Monday, January 21, 2008

Scottish Legal Complaints Commission 'lacks impartiality' despite Ombudsman's appointment as Chairman

The Law Society are certainly happy with the appointments to the new Scottish Legal Complaints Commission going by this week's press purge of any debate on how the Commission was stuffed with ex-Police as lay members and a Judge's husband, a lawyer who is a senior partner in one of the panel solicitors to the Royal Sun Alliance PLC for the Master Insurance Policy of the Law Society of Scotland.

Last week I revealed how the incoming Chairman of the new Scottish Legal Complaints Commission, was kept out of the loop and told nothing of the background of the appointees to the Commission, who were passed by Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill, an ex solicitor himself who is well known to disagree with anyone who may take issue with the fact the legal profession is corruptly regulated by the Law Society of Scotland.

My earlier report on the SLCC appointments 'fiddle' - the public kept well away from any hope of impartiality : Call for MacAskill appointments 'sleaze investigation' as revelations show Legal Complaints Commission member was subject of Police inquiry

As further details emerge of the actual appointments process, which saw an 'appointments panel' put together by Ken Thomson, the new head of the Scottish Government's Justice Department, it transpires that there were even Judges themselves sitting on the appointments panel such as The Hon. Lord Wheatley , among others from the legal profession ...

Nothing wrong with having a few judges on appointments panels for what was supposed to be an 'independent' legal complaints commission ... but in the spirit of 'independence' from the legal establishment .. it might have been better to have an appointments panel composed of more 'ordinary' people, somewhat more detached from the legal establishment than those who serve it ...

What a pity that last week, a journalist told me a 'newspaper' was 'asked' not to mention the fact in their coverage of the SLCC appointments story that Mr David Smith, one of the lawyers appointed to the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission, was the husband of Lady Smith. I see that fact is still not being mentioned, and that Mr Smith has a position which involves handling cases involving the Master Insurance Policy of the Law Society of Scotland, the sole aim of which is to kill off any prospect a client has of getting compensation after being ruined by a crooked lawyer.

It seems that only the Cabinet Secretary for Business, John Swinney MSP, was able to stand up to those who want to silence any public detail or criticism of the Master Policy, with his excellent questioning of Law Society Chief Executive Douglas Mill, and revelations of blatant, rampant corruption involving both the Law Society of Scotland and the insurers of the Master Policy.

John Swinney questions an abrasive & inconsistent Douglas Mill on corruption in claims & complaints against crooked lawyers

So far no response yet to calls for an investigation into the appointments process - no doubt a few documents are being altered and a few minds being given different versions of events to save skins ... but despite glowing testimonials in the press, the public are a bit weary of quangos being stuffed with judges, ex police and others who are not seen as particularly 'impartial' ... especially when it comes to the vexed question of regulating complaints against lawyers - which has now suffered several decades of endemic corruption when it comes to dealing with clients who regularly get ripped off by their solicitors ...

Perhaps the Which? consumer organisation should step in themselves with a new "super complaint" on the subject of regulation, as the rest of the UK now enjoys the existence of the "Legal Services Board" - an independent regulator of solicitors, which sadly stops at the border with England.

My earlier report on the Which? "super complaint" on the lawyers closed shop monopoly of the legal services market in Scotland : Consumers call for OFT Inquiry to investigate restriction of legal services in Scotland

This new independent regulator for the rest of the UK stops at the Border, because Kenny MacAskill protests, rather strangely, and without any good reason, that Scotland does not need an independent regulator of legal services.

My earlier report on Kenny MacAskill's rejection of an independent legal services board and more rights for Scots when it comes to dealings with the law & the legal profession : Justice Secretary MacAskill insists on second class legal system for Scotland as England names & shames crooked lawyers

Of course, to have an independent regulator of the legal services market in Scotland would be too much against the interests of the same legal profession Kenny MacAskill is a member of, and has said he will always support against anyone who seeks to 'misrepresent it' (in other words, tell the truth) ... so it's easy to see why Mr MacAskill insists that us Scots must remain second class citizens next to his legal brethren in the Law Society of Scotland.

