Law Society of Scotland & Faculty of Advocates was "unfit for purpose" - for decades.

Indeed, it's taken the Scottish Executive & the Scottish Parliament nearly eight years to do something about the problem, despite the roll of victims growing ever more & the increasingly numerous pleas for help from the public against the evils of self-regulation where lawyer investigates lawyer & ends up covering for colleagues who argue the most devilishly false claims against clients to get off the hook, all stage managed by a few select people from the insidiously corrupt Client Relations Office of the Law Society of Scotland, whose remit has been to get every crooked lawyer off the hook they can - and what a successful operation they have ran .. despite a growing number of around 5000+ complaints a year against Scotland's less than 10,000 solicitors, hardly any action is taken by the Law Society which satisfies or recompenses for the huge losses & complex financial frauds weaved by solicitors against both private & unknowing corporate clients.

I also said reconciliation" - and I meant it.

Yes, there has to be a reconciliation between the legal profession & the public, if there is to be any confidence in the legal system and the ability of its members & officials to represent the best interests of the public & justice in the courts - but such a reconciliation cannot come until there has been a truth, admission and settlement established over the sins of the past by the legal profession against clients, which are sadly grievous and aplenty.

It remains to be seen of course, if the legal profession is willing to admit its errant ways & cast aside it's deeply corrupt practices against clients & stage managing regulatory issues to get colleagues off the hook, but whatever both sides feel, in the wake of the introduction of the Legal Profession & Legal Aid Bill, there now has to be an honest effort to heal the legal system, which has been so damaged by what has gone before.

Today, in the light of Justice Minister Cathy Jamieson's own comments & the launching of the review by Lord Gill of the civil courts system in Scotland, I am asking for the Justice Minister & the Executive to openly support Petition PE1033 and the idea of a review & settlement of the past treatment by the legal profession against members of the public who have had to go through the terribly corrupt & prejudiced procedures of complaining against a crooked lawyer - which more often than not left a client even worse off than after the lawyer had ripped them off.

The Letter to Justice Minister Cathy Jamieson: (Click on the letter to visit my Flikr Photo Gallery for a larger size)

Letter to Justice Minister Cathy Jamieson MSP

I think it only fair, in the circumstances, the Executive take a role here and do something for what has happened to us all. After all, we have all written to the Executive over the years, and through our elected politicians .. seeking answers & assistance but getting the same tired excuse of ' nothing to do with us, it's the Law Society you should contact..." .. Well, the time for that is now over, and a good place to start in cleaning up this situation, would be for the Executive to take on & support the ideas contained in my petition, to benefit all of those affected by the mishandled & prejudiced self regulatory process of lawyer investigating lawyer at the Law Society of Scotland..

This healing, however, has to start with ideas from us, as we all know the legal profession would rather sweep such issues aside, and I hope all of you can support Petition PE1033, the implementation of which will see eventual benefits to both the public, and the legal profession in the long term.

Peter Cherbi.

The Herald article reporting on today's announcement of a review of the Civil Courts

Shake-up to make civil cases easier and cheaper
DOUGLAS FRASER, Scottish Political Editor February 13 2007

A WIDE-ranging review of Scotland's civil courts to make them more accessible and cheaper for the public will be led by the nation's second most senior judge, it was announced yesterday.

The remit for the inquiry, to be headed by Lord Gill, the Lord Justice Clerk, suggests it could lead to root and branch reforms including fast-track procedures and simpler ways of pursuing small claims.

A strong theme of the review will be increased use of mediation. A report on civil justice published by the Scottish Executive yesterday, said: "It makes sense to pursue policies that work towards the early resolution of disputes, preferably by negotiation between the parties involved and without resort to the courts."

It also concluded that civil courts do not currently "help to resolve disputes at the earliest possible stage, or at proportionate economic cost".

The launch of the Gill Review was welcomed by the Scottish Consumer Council (SCC) and by the Law Society of Scotland.

George Way, the convener of the society's civil procedure committee, said: "Real benefits to the consumer and the wider public are achieved by a system that enhances access to justice while maintaining the safeguards offered by properly regulated legal service providers."

