Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Legal Complaints Commission in crisis amid funds shortage & resignation threats over lack of insurance protection

SLCC squareAmid the mass of problems plaguing the beleaguered Scottish Legal Complaints Commission, it has been revealed through documents the SLCC's Board members appointed by Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill threatened to resign en mass unless the Government provided Indemnity Insurance which the Justice Secretary had staggeringly failed to include in the Commission's formation process.

MacAskill tight lippedJustice Secretary's gaffe on insurance against threatening crooked lawyers : Mr MacAskill's appointees to the Commission, a collection of ex Police officers, ex (or serving) public service employees and lawyers, felt their personal assets may be put in danger during the course of their 'duties' in considering complaints against crooked lawyers and other sinister elements of Scotland's notoriously corrupt legal profession.

Members threaten to resign from SLCC 7&8 April 2008 meetingLeaked : "Members expressed concern that the indemnity paper previously produced by Colin Mackay (Deputy, Department of Justice) made the Commission look like a commercial body and stated they would resign rather than risk their personal assets. Members stated that they would like the risks they undertook from 1st October 2008 assessed. Colin Mackay said he was not in a position to advise on the position of a statutory body being covered by indemnity but agreed to attain legal advice for the Members on personal liability and the Commission's liability from Anderson Strathearn.”

The much coveted Indemnity Insurance sought by the SLCC's board members relates to their own fears over being sued in the courts by both crooked lawyers and clients who feel their decisions in complaints have either misrepresented issues or not been effective in resolving the difficulties caused by lawyers, or (laughably) relate to handing down too strong penalties against rogue lawyers in respect of their poor service to clients.

One leading solicitor last night condemned the shambles surrounding the Complaints Commission, claiming “This Commission was forced on us by the Scottish Government and Parliament.It is for them to pick up the bill and give both the public and the legal profession the regulation which everyone wants”.

However, a Scottish Government spokesman said today “Indemnity insurance is a matter for the Commission as this is an ongoing operational cost which we do not consider is part of the start up costs. Funding has not therefore been provided for this.”

Thus, the Scottish Government will not be injecting any extra public funds solely for the purpose of the indemnity insurance craved by the SLCC’s Board members, leaving the Commission to fend for itself and try to find the extra money to cover its official’s backs in the event lawyers and clients join forces to sue the SLCC.

A client with standing complaints against several firms of solicitors said last night of the SLCC “If this is independent regulation its a joke. Everyone knows the quango is packed with lawyers, former Law Society staff, and ex Law Society Committee members who must know plenty about how crooked lawyers have been protected for years and now they are telling us they are afraid to work without the same insurance protection which protects crooked lawyers from compensation claims.Disgusting”

As I have reported in the past, Indemnity Insurance for lawyers in Scotland (otherwise known as the Master Insurance Policy) is a very corrupt insurance framework, to say the least, and is nothing more than a policy for protection of rogue lawyers against the clients they ruin.

Read more about the woes of Indemnity Insurance for the Scottish legal profession and consumers here : Lawyers insurance - a policy to protect the cooked

The importance of Indemnity Insurance to the legal profession and those around it is so great the issue became the subject of a sensational confrontation between Cabinet Secretary John Swinney and the then Law Society Chief Douglas Mill over claims fixing memos, which ultimately claimed Mill’s career at the Law Society, which you can read more about here : Law Society Chief Executive Douglas Mill who lied to Parliament, pursued 'personal vendetta' against critics - to resign

However, the problems at the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission only get worse, as further revelations show the Law Society of Scotland is failing in its duty to collect and hand over the annual levies of around £300 from each solicitor in Scotland, which are required to keep the SLCC going.

If the levies are not collected, public funding will have to be injected yet again by the Scottish Government to keep the Commission functioning, while methods of recovery, which laughably include legal action against the Law Society and its members for failing to pay up, will have to be considered !

SLCC difficulty in obtaining levy money from Law Society 4 August 2008Document on Levies Jane Irvine, the SLCC's Chairman, reported during a meeting the following : “Jane Irvine informed members that the Law Society of Scotland had reported difficulties collecting all levies. Members agreed that they should check with Ministers what the chargeable interest rate would be and suggest that it might be 3% or 4% above base rate and that this might be non-changeable once set. This will be raised as part of Framework agreement discussions."

However, the Scottish Government today announced it would not intervene in the problems of the Law Society’s failure to collect the operating levies, and oddly denied Ministers even knew about the matter, an assertion which the SLCC’s own memos contradict.

A spokesman for the Government said : “Collection of the levy is between the Commission and the Law Society of Scotland. The Commission has not asked us for extra funding to cover any shortfall and we are not aware of any difficulties in this regard.”

The Commission's board members now feel so unsafe in their positions due to the inadequate funding arrangements, they are now demanding a staggering additional £700,000 of public funds from the Scottish Government to continue functioning at present due to the amateurish arrangements by the Justice Secretary's Department, which have left Commission staff having to be engaged in continuing work from the previous Scottish Legal Services Ombudsman office while performing their new duties at the SLCC at the same time.

