The little credibility left of the 'independent' Scottish Legal Complaints Commission has been thrown into question once more after revelations the appointments process was corrupted by the Law Society of Scotland.
It has been revealed from documents obtained from sources, that Philip Yelland, the Law Society's Director of Regulation effectively provided the Justice Department with false information relating to regulatory disclosures on the solicitor applicants, which the Justice Department then amazingly failed to verify.
Exclusive : leaked for the first time – a deceptive regulatory disclosure from the Law Society of Scotland
Philip Yelland only gave limited information on the lawyer applicants : "I should point out to you that in terms of upheld complaints the only issues which it seems to be would be relevant would be if there were findings of professional misconduct against any of the individuals. Service complaints run against firms rather than individuals."
However, the Law Society’s own website contradicts Mr Yelland’s claim to the Government, having details of how to proceed service complaints against individual solicitors and even listing some of the limited sanctions which can be applied against solicitors found guilty of inadequate Professional Service (I.P.S).
How the Law Society handles Service complaints :
Service issues : such as poor communication, avoidable delay, failing to follow instructions and failing to advise about rising fees/outlays.
Service Complaints Before 1 October : For a transitional period until 2010, the Society will continue to deal with service complaints relating to business instructed before 1 October 2008. The Commission refers these complaints to the Society. Sanctions include the correction of mistakes, a full or partial refund or waiver of fees and payment of compensation.
Mr Yelland carefully limited his disclosure only to the individuals, as service and conduct complaints are rife at most legal firms in Scotland including those legal firms which the lawyer applicants to the SLCC worked : "I am assuming that you are not wishing any information about that given that it is individuals who have made the applications to the Commission."
A source within the Scottish Government’s Justice Department amazingly claimed there was no will within the Department after the change in Government administration last May to implement all the promises of independent regulation and ensure the SLCC was impartial enough.
He said: “Everyone here at Justice just wanted to get the thing going or hand the whole mess over to the Law Society who were constantly hammering away for control of it”. He went onto claim there was little doubt among the Justice Department's staff, the current Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill hated the idea of independent regulation of solicitors.
Staggeringly the Justice Secretary failed to check the false information provided by the Law Society of Scotland. However,Mr MacAskill is an 'experienced' solicitor and must have realised what was provided by Mr Yelland was completely untrue - raising the possibility there has been a cover up to prevent the appointments information leaking to the public domain.
The Law Society’s Director of Regulation, Mr Yelland, who signed off on the regulatory disclosure, also did not disclose the actual levels of complaints against the solicitors, as again many are well aware the Law Society either does not issue findings in complaints or carefully puts them to bed so there is no record.
A legal insider today said "it is impossible these solicitors have never had a complaint made against them ... there isn't a lawyer in Scotland who hasn't had client complaints and there isn't a firm with a clean complaints record"
A constituent of John Swinney today said he felt it important the true picture of these SLCC board members and their legal firms involvement in complaints and claims against lawyers was fully disclosed to the public :
He said : "Philip Yelland's letter to the Scottish Government is a pack of lies. In Law Society investigations into my own complaints against my legal agents, the Society determined and found the solicitor in question guilty of I.P.S (Inadequate Professional Service) and this has occurred on more than one occasion I can tell you"
Jane Irvine, the SLCC's Chairman and its board members could not be contacted for comment on the revelations, little wonder as it is now quite apparent there was a deliberate attempt by the Law Society to mislead the Government and the public over the solicitor applicants to the Commission.
I have covered problems with the SLCC’s appointments process before, which you can read more about here : Call for MacAskill appointments 'sleaze investigation' as revelations show Legal Complaints Commission member was subject of Police inquiry
Here follows the full text of the Law Society’s Regulation Director Mr Yelland’s disclosure, now revealed as defective and questionable in content …
Miss A. McArthur
Access to Justice Division
Civil & International Justice Directorate
The Scottish Government
St Andrews House
Edinburgh EH1 3DG
Appointments to the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission
I write to acknowledge receipt of your letter of 11 September addressed to my colleague Michael Clancy. Please note that communications in relation to the Commission should be addressed to me for the future.
I attach below the information which you are seeking about the six candidates highlighted in the letter.
I should point out to you that in terms of upheld complaints the only issues which it seems to be would be relevant would be if there were findings of professional misconduct against any of the individuals. Service complaints run against firms rather than individuals. I am assuming that you are not washing any information about that given that it is individuals who have made the applications to the Commission.
In terns of the information which you are seeking I would advise as follows :-
2. David Hay Smith
Mr Smith was enrolled as a solicitor on 14 October 1971 and is a Partner with Messrs Shepherd & Wedderburn, LLP in Edinburgh. There are no findings of professional misconduct against Mr Smith and there is no period in the intervening thirty six years where he has not been enrolled.
4. Margaret Scanlan
Mrs Scanlan has been enrolled as a solicitor since 5 September 1972 and there are no periods in the intervening thirty five years where she has not been enrolled as a solicitor. There are no findings of professional misconduct against her.
6. David Chaplin
Mr Chaplin was enrolled as a solicitor on 30 October 1972 and is a Partner with Messrs Anderson Fyfe LLP in Glasgow. There are no findings of professional misconduct against Mr Chaplin and there are no gaps in his enrolment in the last thirty five years.
I trust this is the information you are seeking. If you need more information, please let me know.