Friday, January 25, 2008

Breaking News : Law Society Chief Executive Douglas Mill who lied to Parliament, pursued 'personal vendetta' against critics - to resign

Douglas Mill, the Chief Executive of the Law Society of Scotland since 1996 "has decided to leave his position as chief executive of the Law Society of Scotland in October this year" - according to the Law Society of Scotland website.

Douglas Mill, whose term as Chief Executive of Scotland's legal profession has been marked by some of the biggest scandals ever to occur involving solicitors, remains unrepentant over his poor showing as leader of Scotland's 10,000 solicitors and concludes in the Law Society Press Release : "It has been an honour to be the Chief Executive of the Law Society of Scotland for the past 11 years. It has been a time of much change and there is a great deal more to come. I wish the Society all the very best for the future and look forward to seeing it continue to thrive."

Its a hard habit to break, Doulgas, this whitewash stuff .. and it sounds even less credible when its on yourself ...

Douglas Mill - made ridiculous suicide jibe in the Scotsman after Herald reported the Justice 2 confrontation between Swinney & Mill over interference in claims & access to justice

Douglas Mill - A Lawyer's never loved in his own home land - The Scotsman 15 August 2006

Douglas Mill's term as Chief Executive saw a policy of deep personal attacks develop against clients & campaigners, who dared take issue or criticise the standards of Scotland's legal profession. In as many cases as possible Mr Mill involved himself and intervened to halt complaints against fellow solicitors, even when there were serious allegations of fraud, embezzlement, falsification of files and concerted attempts to pervert the course of justice.

For many though, the memories of Douglas Mill will be that of the man who blatantly lied before the Justice 2 Committee of the Scottish Parliament, when under questioning from Cabinet Secretary for Finance John Swinney, Mill consistently contradicted the contents of one of his own memos, which Mr Swinney exposed as a concerted, and well practiced action to prevent client claims & complaints against leading firms of solicitors from making it to court.

I have reported a few times on Douglas Mill's unbelievable account of the complaints & claims process against negligent & crooked lawyers ... a recent article summing things up fairly well : Law Society boss Mill lied to Swinney, Parliament as secret memos reveal policy of intervention & obstruction on claims, complaints.

John Swinney at the Scottish Parliament Justice 2 Committee questions Douglas Mill over secret memos of intervention against client claims, complaints & compensation against crooked lawyers.

Many in the press will also remember how the Herald newspaper reported the incident, in an excellent report by Paul Rogerson :

Would granny swear by the law society ? (not if granny were still living ...)

The Herald 5 June 2006 - Would granny swear by the law society

Many of you will also remember how Douglas Mill then brought in an English QC to threaten legal action against the passage of the Legal Profession & Legal Aid Bill - a piece of legislation bringing a measure of independent regulation to complaints against lawyers, which I and many others had campaigned for a very long time to have before the Parliament ...

Douglas Mill - Even threatened the Scottish Parliament & Government with legal action if they passed pro-consumer legislation

Holyrood in Solicitor's Sights Octover 30 2006 The Herald

For me, my memories of Douglas Mill will be the man, along with Philip Yelland and a few others at the Law Society, who helped prevent the prosecution of Scotland's most famous crooked lawyer - Andrew Penman of Stormonth Darling Solicitors Kelso before the Scottish Solicitors Discipline Tribunal.

You can read the Scotsman stories on how the Law Society of Scotland and Douglas Mill stage managed the Andrew Penman investigation here : Andrew Penman & Norman Howitt : Lawyer & accountant team up to ruin Cherbi executry estate

Douglas Mill personally hounded me over the years when it came to the Penman case, and the further complaints which resulted from dealings with solicitors associated with the estate of my late father, and later on, the even worse dealings over the death of my mum through medical negligence, where yet another lawyer - Michael G Robson, ruined the case and nothing was done.

Douglas Mill was determined at every step to ensure I would never attain access to justice, and would stop at nothing to ensure I could never get to court or get adequate legal representation to pursue a case successfully

Here's an example of how Douglas Mill personally intervened with my legal aid claim to ensure it failed

Douglas Mill writes to the Legal Aid Board - Don’t you dare give Peter Cherbi any legal aid or else ... good thing SLAB leaked it ...

