Monday, January 14, 2008

Call for MacAskill appointments 'sleaze investigation' as revelations show Legal Complaints Commission member was subject of Police inquiry

Late tonight, calls were being made to First Minister Alex Salmond for a fully independent investigation into the appointments process of the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission, after it was revealed that former Lothian & Borders Police Chief Superintendent Douglas Watson, who was recently selected & appointed by Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill to the new independent commission which is intended to handle complaints against solicitors in Scotland, was the subject of a serious Police inquiry into appointments and conduct related matters as far back as 2002.

Insiders at the Scottish Government last night insisted they knew nothing about the "internal inquiry" into Mr Watson at Lothian & Borders Police which revolved around an alleged affair with a work colleague and claims of undue promotions.

From the Scotsman :

"Chief Superintendent Douglas Watson is facing an internal inquiry after he walked out on his wife to be with an officer he hand-picked for a specialist squad.

Allison Strachan was personally selected by Watson to be part of a 22-strong team which is carrying out a complete review of the way Lothian and Borders force operates.

Strachan, who had twice failed to win promotion, was plucked from an administration job at police headquarters and promoted to Inspector but senior officers are angry after it was revealed Watson has been having an affair with her."

Last week, Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill who personally appointed Mr Watson, proudly announced that "Douglas Watson has been a police officer for 30 years and is currently an adult protection development officer for Edinburgh, Lothian and Borders Executive Group. Mr Watson has previously been a chairing member of the Child Protection Committee, Scottish Borders Council and Edinburgh Drug and Alcohol Action Team. He is currently a Committee member for the Law Society of Scotland and is a session inspector for the Social Work Inspection Agency."

Amazingly, the Scottish Government received some 93 applications for the lay membership positions on the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission, but had to pick former Policeman Mr Watson, who is already a lay member on Law Society of Scotland Committees, and former Tayside Deputy Chief Constable Ian Gordon, who himself also has a law degree.

It seems Kenny MacAskill had to go out of his way to find currently serving lay members of Law Society Committees to slide them into the new Scottish Legal Complaints Commission ... throwing out any notion there could be a degree of independence from the legal profession in the new 'independent' complaints handling regime for Scottish solicitors.

A Scottish Government spokesman said earlier today :

‘Appointments to all public bodies are made based on how well candidates meet the criteria set’.

Apparently the "criteria set" involved being asked one question - whether they had any conflict of interest or not .... no disclosures of the past, nothing ... and sources at the Justice Department continue to insist the Law Society of Scotland have interfered too much in matters surrounding the formation of the new 'independent' complaints commission.

Mr Watson, who was former head of CID, was handpicked by Sir Paddy Tomkins, the current Chief Inspector of Constabulary, to head up a multi million pound project, which was to change the way Edinburgh is policed and create a single 1,000-officer super-division.

The cost of the project was put at over £1 million, including wages, computers, travel and cars and Watson was expected to be appointed commander of the new division at the time ...

No excuse for the Justice Department not knowing anything about Mr Watson's past then ... or that may imply they aren't doing their job ...

Jane Irvine, the current Scottish Legal Services Ombudsman and the incoming Chairman of the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission, said last night she knew nothing of this Police inquiry into Mr Watson, insisting the appointments process was down to the minister concerned - that being Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill.

Jane Irvine said earlier today : "I know nothing about this. The appointment process was carried out by Ministers."

Last night Mrs Irvine was asked if she may look into this matter when she takes over the position of Chairman of the new Scottish Legal Complaints Commission.

It should be pointed out that Jane Irvine was a past HM Lay Inspector of Constabulary for Scotland, and in her capacity, Mrs Irvine reviewed the manner of responses by Scottish Police forces to complaints by members of the public for three years between 2001 and 2004.

Given Mrs Irvine's lack of knowledge of this matter, the details of 'internal' inquiries by the Police into Former Chief Superintendent Watson may have been concealed from Mrs Irvine in her capacity as Lay Inspector of Constabulary.

The Scotsman reports :

Inquiry into police chief who promoted his lover

By Stephen Rafferty

A POLICE chief has been accused of jeopardising a £1 million-plus project by having an affair with a female officer he promoted.

Chief Superintendent Douglas Watson is facing an internal inquiry after he walked out on his wife to be with an officer he hand-picked for a specialist squad.

Allison Strachan was personally selected by Watson to be part of a 22-strong team which is carrying out a complete review of the way Lothian and Borders force operates.

Strachan, who had twice failed to win promotion, was plucked from an administration job at police headquarters and promoted to Inspector but senior officers are angry after it was revealed Watson has been having an affair with her.

The affair has been the talk of the force since Watson left his second wife Anne and Strachan left her police constable partner, John Donoghue.

Watson, the former head of CID, was picked by Chief Constable Paddy Tomkins to head up the Capital Project, which will completely change the way Edinburgh is policed and create a single 1,000-officer super-division.

The cost of the project is put at over £1 million, including wages, computers, travel and cars and Watson was expected to be appointed commander of the new division but senior sources say an inquiry into his behaviour is now inevitable.

Chief Supt Watson left his first wife 11 years ago when he began an affair with his current wife Anne, who was then a 19-year-old secretary at police headquarters.

A Lothian and Borders police spokesman refused to comment.