Kenny MacAskill - insistent as ever the Scots public will have no rights against lawyers or freedom of choice in what is current a closed monopolistic legal services market : Justice Secretary rejects independent regulation of lawyers and public right of choice in legal services market

Of course, it could be that the new Chairman of the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission might recommend herself that Scotland needs an independent regulator of the legal services market. After all, Jane Irvine, whom I congratulated last week in being appointed to the position, has a long history of experience in areas of consumer affairs and particularly investigation of complaints relating to the law, the Police, and of course, the legal profession itself in her current position as Scottish Legal Services Ombudsman.

Such a gesture by Mrs Irvine, to recommend a Legal Services Board for Scotland, so that Scots enjoy the same rights as the rest of the UK or even better, would be greatly appreciated, considering our Justice Secretary seems to be far too biased for the legal profession itself, at the expense of the wider public interest ...

The Scotsman reports :

Irvine brings stability to new commission


WE'VE known for more than a year that it was coming and now, at last, we know who is going to be running the new Scottish Legal Complaints Commission.

The appointment of Jane Irvine, the current Scottish Legal Services Ombudsman, as chairwoman of the new commission seems like a sensible move. From the profession's perspective, at least they know who they will be dealing with, and both can build on the existing relationships established since 2006.

Irvine's pragmatic and plain-speaking approach certainly appears to have earned her respect from the Law Society of Scotland and Faculty of Advocates. Along with commissioners – including lawyers Alan Paterson, David Smith, Margaret Scanlan and David Chaplin – Irvine should bring continuity and stability after a period of uncertainty about the new gateway for service complaints.

The focus can now firmly shift to ensuring there is a smooth transition – both for the profession and for the public – from the old to new complaints handling systems.

Certainly there are many logistical issues that need to be addressed before the commission opens for business in October.

For example, when exactly will the window shut on complaints being made under the existing system and open for the new one? What approach will the commission take in looking at historical cases?

Irvine needs to ensure the commission communicates early and effectively with the public and the profession to raise awareness of the new system and all the changes it will bring.

Even bigger challenges remain to be resolved, however, not least of which is how complaints about the legal service will be judged by the commission, when the Law Society of Scotland is still working on a new set of standards for the profession.

Last year, Irvine warned that the profession was being hampered by a "weak" code of conduct for solicitors, with a "patchwork" of rules and guidelines, "sprinkled with confusing exclusions".

The profession may yet risk having standards imposed upon it from the commission's rulings.

Also, will the commission be able to clearly distinguish between service and conduct issues? If this is not always possible, how will this fit with the Law Society of Scotland's own investigations into solicitors?

Many of these issues have already been flagged up by Irvine and Richard Smith, the commission's interim chief executive, who has been speaking to the profession about its role since last summer. Irvine may wish to use less slightly less bullish language than Smith, however, who once commented that the commission was holding out a hand to the profession with "a fist inside the glove".

To start with at least, the commission should enjoy a generous degree of public, and some professional, goodwill. Despite the Law Society of Scotland's repeated protestations about the tiny proportion of complaints arising from transactions, the new complaints gateway is being introduced in response increasing consumer frustration with the existing system.

It is worth remembering that solicitors are not always happy with the current system either, as Caroline Flanagan acknowledged during her presidency, when the Law Society of Scotland gave up trying to retain control of service complaints handling.

Of course, it remains to be seen whether the new system will be better than the old. It won't be a magic bullet, and it seems unlikely that most complaints will reach a different resolution just because the commission looks at the same set of facts.

But, as Irvine herself wrote when she presented her last annual report, there has been a "constant theme of lack of trust" in the Law Society of Scotland. "Clients simply do not believe an institutional members' body can deal with consumer complaints fairly," she said.

If the commission can provide greater transparency and clarity for all concerned, then that seems very much in the public's and the profession's interests.

and finally ...

A small apology to readers ...

As I am moving my image albums just now, the "Flickr" links which contained images of media stories, letters and other revealing information in some of my articles are for now, missing. The move was forced on me after complaints from the legal profession apparently to Flickr, because they don't want the pubic to be able to read what actually goes on when the Law Society interferes with clients cases against crooked lawyers.

Terrible thing censorship of the media, isn't it ... and it seems to happen a lot to anyone who writes about scandals in the legal world where lawyers ruin clients and get away with it ...

The material will be restored for public viewing in due course.


Anonymous said...

SNP Scotland seems to mean censored Scotland.

What next ? Perhaps some book burning and they will be putting "stars of david" on people ?

Anonymous said...

The SLCC sounds a right stitch up from the Law Society and Kenny MacAskill.