Douglas Mill letter to Scottish Legal Aid Board demanding legal aid be refused

The Scotsman then dutifully and skillfully reported Mill's insidious intervention as follows

Douglas Mill's vendetta against Peter Cherbi - we have to prevent claims against solicitors at all costs

Scotsman 5 June 1998 Law Society accused of closing ranks as claimi fails

Douglas Mill, not content with fiddling my case, my access to justice, my person, my life, then went on to use an attack on his colleague, Chief Law Accountant Leslie Cumming, as a media excuse to silence all critics of the legal profession and target my blog for closure ... even insinuating it was such criticism of the legal profession which caused the attack on poor Mr Cumming but later it was revealed the attack actually came from within the legal profession itself .. and suspiciously no one has yet been caught for the incident ...

Law Society of Scotland - we must crack down on critics after attack on Leslie Cumming ... maybe blame a few at the same time ? - turned out it was probably a crooked lawyer who made the hit according to the Police ...

Cash link to law chief stabbing

Douglas Mill's roll of shame continued, with his direct opposition to the opening of the legal services market, which campaigners had also been calling for years to be opened up to competition. Douglas Mill was hell bent it seems, on maintaining the Law Society of Scotland's monopoly on legal services ... so much that it took the Which? organisation to launch a "super complaint" to the Office of Fair Trading, resulting in eventual & widely praised recommendations to break up the closed monopolistic legal services market in Scotland.

Although some in the profession may disagree - simply because Douglas Mill has shielded them from transparency, accountability, honesty, customer demands for higher standards, and prevented the need to pay adequate compensation to those poor clients ruined by the legal profession, I would have to say that Douglas Mill has been almost the single biggest obstacle to change at the Law Society of Scotland, given his pursuit of a high profile campaign of vendetta after vendetta against anyone who would dare raise a complaint against one of his colleagues.

Memos of downfall - Douglas Mill intervenes in a claim against lawyers to ensure the client cant get access to justice .. a well practised process at the Law Society ...

Douglas Mill Memo to Martin MacAllister 5 July 2001

Surely now, in the wake of the departure of Douglas Mill - the man who has done probably the most damage to Scotland's legal profession, and brought about the worst standards service, the highest levels of complaints against solicitors, the lowest levels of public trust in the legal profession, and caused interminable suffering to clients by personally intervening in case after case of claim & complaint against armies of negligent & crooked lawyers - the time is ripe, the time is now - to repair the damage Douglas Mill has brought to the relationship between the legal services market, the lawyer and the client, for the good of everyone concerned.

I hope a little more, for the future, and I hope, coupled with a request to Justice Secretary MacAskill today, that truth and reconciliation can now win the day and give back to Scotland the high standards & quality of legal service, safe to use, trustworthy, honest, accountable, transparent and with free choice for the consumer which we as Scots all surely deserve.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Law Society - disinformation, censorship & intimidation of critics & clients preferred to respecting public interest

Sometimes, campaigns to change the law on important issues - such as the law itself, result in a great deal of misinformation being spread by those whose positions would well be threatened by significant changes to legislation.

Yes, I know the above statement sounds as obvious as 'teaching granny to suck eggs' but what I have written as we all know, is indeed the case.

Take on an institution, or a powerful organisation, and you risk your reputation, your livelihood, your personal life, even, your life in some cases. Make no mistake, anything that can be done against you to stop your campaign, to stop the details of what was done to you being made public, to stop you in your tracks from gathering any level of support for change to legislation allowing such fraudulent behavior .. can & will be done against you.

I've reported on similar issues before - when people dare make complaints against their legal agents and something like the following happens : Lawyers complaints system thought to have caused intimidation of clients for years

Well, lets clear up some of the misinformation spread by the Law Society of Scotland against campaigners, critics, and myself.

Does Peter Cherbi hate the legal profession ?

No I don't hate the legal profession.

I dislike the fact that lawyers who provide poor, corrupt or negligent services to clients are allowed to remain in practice, ripping off even more clients by committing the same offences, and the Law Society of Scotland together with the current self regulatory framework of the legal profession, weighed heavily in favour of the lawyer, against the client, will ensure that for the main, lawyers who do these terrible things to clients, get away with it.