Amazingly, Mr Watson is also a Lay Member for Committees at the Law Society of Scotland ... and one wonders whether they were paying attention to reports of inquiries into Mr Watson's conduct at the time either ...

Well, it didn't take long for the legal profession to co-opted the appointments process of the new Scottish Legal Complaints Commission now, did it ...

This is such a sad start for what was hoped to be a break from the past problems of regulation of Scotland's beleaguered legal profession.

Earlier today, campaigners & critics of the legal profession condemned the scandal surrounding the appointments process involving the lawyers and lay members to the SLCC.

One client who has been waiting years for a resolution to his complaint against a well known legal firm said "There has been too much fiddling from the Law Society in what is supposed to be an independent body to take over complaints against lawyers. We are just getting another talking shop to save crooked lawyers again. Its a disgrace I didn't think the SNP could give us"

Mr MacAskill, who is being blamed from all quarters for the appointments furore which has brought discredit to the new Commission, even before it begins its work, seems to have allowed the legal profession too long a hand in controlling the entire formation process of the 'independent' complaints commission which was designed to address significant levels of corruption by the Law Society of Scotland in its role as self regulator of the legal profession.

Late today, calls were being made to First Minister Alex Salmond for a fully independent investigation into the appointments & formation process of the SLCC and for the sacking of Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill over this highly public let-down to Scotland's legal system.

For further reading : The Scottish Government's Press Release on Kenny MacAskill's appointments to the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission ... more interesting in what it leaves out than what it leaves in ...

Scottish Legal Complaints Commission

10/01/2008

Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill today announced the appointment of Jane Irvine to chair the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission (SLCC), the new independent legal complaints handling body. Jane Irvine is currently the Scottish Legal Services Ombudsman. Mr MacAskill also announced Alan Paterson, David Smith, Margaret Scanlan and David Chaplin as lawyer members and Douglas Watson, Linda Pollock, George Irving and Ian Gordon as non-lawyer members of the Commission. The SLCC will be a new, independent, complaints handling body which will receive and deal with complaints which could not be resolved at source. The Commission will be located in Edinburgh and is expected to be operational in October 2008.

Kenny MacAskill said:

"This Government is committed to modernising the legal complaints handling system to ensure that any complaints against the legal profession are resolved quickly and effectively. That is why we supported the setting up of this Commission.

"Jane Irvine and her fellow commissioners will have a strong remit to deal with complaints and I am confident that their independent scrutiny will safeguard the rights of both the profession and the users of legal services throughout Scotland.

"Complaints handling is not just about dealing with things that go wrong, but ensuring that things go right. The commissioners will help to build a culture of learning from complaints through their oversight and promotion of standards. This focus on the quality of service will undoubtedly benefit both consumers and the profession alike."

Jane Irvine said:

"This new Scottish Commission is an important body. It will provide a modern system for resolving complaints about legal services that both the profession and public can have confidence in. I am delighted to have been appointed with such a strong group of commissioners who bring with them a diverse and exceptional range of skills and experience."

Chairing member

Jane Irvine has been the Scottish Legal Services Ombudsman since April 2006. She is a specialist in consumer complaints having held a number of positions as a mediator, arbitrator and adjudicator of consumer complaints. Between 2001-05 she was HM Lay Inspector of Constabulary considering handling of complaints against the police in Scotland. She later prepared a report on modernising police complaint and conduct systems for the Justice Minister. She has sat on a range of disciplinary tribunals and currently sits on the Discipline Board of the Institute of Actuaries.

Non-lawyer members

Douglas Watson has been a police officer for 30 years and is currently an adult protection development officer for Edinburgh, Lothian and Borders Executive Group. Mr Watson has previously been a chairing member of the Child Protection Committee, Scottish Borders Council and Edinburgh Drug and Alcohol Action Team. He is currently a Committee member for the Law Society of Scotland and is a sessional inspector for the Social Work Inspection Agency.

Linda Pollock has had a broad based career in the NHS with clinical, teaching, research and management experience. She has been in leadership roles since 1989, an Executive Nursing Director until 2006, and interim Board Nurse Director (2002-2003). Her last role, before leaving the NHS, was a full time secondment as the Chief Nursing Officer's Advisor for Nurse Prescribing. Dr Pollock was a part time nurse member of the Mental Welfare Commission (1997-2005) and is currently a registrant member of the Nursing and Midwifery Council Appointments Board

George L Irving CBE was Director of Social Work North Ayrshire Council and during the period 1999-2000 he served as President of the Association of Directors of Social Work (Scotland ). From 2001-2006 he was Chair of NHS Ayrshire and Arran. He led the National Support Team, Management of Offenders 2005-2007 and is currently a Visiting Professor to Glasgow Caledonian University School of Health and Social Care.

Ian Gordon OBE, QPM, LL.B (Hons) is a retired Deputy Chief Constable of Tayside Police. He is currently an associate professor in policing for Charles Sturt University (Australia). He was Chair of the Association of Chief Police Officers in Scotland (ACPOS) Professional Standards Business Area and Vice-Chair of ACPOS General Policing Business Area.

