Friday, June 29, 2007

Lockerbie Trial - appeal granted as SCCRC report suffers inevitable claims of whitewash

A whitewash in the Scottish justice system ? Hardly surprising considering the levels of whitewash we have been used to in the past but what could one expect from a Review Committee in dire need of reform, accountability & a greater degree of independence from the very same legal system it seeks to review & pick fault with.

With no sign yet of the SNP Executive taking up calls for a fully independent inquiry into the engrained culture of injustice in Scotland emanating from the legal system and those who serve it, the long awaited report by the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission (hardly an advertisement for independence itself) on the Lockerbie bombing case, recommends, grudgingly it seems, that the conviction of Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi be given a fresh appeal - although this will take about a year to get to court - perhaps an injhustice in itself on what many believe to be a fit up using Scots Law as a toy in global politics for not so honourable ends ..

It could be said, after reading the SCCRC summary of their report, that it giveth with one hand and taketh away with the other - the report follows in the tradition of all inquires then, nothing new on that.

No signs of fabricated evidence says the SCCRC ... but many seem to feel otherwise and we've heard this before ...

Well, we all know this never happens in Scots Law of course ... from the Edinburgh Gun Shop siege of the 80's & it's revelations on the Police & how documents were fabricated on destroyed firearms while they were actually sold to the owner of the Gunshop ... to the Shirley McKie case & many more, of course we know evidence is never fabricated .. or perhaps it is ? and if the SCCRC were ever independent enough or brave enough to come to such a conclusion there were problems with the evidence , there would then be some really serious questions on many a case of the past ...

Perhaps look at it this way - the way the not so independent SCCRC has handled this report, among others, is a good advertisement to reform it's mode of operation, membership and also have a review of it's handling of cases of the past, where accountability has as usual been somewhat lacking.

"First Minister Alex Salmond said it was "in the interests of justice" that the case go back to court for another appeal"

Well, then, get on with a review of the Justice system, Mr Salmond & Mr MacAskill - not only in the interests of justice, but also in the public interest too .. and end this engrained culture of injustice we have had to suffer for so long, just because the judiciary and the legal profession want to keep running the legal system for themselves & keep a power base of political influence over public life in Scotland, which they definitely do not deserve.

Links from the Scotsman follow :

Lockerbie: Scottish justice in the dock

THE Libyan jailed for bombing Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie was yesterday granted a fresh appeal after a review body uncovered new evidence that cast serious doubt over his conviction.

The Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission (SCCRC) announced it was referring the case against Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi back to the appeal court, seven years after he was convicted of the murder of 259 passengers and crew on board the plane, and 11 town residents.

Relatives, politicians and legal experts last night demanded a full independent inquiry into how the case was handled after the commission revealed that potentially devastating evidence was not made available to Megrahi's defence team. The commission said it had identified six grounds, among dozens submitted by Megrahi's defence team, where it believed "a miscarriage of justice may have occurred".

One of those related to the day that clothes, believed to have been wrapped around the bomb, were purchased from a shop in Malta. The court had accepted the Crown's position that the clothes were bought on 7 December 1988, when there was evidence that Megrahi had been on the island. But the commission found there was "no reasonable basis" for the judges to reach this conclusion.

Crucially, it also said new evidence not heard at the trial, together with the testimony of the shopkeeper, Tony Gauci, indicated the items were purchased before 6 December. "In other words, it indicates that the purchase took place at a time when there was no evidence at trial that the applicant was in Malta," the commission said.

The commission also concluded that the reliability of Mr Gauci's identification of Megrahi was undermined by new evidence showing that, four days before he picked the Libyan out in an identity parade, the witness saw a photograph of the accused in a magazine article linking him to the bombing.

Following a three-and-a-half year review, costing £1.1 million, the commission's chairman, the Very Reverend Dr Graham Forbes, said the SCCRC was "of the view, based upon our lengthy investigations, the new evidence we have found and other evidence which was not before the trial court, that the applicant may have suffered a miscarriage of justice".

The commission rejected 48 grounds for review, including apparently "sensitive" information provided by a senior police officer, codenamed "The Golfer", who claimed evidence had been fabricated to lay a trail to the Libyan.

The former detective sergeant was interviewed, but the commission found his statements to contain a "vast array of inconsistencies and contradiction".

The commission stressed it had not leaked any documents or findings following widespread speculation and press reports surrounding the case in recent weeks. It added: "The commission has found no basis for concluding that evidence in the case was fabricated by the police, the Crown, forensic scientists or any other representatives of official bodies or government agencies."

But Professor Robert Black, who was instrumental in bringing Megrahi and co-accused Al Amin Khalifa Fhimah to trial at a special court at Camp Zeist in the Netherlands, said the revelation that crucial evidence was not presented to the defence, coupled with apparent criticism within the commission's report of the trial judges on an important aspect of the case, threatened the integrity of Scotland's legal system.

"It's not just that new evidence casts doubt over the original verdict - it's far more serious than that." He said an independent public inquiry, led by foreign experts, was needed. "Something needs to be done to ensure the integrity of the prosecution system and the judicial system."

Tam Dalyell, the former Linlithgow MP who has long believed Megrahi, who is serving life in Greenock, is innocent, said yesterday's ruling left the Scottish justice system's reputation "in tatters". He added: "If it is self-righting, that is to the credit of the legal system. A decision on whether to have an inquiry must be taken immediately following the appeal."

Juval Aviv, who headed up Pan Am's investigation into the bombing, said: "It is of the utmost importance that a comprehensive investigation be launched into what we now know to be the blatant effort to hide the truth from the public. Perhaps through such an open and public inquiry the real truth about this cover-up will come to light... we owe it to the families of the victims."

Dr Jim Swire, whose daughter Flora died in the atrocity, said he could not "achieve closure" until he was sure who was responsible. "It's no good trying to have closure on false foundations if they are false. A house built on sand cannot stand."

He added: "If today's SCCRC decision does indeed lead to the overturning of the verdict, we hope that, at that point, an immediate, independent and fully empowered inquiry into how the judicial failure came about would be launched and relentlessly pursued."

SNP MSP Alex Neil said there needed to be "a full investigation into all the circumstances surrounding Lockerbie".

Megrahi, 55, welcomed the decision in a statement issued through his solicitor, Tony Kelly. He said: "I was never in any doubt that a truly independent review of my case would have this outcome. I reiterate today what I have been saying since I was first indicted in 1991: I was not involved in the Lockerbie bombing in any way whatsoever."

Mr Kelly said if it was possible he would apply for bail, but any decision on that was months away. He said doubt over the date the clothes were bought could prove "fatal" to the prosecution case. "If the date is held not to be 7 December, 1988, Mr Megrahi cannot stand convicted of this crime," he said.

He also said that they now had "a blank sheet" upon which to write a new set of grounds for appeal. The appeal, he said, would touch upon "every single circumstantial aspect of the case", and would include indications as to who they believed to be responsible for the bombing".

The decision to reopen the case was welcomed by many relatives of Lockerbie victims.

First Minister Alex Salmond said it was "in the interests of justice" that the case go back to court for another appeal.

Scotland's Lord Advocate, Elish Angiolini QC, said the prosecutors at the Crown Office and Procurator-Fiscal Service would respond to the decision and appeal "with the same commitment and independence as was shown during the trial and first appeal".

No sign of fabricated evidence, report finds

THE commission's report is interesting for the complaints it has rejected as much as for those it has found to carry substance.

Some 45 grounds on which it was argued the commission should send Megrahi's case back to the appeal court were rejected, and much criticism was heaped on the media for "inaccurate and incorrect" speculation about the three-and-a-half year, £1.1 million investigation.

"In particular, the commission found no basis for concluding that evidence in the case was fabricated by the police, the Crown, forensic scientists or any other representatives of official bodies or government agencies," it stated.

The commission summarised some of the rejected grounds as follows:

• A former detective sergeant, termed "the golfer", made several allegations about the conduct of the police investigation. However, the commission found "a vast array of inconsistencies and contradictions between, and sometimes within, his statements" and considered some of his claims to be implausible when looked at alongside other evidence.

"The commission has serious misgivings as to the credibility and reliability of this witness and was not prepared to accept his allegations."

• Underlying a complaint about the discovery of a piece of circuit board from the bomb's timer had been the allegation that the evidence had been fabricated to implicate Libya. "The commission undertook extensive inquiries, but found nothing to support the allegation."

• Some convictions had been overturned in England, after doubt was cast on the evidence of forensic scientist Allan Feraday, a witness in the Lockerbie trial. "The commission is satisfied that the evidence on those occasions was different in nature from that given at (Megrahi's) trial."