Sorry to see your Flickr site was deleted.I suppose thats what happens when you expose legal thugs like you have been dealing with.It only draws more attention to the fact they are a bunch of crooks who can only survive on censorship and maybe even ordering a few attacks on people or deaths.

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

“Terrible thing censorship of the media, isn't it ... ”.

Indeed it is Peter, as you pointed out in a previous response to me here :

… and someone else pointed out here :

I noticed some good comments about MacAskill’s pals in the SLCC over here too :

Calling all brave, bold and courageous investigative journalists who have the balls to take on MacAskill, Salmond and the SNP (the Sleaze Nazi Party) over this sham of a complaints body, and many other cases of injustice they refuse to act on.

Are there any in Scotland at all … not too friendly with or feart of these Nazis?

Welcome to censorship Scotland indeed … that little corrupt Banana Republic of North West Europe under SNP “rule” … who thrive on, and do nothing about, the many injustices brought to their attention … to protect their establishment pals in high places and their own precious skins.

Is that what you voted for folks?

Gorgeous George said...

judges wives and cops on a complaints committee against lawyers - that sounds a fit up Mr Cherbi ! an SNP FIT UP !

Anonymous said...

You ended the article well - put Irvine on the spot because she's going to be in charge - more do nothing and the SLCC will be as big a farce as the powerless SLSO

Anonymous said...

Flickr are cowards.If you want hosting I will offer you free space.Email on the way Mr Cherbi - and a valiant struggle you have been through if I may say so !

Good luck and all the best to all your supporters.

Anonymous said...

Good wholesome stuff for Scotland.Suffer at the hands of bent lawyers - talk about it - campaign to get the law changed - actually get the law changed then they censor you.

Makes you more believable than ever Peter Cherbi.Well done and keep up the good work.Your credibility is top notch anyway so you dont need to keep posting the papers from flickr - just reprint the text in your reports.

Anonymous said...

Its a bit off with the Scotsman not really getting to grips with whats in this story.That one you did last week on it was brilliant about the dodgy cop and the others.

I suppose this is more of the Law Society shutting the papers up again so there must be something in it for them yet ?

Peter Cherbi said...

#Anonymous @ 12:04pm

possibly ... of course, the wrong man is in charge of the Justice system, one could say ... because there are clearly more capable and more impartial people in the SNP to take on the Justice portfolio.

#Anonymous @ 12.26pm

The SLCC has turned out as expected - although given the replies I got from the previous Scottish Executive, things might not have been as bad as they are now with it ...

@Campaign to out Kenny "No Justice" MacAskill @ 1.52pm

Would have to agree with you on all counts.

Perhaps Mr Swinney could save us, being somewhat more capable on these issues and I would add, seen as more trustworthy ...

#Anonymous @ 1.31pm

Thanks for the hosting offer, and several which have come in by email. I will get back to you all in the next few days.

#Anonymous @ 6.12pm

Thats how it is in Scotland, well, the same in England I would think - time to end such a culture of injustice ?

Thanks for your kind words. I think in view of what happened, I will ensure that whatever I post as an image to carry the point, will be retyped into the blog article ... and I wont be relying on a single image hosting album again - lessons for us all in censorship.

#Anonymous @ 8.55pm

Spot on I would say ...

Ronald Muir said...

Dear Mr Cherbi

It should be obvious even to the most uninformed person on legal affairs that you were censored because you are undoubtably the biggest threat to the Law Society and their arguments to the contrary of how clients lives are affected by the actions of solicitors.

The way the newspapers have covered your story over the years and your constant reminding us that this goes on - on a daily basis against client after client is the most powerful argument for change there could ever be.

Keep up the good work as I see you are doing.

Anonymous said...

Yes I must admit, after reading your two reports on the SLCC it sounds like the rumours of Law Society intervention in the appointments process are true.

Good of you to inform us when the general media seems to be warned off.

Anonymous said...

Just sat and watched that video clip of Douglas Mill and Swinney.Mill comes over as a liar,Swinney a bit soft considering what is in the memo but at least he said what he did.

Nothing will change as you say until this Law Society is totally stripped of any complaints function and this slcc gets normal people on it,not a bunch of lawyers,cops and more lawyers.

I think reading the rest of this is enough to put me off using any Scottish lawyer now.Thanks - probably save me a bundle !

Anonymous said...