Lawyer members

Alan Paterson is Professor of Law and Director of the Centre for Professional Legal Studies at Strathclyde University, an independent "Think Tank" on the Scottish Legal System. He has researched in, and published on, the regulation of lawyers and the provision of public legal services for over twenty years. Although he is qualified as a solicitor in Scotland, Professor Paterson has never practised. He is currently a research adviser to the Scottish Legal Aid Board, a lay member of the Judicial Appointments Board and a co-opted member of the Council of the Law Society.

David Smith has been a partner in Shepherd and Wedderburn for 33 years. He has spent over 20 years as part of the firm's management board and was Chairman between 1999-2005. Mr Smith is a senior commercial property lawyer. Since 2004 he has been the Client Relations Partner within Shepherd and Wedderburn and since 1998 he has chaired the firm's Compliance Committee which monitors professional indemnity claims, client complaints and risk management issues.

Margaret Scanlan is an accredited specialist in family law at Russells Gibson McCaffrey. She has also tutored in family law at Glasgow Caledonian University. Mrs Scanlan was a member and latterly Deputy Chair of the Scottish Legal Aid Board between 1997-2007. She has also been Director of the Legal Defence Union between 1998-2002. Mrs Scanlan was a founder member of both Strathkelvin Women's Aid and the Family Law Association. She held the post of Chair of the latter between 1992-93.

David Chaplin has been a senior partner in Anderson Fyfe for the last 15 years and is a specialist in insolvency law. He has been the Client Relations partner for his firm for ten years. Mr Chaplin advises in pre litigation resolution of commercial disputes for clients. He was a member of the Education Committee of the Royal Faculty of Procurators in Glasgow during 2004-05.

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

The chairing member has been appointed for a five year term from 1 January 2008 to 31 December 2012. The lawyer and non-lawyer members' appointments will be for four years, from 1 January 2008 - 31 December 2011.

The posts are part-time and attract daily fees of £302 for the chairing member for a time commitment of four-six days per month and £205 for the lawyer and non-lawyer members with a time commitment of four days per month. Jane Irvine holds one other public appointment, that of the Scottish Legal Services Ombudsman, with remuneration of £56,746 for 37 hours a week. All the other members do not hold any other Ministerial appointments.

These Ministerial public appointments were made in accordance with the Commissioner for Public Appointments in Scotland's Code of Practice.

All appointments are made on merit and political activity plays no part in the selection process. However, in accordance with the original Nolan recommendations, there is a requirement for appointees' political activity (if there is any to be declared) to be made public. Within the last five years members have not been involved in any political activity.

47 comments:

Anonymous said...

What an idiot.No one bothered to do background checks ? and what the hell is this guy doing on a Law Society Committee and on this one too ?

Poirot said...

Hi Peter

I wondered why you didn't cover the SLCC story last week.

How long have you known about this ?

This totally discredits the SLCC though, or was that the Law Society plan from the start I wonder ..

Anonymous said...

Oh goody I see Kenny left out that stuff from his glowing Press Release.So kind of him to mislead the rest of the country YET AGAIN.

Can we have a new Justice Minister Secretary thingy please Mr Salmond ? Your first choice is not doing a good job.

Anonymous said...

Macblunder is an idiot.WHy did he have to go out and find an ex cop who is currently on a Law Society Committee to swap over to this SLCC.
Why are there all these lawyers being sent to it as well and why the other lay position to yet another ex Policeman.
The whole thing stinks of sleaze.Good work.Papers should be following this.MacAskill should resign or be pushed.
Your choice for Justice Minister ?

Anonymous said...

Another outbreak of Salmond-ella reported..........

Campaign to oust Kenny "No Justice" MacAskill said...

“Late today, calls were being made to First Minister Alex Salmond for a fully independent investigation into the appointments & formation process of the SLCC and for the sacking of Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill over this highly public let-down to Scotland's legal system.”

“The fact of the matter is” Peter (as MacAskill usually says) is that Salmond should not be called upon to sack MacAskill at all … because he should NEVER have appointed this corrupt, wicked, Edinburgh / Scottish establishment protecting scumbag in the first place.

Salmond knew fine about MacAskill’s involvement in the (yet to be fully exposed and resolved) appalling Mr X abuse and neglect scandal, long before he had the audacity to still appoint him as his “Justice” Secretary, now 8 months ago, in May 2007.

The question now for your readers is this : If Alex Salmond can turn a blind eye to a case as serious and appalling as the Mr X case (to protect his INJustice Secretary – and many others involved), then what chance does any member of the Scottish public now have who is approaching him with any miscarriage of justice (or injustice issues generally), which his corrupt INjustice Secretary is refusing to act on – and there are plenty injustices in Scotland occurring right now as I write.

Mr Salmond : For the good of the 5 MILLION Scots you are charged with representing as Scotland’s First Minister (“in THEIR best interests” with probity, integrity, fairness, decency… ) I would urge you once again to do what’s best for the greater Scottish public (not Scotland’s 10, 000 lawyers and the incestuous establishment) and sack your INjustice Secretary forthwith – perhaps Mr Swinney would be a better appointment, and should have had that most important portfolio in the first place.

If you do not, then put simply : You are as crooked and corrupt as the man you appointed to the job in the first place and deserve all you get at the ballot box next time round … if not before (hopefully).

__________

Note to all brave, bold and courageous journalists (Scottish or otherwise) and all those out there who regularly purport to be “Champions Against Injustice” : Where were / are you all? … because your deafening silence, inaction and self-serving agendas have spoken volumes to me for a very long time now … Peter being the exception.