However, the Justice Department's representative, Colin Mackay who attended recent meetings of the Legal Complaints Commission, was amazingly unable to answer questions put to him on what would happen if the money ran out …

Leaked : “Members asked if when the Commission is open, and money runs out due to having more complaints than anticipated, would the Commission then levy the professions or ask the Scottish Government for assistance? Colin Mackay (Deputy, Scottish Government Justice Department) unable to answer these points.”

Jane Irvine, the Commission's Chairman could not be contacted for comment on the SLCC's difficult situation ... but the blame for the SLCC's woes fall on the Law Society of Scotland, the Scottish Government and the Justice Secretary himself, who have all failed to see the organisation get on with the promised job of independently regulating Scotland’s legal profession and protecting consumers from rogue lawyers …

43 comments:

Anonymous said...

What a mess.I don't see why any solicitor should pay for this bunch of individuals to sit pretty.

The threat about the insurance - they should be sacked just for that.

Anonymous said...

It seems stupid the indemnity insurance was left out of the process however the threats to resign unless it was/is provided are outrageous for a statutory body.

This is probably just another attempt to undermine the whole complaints thing you helped create Peter

Anonymous said...

If there was ever any doubt Mr. MacAskill's worth is now clear to all, as is the stranglehold exerted over the SLCC by the Law Society and its members refusal to pay their share of the agreed running costs.

So much for the legal profession's willingness to 'embrace change'.

M.Devlin, Edinburgh said...

Interesting - so £300 a day wasn't enough for Watson and co - they had to have insurance as well

I say sack the lot of them and start again and if anyone has any sense you will be on it this time.

Good luck and keep up the good work Peter.

Anonymous said...

I've already paid my annual subs but every time I read your blog I wish I hadnt bothered.I'm bound to ask if the SLCC didn't get it where did it go ?

Anonymous said...

Kenny 'waste of space' MacAskill did a great job here now didn't he.Time to sack him and all those on this stupid quango

Anonymous said...

Madness.
Everyone is having to pay £300 just because Andrew fucking Penman was let off.

Anonymous said...

Its a complicated story Peter but from what I pick out the Government are saying they are not going to put in any more money while the slcc are asking for about 700k!

I also agree with your conclusion over who knew what - clearly it says the members are going to consult the minister (macaskill)about the shortfall in money and yet he says he knows nothing about it.Lies or what!

keep up the good work

Anonymous said...

Laughable as you say Peter.
They are not used to working without the Law Society safety net.

Pardon the pun but if Jane Irvine had any balls about her at all she should have accepted their resignations and started over.

You get my vote.

Anonymous said...

I must be seeing double because SG is saying one thing and the SLCC the other.Which is the bigger liar of the two do you think?

Anonymous said...

Have taken time to read your full story Peter and I think its fairly obvious from things the Justice Secretary does not want the SLCC to make the grade on regulation otherwise what is happening would not be.

Like your previous story on the jury names Mr MacAskill must take the blame for this one too.

Well done and keep up the fight.

Tam O'Shanter said...

If I understand this right the slcc members are worried they dont have insurance in the event lawyers or even clients who complain sue them because they screwed up on investigating a complaint

Irvine should have accepted their resignations as the earlier comment said if this is the case and start again looking for new people less willing to hide behind what will be more lawyers I assume

Anonymous said...

Oh it looks like Kenny has taken Jack McConnell's nickname of "wee joke" for himself !

Lets be filling our lawyers pockets what !

Anonymous said...

I doubt MacAskill made any errors at all Peter.Rather this was designed to happen from the very start to cause chaos and undermine the slcc into obvlvion which would enable the Law Society to say 'I told you so'.
Remember no one in the profession wants independent regulation of solicitors and that includes MacAskill and his SNP chums who feel they owe lawyers 'a great debt'.

Please continue to show us how crooked the Govt is on consumer issues.

Anonymous said...

How many times did the board threaten to resign and to whom ?
I doubt Jane Irvine would have been able to accept their resignations as they were appointed by the Justice Secretary so he probably knew all along despite the Government's statement.

Anonymous said...

Pretty much what I expected would happen at the slcc and if they are so keen to resign I would let them.

Anonymous said...

It seems to me both the slcc and Macaskill come out of this looking like liars.Am I right?

Anonymous said...

Disgusted in this story to say the least.
What about if those now on the SLCC had threatened to resign when they were at the Law Society because clients are being messed about with over complaints but no they only do it because they are worried they will get sued if they cover up for bent lawyers.
Really disgusting they shoiuld all be sacked as everyone says

Anonymous said...

Just about every public or statutory body I can think of has indemnity insurance therefore the people on the slcc were wise to point this out.
I suppose the bigger issue is why was it left out.Surely not due to incompetence !

Anonymous said...

