Monday, December 08, 2008

MacAskill silent on taxpayers £2million 'write off' to lawyers quango as Complaints boss reveals Law Society defaulted on levies

MacAskill tight lippedJustice Secretary Kenny MacAskill was today silent on revelations that some two million pounds of public money handed over to the legal profession to start up the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission is to be secretly "written off", despite recent announcements from the Commission that it intends to levy all practitioners who enter the Scots legal services market, which will potentially rake in surpluses of several million pounds more than the complaints quango's operating budget of £1.1million.

SLCC squareThe £2million costly start up costs of the 'independent' SLCC have been generated by the 'needs' of transferring in employees, lawyers and even ex Committee members of the Law Society of Scotland, and ensuring the 'right' people were appointed to oversee complaints against lawyers, which have previously and poorly been handled by the Law Society of Scotland .. and by the looks of it, will be handled in a similar way by the less than ‘independent’ SLCC.

However, the Commission members and staff have so far concentrated on ensuring they retain huge pensions, and also have demanded insurance protection from the possibility that clients and solicitors alike may take legal action against them personally for ill considered or negligent work.

Another startling, if very selfish development from the SLCC was that members unanimously decided they would not investigate any complaint which arose from legal work instructed prior to 1st October 2008, allowing the Law Society of Scotland to carry on investigating complaints still in its books for possibly another ten years up to 2018 !

One insider to the Justice Department today condemned the Minister's lack of will to recover the public money handed over to the SLCC : "The public should be going mad about this - lawyers are getting enough public money anyway so I don't see how the Commission should get a multi million pound freebie just so members can sit back and draw their pensions and several hundred pounds a day for their work"

As if MacAskill's seemingly secret intention to write off two million pounds of taxpayers money to his fellow solicitors wasn't enough, jaw dropping revelations today report the Law Society of Scotland have defaulted on the levies which are required by law to be paid to the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission, with figures released today from Jane Irvine showing the Law Society still owes well over 100k to the complaints quango.

Jane IrvineSLCC Chairman Jane Irvine revealed the Law Societyof Scotland’s default on levies : "The Scottish Legal Complaints Commission received £2,406,400.50p from the Law Society of Scotland on 30 September 2008 and £114,328 from the Faculty of Advocates on 26 September 2008. I have been made aware that LSS will send the balance, which is in the region of £100,000, by 31 December 2008."

However, this statement by the SLCC, released as an Freedom of Information response, compares unfavourably with previous claims from the Commission in early November where I was informed : "The Scottish Legal Complaints Commission received full payment of the levies from the Law Society of Scotland by the due date" (30th September 2008), giving the impression that much more than a mistake was made when that erroneous and misleading claim was made.

A senior solicitor who was asked for comment today on the Commission's performance to-date described matters as "bleak" and that the Commission “lacked any credibility in it’s current format”.

He went onto claim the quango was widely disrespected in the profession itself, after revelations of who had been appointed to it and the decisions they had taken to restrict it's complaints procedures & powers.

He said : "The public aren't going to be fooled much by this half baked quango which might end up sitting on top of a lot of money by way of levies taken from us and other groups of qualified professionals who may get the chance to practice law under alternative business structures".

He went on to say the following in response to the revelations of the Law Society's failure to pay up : "I have heard of several solicitors who refused to pay their levies in protest, which I take it may form part of what the Law Society has still to pay the Commission, however some smaller legal firms might not be able to afford or may be reluctant to pay the complaints levy in the downturn so that could also be a factor."

A client with a complaint against several legal firms of solicitors, who is being aided by a leading Scots MSP stated "All this complaints body seems to be doing is telling us what it wont do and cant do.There is no will to do anything for the consumer at all.Its going to be just another round of lawyers and their friends covering up for lawyers and we wont get the independent regulation we were promised by the Scottish Parliament"

The beleaguered SLCC, stung by allegations of a lack of competence or will to handle the complaints work it was supposed to do, also announced that it had finally secured indemnity insurance for its members, who recently threatened to resign if they didn’t have the same type of insurance cover which has been well known to protect crooked lawyers from financial damages claims by clients as a result of poor or crooked service.

I reported on the Commission’s members bizarre threats to resign over lack of indemnity insurance protection in a previous article here : Legal Complaints Commission in crisis amid funds shortage & resignation threats over lack of insurance protection

SLCC Director of Communications, Doreen Graham, announced that Park Place Insurance Ltd, 53 High Street, Kirkcaldy, KY1 1LL had arranged the insurance for members, and that the Professional Indemnity Insurance cover is being provided by Brit Insurance Ltd Brit Insurance Ltd.