I thank you all for your help, support and great courage in being the true “Champions Against Injustice” that you were / are.

__________


Letter and links below re the repeatedly covered up and buried (at SNP HQ) Mr X abuse and neglect scandal :

Private and Confidential

Alex Salmond MP
Leader of the SNP
House of Commons
Westminster
London
SW1A 0AA

12 February 2007

Dear Mr Salmond,

Request for the return of confidential photographs and files from the SNP – Letter No.1 re this very serious, unresolved and repeatedly covered up case

On Tuesday 16 January 2007 a formal request for the return of confidential photographs and files pertaining to the case of my disabled, abused and ill-treated son was made of your friend and colleague, the SNP Justice Spokesman, Kenny MacAskill MSP. The same request was then made of your friend and colleague, the SNP Deputy Leader, Nicola Sturgeon MSP, after it became patently clear (in his email response on Thursday 18 January 2007) that Mr MacAskill would not co-operate or adhere to this legitimate request. Ms Sturgeon completely ignored these subsequent requests too.

Would you please see to it, as the Leader of the SNP (and potentially the next First Minister of Scotland) with the power to make things happen amongst your ranks, that these confidential, harrowing and disturbing photographs (and the relevant requested files) are returned to my family at the earliest opportunity. These photographs and files do not belong to Mr MacAskill or the SNP. They are the property of my family.

I would like this matter fully resolved before the dissolusion of the Holyrood Parliament at the end of March. The photographs and files requested can be sent to me by Special Delivery post (I will reimburse the SNP for the cost of postage if required) or collected from your HQ on MacDonald Road – I.D. or a mandate will be provided on request.

Please don’t make a frail 83-year-old lady, now in the winter of her life (a life which has, along with my family’s, been utterly devastated by the ill-treatment, abuse and neglect of a disabled loved one), fight and beg for what is rightly her family’s property – not that of a politician or political party.

I look forward to hearing from you (not Mr MacAskill or Ms Sturgeon) in early course.

Thank you for your time and co-operation with these very serious matters.

Yours sincerely,


http://petercherbi.blogspot.com/2007/12/justice-secretary-rejects-independent.html#c1243742615267351342

http://petercherbi.blogspot.com/2007/12/law-society-boss-mill-lied-to-swinney.html#c1637865177785340162

http://petercherbi.blogspot.com/2007/12/law-society-boss-mill-lied-to-swinney.html#c9078958606192125552

in & out said...

Insiders at the Scottish Government last night insisted they knew nothing about the "internal inquiry" into Mr Watson at Lothian & Borders Police which revolved around an alleged affair with a work colleague and claims of undue promotions.

Rubbish.Anything that happened under Tomkins will be well known to them.

Their comment is not credible in the light of the facts.

I think your justice secretary either needs a new secretary or needs replaced himself.

Peter Cherbi said...

#Anonymous @ 7.47pm

I was told by a 'source' that "Don't ask Don't tell" is in operation again ...

As for Mr Watson being on a Law Society Committee and now transferring to the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission - that was the idea all along from the Law Society of Scotland.

#Poirot @ 8.04pm

I told you there was something fishy going on with this ...

I agree this has 'dented' the image of the SLCC before it has even started.

I suppose we will see how strong & independent a body it is by how it handles these issues now and to gauge this, I have asked the incoming SLCC Chairman, Jane Irvine to look into this matter and will report what happens from that.

#Anonymous @ 10.47pm

This is happening because the Law Society of Scotland are effectively controlling the process of any reforms which are pro-consumer and anti-solicitor as they see things.

The Law Society of course do not want to lose control of complaints, so getting their people onto the new independent Scottish Legal Complaints Commission is an obvious but good strategy to maintain their control of complaints against solicitors.

All it takes is for a willing politician who makes the decisions to bow to their demands and we have the story I have just reported.

#Campaign to out Kenny "no justice" MacAskill @ 11.22pm

I agree with you entirely.

I think Mr MacAskill's poor showing on the appointments process of the SLCC is indicative of a lack of concern for the public interest and personal problems of Scots all over the country. That is not a good attitude for the man responsible for Scotland's Justice system and will only breed more injustice.

#In & Out @ 12:17am

I agree.

Actually I have information relating to issues which for now I will not publish, but they seem to implicate others in events.

Perhaps better to see who tells a few more lies, or evades a few more questions and let some more out later ...

Anonymous said...

I agree this looks bad for the SNP and Kenny MacAskill.Salmond should now intervene and save the day as he likes to show himself doing.

BTW look what I found in the Herald http://www.theherald.co.uk/politics/news/display.var.1579970.0.0.php

You knew this would happen all along.Good chap.As one of the people said in reply to yours - how do we get you onto this SLCC ?

Anonymous said...

Great Story ! The Scotsman slipped up on this one !

If Watson is on a complaints committee at the law society how will all those clients feel now after reading this ?

My good the standards of law society committee membership must be VERY POOR or do they put people on with knowingly dodgy records they can use against them if they step out of line ?

a proud pair of doorknockers said...

"was subject of a Police inquiry" usually means they got off the hook after a whitewash.

I'm fairly sure MacAskill would have known about this.He was in politics anyway at the time and he has been a lawyer for how long ?