We all need to have access to a system that protects our rights and enforces the law if necessary”
Cathy Jamieson

Martyn Evans, SCC director, said an advisory group set up by them in 2005 had concluded a review of civil law was needed to ensure it remains up to date and effective.

He said: "We are very pleased that ministers have recognised the need for such a review to ensure that the civil justice system fulfils the needs of the people of Scotland in the 21st century. We hope that this review will result in a more user-friendly system which will allow consumers to resolve their disputes more quickly, cheaply and easily than at present."

Civil justice has suffered from growing evidence that the public are dissatisfied, seeing it as out of date, inefficient and expensive. Much of this was brought to light in the review by the SCC, published in November 2005.

That proposed a cut in the cost of legal action, particularly where small amounts are concerned, less disruption by the priority given to criminal courts, more specialisation of courts and judges, a stronger role for courts in managing cases, fixed fees for lawyers and more powers to ensure judgments are observed.

Some aspects of civil law have recently been reformed at Holyrood, including the law of marriage and civil partnerships, child protection measures and reform of debt recovery. The review will consider a clearer separation of criminal and civil courts, and creating more specialised courts with judges having expertise in particular areas of law.

Lord Gill will also look at class action law, used in England and the US, in which several cases are considered together, reaching a judgment that can potentially be applied to thousands of others. He will consider whether judges can have greater powers to limit the amount and nature of evidence, in the face of commercial cases that drag on for years.

Justice Minister Cathy Jamieson said yesterday: "The civil law affects virtually every aspect of our daily lives; raising our families, earning a living, looking after our property and protecting our environment. Difficulties and disputes can arise in any of those areas. We all need to have access to a system that protects our rights and enforces the law if necessary".

She went on: "I am confident that this comprehensive examination will ensure that Scotland continues to have a fair, efficient and effective civil justice system for the 21st century. One that is able to support family and business relationships, protect legal rights and solve legal problems."

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Clients abandoned by a corrupt & greedy Scottish legal profession face lack of legal representation.

Clients who have made complaints to the Law Society of Scotland against their lawyer fiddling the books or ripping them off, have often faced difficulty in obtaining legal representation. The nail in the coffin for any such client, is when they try to use a lawyer to sue their crooked lawyer - a guarantee of professional discrimination in any future legal issue, be that criminal or civil.

However, there are many more instances where either a client on a civil matter, or a suspect charged with a criminal offence, will also find it difficult to get legal representation - and today's Scotsman reports on one such incident, which is certainly typical of the legal profession - all boiling down to greed, and who gets the legal aid handout, of course.

Why does this happen ? Well, it happens simply because there is little choice for a client in terms of court representation - you have to have a solicitor, or an advocate (who has to be instructed by a solicitor) or nothing.

There have of course, been laws on the books for years, which would have allowed a much wider choice of legal representation for clients who face professional prejudice & discrimination for a variety of motives, but as I have reported before, these particular laws, were never enacted by the Scottish Executive, due to lobbying by the legal profession to protect their business markets and keep the legal aid & court access for themselves;

I covered issues related to the restriction of legal representation & attempts to reveal why particular parts of law had been held back, here :

Scottish Executive fails to block FOI disclosure on records of restricted access to Courts & here: Scottish Executive thought to be blameworthy for allowing restrictive practices in legal services

Kenny MacAskill MSP (Justice) is quoted in today's Scotsman article saying : "This is an area that must be reviewed. Clearly it can cause great prejudice where an individual may not be able to obtain any representation. There must be a fair way of dividing up the fee so that justice is served and nobody loses out."

With all respect, clients having difficulty in obtaining legal representation & encountering professional prejudice, for a variety of motives, including greed of course, is a common occurrence - and we all know it.

There are thousands of constituents up and down the length of Scotland who have written to their mps, msps, the Executive, the Crown Office, and just about anyone else who will listen, over the years, about difficulties in getting lawyers - especially when the issue is to do with crooked lawyers getting off the hook from serious client complaints.

The Legal Profession & Legal Aid (Scotland) Bill, was a chance to bring independent regulation to the legal profession - which to a certain extent, it did. However, as we all saw, the Law Society had several msps make amendments, again, to protect lawyers own business markets & necks when it came to regulatory matters ... and even went as far as to threaten the Parliament with Court action should the LPLA Bill actually go through without the demanded amendments from Drumsheugh Gardens.