• Many claims had been made about Megrahi's legal team at his trial and his first appeal. The commission "did not consider the allegations to be well-founded".

• Another former policeman was said to have found a "CIA badge" in the crash debris, but had been told such items were not to be recorded as evidence.

"The commission's inquiries established nothing that might support the claims."

• Had items found at the crash site, belonging to the passenger Major Charles McKee, been "spirited away" during "unofficial CIA involvement"?

The commission found nothing to say anyone other than the Scottish police had come into contact with Major McKee's suitcase, or that it had been cut open to allow access to the contents.

Since the bombing, suspicions have been raised about Khaled Jaafar, who flew from Frankfurt to London and joined Pan Am flight 103.

"The results of the commission's inquiries provide no support for the claim that Mr Jaafar was involved, wittingly or unwittingly, in the bombing."

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Legal Ombudsman criticises legal profession for persistent failure to deal with complaints as clients call for independent review

The final report from the outgoing Scottish Legal Services Ombudsman, Jane Irvine, informs the legal profession they must take action before responsibility for complaints monitoring passes to the new Legal Services Complaints Commission, on issues such as using the question of the legitimacy of using different tests - ie criminal and legal - for different types of complaint where moving towards a civil model, with earlier recognition that practice and conduct must be improved is preferred.

Have the legal profession ever listened to the SLSO in the past ? Well, not much , and many or most of the SLSO's recommendations over the years have been thrown out or dismissed by the Law Society of Scotland as being not applicable or 'incompetent in terms of law (referring to the rather prejudiced laws which have allowed the Law Society to self regulate the legal profession into oblivion & see an annual complaints rate of 5000 plus a year against less than 10,000 lawyers).

In short, the Law Society of Scotland have known best what's good for itself and the legal profession - so it hasn't needed anyone to tell it otherwise. A fine demonstration indeed of a self regulator used to do as it pleases without the need for accountability to anyone.

Examining cases of the past, the Law Society have even went back on implementing many of the Ombudsman's previous recommendations they said they would implement, and in some cases, actually sought and gained changes to at least one previous Ombudsman's reports against the way investigations were handled, in the most highly prejudiced situations where at Complaints hearings before Committees, clients who filed complaints were denied representation while the lawyers complained against had senior Law Society Council members ordering Complaints Committees to find their rather crooked solicitor colleagues not guilty ... and of course, Complaints Committees did as they were told, despite the presence of even lay members who were of no use for the public interest...

If only perhaps the Legal Services Ombudsman had been given strong powers of oversight & enforcement in the Law Reform (Misc Provisions) Act 1990 - the Act which brought the SLSO's office into being, rather than only have been allowed to make non binding recommendations, then perhaps more would have been done and the Law Society of Scotland's self regulation of complaints over the years wouldn't have generated the lowest standards possible for Scotland's legal profession, which has seen an annual rate of some 5000 plus complaints against it's less than 10,000 solicitors for more than a decade now.

However, it is heartening to see that the previous Legal Services Ombudsman, Linda Costello Baker, and now Jane Irvine have taken more of a robust approach to criticising the legal profession for it's regulatory woes and insidiously corrupt treatment of client complains, rather than play along with the Law Society which the likes of Garry S Watson, the Legal Services Ombudsman of the 1990's, who failed the Scottish public miserably as the official charged with oversight of how the Law Society regulated complaints against it's members.

Indeed, Mr Watson was so enamored with the Law Society of Scotland, he regularly wrote reports praising self regulation of the legal profession and said there could be no other model for the way lawyers regulated complaints against lawyers ! .. good thing Mr Watson is no longer in office then .. but he did migrate his services to the equally corrupt self regulatory world of Scottish accountants, having a position on Complaints Committees of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Scotland and also ending up as the first (temporary) Standards Adviser to the Scottish Parliament - where as we all know, corruption in addressing the behaviour of msps and constituents complaints has been about as bad as the way the Law Society regulates solicitors.

Perhaps many of the cases which the Legal Services Ombudsman was not able to have returned to the Law Society or be properly addressed could be attended to by the new Scottish Legal Complaints Commission, or a properly formed independent commission to look into the injustice of the legal profession against client complaints of the past ... as in here: Petition PE1033

However, there is a wider issue here, and that of course is the concept of self regulation itself - a concept which is abused by every profession which is allowed to self regulate itself, depriving the public of any measure of transparency, accountability or honesty in dealing with complaints and poor service.

Taking Self regulation of the legal profession as an example of how professions abuse this right to investigate complaints against their colleagues, it is now a well documented fact that the Law Society of Scotland has produced so much public dissatisfaction with lawyers over the years, new legislation in the form of the Legal Profession & Legal Aid (Scotland) Act 2007 has been introduced to bring much needed reforms, after long & difficult campaigns by those victims who have suffered & continue to suffer injustice at the hands of the legal profession, combined with help from consumer bodies such as the Scottish Consumer Council.

The poor example the Law Society of Scotland have set as a self regulator of their own profession, is true for all the other self regulators, being a good advertisement for an end to self regulation across the board of the professions.

Many of the issues of corrupt self regulation have seen colleague cover up for colleague, and so-called 'lay members' who get themselves on a multitude of similar regulatory committees acting in anything but the public interest which they are supposedly planted on these various self regulating profession's Complaints Committees.

Perhaps a good test of our new Scottish Executive would be whether they will end this insidious culture of self preservation at all costs generated by these professions who are allowed to self regulate themselves totally against the public interest and get by, surviving on the fact they have no credible oversight or accountability to anyone but themselves which is a convenience akin to allowing criminals to judge each other rather than bother sending them to Court.

Why for instance, would anyone argue that a client, who had been through the maze of complaining against a crooked lawyer, or for another example, a crooked accountant, should seek legal representation & advice if they wish to remedy any losses or negligence caused by the failure of the lawyer, accountant, or whichever profession was involved, given the well known facts by all that legal representation is almost impossible to obtain when trying to get a lawyer to sue a lawyer - or even a lawyer to sue an accountant (when many senior members of the legal profession migrate themselves onto such bodies as ICAS, the accountants regulator) and take a hand in giving the same treatment of injustice to clients of accountants which clients of solicitors have experienced for decades at the hands of the Law Society.

A task for the Mr Salmond's new Executive should be to end this corrupt pot of self regulator's power over the consumer, right across the board of the professions, and not to bend to threats or lobbying from those same professions to leave them as they are to go on saving their colleagues from serious client complaints, and even covering up issues involving criminal offences from complaints investigations.

Articles from the Herald & Scotsman to follow :

Scottish legal services watchdog urges profession to improve service
DAVID BLACK June 25 2007

SCOTLAND'S outgoing legal services watchdog has urged the professional bodies to improve their focus on the consumer.

Jane Irvine, the Scottish Legal Services Ombudsman, believes the Law Society of Scotland and Faculty of Advocates must take action before responsibility for complaints monitoring passes to the new Legal Services Complaints Commission.

Commenting on today's publication of her annual report, she said: "There are a number of points highlighted on which both bodies could act now to improve the service they provide to consumers. (They) must address the question of the legitimacy of using different tests - ie criminal and legal - for different types of complaint. I question if the criminal test should be used within a system concerned with regulating professionals and believe we must move towards a civil model, with earlier recognition that practice and conduct must be improved.

As part of this shift, The adoption of mediation as an alternative means of resolving disputes would be an enormously beneficial step forward for the profession and for the public."

Irvine (pictured) also challenged the profession to address the way it deals with complaints about service and fees. "Complaints often arise where fees are taken from client accounts without notice," she added. "In addition, many complaints challenge not just service quality but also the fees charged.

In effect, the consumer is saying they did not receive the quality of service they paid for, yet the profession persists with a system which differentiates the two. I don't think this can be justified."

Report criticises solicitors' 'weak' code of conduct


THE legal profession is still failing to grasp the need for a greater consumer focus and is hampered by a "weak" code of conduct for solicitors, the Scottish Legal Services Ombudsman has warned. In her annual report published today, Jane Irvine urges the profession to "take the initiative" and act now to improve services, before changes are enforced by the new Scottish Legal Complaints Commission, which is due to open next year.

Irvine, whose own post will be abolished when the new commission becomes the single "gateway" for handling service complaints about both solicitors and advocates, suggests a raft of measures that she argues could not only improve services for consumers but also "the standing of the legal profession".