Better start looking into other SNP appointments - you never know what might come up now.

Anonymous said...

cops & lawyers (robbers) in bed together - what else is new

oh yes the new bit is they were both appointed by the SNP !

Anonymous said...

Good story you dug up here and you certainly caught MacAskill out

No doubt tomorrow the SNP spin machine will kick in and tell us how it was for the best that 2 cops, one with history as the Scotsman featured before were the right people to look at lawyer complaints !

Doesnt that sound bloody awful !

member said...

As another has pointed out - if the intention was to damage the SLCC before it became active Mr MacAskill has surely succeeded.

This is a resigning matter.

Anonymous said...

Very telling the Ombudsman lays the blame for this at MacAskills door.

Anonymous said...

Good work.

Not only have you exposed the appointments as a sham you have also exposed the poor standards required to be a law society committee lay member

i wonder how long they have been keeing the likes of this secret - too long !

DMcDonald said...

Was it Kenny MacAskill or the Law Society who did these appointments ?

What a mess for the SNP.

Donald Anderson, Edinburgh said...

Now you have revealed this I think anyone who had a complaint considered at the Law Society by lay members should be asking for reviews and investigations of what happened.
God knows who else they have as lay members and what they have been up to.

Anonymous said...

Do you really expect Salmond to do anything ?

I think the lawyers are holding his leash and have him firmly muzzled.

Ex cops shouldnt be saving lawyers said...

In reply the SNP Press Agents and Herr Salmondella said :

"We would be quite happy if our colleague Kenny MacAskill appointed a bunch of pedophiles to the Childrens Panels.Appointing kiddie fiddlers to areas where they can contact kids is the right thing to do as far as we are concerned !"

Peter Cherbi said...

#Anonymous @ 1.04am

I don't think there's any chance of anyone other than figures from the legal establishment or those who can be readily co-opted by the legal establishment getting onto such a body.

I think the evidence at hand shows that quite well.

Oh, and in a recent call from a journalist I was told that David Smith, one of the lawyer members appointed to the SLCC by Kenny MacAskill, is the husband of High Court Judge Lady Smith.

He also deals with claims by clients against the Master Policy Insurance, and I'm sure all of you will remember how corrupt the Master Policy Insurance is - if you want to see just how corrupt it is, have a look here :
Douglas Mill lies to Cabinet Secretary John Swinney on corruption & interference by the Law Society in claims & complaints against crooked lawyers

Peter Cherbi said...

#Anonymous @ 11.25am

Yes it is, isn't it.

Lets hope Mrs Irvine does something about it since she's the new Chairman of the SLCC.

#Anonymous @ 12.36pm

That has been suspected for a number of years. Now we know for sure.

#Donald Anderson @ 2.51pm

A good idea - I agree.

#Anonymous @ 7.17pm

He appointed Mr MacAskill - usually the senior man has to take responsibility sometime in the fray ... and there is certainly something very wrong here with the way the SNP and the Government are handling this matter.

#Ex cops shouldn't be saving lawyers @ 7.40pm

Interesting comment, if somwhat strong. Actually, if you compare like for like .. well .. under the present circumstances being reported, there's no telling how far Mr MacAskill could go ...

You could for instance, under FOI, ask for the complaints & regulatory history of all the lawyers and their legal firms who now sit on the SLCC, and any dealings they have had involving complaints or claims against solicitors.

what's the betting none of that information will be disclosed, or even worse, will have been destroyed or squirrelled away for now ..

Anonymous said...

Always wondered what happened to Mr Watson.

Here's what his friend Paddy did :

http://scotlandonsunday.scotsman.com/ViewArticle.aspx?articleid=2546830

* Published Date: 18 July 2004
* Source: Scotland On Sunday
* Location: Scotland
* Related Topics: Edinburgh policing

Chief's reforms put police out of reach

A SCOTTISH chief constable was last night facing an unprecedented barrage of criticism over radical reforms that are widely regarded to have proved costly failures.

Paddy Tompkins, head of Lothian and Borders Police, has spent thousands of man hours and millions of pounds on wide-ranging changes aimed at improving communication and putting more officers on the beat.

But critics claim that it has plunged the force - Scotland’s second-biggest - into chaos, resulting in members of the public failing to get through to report crime and fewer police on patrol than ever.

Scotland on Sunday can now reveal that Tompkins has on at least two occasions been publicly berated by politicians, one of whom last night warned he would complain to First Minister Jack McConnell unless the situation improved.

Some members of Lothian and Border Police Board - the body that effectively holds the force purse strings - are said to be so dismayed at the problems that they considered a vote of no confidence in Tompkins.

Privately, senior officers say Tompkins was warned the reforms were doomed to failure and he now has no option but to reverse them.

The problems have been caused by two far-reaching initiatives: Operation Capital and the creation of the Force Communications Centre (FCC).

Operation Capital was meant to "revolutionise" policing in Edinburgh and took a team of 24 officers a year to plan. It involved replacing three administrative divisions with one "super division".

Critics say it has been a disaster because police with hard-won local knowledge are often sent to areas of the city they do not know.

The Force Communications Centre, which cost £10m to create, was meant to replace smaller local control rooms and put more officers on the beat.

It too has been beset by problems, with members of the public and police officers themselves complaining they cannot get through.

