Sunday, August 24, 2008

Scots legal profession used PR firms to manipulate media & public opinion on legal aid reforms

True to tradition, the Scots legal profession always fall back on deception, censorship and manipulation of the media & public opinion when things don't go their way, and in spectacular style, the Sunday Herald today has exposed the Glasgow Bar Association in a media manipulation scandal where it hired a Public Relations firm to attack the recent legal aid reforms, which are depriving lawyers and legal firms of legal aid income.

While at first glance there may be no evidence of Law Society of Scotland involvement, you can be sure Law Chiefs at the Law Society's Edinburgh Headquarters in Drumsheugh Gardens knew all about what was going on, and tacitly supported the covert plan to kill off the widely supported reforms to legal aid, ensuring more money coming back into the legal profession's coffers.

The Law Society itself is no stranger to media manipulation, as the following two stories I have previously covered demonstrate :

Lawyers protests over low legal aid fees revealed to be fake as Law Society's own research points to increase

Wikipedia manipulated & censored by Law Society of Scotland in propaganda war against critics & reformers

Chief Executive of the Law Society of Scotland branded a liar after FSA denies claims of intervention to block complaints body.

Scottish legal profession campaigns against open debate in Scottish Parliament on independent regulation of complaints against lawyers.

Major move by the Law Society of Scotland to silence critics in the wake of assault on one of it's top members

One of the above stories even involved a mafia style 'hit' on a senior member of the Law Society itself, which involved officials privately briefing journalists in an attempt to blame the attack on the Law Society's Chief Accountant Leslie Cumming on critics of the legal profession .. but which turned out to have been an attack orchestrated by crooked lawyers attempting to escape investigation ...

Kenny MacAskill, the Justice Secretary is quoted in the Sunday Herald article with the following : "I regret that the Glasgow Bar Association have paid lobbyists in order to trawl around for mistakes. It doesn't serve them well.

"We want to reward lawyers for doing their job, not have people playing the system. Unfortunately, it does seem that a small minority of lawyers want to persist in milking the system."

Who are you kidding Mr MacAskill - your Justice Department has been using just about anyone they could to justify some of your own recent appointments to key positions in the areas of regulation of the legal profession, which I covered in the following previous articles :

Justice Secretary MacAskill misused Government appointments regulator in ‘jobs for lawyers’ scandal

Justice Secretary MacAskill denies knowledge of ‘claims fixing’ memos identifying former law chief sent to Judicial Appointments

Also, not content with shipping in legal colleagues to key legal regulatory and appointment committees, the current Scottish Government has allowed the legal profession to take over what was to be the new 'independent' regulator of complaints against lawyers in Scotland - the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission. You can read more about that here :

Law Society target ‘outsider staff’ for exit at Complaints Commission as lawyers undermine attempts at independent regulation

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

Good old Kenny MacAskill - always wanting to ‘reward lawyers’ for doing their job, but at what cost to the rest of us in Scotland ?

Does “this Scottish Government” owe the legal profession such an immense debt it must ensure lawyers continue to cover up for crooked lawyers and always put lawyers interests before those of the public ?

Maybe if there wasn’t a lawyer in the position of Justice Secretary who is so inconsiderate in putting the legal profession’s values over the public, there may be a little more order in Scotland’s out-of-control legal services sector …

So, the legal profession using PR firms and fake news stories in certain newspapers by lawyers themselves to promote their image.That is nothing new.

What is new is that such events are now being reported .. which is good - good for the public who should realise the Scots legal services market is dominated by corruption dodgy political alliances, and greed, putting the interests and safety of the client and public last.

The Sunday Herald reports :

Lawyers paid PR firm to attack reforms which cut legal aid income

Scare stories about new system were placed by media company

By Paul Hutcheon, Scottish Political Editor

AT FIRST sight, the recent media coverage about how new criminal justice reforms were allowing yobs to walk away from their crimes with a fine seemed only to be a reflection of public concerns.

The last Scottish Executive's summary justice proposals, which came into force on March 10, were intended to speed up the system by keeping low-level criminals out of court and instead punishing them with either a fine or a warning.

In practice, "reform" was allowing people charged with assault to get away with a £150 fine, a sanction which was bizarrely applied to two women who attacked a nurse with a glass.

The result was a plethora of stories about "soft touch" Scotland and a barrage of criticism for the SNP government and prosecutors.

However, the Sunday Herald can reveal that much of the coverage was being driven by the Glasgow Bar Association (GBA) - a body representing the legal profession in the west of Scotland - which had hired a PR firm, McGarvie Morrison Media (MMM), to attack a key plank of the criminal justice system.