I covered the Court threat to the Parliament here : Law Society of Scotland threatens Court challenge against Scottish Executive over LPLA legal reform Bill
& here : Law Society of Scotland lobbies Scottish Parliament to pass anti consumer amendments on LPLA Bill threatening Court action if demands not met

However, let us not forget that the sins of the past of the legal profession against clients, still have to be atoned for, and I hope, in some way, I am trying to do that with my Petition PE1033 (pdf) which calls 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.

All of those who have been abandoned by a highly prejudiced, discriminatory & corrupt legal profession in our darkest hour, facing either the law, or the consequences of the actions of a few crooked lawyers, deserve Justice and a satisfactory resolution to their cases, and you can read more about that Petition here : Petition PE 1033 - A call for action, review & settlement for victims of the Scottish legal profession's injustice against client complaints

The state of Scotland's legal system, which is questioned time & again in the media, is down to the people who run it as a fiefdom for themselves. That is, the Law Society of Scotland, the Faculty of Advocates, their allies & sub-organisations, their insurance & financial partners, the Judiciary - who resist any change whatsoever, and of course those political allies of the legal profession who regularly obstruct any pro-consumer legislation, which would benefit everyone.

If there's going to be any improvement at all, we have to weed out the crooks, the greedy, the dishonest, and the plain liars & power mad Chiefs of the Scottish legal profession - do this, and resolve the sins of the past against countless clients, and we will certainly have an improvement, almost to the point of respectability. Do nothing, and we are stuck in a rut of rampant corruption, where the crooked become richer on the policy of widespread client abuse.

Link to today's Scotsman report on abandoned clients ...

Deserted by a flawed legal system in their darkest hour

ANDREI Peterson thought he had woken up in the middle of a Kafka-esque nightmare. Police turned up at his home in London one fine morning and arrested him for an unspecified crime.

He was taken to St Albans police station and detained overnight, before being flown by security firm Reliance from Luton airport to Glasgow, where he was driven by van to Edinburgh to face a breach of the peace charge.

Baffled as to why he would be accused of a crime alleged to have taken place in Edinburgh, when he was 500 miles away in London at the time, the 52-year-old obtained the services of a local solicitor and plead not guilty.

Four days before his trial date, the solicitor backed out of the case.

Mr Peterson claims he refused to carry on because the fixed £500 fee due to him for preparing a case destined for the sheriff court would not cover the volume of preparation, including presenting witnesses to support Mr Peterson's alibi.

The American faced a four-day race to obtain a new lawyer. Despite ringing almost every criminal defence firm in Edinburgh, no-one answered his call for help.

"They explained that they would not share the fee with the first firm," he said.

His case was adjourned numerous times before eventually proceeding to a trial in November, with Mr Peterson forced to conduct his own defence.

The sheriff delivered a verdict of not proven, acquitting him of the charge, and apologised for the massive inconvenience he suffered during the drawn-out case, including more than ten trips from London to Scotland.

"It's obviously extremely disappointing because, in essence, even if you're innocent you end up bearing the cost of very expensive proceedings.

"Had I been found guilty, the penalty I would have had to pay would have been substantially smaller compared to what it cost me to defend my innocence."

Lawyers say his situation has highlighted a serious anomaly that is undermining a central pillar of Scotland's justice system - the entitlement to professional legal advice for people accused of crimes.

The situation arises when an accused obtains a lawyer who then pulls out of the case before it reaches court. The accused is left to find a new lawyer, but most openly refuse to take on such cases.

That is because rules surrounding fixed legal aid fees, introduced in 1999, state that the second solicitors firm has to share the fee equally with the first firm, regardless of how much work they have to do.

One lawyer said: "If you're talking about a potentially complicated case and I had to split the £500 fee with a solicitor who had acted in the case, I wouldn't go near it with a barge pole."

Another said: "It just isn't worth it, both from an economic and professional point of view."

Kenny MacAskill, the SNP's justice spokesman, said: "This is an area that must be reviewed. Clearly it can cause great prejudice where an individual may not be able to obtain any representation. There must be a fair way of dividing up the fee so that justice is served and nobody loses out."