The independent watchdog wants the Law Society of Scotland to draw up "clear, simple and flexible" standards for the profession, to ensure consumers have greater clarity about the standard of service they can expect from lawyers. The society has already set up a working group to set new standards, drawing on its existing code of conduct and guidelines for the profession.

Yet Irvine criticises the existing code as "weakened by lengthy definitions and exclusions" and its practice rules and guidelines as a "patchwork... sprinkled with confusing exclusions".

Neither provides a clear enough framework of quality standards, she says, with the result that "lawyers are regulated against low standards", despite the fact individual firms may set their own higher benchmarks.

Irvine has also challenged the profession to address the issue of the relationship between standards of service and fees charged to clients. Currently, the Law Society will not investigate complaints that relate only to the level of fee charged by a firm.

But Irvine argues that consumers see a clear link between the level of fee charged and the standard of service delivered, and her report highlights the society's "reluctance to consider that a complaint about fees may actually be a complaint about service".

"Legal service complaints often arise where fees are taken from client accounts without notice," she says. "In addition many complaints challenge not just service quality, but also fees charged.

"In effect the consumer is saying that they did not receive the quality of service they paid for, yet the profession persists with a system that differentiates the two.

"I don't think this can be justified, and believe the profession has to recognise the reality of what complaints are actually about."

Irvine also questions whether a "criminal" burden of proof of reasonable doubt should apply during investigation of complaints. The criminal test is currently used by the Faculty of Advocates when investigating all complaints and by the society when looking into misconduct complaints.

She suggests that a civil test would be more appropriate for the regulation of legal professionals. "I particularly believe the professions must address the question of the legitimacy of using different tests - criminal and civil - for different types of complaint," she says.

"I question if the criminal test should be used within a system concerned with regulating professionals and believe we must move towards a civil model, with earlier recognition that practice and conduct must be improved, allied with appropriate outcomes that suit all parties."

Speaking to The Scotsman, Irvine suggested substituting a civil test for a criminal test might make it easier to intervene at an earlier stage, when solicitors start experiencing problems, and before the situation reaches a crisis point.

"If we use a criminal test, it is a very high burden and it means we don't do anything until it's got to a very bad problem," she says. "For example, if you have a solicitor who is stressed and maybe has problems at home and therefore his work goes to pot, if you can get someone early on, you can start bringing someone back into the fold, rather than wait until he has done some awful thing."

In the year 2006-7, the Law Society received 3,623 complaints and 392 of these resulted in a complaint to the ombudsman. Due to a backlog, a total of 529 complaints were managed and 451 were investigated.

A third of complainers said they were dissatisfied with law society processes, 24 per cent were unhappy with the way evidence was used or interpreted and 11 per cent complained of bias.

While acknowledging some areas of good practice by the society - including an "increased willingness to try to resolve difficult issues by dialogue" - Irvine states in her report that the reasons for complaints are consistent with previous years. In an accompanying discussion paper presented to ministers, she concludes: "Overall, the constant theme of letters to me has remained lack of trust in the Law Society of Scotland. Clients simply do not believe an institutional 'members' body can deal with consumer complaints fairly."

Irvine highlights a raft of areas that need to be improved or are causing difficulty for consumers. These include limited resources, that she believes are "preventing resolution of complaints by explanation or conciliation" and "widely differing" standards of investigation reports.

She also criticises confusion over what inadequate professional service actually means, what she terms the society's "ready acceptance" of destruction of files by firms under investigation following a complaint, and the society's "cumbersome decision-making forums".

While the ombudsman's office will be abolished after the commission is set up, Irvine says she remains committed to maintaining the pressure on the profession to drive up standards during the transition.

John MacKinnon, the Law Society's new president, has already said his "priority" for the coming year will be to set standards before the commission opens for business. A working group has been set up and is primed to make recommendations at the society's annual general meeting in March.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Scottish law back in the dock as Lockerbie appeal ruling expected and inquiry to follow

Scarcely a day goes by now it seems, where there isn't a scandal of some description involving the Scottish legal system .. could it be that someone is trying to tell us something those of us not in the legal profession or judiciary actually know ? that Justice in Scotland is only for a select few, and Injustice, rather than Justice, is the order of the day for many.

Indeed, it seems the Scottish Justice system has been fashioned into some contemptible weapon of unimaginable proportions, to be used by those who serve its ends or use it as a business model for profit against the fee paying client and Scottish public.

There are however, cases of injustice now returning to haunt Scots Law .. and one of those of course is the infamous Trial of the Pan Am Flight 103 bombing over Lockerbie in Scotland, which to many, including myself, seems to have been a political fit up to blame one nation for another's involvement in that despicable terrorist crime which occurred over South Scotland in 1987 seeing the loss of 270 innocent lives.

The SCCRC, the Scottish Criminal Complaints Review Commission, tasked with reviewing cases of injustice in Criminal law, has completed it's report on the trial of Abdel Basset Ali al-Megrahi, which took place at Camp Zeist in the Netherlands, under a cloak of Scots Law touted as being transparent & accountable at the time .. seemingly anything but as many have now come to realise though through the staggering levels of unresolved cases of injustice now plaguing the Scottish legal system - and awaiting concrete & effective action by our shiny new SNP led Scottish Executive which some expect to deliver, while others expect to fall on their own sword .. time will only tell on that one, and actions speak louder than words in most cases, as we all know ...

Next week, the SCCRC report will be published, and many expect the content of this report - which may well have had a few adjustments made to it, due to the recent change of leadership at the Scottish Executive, will show injustice in the trial & conviction of the Lockerbie bomber.

If this is the case, it may well assist the calls for a general inquiry with wide ranging remit into injustice in the Scottish legal system, given the actual trial at Camp Zeist had been hailed as one of the premier events of Scottish Law for many years .. something which may now turn out to be a big fraud, meddled in by political interests from more than one country to the point that justice itself was twisted beyond recognition in what has become something many of those who take issue with Scots Law and it's practices have become used to.

On the subject of those who serve the law & use it as a business model for profit, a few stories have surfaced in the media this week showing yet again how glorious our legal profession really is ... in one instance, Lord Osborne, a High Court judge decided to have a go at solicitor Spencer Kennedy of Balfour and Manson, one of Edinburgh's best-known law firms for wasting court time where, quoting the Herald newspaper, the solicitor, Mr Kennedy canceled a three-day hearing before a panel of three judges just two days before they were due to sit, leaving Lord Osborne, who was to chair the panel,with an empty courtroom and two judges with nothing to do.

Great work on the part of Mr Kennedy then .. although hasn't this sort of thing happened before, dare I say .. regularly ? .. but usually the client gets billed for it too ...

Referring to the Herald newspaper article once more, Lord Osborne was brave enough to critisise the legal profession in these actions, in a formally published opinion, said:

"We feel compelled to express our dismay at the waste of scarce public resources which has occurred in this case.

"In our view, those who are professionally involved in litigation in this court have an indisputable obligation to take reasonable care to avoid situations where court time will be wasted.

"Only by acceptance of the obligation to keep the Keeper of Rolls informed of relevant developments can the system of early disposal be operated effectively, without waste and in a way that is fair to litigants in general."

It's a pity some members of the judiciary wouldn't come out and tackle the way the Law Society has sunk the legal profession into the depths of public contempt for the decades it has caused injustice upon injustice towards clients who have dared complain against the poor, or even crooked services of many a crooked lawyer .. such comment & criticism from the bench would be most welcome, rather than a few open letters from the judiciary's ex members taking aim at our Parliament & Government over the prospect of any reform to centuries old practices which seem to have ... culminated in a sea of injustice and cases such as the Lockerbie trial, the McKie fingerprint scandal .. and indeed all our cases of injustice left to fester at the very feet of madam justice herself.

Going back to complaints against lawyers, as a deep rooted issue of injustice in Scotland, the cause of much suffering which the legal profession simply refuses to recognise or deal with, I see that lawyers still put forward such arguments as "the vast majority of complaints stem from fees, which the clients are made well aware of, and the outcome of cases"

An entirely false argument of course - Complaints are generally across a wide spectrum of services provided by the legal profession, as both lawyers & clients alike know full well - wills & probate, mis sold mortgages, investment work, case preparation & handling, you name it, there is a complaint to match it - Could anyone call 5000 complaints a year for over 10 years against less than 10,000 lawyers a positive reflection on the Scottish legal profession ?

How about another old chestnut - the one about "Everyone can make mistakes, not just lawyers - there are a lot of other crooked professionals out there too, including accountants, plumbers ..etc ..."