A consequence of the fiscal fines system, otherwise known as "diversion", is that people charged with low-level crimes need not get bogged down in drawn-out court cases, thus depriving lawyers of legal aid.

Statistics from the Scottish Legal Aid Board show how lucrative state cash is for law firms. In 2006-2007, firms received £122 million for work done.

In other words, Glasgow's legal establishment has been bankrolling a secret campaign to attack a set of reforms that will reduce the subsidies for wealthy law firms.

A leaked letter from last month between two solicitors makes clear MMM's remit to mount a campaign against a set of reforms that had widespread cross-party support at the time.

"As you will probably know, they GBA have employed media consultants who have basically commenced a campaign through the Scottish Sun regarding diversion being used in serious cases rather than prosecuting somebody in court. The consultants are looking for any cases where it would appear that diversion has been used for something more serious than it should have."

The letter continued: "Apparently the consultants are offering discretion and confidentiality and if any member has such a case they want to report to them they should send an email to john@mmm.pr."

The email address was for John Morrison, a founding director of MMM, which for the last two months has placed stories and trawled for negative diversion cases on behalf of their well-paid clients.

MMM, a Labour-supporting PR firm which donated £2000 to the party last year, lists a number of its clients on its website, but not the GBA.

But the blurb on its site states: "We deploy our experiences, skills and contacts to ensure that MMM campaigns make headlines and achieve results."

The firm's "discreet" strategy appears to have had one central plank: find bad examples of diversion and hand them to the media. It is a tactic that has certainly made headlines.

A raft of articles in broadsheet and tabloid newspapers have focused on individual cases of diversion, which were accompanied by either statistics or obliging quotes from a member of the GBA.

In one July report, published in The Sun, GBA past president Gerard Considine was quoted on the summary reforms: "I can't see how this is about protecting the public from harm."

In an earlier article in the same newspaper, Considine had another criticism of the system: "This is undermining the credibility of the justice system."

Sara Matheson, the current president of the GBA, also hit out at the new regime. "This is a matter that should concern the general public," she said.

Another piece, in The Sunday Times in June, reported how lawyers had "compiled a dossier" of cases in which serious crimes had been "downgraded" to free up court time.

This time, Edinburgh Bar Association president Kenneth Cloggie popped up with a quote: "It seems to be a bit of a lottery depending on the fiscal you get on the day."

Cloggie's email address was also listed in a fax obtained by the Sunday Herald as the contact for suitable examples of "direct measures", such as fiscal fines, for use in a BBC programme on the matter.

Morrison said of MMM's work: "Our company was recently appointed as short-term media advisers to the Glasgow Bar Association. There has been intense press and media interest in issues linked to summary justice reform and the use of fiscal fines. The GBA asked MMM to provide advice on how best to deal with inquiries from journalists and to help promote their point of view."

He added: "The GBA have consistently argued that fiscal fines are not in the public interest, because some offenders who are guilty of violent and other serious offences are not being convicted through the courts and escape without a criminal record."

Matheson defended the GBA hiring the PR firm. "The overwhelming motivation was to have some assistance with the press. They are helping us with all aspects of getting our message across," she said. "Our members are gravely concerned about diversion and the effect it will have on the public."

On whether the legal aid aspect of the summary justice reforms was part of the reason for hiring MMM, she said: "That's certainly one aspect, but it's not the only driving force."

Justice secretary Kenny MacAskill MSP, who concedes that there are problems with the system, said: "I regret that the Glasgow Bar Association have paid lobbyists in order to trawl around for mistakes. It doesn't serve them well.

"We want to reward lawyers for doing their job, not have people playing the system. Unfortunately, it does seem that a small minority of lawyers want to persist in milking the system.

"The two-month media blitz on the summary justice reforms, far from being a bottom-up process reflecting public anxiety, appears to have been a campaign manufactured by a PR company and paid for by a legal establishment that has a financial interest in resisting the new system."

32 comments:

Anonymous said...

Interesting point of view and I share your belief the Law Society knew about it all along.

Nothing much escapes them as you know full well yourself !

Anonymous said...

Some might say it was a Labour sponsored plot against the SNP but this smacks purely of lawyers greed.MONEY MONEY MONEY once again and all for lawyers !

Anonymous said...

Bloodsucking lawyers hire a spin doctor firm to protect their legal aid loot and all Kenny can say is "lets reward lawyers"

Get out of office Mr MacAskill and go back to your friends in the legal world.YOu are doing nothing for Scotland with those lousy claims.