Brit Insurance Ltd’’s Professional Risks cover is described on their website as : Our specialist claims team provide a professional and disciplined approach to handling complex issues. They provide prudent and reassuring responses to clients during times of distress and uncertainty. Our North American Professional Indemnity team are established market leaders in all areas of professional negligence, including accountants, architects, engineers, insurance brokers, lawyers, miscellaneous and technology risks”.

One would have though that the ‘independent’ Scottish Legal Complaints Commission would have stayed away from insurance deals which might also insure lawyers too … but it seems the old habits of the Law Society of Scotland die hard …. and perhaps more worryingly, the Scottish Government has sat back while the Commission lurches from crisis to crisis.

Mr MacAskill’s office also refused to comment today on whether there was any policy put in place to deal with the multi million pound surpluses which would be generated by the SLCC’s intention to levy all entrants to the Scottish legal services market.

The Commission was also silent on what might be done with the surplus cash which will come in through increased levies … and on whether the multi million pound taxpayers handout to start up the quango would be repaid to the Government … or ‘go elsewhere’ …

42 comments:

Anonymous said...

I think your friend Mr Swinney should be insisting on the money being handed back.He is the Cabinet Secretary for Finance - supposedly the man with the purse strings,isn't he ?

Anonymous said...

jesus ! are we having to bail out the bloody lawyers as well as the banks ?

get that money handed back pronto Missus Irvine !

Anonymous said...

I see your intel is up to the mark again Peter.Well pointed out too.I think the 2mil should definitely be repaid to the country !

Anonymous said...

You say this quango has no credibility with the consumer so why should we pay to keep it afloat

I agree - scrap it and start again.

Anonymous said...

HAND THE MONEY BACK KENNY !

Anonymous said...

interesting they felt the need to lie about it but you nailed them on the foi

Zorro said...

I can just see all the malcontents at the Law Society protesting the story to the contrary but you do see to have it about right (as usual)

Anonymous said...

Top notch Mr Cherbi as usual.What I want to know is why the Law Society are keeping schtum about this !

Anonymous said...

So the SLCC gives a misleading - some might say a willfully false - response to one enquiry, directly contradicts only months later, and for good measure signs up to an insurer with a vested interest in protecting solicitors.

Sound familiar?

Anonymous said...

The SNP seem to be giving all of our money away to their business pals and who knows how much more has slid under the table.
Buses and lawyers so far.Who else gets the fat million pound SNP bungs ?

Anonymous said...

I'd say the SLCC lied to cover up the non payment.

How about a newspaper picks this up ? Anyone with some balls out there to take on crooked lawyers again ?

Anonymous said...

MacAskill has some cheek to write off 2 million to save bent lawyers from their thieving !

I say hand it back !

Anonymous said...

Spot on as usual although I sispect there is a lot more to be revealed.

Anonymous said...

Kenny kept that one well hidden but the money should be repaid because we aren't here to subsidise lawyers.

Anonymous said...

Some stragglers not paying their levies and some just wont pay so the Law Society will have to cover it.
If rumours of threats against individual solicitors for unpaid levies are true the Law Society and the SLCC will face legal action and so they should.

? said...

To check the authenticity of what you wrote I called SG for a comment,They refused but someone did say you were "right on the money" with your piece.

Compliments to PC !

Anonymous said...

I assume everyone hoped this information never leaked out.Good work Peter expose Kenny and his crooked lawyer friends for gifting themselves the 2 million.Hope they have to hand it back now !

Anonymous said...

A very intriguing report Mr Cherbi - I'm beginning to think the SNP are handing out rewards to their business friends once again.

Anonymous said...

A friend of mine was at the SLCC's opening.He reckons you can add an extra £1.5million to the 2 you have already uncovered Peter.
Mr Watson's pension doesn't come cheap!

Anonymous said...

You should draw this to the attention of the TaxPayers' Alliance

I would imagine they might have some ideas on how the money can be recovered !

http://www.taxpayersalliance.com/

Anonymous said...

This £2m bailout goes a long way to establishing a link between politicians and complaints against lawyers.Govt is culpable without a doubt now.

Anonymous said...

I don't think this was intended for publication but at least now you've broke the news the money will have to be repaid or it should be !!

Anonymous said...

Ive been reading your blog Mr Cherbi and I completely agree with you how evil the law society is.
I have spent years trying to get them to hear my complaint against my ex but still practising lawyer in Fife who basically plundered my late wife's bank accounts for himself and nothing was ever done just because he sits on a law society committee
I wrote many times to the Scottish executive justice section and they only made matters worse and my mail got so nasty from the law society almost every day I dreaded opening it up.
Now the law society and this rotten lawyer want to ruin my life completely and one of his other clients (a nasty thug) has started hanging around outside my home to intimidate me into doing nothing but I wont give up and an off duty policeman has offered to help me out he has read your blog too and has no time for lawyers
its a good fight Peter and you do great service and inspiration for your writing so keep up theres always light at the end of the tunnel

Anonymous said...