The solution to this is to take away the regulatory function of the Law Society of Scotland and the Scottish Solicitors Discipline Tribunal, and make the entire process independent - and a lot more independent than the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission, which still has far too many lawyers sitting on it for it to be viewed as "independent".

Does Peter Cherbi hate the Law Society of Scotland ?

No I don't hate the Law Society of Scotland.

The Law Society of Scotland is being run by a few people, for their own motives & interests, at the expense of the relationship between solicitors & clients. Solicitors don't even have a vote in most of the major decisions of the Law Society of Scotland - its all down to dictatorship and what the likes of the Chief Executive, Douglas Mill says must be policy, will be policy.

The solution to that one, is for the grass roots membership of the legal profession - where there are YES, I will say it, many hard working solicitors who are NOT crooked, to take back the Law Society of Scotland and see that it is run properly, by the profession as a union for itself, not as a regulator and not as a 'guardian of client's interests' which should be left to a new wholly independent organisation.

Does Peter Cherbi believe we would all be better off without lawyers ?

Absolutely not - although a few of you may well do I suppose ..

When Government or politicians run amok, or peoples rights are trampled, the recourse to these issues is the courts. If a criminal prosecution is fiddled, by the prosecution themselves, lawyers must draw those issues to the attention of the court and have their clients found innocent. If neighbours get into a dispute, experienced lawyers trained in the relevant issues should be used in a timely and fast procedure to bring the matter to a conclusion .. etc .etc etc ...

However, all that depends on whether those who are providing the legal services - the lawyers, are capable enough & honest enough to do the job - not string out the case for extra fees, or resort to spiking both the pursuers & defenders into unnecessary litigation which only results in harmed lives at the end of the day.

The fault of any failings in this area of course, lie with the legal profession's governing body, who will have failed (and regularly do fail) to maintain the appropriate standards of service and policing of members which lead to the levels of complaints against poor service and all kinds of fiddles from the legal profession day in, day out and when the profession has the likes of the Law Society of Scotland in its current form, in charge of standards, there will be none.

Solution ? Again, take the regulatory function away from the Law Society, and of course, open up the legal services market ....

Does Peter Cherbi support opening the legal services market. ?

Yes, indeed I do support opening the legal services market - on the condition there is a fully independent regulatory body formed to ensure that standards of legal service is maintained by incoming firms & individuals, that qualifications to attain such high standards of service are met, and that there is a proper, honest & accountable compensation scheme paid for my the legal services market to honour any failings of its members. Since the Law Society of Scotland has never attained any of these things in it's entire history - they cannot be allowed to rule an opened legal services market as such.

Does Peter Cherbi like the SNP ?

Yes I do, as a matter of fact.

Actually, you will never get a finer man than the SNP Cabinet Secretary for Finance, John Swinney MSP when it comes to revealing some of the most significant problems of the legal profession such as how clients of negligent or crooked lawyers are compensated - and more importantly what the likes of the Law Society and its 'leading lights' have done to intimidate clients & members of the public who have dared complain or attempt to claim against a crooked lawyer ...

John Swinney MSP dared to challenge the Law Society of Scotland on corruption in claims & complaints against crooked lawyers

Make no mistake about it, there are also many others within the SNP who do not support protecting the legal profession just because the current Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill says they must. I know, because quite a few have contacted me over this.

What does Peter Cherbi think of the other politician parties at Holyrood on the issue of regulatory reform of the legal profession ?

Well, the Conservatives stand against any reform of the regulatory regime of the legal profession and are not interested in the rights of the public, so lets forget the Tories - they won't do much for people when it comes to problems with the legal profession, unless maybe Phil Gallie comes back to the Scottish Parliament.

The Greens - well, I read a piece which seems to indicate to me they have considerable trouble in understanding the issue at all. Maybe if one of them loses their house to a crooked lawyer, they might sympathise with a client victim a bit more later on ...

Labour created the Legal Profession & Legal Aid (Scotland) Act 2007, which has been one of the biggest shifts in regulatory practice since the Law Society of Scotland came into existence.

In a way its a pity what was created in the LPLA Act has become somewhat corrupted by both the Law Society of Scotland and a few ex lawyer politicians who so blatantly lack any impartiality or thought for the public interest.

It remains to be seen what the Labour party will propose on these matters, and how they will take issues forward.

Does Peter Cherbi think the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission will be a failure or success ?