Anonymous said...

Despicable to say the least and these people expect us the public to trust them with our legal affairs ?

There should be an investigation into the Glasgow Bar Association and anyone else involved in this scheme.I wouldn't be surprised if Mr MacAskill isn't as lilly white as he is claiming either.

Anonymous said...

Some good links in your story Peter.You don't leave out much and nothing much seems to escape you !

Keep up the good work.

Anonymous said...

aye peter the law society and their scumbags are a bunch of born liars

about time someone put them in their place and i think that person is you laddie!

small fry said...

Kenny MacAskill describes the Glasgow Bar Association as "Unfortunately, it does seem that a small minority of lawyers want to persist in milking the system"

I take it this is his attempt to mitigate the thrust of the scandal where a very influential part of Scotland's legal profession decided to create public anxiety and fear over the lack of legal aid flowing back to solicitors.

No dice Mr MacAskill.You are well out of order.How about launching an investigation (sorry, whitewash as Peter would say) into what happened? At least if you did that you could pretend to be doing something you obviously don't want to do.

Anonymous said...

I wonder what other secret media fixing schemes this lot have been involved in for lawyers.

Good find and good for the Sunday Herald to print it !

Anonymous said...

Oh lord the GBA will ruin us yet.How they thought this could slip past the likes of you I can't imagine.

Mr McAskill's statement in the story sounds 'laboured'
One not to be believed?

Anonymous said...

Just the tip of the iceberg.I bet the Law Society has been in bed with spin doctor firms against you and everyone else who might be a threat to them.

Good work and keep it up

Anonymous said...

Obviously someone talked and whoever that is they will be getting carpeted today.

I see the hootsmon covered it today although from a less critical angle.Must be inconvenient for them to learn their legal column works out about the same as management of public opinion just to get lawyers more money!

Anonymous said...

How much were the newspapers and 'journalists' paid to write the stories ? Did they get some legal favours too ?

Anonymous said...

MMM has an interesting client list.Perhaps food for further investigation.

Peter Cherbi said...

# Anonymous @ 5.40pm

From what I heard this morning, the Law Society were aware of this matter for some time.

In any case, the Law Society has also used PR firms to attack not only legislative reforms but also critics of the legal profession.

In one case I know of, Private Detectives were employed by the Law Society against a client who was trying to pursue a court action for negligence against his former lawyer so the legal profession are no strangers to dirty tactics.

# Anonymous @ 6.24pm

I agree - rather than it being political in some way, it seems to indicate more the desire of the legal profession to ensure it maximises legal aid payments ...

# Anonymous @ 7.29pm

Quite !

# Anonymous @ 8.15pm

Yes I agree .. there should be an investigation into this matter, but who will investigate it - the Law Society of Scotland or the new Scottish Legal Complaints Commission or even the Scottish Government, itself full of lawyers ?

# Anonymous @ 8.57pm

I try ...

# Anonymous @ 9.23pm

Defeating the spears of injustice is a collective effort involving many people ...

# Small Fry @ 11.27pm

I agree with your comments ... but I don't think I could trust a Scottish Government investigation into the matter ...

Anonymous said...

How many other favours have the media, including the BBC, arranged behind closed doors with the legal profession and their political poodles?

Anonymous said...

I fear it will take a lot more to clean up the Law Society than you are suggesting Mr Cherbi.Perhaps a brand new start is needed in view of the way these local bar associations carry on.

Anonymous said...

I just read the Scotsman version of this story and its hillarious the lengths papers will go to save Labour!

Anyway Peter I know you don't like Mr MacAskill very much and neither do I even though I am an SNP member myself.

I think you should try some gentle persuasion to those of us in the party with some clout to remove Mr MacAskill from his justice portfolio because we can all see he just ain't cuttin it !

cheers and keep up the good work !

Anonymous said...

I hear you have been causing problems Mr Cherbi with your recent exposes.

Well done.We need much more of that when it comes to the legal profession !

Anonymous said...

A certain PR firm was used by the Law Society against certain people.All they could come up with was nasty postings in forums and a few fake consultation replies (so bad they couldn't even spell)

Anonymous said...

Some of New Labour's nasty habits rubbing off on the Law Society or was it the other way around ?

All these crooked lawyers should be sent off to rendezvous with the sun at close orbit.

No justice in Scotland under Alex Salmond and the SNP said...

Hi Peter

Your readers may be interested in the following planned "Gathering / Vigil / PEACEFUL Protest / March Against Scottish Injustice" outside Bute House - dates and times to be finalised asap.