The money should be repaid to the Government and no more handouts to lawyers who have taken enough from us.

Anonymous said...

They might be getting the money but they dont want to take complaints ! I had a battle with someone on the phone from this lot about how to complain and if they would look at it.
In the end she wouldn't even give me her name and when I asked if she was a lawyer she hung up !
Quango of lawyers to protect lawyers is what I think it is !

Peter Cherbi said...

Thank you all for your comments & emails on this subject and also from those who have been attempting to use the SLCC to investigate their complaint against their legal agents.

I will be pushing for repayment to the public purse of the two million pounds (at least) which has gone on the SLCC from the Scottish Government and anyone else who wishes to support that please write to their msp and kick up a fuss.

For those who are having no luck with the SLCC could you please contact me with more about what happened to you when you contacted the SLCC and what your complaint against your solicitor relates to.

Please bear in mind the SLCC is now the single gateway for all complaints against the legal profession and it is not in their remit to simply sideline or turn people away with valid complaints relating to legal services.

concerned said...

Good speech Peter and I think many will back you 100% on the bit about the lawyers having to hand back the 2 million to the country.
Actually if you think about it you are doing everything on your own that a newspaper or one of our much vaunted but pretty useless consumer organisations should be saying and doing so good work as people say and keep it up !

I'm bloody sure I wont be voting for anyone who gives lawyers handouts of public cash !!

Anonymous said...

Thanks Mr Cherbi I will be in touch with you about a case where the Law Society and Mr Yelland have time wasted my case away against the lawyer who stole our business for himself and still continues sending us bills for 'work' he never did.
They should change their motto to "a den of scum'

Anonymous said...

Of course anyone would support forcing lawyers to hand back a taxpayer bailout but why was the money spent in the first place ? Lawyers are relatively well off and they have soaked probably all their clients for years.Time to cough up and don't expect any more public money !

Anonymous said...

MacAskill is certainly flush with the money when it comes to his lawyer friends.What next ? big Xmas bonuses too and rent boys all round ?

Anonymous said...

Brit Insurance handling their PII ?
Hardly an improvement on the Master Policy which all those concerned will know very well

Anonymous said...

I called up A.newspaper today to ask if they would take a story on a crooked lawyer.This is what I was told by one of their supposedly senior reporters -
"I'm sorry we cant write those kinds of stories now otherwise the Law Society will threaten us and see our advertisers pull their business"!
How do you like that in a democratic Scotland !

PS I removed the newspapers name but I'm sure you can guess which one it is.

Anonymous said...

yes good point peter and i think those lawyers who plundered the public purse for miners compensation and took most of it for themselves should be made to pay it back too !

Anonymous said...

Excellent posting Peter.I called the slcc and was told they are not taking any more complaints ! so if they are doing nothing they should hand the money back as you say !

Anonymous said...

I notice no effort or announcement from the Law Society on your story to pay the money back but I'm sure they have plenty ill gotten gains stuffed around the place to do it.

Anonymous said...

A total disgrace from the man who is the biggest waste of space in the Scottish 'Government'
How do the SNP justify handing over millions to lawyers when everyone is going bankrupt or being thrown out of their homes ?
Disgusting

Anonymous said...

and all this despite Salmond's pledge to do away with the quangos

it looks from this like the snp are more into feathering lawyers nests than anyone else!

Anonymous said...

Great story Peter.Make sure you nail the bastards on this and force them to hand the money back to some more deserving cause than lawyers pockets and these cronies pensions

Anonymous said...

Peter Burrows CEO of Brit UK - who provide the SLCC with Professional Indemnity Insurance - has spent
"The bulk of his career has been spent at RSA (Sun Alliance)".

Why am I not surprised?

Anonymous said...

I don't always agree with you Mr Cherbi but I certainly stand firm with you on this one.There should be no state provided financial assistance for lawyers in any shape or form for complaints handling if that complaints organization is going on in the way you describe.

Good luck in your efforts to expose these monkeys!

Anonymous said...

Peter is spot on I called up the slcc last week to be told they weren't accepting any more work on complaints and told me to go to the Law Society instead !
What good is that when they are supposed to be investigating complaints !

Anonymous said...

An interesting selection on the PII for Mr Watson et all but I see someone has already beat me to linking them with Marsh & RSA whom I have spent several years fighting for compensation after my lawyer decided to steal £14,266 from my bank account,covered up by the Law Society with even the Police refused information so they said.