That remains to be seen - but as I have already reported, the appointments process, and certain information which has come my way that I have for now not published, seems to indicate there will be significant problems ahead for the SLCC if the Law Society of Scotland is allowed to maintain its grip on disciplinary procedures and conduct complaints.

What does Peter Cherbi think of the personal attacks, hate messages and more from elements of the legal profession against him and other high profile campaigners ?

Well, that comes with the territory, but as I said, I think these 'personal remarks and attacks' which come from members of the legal profession or their allies are a symptom of the predicament they have got themselves into.The fact is they are supporting fraud & lies, fairly blatantly and have no way out to argue their position other than to attack those who publicise the truth.

To me, the likes of Douglas Mill's rants against those who dispute his version of reality (the twilight zone), or those of the occasional politicians who support the legal profession, are a bit like attacking a heart attack patient who didn't get their medicine because the politician or the person with the most to lose from legislative changes (who might think more people should have heart attacks) picked up the phone and told, even ordered, the doctor not to give the patient their medicine.

Simply, people have been getting ripped off for years by the legal profession - we all know it, this is not in dispute, and today, its so common its hardly even newsworthy, and when cause to complain about it occurs, financially ruined clients get nothing, and worse, they are personally targeted by the Law Society and a few friends of the crooked solicitor, 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 who have benefited from that coverage, maybe resolving a few problems they had with lawyers too ...

Some of my media coverage over the years : Andrew Penman & Norman Howitt : Lawyer & accountant team up to ruin Cherbi executry estate

I am, unlike these politicians and those who lead the legal profession, not a glory seeker. I have no desire of political office, political influence, the ability to ruin a life at a stroke or decide the fate of someone in an instant.

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, maintain standards, ensure access to justice for all, and recompense properly those people whose lives have been totally ruined by disgraceful & unnecessary confrontations with their lawyers, all just because, the lawyers were caught with their fingers in the till.

Also of course, not forgetting the wider issues of injustice in other cases, which the denial of access to justice by the legal profession either out of self interest, or political favour, has brought to members of the public in issues brought to my attention - from medical negligence, to abuse cases, to unexplained deaths, to all the unnecessary cases of injustice which should not be happening in Scotland today in 2008.

Look, listen to me for a minute here. This is not rocket science.

We are all fighting each other over these lawyers, just because the Law Society wants to keep its system of getting lawyers off the hook when it feels like it, and also keeping the legal services market closed so you and I, and everyone in Scotland, has to pay through the nose for anything to do with the law.

Not all the legal profession agrees with the few at the top of the Law Society who want to keep these dishonourable values ... people on both sides of the argument, including myself, realised a long time ago, that healing the relationship between solicitors and clients is a much more worthy cause for Scotland, than protecting a few negligent or crooked lawyers just so they can go on keeping their fingers in the till ...

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, the public, and Scotland, would all benefit - that has to be a good thing, right ?

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.

Monday, January 14, 2008

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

Late tonight, calls were being made to First Minister Alex Salmond for a fully independent investigation into the appointments process of the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission, after it was revealed that former Lothian & Borders Police Chief Superintendent Douglas Watson, who was recently selected & appointed by Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill to the new independent commission which is intended to handle complaints against solicitors in Scotland, was the subject of a serious Police inquiry into appointments and conduct related matters as far back as 2002.

Insiders at the Scottish Government last night insisted they knew nothing about the "internal inquiry" into Mr Watson at Lothian & Borders Police which revolved around an alleged affair with a work colleague and claims of undue promotions.

From the Scotsman :

"Chief Superintendent Douglas Watson is facing an internal inquiry after he walked out on his wife to be with an officer he hand-picked for a specialist squad.

Allison Strachan was personally selected by Watson to be part of a 22-strong team which is carrying out a complete review of the way Lothian and Borders force operates.

Strachan, who had twice failed to win promotion, was plucked from an administration job at police headquarters and promoted to Inspector but senior officers are angry after it was revealed Watson has been having an affair with her."

Last week, Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill who personally appointed Mr Watson, proudly announced that "Douglas Watson has been a police officer for 30 years and is currently an adult protection development officer for Edinburgh, Lothian and Borders Executive Group. Mr Watson has previously been a chairing member of the Child Protection Committee, Scottish Borders Council and Edinburgh Drug and Alcohol Action Team. He is currently a Committee member for the Law Society of Scotland and is a session inspector for the Social Work Inspection Agency."