News Release
http://shirleymckie.myfastforum.org/sutra1782.php#1782

No justice in Scotland under Alex Salmond and the SNP

http://shirleymckie.myfastforum.org/sutra1764.php#1764

http://shirleymckie.myfastforum.org/sutra1789.php#1789

All the best,

Al

Anonymous said...

No big surprises here but good to see the story doing the rounds.Sounds all arranged to me - the chat from Kenny shows he knew about it all the time and might even have been in on it.How many times has the legal profession in Scotland done this anyway and each time MacAskill would have been well aware as a lawyer what was going on.

Anonymous said...

I lost faith a long time ago in the GBA to do any arranging on behalf of the profession.This only reinforces my position.
Btw who leaked those emails?!

rab in hell said...

All lawyers deny taking legal aid but most of their firms do have legal aid solicitors to keep the money rolling in from the taxpayer.Bloody robbers the lot of them !

Anonymous said...

I wish you would post where you can find help in manhattan. I would like to get back what has been stolen from me. all the reading in the world wont help me to avoid the very issues you discuss here on your site. I need an attorney who will help me that is honest. that is hard to find. my mother bequeathed it too me. i believe my father left me money too. I am stuck in a hell hole. my entire life has been a nightmare and i want to break free before it is too late. so please let me know if you can post a place that I can get help from thank you

Anonymous said...

I went to the fbi and gave them my sworn statement. I did this. I told the the absolute 100 percent truth in all matters. I don't know what else I can do. I beleive in the men at the fbi and that they will findout the truth. I don't know if I will ever find out but they will. I can't afford a phone so it makes it hard to get anywhere. I live in an insanity. do you think chris after almost beating me to death got any time? probbably not. do you think my ex husband will get away with his fruad on documents probably since I can't afford to fight him and I don't know if my brother got my mail I sent him or if he can help me. so what can I do

Anonymous said...

you should have heard charles stanley last week. about how my name was on all of these deeds but I didn't own any of them. I have never owned anything. they all lied to me for all these years and did these things behind my back and what can I do? I asked my sister to notify the courts of the ending guardianship/trusts. I have asked my brother too. now I need help

Anonymous said...

all I know is why don't they all go to court. why do you have to have legal guardianship over someone behind their back. I have requested my brothers help since I can't get anywhere. I know I have been wronged all along. that they held in trust certain monies and property and I never got it. now you want to give the same people more power over others when they don't respond correctly? I pray my brother will help me. I don't know what to do. I absolutely hate it here. there people don't do anything but help people who have wronged me. can't you see that. they set me up. go read the book called the ASTORS and you will note in one of the pictures there is a new paper article that even say about how they have wronged me. I think it came form the observer. yes that is dale and you need to read closelyabout the lies and rejection becuase I had no other choice the set me up with this in mind. I have turned my back on religeon. I was set up to have no other choice but the ransome and I hold god responsible

Anonymous said...

all I know is the truth will come out and it will hurt those that controll and hurt others the most. as they killed my dad and stole things that were left to them to be entrusted with and they decided to use things that weren't theirs to hurt me with. funny how I have little love for them. those who've hurt me with taste the wrongs

Anonymous said...

we can talk until we are blue in the face. you can write all you want but if you can't give advice how to combat these people then it won't work. it's like trying to kill weeds by looking at them and talking about how they grow. you have to pull them out by action. that is what I want to do but I can't get the help I need. I am a woman trying to fight. I am not highly schooled but I will work hard to get these people out of my life. But without knowing how I can't seem to do much

Anonymous said...

I don't know what to do here? everything I do seems to be diverted or invaded by corruption. Hence I am burnt out. I need help. my brother is the only person I know you would know part of the truth. of my mother estate. he had the will and if bill has the income it should have been turned over to me at 18 becuase cassie died. my brother would know and be able to say what he will said. I can't get anywhere here. I can't fight people who have set me up on my own. I don't want the easy weay out on this. thats a joke. I have battled abd battled. I want dale gone and he has had his atotneys lie for him. I am sending the issues to my brother in hopes he can help me.

Peter Cherbi said...

# Anonymous @ 4.28pm

Hi, and sorry I haven't got back to you earlier.

I emailed a friend in the US if he could be of assistance to you but unfortunately it doesn't look as if that is an option, and I don't have many legal contacts in the US who I think could tackle your case.

Have you tried going to a newspaper and getting some journalists involved in the case ? I think there should be some media publicity to what is going on, identifying the people responsible etc... Perhaps from that step we can see about getting legal representation for you ?