Yes, very true, there are most certainly a lot of other crooked professionals out there, and accountants are next on the list or equal to lawyers in their corrupt practices of self regulation .. but what separates the honest from the corrupt is who admits to making their mistakes and who has the decency to put them right. The legal profession, and most others, particularly those professions who enjoy the corrupt luxury of self regulation, are not putting their mistakes right in any way shape or form - particularly as far as lawyers go, that is simply against the policy of the nearly 17 year old regime of the Client Relations Office & leadership of the Law Society of Scotland which prefers client confrontation at all costs and any expense in preference to dealing properly with complaints.

Rather than bemoan & belittle the fee paying clients, or target & vilify those who take issue with the well known less-than-honest practices of the Law Society of Scotland which seems to have a vow to keep the very worst of the legal profession in practicing certificates, solicitors could vote themselves a new leadership of the profession & a new client friendly policy which would deal swiftly effectively, economically compassionately, and above all, honestly, with client complaints, perhaps reducing those thousands of hours of extra, unnecessary work - which are really down to the profession's policy of confrontation with clients rather than effective complaints resolution, or is it that lawyers prefer it that way ? confrontation at all costs ? Solicitors are certainly paying for that policy in subscriptions to the Law Society and the Master Insurance Policy...

Does the legal profession's view of complaining clients not look something more like : client given poor service or ruined, client complains, client gets nowhere, clients & their families should be targeted, victimised & hounded for the rest of their lives because they took issue with the almightily legal profession ? - this sadly is more the reality than what the legal profession would have us believe and that is why this injustice in Scotland, along with all the other injustice, must end.

Over to you Mr MacAskill and Mr Salmond at the Scottish Executive ... it's within your power to end injustice - use the power and serve the country, not those who have thrived & profited on injustice & corruption against the Scottish public for so long.

A selection of articles from the Herald & Scotsman newspapers follow :

Watchdog to rule on Lockerbie bomber conviction
DOUGLAS FRASER, Scottish Political Editor June 22 2007

The conviction of the Lockerbie bomber reaches a crunch point next week when a detailed review of the evidence is published that could force a second appeal or even a retrial.

The Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission (SCCRC) is to announce on Thursday whether it believes the conviction was unsafe or whether a miscarriage of justice took place, following speculation that it has serious concerns about the use of evidence.

The case could put immense pressure on the Scottish justice system, for which the conviction of Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al Megrahi was a massive test of global interest. It was tried in a special court without a jury at Camp Zeist in the Netherlands, which was designated Scottish territory for the purpose.

The Libyan intelligence officer was convicted in 2001 of the murder of 270 people after the bombing of PanAm flight 103 over Lockerbie on December 21, 1988. Eleven people were killed on the ground by falling wreckage and all 259 passengers and crew in the Boeing 747 died.

The SCCRC has the option either to refuse Megrahi's application or to refer it to the Court of Appeal in Edinburgh, where his conviction will be looked at again.

That would be the second appeal, after senior High Court judges dismissed a previous one in 2002 on a technical legal point. The report runs to 800 pages and will not be made public. A summary will, however, be published.

It was reported last Sunday that Megrahi's conviction will be declared unsafe and there will be a recommendation for the Appeal Court to reconsider the case.

Campaigners on Lockerbie have long had doubts about the case against Megrahi. Others have pointed the finger of blame instead at a Palestinian group backed by Iran.

The case of Megrahi, 55, sparked a political storm earlier this month between Tony Blair and Scotland's First Minister, Alex Salmond. Even before the SCCRC finding, Mr Salmond accused the Prime Minister of striking a deal with Libya that could see Megrahi transferred to a Libyan jail.

Tripoli's main motivation for the talks, it has been claimed, was to agree an exchange of specific prisoners: if Megrahi was allowed to serve the remainder of his life sentence in Libya then it would free five Bulgarian nurses and a Palestinian doctor sentenced to death for deliberately infecting children with HIV at Benghazi Hospital.

If Megrahi is cleared, the Libyans may claim back US$2.7bn (£1.4bn) in compensation paid to families of the Lockerbie victims - a bill that could fall to the Scottish Executive as being responsible for the justice system.

Dr Jim Swire, whose daughter Flora was killed in the bombing, said at the weekend: "I entered the court at Zeist at the beginning of the trial believing that this guy was responsible for killing my daughter. Having listened to the evidence, I came away convinced that Megrahi was a scapegoat and should never have been convicted."

Judge attacks solicitor for waste of time
DAVID LEASK June 22 2007

A High Court judge yesterday made a rare and blistering attack on a top solicitor for wasting court time.

Lord Osborne effectively "named and shamed" Spencer Kennedy of Balfour and Manson, one of Edinburgh's best-known law firms.

The solicitor cancelled a three-day hearing before a panel of three judges just two days before they were due to sit.

Lord Osborne, who was to chair the panel, was left with an empty courtroom and two judges with nothing to do because two days is far too short notice to arrange a different hearing.

Lord Osborne, in a formally published opinion, said: "We feel compelled to express our dismay at the waste of scarce public resources which has occurred in this case.

"In our view, those who are professionally involved in litigation in this court have an indisputable obligation to take reasonable care to avoid situations where court time will be wasted.

"Only by acceptance of the obligation to keep the Keeper of Rolls informed of relevant developments can the system of early disposal be operated effectively, without waste and in a way that is fair to litigants in general."

‘We feel compelled to express our dismay at the waste of resources’

It can take months or even years to get a case through the Court of Session, where the case, an appeal, was due to be heard.

Litigants often complain of expensive delays, and the Scottish Courts Service is desperate to reduce wasted time.

A day in court can cost thousands of pounds. Judges alone are understood to earn around £170,000 a year and are in high demand.

It is extremely unusual for them to make public their displeasure with solicitors. Lord Osborne, who is one of the country's most distinguished judges, sat on the Lockerbie appeal panel.

He said he had been prompted to make public his view by the waste of "scarce resources".

Mr Kennedy is representing a dissolved firm of solicitors, Sutherland and Company, which is being sued by a client for negligence.

The action had been allowed to go ahead back in June 2005 by another High Court judge, Lord Dawson, who has since died.

Mr Kennedy sought to appeal Lord Dawson's decision and had initially asked for a single day of court time to do so.

That was granted for March 22 of this year but Mr Kennedy then asked for a three-day hearing, which was set for May 30.

It was that appeal hearing that Mr Kennedy pulled out of two days before it was due to be called.

Now the case, brought by client Marylin McDonald-Grant, will go to a full eight-day proof before the Court of Session.

Lord Dawson, a former solicitor-general, was no stranger to controversy. Several of his decisions as a judge were later overturned before he died this year after years of poor health.

Mr Kennedy, a solicitor advocate, was on holiday yesterday and unavailable for comment. His company, Balfour and Manson, would not comment either.

However, Mr Kennedy told the court that the waste of its time was "regretted".

Developer wins £400,000 from law firm over property offer

A SCOTTISH law firm was yesterday ordered to pay more than £400,000 in compensation after it sent a client's offer for a property to the wrong fax number.

Alex Watts, 33, missed out on a substantial Georgian property in Edinburgh's New Town because his lawyers faxed his offer to the wrong place. His had been the highest bid by some distance, and would have been accepted.

A judge heard that the mistake by Bell & Scott WS had been "black-and-white negligence", and he ruled that Mr Watts - a property developer - was entitled to the profit he would have made by converting the building, the former Caledonian Club in Abercromby Place, into flats.

The Court of Session was told that Mr Watts ran a property development company concentrating on the New Town. He had undertaken projects in Nelson Street, Heriot Row and Abercromby Place. In mid-2002, his attention turned to the Caledonian Club.

The judge, Colin MacAulay, QC, said: "It was clear to me that he had had a successful track record in the property development business. He was plainly someone who possessed business acumen. He was in the process of moving up the scale of values for development."

Mr Watts put in a written offer, through Bell & Scott, of £1.05 million for the club. The selling agents, DM Hall, fixed a closing date of noon, 21 June. That morning, Mr Watts instructed the offer to be increased to £1.1 million. The selling agents agreed to accept a faxed offer if it was followed by a "proper" offer.

The court heard that, by mistake, the fax was sent to Mr Watts's fax number and not to that of DM Hall.

"At that time, Mr Watts was on holiday and unaware of the error. The faxed offer was therefore not received by DM Hall prior to the stipulated closing time," said the judge.

"Although seven other offers for the premises were received, Mr Watts's offer of £1.1 million would have been the highest offer by about £43,000. The premises were sold to Plum Developments, the highest bidder who had made a timeous offer. As a matter of principle, the club refused to consider Mr Watts's late offer."