In a stunning U-turn, the force has been forced to reopen two local control rooms at an estimated cost of £30,000 a week.

Scotland on Sunday has obtained an email sent by Tompkins to members of the police board in which he admits both to problems with the FCC and that he has been under fire.

He writes: "The disquiet expressed by police board members about difficulties at the new communications centre is understandable. It is true that since its opening we have had problems and I have acknowledged that the level of service has been unsatisfactory.

"As a professional with 25 years’ service I am dismayed that we are falling short of the standard of service we wish to deliver. What is more, I know that my colleagues throughout the force share my concerns and are just as determined as I am to resolve matters."

But Tompkins’ solution - which includes recruiting more staff, authorising additional overtime and changing the way calls are dealt with - has cut little ice with serving officers and councillors.

The first signs of revolt came when Tompkins paid a recent courtesy visit to Midlothian Council’s headquarters to speak about the changes brought about by the FCC and Operation Capital. Tompkins suffered an onslaught of complaints from councillors who had either experienced the force’s shortcomings at first hand or been plagued by constituents’ complaints about their inability to contact the force.

Midlothian’s convener of education and lifelong learning, Peter Boyes, said the chief constable was left in no doubt that he must urgently address the problems being raised.

Councillor Boyes said: "Councillor after councillor had a go at him, outlining the problems we are facing. He was told we are losing the battle with youngsters in our communities because we can’t contact our police officers. There have been problems since day one and despite his promises I can’t see this improving. I looked him in the eye and told him I had more chance of finding an Eskimo in Mayfield than a police officer."

Boyes said if there were no tangible improvements he would lobby Midlothian’s Provost Sam Campbell and local MSP Rhona Brankin to pursue the matter and would consider taking his complaints to First Minister Jack McConnell. Elizabeth Maginnis, an Edinburgh City councillor and member of the police board, is reported to have given Chief Constable Tompkins a torrid time at the last board meeting held at the City Chamber on June 25. One insider said: "Councillor Maginnis was like a terrier that got hold of the chief and wouldn’t let him go."

Last night, Maginnis confirmed: "I expressed a lot of anxiety about the latest problems of the FCC where people have not been able to report complaints or incidents. It seems to be a very critical situation when the public cannot easily contact the police.

"I also made the point that there has been a number of very fundamental changes implemented by Lothian and Borders Police in the last year or so and all of them appear to have been plagued with major difficulties.

"It would not have taken a genius to foresee some of the problems encountered with Operation Capital and more recently with the FCC, but it is concerning that insufficient thought seems to have gone into the planning stages."

Scotland on Sunday has been told by a senior police source that there were even recent suggestions among some board members of a vote of no confidence in Tompkins. It is understood mutinous councillors were talked out of taking such a step by a high-ranking officer.

One veteran officer, with more than 25 years’ service, said Tompkins should return the force to tried and tested methods of policing.

"It has been said the police board have been dangerously close to moving for a vote of no confidence because they are so concerned at these failures," said the source.

"If the public in Lothian and Borders were the customers of a bank which performed in such an abysmal fashion they would move to another bank. Unfortunately they don’t have that freedom of choice when it comes to their police force."

The officer added: "There is a full review under way but the general feeling is it is not sustainable. The executive should revert to sub divisions, when the emphasis was on policing being local as opposed to from a remote control centre with cops sent to areas they know nothing about."

Another indication of the malaise at Lothian and Borders’ Fettes HQ is the lack of interest in the post of deputy chief constable, recently vacated by Tom Wood. Police insiders say the post is seen as one of the most prestigious in UK policing outside of the Met, but from eight initial expressions of interest only
two applications have been received, one by temporary deputy chief constable Malcolm Dickson and the other from former Lothian and Borders officer Willie Bald, currently assistant chief constable at Tayside Police.

Tompkins is on holiday and was not available for comment.

His deputy, Malcolm Dickson, last night mounted a strong defence of his boss. "Both of these projects were underway in some form before he arrived," said Dickson.

"The Force Communications Centre was well advanced and was a fully-fledged plan with both police board and Scottish Executive commitment. He has not just arrived from nowhere and turned the force upside down. Both projects were planned with police board involvement and the police board appoints the chief constable."

Dickson added that the reopening of control centres was only a temporary measure until the capacity of the FCC could be built up.

Anonymous said...

haha ! "ex cops saving.."

Sounds like the real deal !

After reading this I wouldn't let Kenny MacAskill appoint a nunnery let alone a bunch of Kfs !

Incidentally did you know the profession with the highest percentage of kfs these days is lawyers ?

Learn the lesson and dont let your kids near a lawyer !

Anonymous said...

Kenny MacAskill isnt fit for office after this.
He is turning the SNP into the Sleaze National Party.What a wasted chance for Scotland just so he can go protect his crooked lawyer pals.

Anonymous said...

So you have to be a favoured policeman and have a wife who is a judge to get onto this quango which is obviously about saving lawyers from more complaints as you say.

MacAskill has ruined any chance of justice for anyone and if nothing is done about it the poster who says the snp supports such things will be correct

Alan Weir said...

Either MacAskill has to resign or the person who appointed him has to go.

This is a disgrace and like others I never thought the SNP would be cuddling up to the establishment so quickly and so blatantly.