Surprised you arent on it Peter but with Kenny MacAskill choosing them you wouldnt get a look in.I hear he hates your guts and isnt shy to say it in meetings.

Peter Cherbi said...

#Ronald Muir @ 12:17pm

Censoring reality is more often associated with dictatorships than "SNP Scotland" as one person put it yesterday.

I am doing nothing more than posting information and papers which show exactly what the Law Society and the legal profession have been doing over the years to get away with fraud after fraud, and deny people access to justice on an almost constant basis if a case may not be in the interests of the profession to carry forward.

I know for sure that not all SNP members support that, and not all the Ministers in the Government support it either.One Minister alone is responsible for allowing the legal profession its current 'free hand' to do as they please, and I think you all know just who that is.

On the other hand, one other Minister in the current Government, an honourable man, saw through the lies of the legal profession and challenged their leader on points which show habitual corruption in the client claims process against solicitors.

#Anonymous @ 8.09pm

I agree entirely.

#Anonymous @ 9.48pm

Yes, I've heard this before ... can't think why Mr MacAskill doesn't like me.

All I am doing is reporting real events - not some made up spin doctored press release designed to distract from the reality of a situation ...

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

Was sorry to read that MacAskill “hates your guts” Peter. Personally, I have found you to be one of the most helpful, decent and honest guys I know. Rumour has it he hates my guts even more … I really can’t think why that should be the case either.

Nothing to do with the fact that I am rightly critical of a man who has covered up a most appalling case of abuse and neglect over the past 8 ½ years, since he first became aware of it in August 1999, is it? (details in the links to my previous posts below).

One wonders what hope anyone has approaching Salmond with cases of injustice, criminality and wrong-doing when he can appoint a corrupt and crooked man such as MacAskill to the all-important job as “Justice” Secretary after being made fully aware of his cover up exploits (to protect his Edinburgh and Scottish establishment pals in high places … and himself of course) in the Mr X case concerned. Seems Salmond is just as crooked as his partner in crime MacAskill is.

Strange the media are turning a blind eye to this horrific case and don’t appear brave enough to expose MacAskill for the heartless, callous, wicked and crooked individual he undoubtedly is. Perhaps it is as you said Peter :

“Censoring reality is more often associated with dictatorships than "SNP Scotland" as one person put it yesterday” … and the Sleaze Nazi Party are doing everything to ensure this case is not exposed (a few threats to editors to keep the case under wraps), is kept well buried at SNP HQ and MacAskill’s sleazy and corrupt practices are allowed to continue unchallenged, and he gets away with this murderous cover up scot free.

Are there no editors and journalists brave enough to expose this man for being the callous crook he is, once and for all … and who abhor injustice (especially at the murky hands of a so-called “Justice” Secretary), inaction, criminality and wrong-doing?

Let’s hope there are some so brave…

Peter Cherbi said...

#Campaign to oust Kenny "No Justice" MacAskill @ 1.19pm

I think these 'personal remarks and attacks' which come from members of the legal profession or their allies are a symptom of their predicament.The fact is they are supporting fraud & lies, fairly blatantly.

It's a bit like attacking a heart attack patient who didn't get their medicine because a politician (who might think more people should have heart attacks) picked up the phone and told the doctor not to give it to them.

Simply, people have been getting ripped off for years by the legal profession, and when cause to complain about it occurs, financially ruined clients get nothing, and worse, they are personally targeted by the Law Society, almost to the point of death, and that's no exaggeration, as many a journalist know themselves.

I think the problem for me is of course my story has been well covered by the likes of the Scotsman and other newspapers over the years.I have used that coverage to help others, I hope, and others have benefited from that coverage.

I am not, unlike these politicians, a glory seeker. I simply want answers and a resolution to my case, and all the cases of injustice to others caused by the failure of the Law Society to properly regulate the legal profession, and recompense properly those people whose lives have been totally ruined by disgraceful & unnecessary confrontations with the legal profession - and all because the Law Society wants to maintain itself as the effective 'boss of the law' in Scotland.

Targeting anyone publicly or privately with these 'hate' remarks, seems to me at least, to show that the people making them have something to hide - and we all know what that is .. dishonesty and financial gain at the expense of the public.

Not much to ask to clean all that up surely - we all need to use legal services, and if these matters were addressed, the legal profession, the legal system itself, and the public would all benefit - that has to be a good thing, yes ?