The court heard that Caroline Docherty, a partner in Bell & Scott, was Mr Watts's solicitor at the time, and she bore direct responsibility for the error.

Mr Watts had planned to convert the building into flats, aiming at the upper end of the property market. He had expected the project to raise £2.37 million, and his lawyers claimed that his profit would have been £614,066..

Mr MacAulay said the mistake had been described by Mr Watts's QC as "black-and-white negligence."

Mr MacAulay considered that the method used by Mr Watts to calculate the lost profit was "too speculative." His timetable was likely to have been delayed and other factors, such as going over budget and sales prices being lower than anticipated, could also have impacted on the figure.

He preferred the approach urged by Bell & Scott, of looking at the profitability of previous developments by Mr Watts. That gave a figure of £412,380, which he awarded to Mr Watts.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Legal profession targets Scottish Executive to protect its business, demanding right of audience & death to public interest reforms

What's in the new minister's legal in-tray ? asks the Scotsman newspaper today .. and one would expect from that a whole host of issues relating to public interest and the well known general failure of Scottish Law to tackle anything transparently these days ... however, there's none of that as the Law edition of the Scotsman uses the article to lobby against change or even the very idea of reforms to the monopolistic business model of the Law Society of Scotland ... dictating who has access to justice and who does not.

The first 'question' - you may suppose, comes possibly from a lawyer, asking, or perhaps better put .. demanding clarification, that Kenny MacAskill, the new Justice Minister, "is a friend of the legal profession in Scotland and will give proper weight to representations from the Law Society of Scotland, and lawyers generally on matters of interest to the profession such as the Purchaser's Information Pack, and any further proposed reforms of the profession, and does he agree it is now time to give the profession a break from the incessant interference it has endured from Holyrood since its inception? ".

Instead of just being a friend to the legal profession, how about the idea that Kenny MacAskill might be a friend of everyone in Scotland ?

I have of course in mind, the rest of the country other than just the lawyers, who have an interest in the Justice system, including those victims who have suffered at the hands of the very same legal profession which now seeks ... or as things seem to be heading, demands Mr MacAskill's loyalty and attention on issues it sees fit - including of course, the issue of regulation of the legal profession, which everyone knows is the most cherished prize of Scottish lawyers - to regulate themselves and cover up complaint after complaint against crooked lawyers....

"giving proper weight to representations from the Law Society of Scotland, and lawyers generally on matters of interest to the profession" .. now, what does that entail I hear you ask ?

Well, if perhaps Mr MacAskill doesn't give proper weight to representations from the Law Society of Scotland and their merry band of crooks, perhaps they will stick him on a rendition flight to Drumsheugh Gardens for some electrical treatment ? or even worse, face another Court challenge threat from Douglas Mill, the Law Society Chief Executive who famously last year threatened the Executive and Parliament over the passage of the Legal Profession & Legal Aid (Scotland) Act 2007

"does he agree it is now time to give the profession a break from the incessant interference it has endured from Holyrood since its inception?..."

What interference from Holyrood exactly now is that ? ah yes .. perhaps 'Donald' is referring to David Mcletchie's Council of the Law Society of Scotland Bill - which was actually welcomed by David Preston, the then President of the Law Society in 2003 ,who said in the Law Society's own Press Release : "This will allow the Law Society of Scotland to modernise and improve its procedures and will implement some of the recommendations made in the Justice 1 Committee's report on regulation of the Scottish Legal profession published last year"

Perhaps not then ... as that Bill was actually steamrollered through the Scottish Parliament and thrust down the Executive's throat by the Law Society itself, along with support from several MSPs. The main sponsor of the "Council of the Law Society of Scotland Bill" was David McLetchie MSP (former Tory leader caught swindling the taxpayer over his Taxi expenses and certain conflicts of interest, and the Bill was also supported by Roseanna Cunningham, MSP, Donald Gorrie, MSP and Pauline McNeill, MSP ... perhaps MSPs to look out for in terms of their support of the legal profession then ?

Obvoiusly then 'Donald' from Glasgow is referring to the Legal Profession & Legal Aid (Scotland) Act 2007 ... which of course seeks to deprive Scotland's crooked legal profession from self regulating complaints against it's own members .. a right they have enjoyed for far too long which the Law Society has used to keep armies of crooked lawyers in practice while clients get ripped off,, victimised ,intimidated and ruined

Ex-Judge Lord McCluskey also joins in the questions to Mr MacAskill, this time signing his Lordship as being Edinburgh based, instead of at the House of Lords in Westminster as he did earlier in the year in the Scotsman in a a letter condemning the previous Scottish Executive for "disregarding expert opinion on the draft law reform bill" .. which roughly translated, comes out as 'disregarding dictates from the Judiciary on any changes which make it more accountable or transparent'

Lord McCluskey is of course no stranger to effectively making policy dictates to the Government, which today we are treated to as :

"Will the minister be sure to take the time to read the Report of the Royal Commission on the Legal Profession in Scotland (Chairman Lord Hughes) before taking any further decisions about changes in relation to the structures and institutions of the legal profession?

Lord McCluskey, Edinburgh "

Why not just come out and say it, your Lordship ... the Judiciary doesn't want any change to the way it operates - accountable only to itself and of course, the Judiciary does not want any change to the way lawyers make their money or how the Law Society of Scotland has incessantly fiddled complaints against crooked lawyers, because of course, Judges are lawyers themselves, members of the same Law Society of Scotland .. some of whom go on to be advocates, then sit on the bench, keeping their dark regulatory histories secret from the rest of us so they can advance to the ultimate positions unchecked ...

Are we back to Reforming Scotland's Judiciary at the point of a Judge's Gun again ? Lord McCluskey ? Does nothing change in the legal profession, even though the people of Scotland have voted for change ?

It's time to bring change to the way our legal profession has run the justice system and public access to it for all these decades - and if the new Justice Minister wants some ideas on issues to look at, how about subjects like these :

How about tackling the issue of lay member recruitment for all these self regulatory bodies such as the Law Society, where the same people staff regulatory committees of many different professions & public bodies, making it an industry for themselves while consumers suffer constant injustice as lay members sit by & do nothing

How about reviewing & compensating the victims of injustice by the legal profession itself ? there are ideas, such as my own Petition PE1033 to review the legal profession's sins of the past and properly review, investigate and compensate those ruined by crooked lawyers who have been allowed to go on practicing as lawyers, even ruin a few more clients in the process

Also, there is the issue of small claims, and why the legal profession has lobbied to keep it low for so long - to make sure the public have to use a lawyer to recover anything more than £750 .. and of course, spend a lot more than £750 using a lawyer to do it.

There needs to be a new culture of oversight, accountability and transparency at bodies such as the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Committee, where serious injustice to people in the Courts does not always get a fair hearing.

The Crown Office, that well known ogre of incompetence, cover up & injustice also awaits significant reform as it seems to excel in issues of corruption itself , covering up cases involving it's own staff, fellow members of the legal profession, and victimising anyone who takes issue with its actings ...

How about an inquiry into why Sections 25-29 of the Law Reform (Misc Provisions) Act 1990 which were designed to open up access to justice and the legal services market, were held back by lobbying from the Law Society of Scotland & Faculty of Advocates because of course opening up access to legal services would affect the profits of lawyers & advocates .. and of course, that such an inquiry would look into why previous Scottish Executives acquiesced to the wishes of the legal profession in this restriction of public access to legal services which even former Lord Advocate Lord Hardie seemingly agreed with denying increased competition & public access to legal markets

Instead of just having ASBOs - the now well known Anti Social Behaviour Order, how about instituting an ACBO - an Anti Corruption Behaviour Order to tackle the likes of crooked lawyers and crooked businessmen out to fleece the public & taxpayer at every turn ?

It would be so nice to have Lord McCluskey's support, whether he bases himself in London or Edinburgh, on some of these issues instead of just badgering or fingering the Executive on issues of 'don't reform the legal profession or judiciary, or else' ... after all, shouldn't an ex-judge speak for all of us not just his colleagues on the bench or in the legal profession, in the interests of justice, fairness & our interests as the Scottish public, of course ?

Where lies the victims of injustice in your words of wisdom to our elected Government, Lord McCluskey ?

Here is the article from today's Scotsman:

What's in the new minister's legal in-tray?

KENNY MACASKILL, the new cabinet secretary for justice, answers your questions.

WILL the minister confirm that, unlike the impression given by the previous regime, he is a friend of the legal profession in Scotland and will give proper weight to representations from the Law Society of Scotland, and lawyers generally, on matters of interest to the profession such as the Purchaser's Information Pack, and any further proposed reforms of the profession, and does he agree it is now time to give the profession a break from the incessant interference it has endured from Holyrood since its inception?