Alex Salmond has let us down by allowing Kenny MacAskill to shoe in his legal fraternity friends to these positions.

safer in England said...

Alan Weir

Was it idiots like you who voted these SNP twisters in ?

How do all you jocks feel now your own people have stabbed you in the back.Still want to be independent from the rest of us now ?

What a fucking joke you are making out of your country with all these bent lawyers and their pals in 'government'.

Anonymous said...

After serving nearly thirty years as a solicitor I am about to retire. Thank God !

The profession is not what it once was Mr Cherbi and your bitter experience at the hands of some is not uncommon it is just that things are not reported as they should be.

There is no doubt in my mind after reading your blog you are the most talented and honest writer on legal issues in Scotland.I hope someone does take you on and allows you to do things your way and help people as you say you want to.

Good luck and spare a thought for maybe a few honest hard working solicitors who secretly admire someone who stands up to that great lump around all our legal necks!

Campaign to oust Kenny "No Justice" MacAskill said...

It is good to see that so many readers of Peter's blog are beginning to see MacAskill for the lawyer / establishment lover and protector he is - and always has been.

Currently, this despicable man, is concealing a huge case file (at his constituency office at SNP HQ, 107 McDonald Road, EH7 4NW) from the family of a seriously ill loved one, whose case he has been involved in from August 1999, shortly after becoming an MSP, to the present day.

Despite several formal requests of his master, King Alex (between February and December 2007), to release all the case files (including horrific photographic evidence) to the family concerned, they both STILL refuse to adhere to this legitimate request.

So, what Scotland now has is a "Justice" Secretary who steals a family's property; covers up for his own indifference, inaction and wrong-doing; protects all the sacred cows who were / are involved in the neglect and abuse case concerned; and, along with his boss, is currently breaking the law and conspiring to defeat the ends of justice by refusing to fully co-operate with the family concerned.

Put bluntly, Scotland's "Justice" Secretary is corrupt, crooked and obviously thrives on injustice ... and the abuse and neglect of others. He will go to any lengths to protect his own skin and those in the Edinburgh / Scottish establishment he is in bed with - as this appalling case undoubtedly proves.

Mr MacAskill: You sir are a disgrace and should resign forthwith ... after apologising to the family of Mr X and trying to do all you can to make amends in the horrific case concerned.

Meanwhile, hang your head in shame sir ... if you have any conscience at all that is.

More details of the case concerned can be found here:

http://petercherbi.blogspot.com/2008/01/call-for-macaskill-appointments-sleaze.html#c8086114065093573423

And MacAskill's contact details here:

http://www.scottish.parliament.uk/msp/membersPages/kenny_macaskill/contact.htm

I'm sure he would welcome you all sending him the above comments:

http://petercherbi.blogspot.com/2008/01/call-for-macaskill-appointments-sleaze.html#c7346842852041475038

Peter Cherbi said...

To all those who post comment.

I am heartened my readers have an understanding of the issues I write of.

I would expect, many readers of course have had problems themselves with the legal profession, but there is one other thing you may like to do if you can, and that is to pass on what you read here to others to increase people's general understanding of the problems with the legal profession.

Spread the word please.

#Anonymous @ 3.12am

Spot on .. and those within the SNP who are letting him blacken the party in the name of protecting lawyers need to do something about it.

#Safer in England @ 5.07pm

Well, we will have to hope that Alex Salmond will do the right thing ... otherwise what you say may just turn out to be the case.

#Anonymous @ 7.10pm

Thanks. Well its up to the media to do some better reporting, rather than bow to threats from the legal profession to kill off stories on crooked lawyers & crooked regulation of lawyers.

#Campaign to oust kenny "no Justice" MacAskill @ 8.09pm

Sounds like something which should be in a few newspapers. I wonder why the story hasn't been taken up yet ... fear of upsetting a few politicians perhaps ?

Funny thing - I was told yesterday a newspaper which covered the SLCC appointments story was also told not to mention the fact that David Smith, one of the lawyer appointees to the SLCC, was the husband of Court of Session Judge Lady Smith .. and guess what, they didn't mention it.

The tip came from a journalist within that same newspaper, so I assume its true, no reason to doubt it. Why should such a thing be kept from the public ?

Micky said...

What a sorry bunch of no-users.
Macaskill should resign before being asked which will happen soon.
Alex Neil or some other SNP MSP should have got the job.
Someone with balls that will stand up and be counted and not afraid of Lawyers

Anonymous said...

Macaskill will bring down the SNP get him out.
He wouldn't know independent if it bit him in the face.

Anonymous said...

Is everyone in Scotland afraid of Lawyers and afraid to speak their minds?
What shame Macaskill brings to SNP

Anonymous said...

"Funny thing - I was told yesterday a newspaper which covered the SLCC appointments story was also told not to mention the fact that David Smith, one of the lawyer appointees to the SLCC, was the husband of Court of Session Judge Lady Smith .. and guess what, they didn't mention it.

The tip came from a journalist within that same newspaper, so I assume its true, no reason to doubt it. Why should such a thing be kept from the public ?"

Yes I'm wondering about that silence too.

All these coppers and the judges wife/husband have done well in the last few years.Is that the reason the rest of the political parties have kept quiet on this ? I half expected to see the numpties of Labour and everyone else calling for MacAskill's head after appointing scandal cops and judges kin to a quango but not a peep.Is everyone at the parliament in the pay or grip of these lawyers ???