Clear to me this quango was doomed from the start with all these lawyers and law society people on it but you said this would all happen anyway so I suppose that makes you right again!

Anonymous said...

This is all about the slcc having indemnity insurance to hide behind when they get it wrong.
Incidentally Jane Irvine isn't mentioned there.Did she threaten to resign too if she didn't have the same insurance ?

Anonymous said...

There is something very sinister going on with this quango Peter.I don't trust it one bit nor would I ever trust a lawyer again.
I know what I would like to write but you probably wouldn't publish it although I assume there are many around who feel the same as I do

Anonymous said...

Good point about the resignations

Lawyers shouldnt be allowed to regulate themselves nor should anyone else - self regulation is always corrupt

Anonymous said...

im with the last comment
time to stand up to these leeches and take back what they took from us

Anonymous said...

Interesting story Peter although as a solicitor myself I find your writing a bit on the strong side !

I know several solicitors who are refusing to pay the levy imposed on us to fund this commission and I don't blame them.After reading what you have written about it I think I will become one of the 'refusenicks' myself.

Good work and good luck !

Anonymous said...

Oh I see you have some malcontent solicitors posting now too.Good show Peter.Stir up some trouble in the legal profession leech club - they could do with it !

another "refusenik" said...

Thanks for the story Mr Cherbi.I believe your conclusions support my own in this commission is a waste of time and does not deserve any levy from us at all.
I will be writing further to you shortly.Rest assured you have friends in the profession.

Anonymous said...

I tried asking about the resignation threat and was told to fuck off by one of those concerned.They really shouldn't be where they are.

Anonymous said...

A friend of yours at the slcc said today she admires your work and that you are spot on about the commission's lack of credibility.

I must admit I fully agree with her.

Anonymous said...

... and Kenny macAskill was head to say "I don't give a shit because I'm the Justice Secretary and I will protect my leeching friends forever and a day!"

Well ha fucking ha they lost Glenrothes last night and I hope they get kicked out for all this shit about looking after lawyers

Anonymous said...

It takes a crook to catch a crook but I don't think this quango will catch many crooked lawyers !

Anonymous said...

Spent hours reading yhour blog and am totally shocked at lawyers now wouldnt go near if i can ever help it because they are lying thieving scum and you are very brave to write all about it so keep up the good work and tell all about it

Anonymous said...

I called this lot on Friday to try and find out how to make a complaint and they put the phone down on me when I asked if I was speaking to a former member of the Law Society staff or not!
Definitely not to be trusted if they don't want to tell us where they came from or what they are really up to !

Anonymous said...

Its interesting people are seemingly being turned away by the slcc just as much as they were by the Law Society when trying to make a complaint.Could these events suggest Mr Cherbi has been correct all along ?

Anonymous said...

the whole thing is a waste of time and now CAB offices are being forced to tell the public this commission is the place to go to for lawyer complaints

totally disgusting along with the law society

Peter Cherbi said...

Thanks for all your comments and emails on this article.

There is an update to report on the story, although the SLCC after volunteering some information have decided to clam up on the actual figures.

I do agree with those who say the officials who threatened resignation should have went anyway, but at the same time, the omission of indemnity insurance has to be blamed on the Justice Department, perhaps even the Minister concerned as it is of course the case that most or all public bodies do have some form of indemnity insurance in place before they begin operation these days .. almost one could say, a prerequisite to regulation.

I am also very interested in those cases which are now being turned away by the SLCC, and if any of you would like to make further comment to me on that, please do so.

What is happening of course is a clear and concerted attempt to undermine the spirit of the LPLA (Scotland) Act 2007, which had promised a measure of independent regulation for the legal profession and increased protection for consumers ... which we are definitely not getting at this time.

Anonymous said...

Hi Peter.I decided to try the slcc on for size with a complaint and they rejected it too.It seems they are only there to say NO !
I think you should be in charge of complaints against lawyers from what I've read and been told today.
Good work man and keep it up.

Anonymous said...

An interesting report Mr Cherbi which I have been discussing today with some colleagues.
We are unimpressed with the commission as it stands particularly in the light of what you report.Change - much more than this is needed if we are to regain the public confidence we as an industry have lost.

Anonymous said...

Called this bunch up today and asked if I could raise a complaint against my lawyer but the person I spoke to was not very helpful and I get the feeling they dont want to know just like the Law Society lot

Anonymous said...

Macaskill and the rest of them are all part of the same gang of lawyers cvering up for each other and nothing will change while he is there because he is there to see there is no change !

Anonymous said...

You may be interested in a case of complaint where the solicitor threatened to have his client and family killed if they didn't withdraw their complaint to the Law Society.The Law Society were made aware of the threat and the client was offered Police protection.The solicitor however is still practising and nothing has been done!

Anonymous said...

Good story and I hope this quango gets fixed or abolished !

Anonymous said...

Threaten to resign did they ?

They should have all been sacked on the spot !