Donald, Glasgow

MACASKILL: Law is a vital part of Scottish history, identity and life. We live in a changing world and the legal profession must change with it. But I want to work with the profession to allow it to better serve Scotland as well as its members.

At present the government is in the process of implementing the Legal Profession and Legal Aid (Scotland) Act. Establishing the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission and getting it off to the best possible start is the priority. We are not proposing any further regulatory reform at the moment.

However, I also think it is wrong to see the profession as a single homogenous group. It is diverse and I need to take account of the range of views within it. I know there are different ideas about whether we should introduce alternative business structures. I want to listen seriously to everyone concerned before we make decisions.

With regard to the Purchaser's Information Pack, the legal profession has been involved throughout the development of the proposals. We are keen to work with all of the stakeholders as we take the proposals forward. The previous administration's intention was to introduce the Single Survey before the end of 2008. Ministers will consider the way forward for these proposals in light of the responses received from the consultation.

What do you see as the future for the antisocial behaviour legislation? Do you consider it is working effectively to eradicate neighbourhood crime in Scotland and, if not, what change do you think is necessary for it and the criminal justice system to attempt to achieve that objective?

Jane Dewar, Highlands

MACASKILL: First of all, I want to make clear that this government intends to build on many of the reforms of the last administration. The Antisocial Behaviour Act has now been in force for three years and in some areas is making a real difference to the quality of people's lives across Scotland. Many neighbourhoods have got some much-needed respite from antisocial actions as a result of closure orders, and penalty notices for noise nuisance have given thousands some well-deserved peace.

However, we also need to tackle the factors that cause so much of the low-level crime and antisocial behaviour that blight communities - particularly the three "D"s of drink, drugs, and deprivation. And we need to provide more positive things for young people to do, promoting good social behaviour as well as punishing the bad.

That's why now is an appropriate time to take a fresh look at the antisocial behaviour strategy to see where it can be strengthened and improved - and how we can get greater community involvement. Local agencies are responsible for promoting community safety and tackling antisocial behaviour at the local level. We plan to review how we fund them and monitor their performance to ensure continuing progress is made.

Hand in hand with that, we will also strengthen frontline policing to ensure neighbourhood crime is dealt with through the criminal justice system, wherever appropriate. The results of ongoing evaluations of antisocial behaviour orders and dispersal powers will feed into this wider review of our community safety strategy, which in turn will complement the wider programme of summary justice reform. In all of this, our aim will be to instil a culture of personal responsibility at the heart of safe, strong communities.

Will the minister be sure to take the time to read the Report of the Royal Commission on the Legal Profession in Scotland (Chairman Lord Hughes) before taking any further decisions about changes in relation to the structures and institutions of the legal profession?

Lord McCluskey, Edinburgh

MACASKILL: This government does not have a monopoly on good ideas. So we will look for fresh thinking and new approaches from across the country - as well as the widest range of research.

I will want to consider a range of sources, such as the report by the Research Working Group on the Legal Services Market in Scotland. The Hughes Commission dates back to 1980, and in some respects it has been overtaken by events. An example would be the extension of rights of audience to solicitor-advocates. The Royal Commission then recommended maintaining the status quo, but solicitor-advocates are now well-established and doing an excellent job. The Faculty of Advocates has shown it can cope with the extra competition. That does not mean there is not still plenty of material in the Royal Commission's report, which remains as relevant as ever.

The most important thing will be to have a proper informed debate about the future of our institutions and how best they can contribute to the success of the country. I will seek to listen to and work with individuals such as Lord McCluskey.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Levels of Lay Membership on new Scottish Legal Complaints Commission questioned as lawyers begin attempt to plant allies in positions

Even during this formation stage of the new Scottish Legal Complaints Commission, the likes of the Law Society of Scotland and the rest of the Scottish legal profession are certainly up to the mark on their dirty tricks campaign, this time, by 'putting the word out' to get friendly appointments to the "Lay Member" positions of the new independent SLCC, which will take the place of the Law Society of Scotland to independently manage, investigate & oversee the complaints process against crooked lawyers as mandated in the new Legal Profession & Legal Aid (Scotland) Act 2007

Allegations are circulating that ex-Committee members of the Law Society of Scotland have been 'encouraged' to put in applications to join the new SLCC as "Lay Members" .. and with the Law Society not obliged to disclose any records of individuals who have served in such a capacity .. or even be related to those who have .. it will be a tricky procedure to weed out the 'planted' friends of the legal profession who make it to the "Lay Member" positions on the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission.

There are further 'anomalies' which have crept into the "Lay Member" appointments process ... just take a look at this rather strange development ...

Compare the following, which comes from the report of the Justice 2 Committee itself at the Scottish Parliament, proposing a "majority of SLCC will be lay persons appointed by Scottish Ministers unlike the comparator professions examined where professionals are in the majority "

It is proposed that a majority of SLCC will be lay persons appointed by Scottish Ministers, unlike the comparator professions examined where professionals are in the majority."

with this, which comes from the recruitment advertisement from the Scottish Executive itself :

Scottish Ministers require to appoint a Chairing Member and eight other Members, four of whom must be lawyers, to the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission (SLCC) in consultation with the Lord President of the Court of Session.

Something very strange going on here then ... because a Committee stuffed by four lawyers, doesn't really meet up to the spirit of "a majority of lay persons", as mentioned in the Justice 2 Committee report ... where proposals seem to have been for two lawyer members rather than the now four ... where did the other two lawyer members come from ? .. lobbying from the legal profession ?

In fact, this ratio of lay members to lawyers, albeit as proposed in the new SLCC Committee, having a Chairing member who is not a lawyer, but paradoxically whose appointment is agreed to by the oh-so-impartial Lord President ... is getting near to the set up of the Complaints Committee framework of the Law Society of Scotland .. which itself has allowed swathes of crooked lawyers to go unpunished, ripping off everyone in sight and yet being allowed to continue in practice, giving some publicised examples from 5000 complaints a year against crooked lawyers in Scotland such as the following :

Law Society of Scotland rejects complaint over estate ruined by huge legal fees & Scottish Legal Awards - Lawyer Lawyer on the wall, who is the most crooked of us all ? & Lawyer caught in media sting bribing clients to defraud Legal Aid Board - the tip of an iceberg .. to name but a few ...

There is of course, a problem with the Lay Member circuit - with many people on this cirtuit making it an industry for themselves to get placed on as many Committees as possible, and I covered these very dangerous revelations here :

Restrictions required on the interests of lay members in the world of self regulation Restrictions required on the interests of lay members in the world of self regulation

and as luck would have it, a demonstration of just how many of the various profession's corrupt self regulators are linked, the Herald newspaper revealed that ICAS, the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Scotland, were stuffing their own Committees with lawyers on the somewhat unbelievable argument of 'ensuring public interest'

I covered the revelations on the Committee placement tactics of the accountancy profession here : Fears over corrupt self regulation as accountants regulator draft in ex Law Society President and solicitor as Public Interest members.

Another excerpt from the Justice 2 Committee report tells us :

"While one can trust OCPAS to ensure that due process is observed, there is a prior issue as to how lay members emerge in the first place, newspaper advertisements seeming to be the usual method. The task is one of encouraging a wide and diverse range of people who do not have particular axes to grind. "

What & who exactly is that 'wide and diverse range of people who do not have particular axes to grind" ?

I hope we aren't going to get friends or relatives of those who serve on other Committees as so called "Lay Members" .. .or indeed, ex lay members of other regulatory Committees or those who have served the legal profession placed as lay members on the new SLCC .. .because if so, what justice will that bring ? .. none.

I think it's time the new Scottish Executive looked at the framework for these Committees and particularly the appointments of lay members, who you can see, certainly seem to proliferate themselves onto as many positions as possible - amazingly without the issues of conflict of interest ever cropping up - where in any other walk of life, it certainly would.

How about having actual victims of injustice on these Committees as lay members - or at least as oversight members, to ensure the voice of the public and the very victims themselves is heard over those of people who would rather appease their friends in the professions and pick up a few awards & decorations for doing so over the years.

I say - reduce the lawyer membership to two .. we don't need four bullying lawyers lobbying for their colleagues in the legal profession on the Committee of the new independent Scottish Legal Complaints Commission, just as they have done so for all those years at the Law Society of Scotland ...

Here is the recruiting advertisement for the lay member positions of the new Scottish Legal Complaints Commission.