What are the newspapers doing about this ? Too fking scared to print it or orders handed down to keep quiet ??? Scotland turned into a censorship state ???

Anonymous said...

Im left wondering if Scotland actually has a Justice Minister.

Maybe you guys should fall back in line with London because your own lot are clearly unfit for the job of governing Scotland

Anonymous said...

Nothing from the great wee Eck yet ? This snp government is getting sleazier by the day with all these lawyers in it.

When is McAskill going back to being a lawyer instead of ruining the justice system even more than it already is.I heard he wasnt much good as a lawyer anyway is that why he turned to politics?

over the hill said...

Thing is MacAskill obviously knew he could get away with it which is why he stuffed this quango with all his friends.The First Minister probably approved it so you see Mr Cherbi the whole lot of them are just as bad as each other and Swinney included.

Why dont you try looking in on Ms Sturgeon's legal career too.I hear theres a few stories there needing let out in a headline or two !

Alan Weir said...

"safer in England"

Yes I did vote for the SNP.A big mistake I admit considering what Kenny MacAskill is doing now.

Will never vote for them again and the sooner they are out the better for all of us except these lawyer folk maybe who enjoy arse kisser MacAskill's arse kissing.

Anonymous said...

So when do the Scottish National Party change their name to the Scottish Lawyer Party ?

Bad stuff this.I think I will give them a miss now too.Cant be bothered to support anyone who supports lawyers !

Anonymous said...

The error you are all making is in your belief the SNP are some kind of socialist or left wing party with the good of Scotland at heart.That is not the case.

The SNP are a nationalist party.Nationalist political parties are usually right wing, in many cases fascist right wing.Why do you think they are taking up with the Tories so easy.The Scottish Tories are probably the best example of fascism in Scotland and the SNP are drawn to them because they are just the bloody same.Identical Twins.Why do you think MacAskill is so eager to protect lawyers and Salmond lets him get away with it.Yes back to fascism again.Hard right politics is what you have in Scotland now and all because some idiot allowed Salmond to stick his name at the top of the ballot paper.
Just go back to the history books and look at Germany and see how the nazis came to power.Just the bloody same as the SNP.

Anonymous said...

That last comment comparing the snp to the nazis is a fair comparison.

I didnt vote for the snp and I knew they would make a mess of it and they are doing that quite well.

All the snp fanboys and pr agents infect the newspaper boards with ridiculous comments supporting snp policy but we are getting as weary of salmond as we were of mcconnell and his mob.

Anonymous said...

If MacAskill's idea of impartiality is a judges kin and ex cops who should be out to grass instead of interfering in public life again then we're all doomed.

Might have been better stuffing it with perverts then - at least the tabloids would be more equipped to pick them off.

Anonymous said...

I have been reading your blog all this week Mr Cherbi and just wanted to say seeing what you have all done has given me the courage to continue fighting the Law Society who let my lawyer get away with negligence over a damages claim made against us by our neighbour over something he did himself.

Our lawyer literally changed sides during the course of the court action and gave all our files to the pursuer who tried to claim injuries after an unsuccessful attempt by him to put a drainage ditch across our land while we were on holiday.He was too cheap to employ anyone to do it and he broke his leg, blaming us !

The claim was thrown out of court but when we complained to the Law Society our lawyer had given all our files to our neighbour they told us we would have to sue for negligence.We couldn't get a lawyer to take the case so we made a complaint to the Law Society but their investigation mentioned nothing about what happened and there was a letter from the lawyer to the Law Society telling them we had offered to settle with our neighbour which was totally untrue.

I am trying to find a lawyer again to take the case but no success and now I see why no one will take it on because of this corrupt insurance you have been writing about.I called the Scotsman and they said they would send a journalist out but no one came of course probably because the Law Society dont want it reported our lawyer ran away and gave all the files to our neighbour.I think its more like theft than negligence and after this Im in no doubt that all lawyers are absolute scum and wont do anything against each other.

Anonymous said...

Some shocking comments here from people who have been ruined by these crooked lawyers and even more shocking the SNP are protecting crooked lawyers.

I want to know a bit more about that Nicola Sturgeon comment.If theres something in her past as a lawyer which has gone wrong I think we need to know.

Anonymous said...

It must be painful for you to see the SNP doing this to what was a brilliant success on your part to bring this independent complaints body into existence.I am also surprised Mr McAskill has been allowed by his colleagues to get away with this but I'm sure you will find a way to do something as you always do.

For someone as yourself who is responsible for one of the biggest changes in Scottish legal history to be kept out of this body or quango as people call it I find it a discredit to Scotland, especially because you are not credited with your selfless work.

Good luck Mr Cherbi and may you continue to serve the community as you always do.

Anonymous said...

Well worth the read Peter.In fact I wish I had known about this a couple of weeks ago because my lawyer has just sent us one of those inflated bills.He estimated a job for us at £230 and we just got a bill in on Friday for £3,105.32 !

I think anyone should be cautious on accepting these estimates from a lawyer because its just a damn lie what they tell you.We will not be paying this as I have his initial letter telling us it would be "£230 and no more" so the Law Society will be getting to know about this but not before you will.