Oliver Adair, convener of the Law Society of Scotland's legal aid solicitors committee, said the problem was arising because of a "flawed" fixed fees system.

He said: "It's uncommon, but it is a flaw in the system. Lots of lawyers won't take on cases if they are only going to receive £250 for it. Before the fixed fees came in, you would be paid for the work you did, but now you might end up doing virtually all the preparation and only receive half the fee."

Another lawyer, who did not want to be named, said: "I've been told a number of people whose lawyer dropped their case have ended up representing themselves because no-one else would take on the case."

Vincent McGovern, president of the Hamilton Bar Association, said the new legal services complaints commission, which will see lawyers penalised every time a complaint is upheld, would make solicitors even less likely to take on shared fee cases.

"The failure to increase legal aid rates even in line with inflation, along with half rates when a previous solicitor is involved in the case, and the creation of a body set up solely to investigate complaints against solicitors, means we are going to see growing restrictions in access to justice for all members of the public, and particularly those engaged in the criminal courts."

Cases where a lawyer withdraws are rare, occurring, for example, when the client changes their instructions in relation to the defence or there is a conflict of interest.

But they represent another flaw in a legal aid system that experts say is restricting access to justice for thousands of people who have to fight battles in the courts.

The perceived underfunding of civil legal aid has driven many practitioners out of such work, creating "legal deserts" in towns across the country and prompting a strike threat among family lawyers.

Lawyers have also threatened to revolt over a historic failure by legal aid and Executive officials to introduce promised fixed fees for solemn work, which covers murders and other serious crimes.

A boycott of sex cases was narrowly averted last year after the then deputy justice minister, Hugh Henry, offered an interim pay rise.

The Scottish Legal Aid Board said the fixed legal aid rules had been changed to encourage lawyers to take on such cases.

Solicitors who take on transferred cases can apply for "exceptional" funding, which means they will be paid for the work they do.

Also, if the case goes to trial, the second lawyer will now receive all additional payments for acting in court.

A Scottish Executive spokesman said: "We are committed to ensuring that people receive the legal advice they need from those best placed to give it.

"Already we have increased the number of Public Defence Solicitors' Offices in Scotland to widen the range of choices available to accused persons.

"And we have made changes to legal aid regulations to ensure solicitors receive fair remuneration for work undertaken in summary criminal cases where two or more solicitors acted on behalf of the accused."
Inflexible scheme that pays scant regard to justice for the accused

MENTION of legal aid usually accompanies a story of someone who has been convicted of a serious offence, despite representation paid for by the state, writes John Scott.

There is often a media portrayal of legal aid lawyers as "fat cats". The daily reality is very different.

Most legal aid work is done in sheriff and district courts under a scheme of "fixed fees". Introduced in 1999, this was designed to reduce expenditure, with only minimal regard to justice and proper representation for those charged with sometimes serious crimes. It was presented as a "swings-and-roundabouts" system that would pay properly for some work but inadequately for other work.

The scheme was considered by the judicial committee of the Privy Council, where Lord Hope said: "A scheme which provides for various items of work and the associated outlays to be paid for in stages, for each of which a prescribed amount will be paid as a fixed fee, will not necessarily be incompatible with the Convention [of Human Rights] right to a fair trial. But the greater the inflexibility the greater is the risk that occasionally ... the scheme will lead to injustice."

One of the inflexibilities is where there has been a breakdown in the relationship between solicitor and client. This can happen for a number of reasons, for example a change of instructions in relation to the defence or a conflict of interest.

With fixed fees, the change of solicitor brings to the incoming solicitor a maximum of only £250 for all work up to the first half hour of any trial. Often that will be wholly inadequate to cover work still requiring to be done. When faced with an accused person asking for help it can be difficult to refuse but sometimes the responsibilities involved are such that it is not in the professional or business interests of the solicitor to step into a case at an advanced stage.

Despite the annual squeeze on legal aid payments, we have practitioners who continue to do all necessary work, for much of which they will be paid nothing. Without such solicitors, our system could not function.

• John Scott, a solicitor-advocate, is former chairman of the Scottish Human Rights Centre.