If you have had bad experience at the hands of the Law Society of Scotland and crooked lawyers, maybe you should put in an application to join ! ... or at least write to the new Scottish Executive asking that the process be a lot more transparent than it seems to be at the moment.


Scottish Ministers require to appoint a Chairing Member and eight other Members, four of whom must be lawyers, to the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission (SLCC) in consultation with the Lord President of the Court of Session.

The SLCC will be established by the Legal Profession and Legal Aid (Scotland) Act 2007. The main functions of the Commission are to resolve complaints alleging inadequate professional service or negligence, to refer complaints which allege professional misconduct or unsatisfactory professional conduct to the relevant professional body and to promote good practice in complaints handling.

Scottish Ministers expect the Commission to be operational in late 2008 and the appointment of the Commission members will be made in Autumn 2007.

Remuneration: £298 per day for the Chairing Member.

£202 per day for the position of Member.

Travel and subsistence costs and reasonable receipted childcare and dependent carer expenses directly related to the Commission's work will be reimbursed. Any pension provision will be a matter for the Commission itself to determine with the approval of the Scottish Ministers.

Time commitment: Initially 4-6 days a month for the Chairing Member while the Commission is being established. This may reduce when the Commission is in full operation. Other Members are likely to serve up to 4 days a month.

Location of meetings: Normally at the Commission, the location of which will be decided by Scottish Ministers.

Chairing Member

The Chairing Member will be appointed for 5 years and can not be a lawyer. Under statute, appointments are not renewable on expiry. The Scottish Ministers seek to appoint a Chairing Member who has a successful track record in leading the strategic development of an organisation (in the pubic, private or voluntary sectors), and would particularly welcome applicants with skills and knowledge of setting up and leading a new organisation or leading an established organisation through a substantial change programme. Applicants for Chairing Member should also meet the criteria set out below for non-lawyer Members and the general criteria.

Lawyer Members

Two Lawyer Members will be appointed for 4 years and two for 6 years in order to ensure that new appointments are staggered. Under statute, appointments are not renewable on expiry.

The Lawyer Members must be either a solicitor, advocate or conveyancing or executry practitioner or have acquired rights to conduct litigation or a right of audience by virtue of section 27 of the Law Reform (Miscellaneous Provisions) (Scotland) Act 1990. Three Lawyer Members must have practised in one of these categories, or any combination of them. One Lawyer Member must fall into the specified categories but need not have actively practised. In selecting Members, particularly but not exclusively Lawyer Members, the Scottish Ministers are to have regard to the desirability of including:

* Persons who have experience of, and have shown capacity in, the practice and provision of legal education and training;
* Persons who have experience of, and have shown capacity in
* (a) civil or criminal proceedings;
* (b) court procedures and practice generally;
* (c) the practice and provision of other legal services;
* (d) the monitoring of legal services.

Non-lawyer Members

Two non-lawyer Members will be appointed for 4 years and two for 6 years in order to ensure that new appointments are staggered. Under statute, appointments are not renewable on expiry.

There are no specific qualifications for appointment of non-lawyer Members. In appointing Members, the Scottish Ministers are to have regard to the desirability of including:

* Persons who have experience of and have shown capacity in
* (a) consumer affairs or complaints handling;
* (b) the provision of advice to members of the public on or in relation to such matters.

General criteria

In addition, the Scottish Ministers will have regard to the desirability of including Members, whether lawyers or not, who together have sufficient knowledge at senior level of corporate governance. The Scottish Ministers will seek to select a balanced Commission, offering collectively, skills and knowledge in human resources, finance and information technology, change management, diversity issues, and customer service.

For an information pack and application form please see the contact details below. Application packs are available in alternative formats on request. You should provide your name, address and the vacancy that you are interested in.

Public Appointments, PO Box 26867, Glasgow G4 7BG

Telephone: 0870 240 1818

Fax: 0870 600 4111


SMS text message: 0796 013 3181

Closing date for applications is 6th July 2007.

Appointments to the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission are regulated by the Office of the Commissioner for Public Appointments in Scotland. All applicants must complete and submit the application form contained in the application pack in order for it to be considered for appointment. Please note that application forms sent electronically will be in Word format and, if returning electronically, will only be accepted in that format.

The Scottish Executive is committed to equality of opportunity and encouraging a diverse range of applicants for public appointments, reflecting the best of contemporary Scotland and to the principle of public appointments on merit with independent assessment, openness and transparency of process. For more information about public appointments and other vacancies visit the Scottish Executive's website at

oh .. and if to emphasise the Law Society of Scotland and Scottish Solicitors Discipline Tribunal are still letting crooked lawyers off the hook and able to continue making money from unsuspecting clients .. here's another recent article from the Sunday Mail :

LAWYER GUILTY : Watchdogs say he sold homes for drug accused But he escapes with £5k fine and dodges ban
By Russell Findlay

A LAWYER has been rapped for helping an alleged drug-dealer sell three homes before they could be seized by Customs in a dirty money probe.

Legal watchdogs found Robert Thomas guilty of professional misconduct for disposing of property owned by Michael Beacom.

But the dodgy brief escaped with a £5000 fine and still works as a solicitor.

A damning finding by the Scottish Solicitors' Discipline Tribunal states: "The tribunal considered that a solicitor in these circumstances must have thought that what he was being asked to do was attempting to assist someone in the commission of a crime.

"The tribunal considered that this was a grave offence in that the respondent proceeded either with the knowledge of what he was doing or with recklessness.

"For a solicitor to attempt to assist a client to commit a criminal offence is extremely reprehensible conduct."

Beacom was jailed for six years over a cannabis haul seized by Customs, though the conviction was later quashed.

Before his trial, Customs investigators visited Thomas, 58, with a court order demanding access to his client's files.

The order was designed to prevent solicitors disposing of a criminal's assets which could be seized.

But when Customs returned to Thomas' old firm, Robert Thomas &Caplan, they found a flat in Argyle Street, Glasgow, had been sold.

And a cottage near Helensburgh and a share of a flat in Glasgow's west end had been transferred to Beacom's brother.

The lawyer's actions led to him facing trial on money laundering charges four years ago.

During the trial, Bruce Ritchie, director of professional practice for the Law Society, said: "He should not have acted in the details of any property disposition for this client.

"My professional opinion would have been not to have touched this case. He should have known better."

Sheriff Rita Rae ruled there was not enough evidence and threw the case out.

Law Society chiefs launched their own probe but despite finding Thomas guilty of helping dispose of criminal assets, the tribunal did not have him struck off.

Instead he was fined £5000 and ordered to have his worked supervised by his employers until 2011.

Thomas, now working for Campbell Sievewright & Co in Glasgow, last night refused to comment.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Obsession for control divides legal profession over opening up of legal services monopoly in Scotland

Over the past few weeks I have covered the important issue of access to legal services in Scotland - which is currently the well controlled monopoly of solicitors & advocates.

Put simply, if you need access to legal services, only a lawyer or advocate will do, and if they don't want to take your case, that's it - no access to justice for you - so, forget about using a lawyer to sue a lawyer, or take any controversial case anywhere near a court because if it's not in the legal profession's interest to take the case on, you are left out in the cold - along with many of the Scottish public who now can't get access to legal services.

The wise thing to do is open up the legal services market, as I have said in articles such as : Consumers call for OFT Inquiry to investigate restriction of legal services in Scotland & It's time for Injustice to end, but will the SNP end Injustice in Scotland ?

The established policy of the Law Society of Scotland, and the rest of the legal profession over the decades, has been to fight any possibility that anyone, other than lawyers or advocates, could offer legal services to the public - and thus, control the public's access to justice.

That much was proved by the FOI battle between Kevin Dunion & the Scottish Executive over the release of documents which revealed the extent of how the legal profession went about protecting it's monopolistic business model on legal services - to the point that even a serving Lord Advocate (Lord Hardie) had recommended repeal of legislation (which had been held back for years by legal profession lobbying) to open up the legal services market, which is surely in the public interest.

Now, recently, as I indicated above, I reported on the Which? "Super Complaint" against the legal profession in Scotland over this very issue, and the Law Society of Scotland's response was quite clearly hostile, rejecting any 'interference' from the London based OFT regulator, and officials at Drumsheugh Gardens, base of the Law Society's Headquarters, swiftly mounted a public relations campaign against any idea we needed more choice in the Scottish legal services market.

I reported the Law Society's attitude on this issue here :

Law Society of Scotland reject Which? 'interference' & "super complaint" to OFT against lawyers monopoly on access to justice

The spin campaign by the Scottish legal profession has however, taken a new turn with the infamous legal firm of Turcan Connell - known to many as a legal firm used by ruthless landlords in the pursuit & intimidation of tenants across Scotland, wading into the "Tesco Law" argument with a letter from Douglas Connell to Law Society Chief Executive Douglas Mill, calling for "a more creative approach". Letters of a similar nature were also sent to the new Justice Minister Kenny MacAskill ...

To quote the Herald article :

"In letters sent yesterday to the Law Society's chief executive Douglas Mill and to the new Cabinet Secretary for Justice, Kenny MacAskill, a former solicitor, Connell argues that "many small towns would benefit from solicitors, accountants, surveyors and approved FSA regulated practitioners being able to join together to take advantage of the economies of scale - this would be a Scottish solution to Scottish issues".

He says changes to the practice rules could allow lawyers to share fees with non-lawyers and to create firms which would allow a minority of non-lawyer partners, all approved by the Law Society of Scotland."

Douglas Connell seems, on the face of it, to be going against Law Society policy on this issue, but is he really ? or, as many in the legal world have already said this week, is this just more of an organised softening of the Scottish legal profession's attitude towards the likes of "Tesco Law", more properly known as the Clementi reforms, which in England & Wales, have opened up the legal services market somewhat more than before.

The Law Society of Scotland surely know it's inevitable their long held and long protected monopoly on legal services will fall ... and so it needs to find a new role for itself in the face of increased competition to its own members in the legal services market .. but will long held beliefs in the Law Society of omnipotence & control freakery be able to give way to the public interest ?

Of course, let us remember, while the Clementi reforms in England & Wales should be implemented - there has to be an effective independent regulatory for those people & companies which will enter the legal services market, because relying on the likes of accountants self regulators & the rest, will prove as disastrous as the kind of corrupt self regulation we have seen for years at the hands of the Law Society of Scotland.

The new regulator which is surely required to keep an eye on those who will enter the legal services market after Clementi is adopted, must NOT be the Law Society of Scotland - they have proved themselves over the decades to be untrustworthy in regulation of the legal profession.

There must be a fully independent regulator with strong powers of enforcement to police those who will be able to handle the public's legal work, to ensure standards are met and adhered to. Let's not let the Law Society try to find a new niche for themselves, because they certainly don't deserve it after the way they have treated clients of crooked lawyers for all these years - and lets be careful of believing who is really promoting change ...

Of course, Mr Connell, you could always change the Law Society of Scotland's policy on access to legal services a more democratic way, by having a vote in the membership, or is the legal profession, or perhaps more accurately, the Law Society's leaders not democratic enough to allow it's members to vote on leadership & policy issues these days ? Scotland managed it, why not the lawyers ?

With one foul swoop, Mr Connell, you and the rest of Scotland's 10,000 solicitors could vote in a new administration at Drumsheugh Gardens and do away with 17 years of dictatorial control, intimidation of clients & solicitors, corrupt complaints procedures & fiddled investigations, and an infamous anti client policy which has brought about 5000 complaints a year, and total client dissatisfaction with Scottish solicitors and their work - or, is it perhaps the Scottish legal profession prefers it this way ?

Here is the full article from the Herald newspaper on this 'apparent' divide in the legal profession's view on how to open up legal services in Scotland, and just to remind you all of at least one issue of 'self regulation' over a serious complaint regarding Messrs Turcan Connell, a news item from the Herald earlier this year is also quoted for your interest ...

Connell renews call for ‘Tesco law’ for Scotland
SIMON BAIN June 07 2007

The Scottish legal profession's apparent lone voice in favour of the easing of restrictive practices has called for a "Scottish solution" to the threat of "Tesco law" crossing the Border.

Douglas Connell, co-founder of private client advisers Turcan Connell which operate a multi-disciplinary practice across law, accountancy and finance but which can only admit lawyers as partners, has called on the Law Society of Scotland to adopt "a more creative approach".

In letters sent yesterday to the Law Society's chief executive Douglas Mill and to the new Cabinet Secretary for Justice, Kenny MacAskill, a former solicitor, Connell argues that "many small towns would benefit from solicitors, accountants, surveyors and approved FSA regulated practitioners being able to join together to take advantage of the economies of scale - this would be a Scottish solution to Scottish issues".

He says changes to the practice rules could allow lawyers to share fees with non-lawyers and to create firms which would allow a minority of non-lawyer partners, all approved by the Law Society of Scotland.

Scotland would not have to follow the Clementi proposals in England and Wales, which float a whole range of alternative structures, including multi-disciplinary partnerships and externally-owned legal service firms as envisaged by Tesco.

Connell warns: "Cross-border mergers have already taken place but that trend may see more substantive moves south of the border if recognition of new forms of business structure become available to practitioners in England and Wales but not in Scotland. It would be galling to see Scottish firms having to export themselves to England in order to avail themselves of an English solution to a problem which could be resolved here in Scotland."

Turcan Connell this week opened a London office and has a large number of English qualified staff.

and now the article from the Herald newspaper on Turcan Connell's attidude over clients ... having many wonder what else is in the Turcan Connell closet ....

Law Society of Scotland rejects complaint over estate ruined by huge legal fees

Legal bill wipes out net assets
IAIN MORSE and SIMON BAIN January 02 2007

A leading Edinburgh law firm which charged fees of more than £16,000 to administer an estate with net assets of under £14,000 has had a complaint against it to the Law Society of Scotland rejected.

The complaint was made by widow Dr Kate Forrest, a lecturer in Russian in Edinburgh, against Turcan Connell, the multi-disciplinary firm which prides itself on its "family office".

Forrest complained that the firm had told her only that it would charge £200 an hour, had entered into unnecessary work, and had failed to give her estimates, or issue itemised bills, despite repeated requests. She claims the firm then gave an undertaking to halt the charges, in a meeting with witnesses at the firm's office, but this did not materialise.

When the Law Society examined the complaint, it ruled that the meeting could not be taken into account as the firm had no record of it, and it accepted an explanation by managing partner Douglas Connell that the complaint had been based entirely on a "misunderstanding".

The £16,000 in charges had the effect of more than wiping out any assets in the estate, which had gross assets of £69,574 but debts of £55,731.

The Law Society reported that the firm had "apologised for the oversight" in billing, and that "simple oversight … should not be defined as inadequate professional service".

In November, Jane Irvine, the Scottish Legal Services Ombudsman, issued a rare public rebuke to the Law Society over its handling of complaints, urging it to "recognise that the consumer age has dawned".

The Scottish Executive is poised to scrap self-regulation by the profession, policed by the ombudsman, and introduce a Scottish Legal Complaints Commission, which the society is fiercely resisting.

The number of complaints received by the Law Society of Scotland has shot up from 2402 during 2002 to 4849 last year. The 12-page annual report of the society's Client Relations Office records 1057 cases in which no action was taken at all last year, while in 108 cases a solicitor's conduct was found unsatisfactory.

The current procedure starts with a reference to the law firm against which the complaint is made, and internal procedures to be followed by firms are laid down by the society. Only after these are exhausted can complainants proceed to the Law Society itself. And then, perhaps surprisingly, complainants can be charged by the law firm for their work in submitting the relevant evidence to the society.

The evidence regarded as acceptable by the society may be limited only to the files presented by the law firm, though it can order the production of "missing"documents - such as the record of a meeting. If a complaint is rejected by the society, the complainants have recourse to the courts. But this means finding a law firm prepared to act against another firm - which as The Herald has reported can be difficult in Edinburgh - at a minimum cost of several thousand pounds, a considerable disincentive to taking legal action.

Kate Forrest says she is left with no choice but to go to court if she wishes to challenge an outstanding fee in excess of £8000. She says: "For me this would be expensive and risky. I am not rich and they know this very well."

The Law Society of Scotland said: "A complaint about a fee could be service or conduct as it could result from a breach of a rule if there was no letter of engagement, or IPS (inadequate professional service) if there was insufficient communication about a fee with a client.

"If a client feels a fee is too much then it can be referred to the Auditor of Court who can decide what a reasonable fee might be. Firms may also charge for providing a bill which itemises each letter, phone call, etc, especially if it is for a large volume of work.

"If someone takes a court action against a solicitor then the society is not involved in that process."

Turcan Connell said: "We care deeply about ensuring that we give every client the best possible service. Our trust and tax experts are among the most proficient in Scotland, and we always strive to protect our clients' interests and minimise their costs as far as possible.

"Dr Forrest is no longer a client. We resolutely protect the privacy of all current and former clients, and would not make any public comment on an individual's personal circumstances or relationship with us."