Amazingly, the Scottish Government received some 93 applications for the lay membership positions on the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission, but had to pick former Policeman Mr Watson, who is already a lay member on Law Society of Scotland Committees, and former Tayside Deputy Chief Constable Ian Gordon, who himself also has a law degree.

It seems Kenny MacAskill had to go out of his way to find currently serving lay members of Law Society Committees to slide them into the new Scottish Legal Complaints Commission ... throwing out any notion there could be a degree of independence from the legal profession in the new 'independent' complaints handling regime for Scottish solicitors.

A Scottish Government spokesman said earlier today :

‘Appointments to all public bodies are made based on how well candidates meet the criteria set’.

Apparently the "criteria set" involved being asked one question - whether they had any conflict of interest or not .... no disclosures of the past, nothing ... and sources at the Justice Department continue to insist the Law Society of Scotland have interfered too much in matters surrounding the formation of the new 'independent' complaints commission.

Mr Watson, who was former head of CID, was handpicked by Sir Paddy Tomkins, the current Chief Inspector of Constabulary, to head up a multi million pound project, which was to change the way Edinburgh is policed and create a single 1,000-officer super-division.

The cost of the project was put at over £1 million, including wages, computers, travel and cars and Watson was expected to be appointed commander of the new division at the time ...

No excuse for the Justice Department not knowing anything about Mr Watson's past then ... or that may imply they aren't doing their job ...

Jane Irvine, the current Scottish Legal Services Ombudsman and the incoming Chairman of the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission, said last night she knew nothing of this Police inquiry into Mr Watson, insisting the appointments process was down to the minister concerned - that being Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill.

Jane Irvine said earlier today : "I know nothing about this. The appointment process was carried out by Ministers."

Last night Mrs Irvine was asked if she may look into this matter when she takes over the position of Chairman of the new Scottish Legal Complaints Commission.

It should be pointed out that Jane Irvine was a past HM Lay Inspector of Constabulary for Scotland, and in her capacity, Mrs Irvine reviewed the manner of responses by Scottish Police forces to complaints by members of the public for three years between 2001 and 2004.

Given Mrs Irvine's lack of knowledge of this matter, the details of 'internal' inquiries by the Police into Former Chief Superintendent Watson may have been concealed from Mrs Irvine in her capacity as Lay Inspector of Constabulary.

The Scotsman reports :

Inquiry into police chief who promoted his lover

By Stephen Rafferty

A POLICE chief has been accused of jeopardising a £1 million-plus project by having an affair with a female officer he promoted.

Chief Superintendent Douglas Watson is facing an internal inquiry after he walked out on his wife to be with an officer he hand-picked for a specialist squad.

Allison Strachan was personally selected by Watson to be part of a 22-strong team which is carrying out a complete review of the way Lothian and Borders force operates.

Strachan, who had twice failed to win promotion, was plucked from an administration job at police headquarters and promoted to Inspector but senior officers are angry after it was revealed Watson has been having an affair with her.

The affair has been the talk of the force since Watson left his second wife Anne and Strachan left her police constable partner, John Donoghue.

Watson, the former head of CID, was picked by Chief Constable Paddy Tomkins to head up the Capital Project, which will completely change the way Edinburgh is policed and create a single 1,000-officer super-division.

The cost of the project is put at over £1 million, including wages, computers, travel and cars and Watson was expected to be appointed commander of the new division but senior sources say an inquiry into his behaviour is now inevitable.

Chief Supt Watson left his first wife 11 years ago when he began an affair with his current wife Anne, who was then a 19-year-old secretary at police headquarters.

A Lothian and Borders police spokesman refused to comment.

Amazingly, Mr Watson is also a Lay Member for Committees at the Law Society of Scotland ... and one wonders whether they were paying attention to reports of inquiries into Mr Watson's conduct at the time either ...

Well, it didn't take long for the legal profession to co-opted the appointments process of the new Scottish Legal Complaints Commission now, did it ...

This is such a sad start for what was hoped to be a break from the past problems of regulation of Scotland's beleaguered legal profession.

Earlier today, campaigners & critics of the legal profession condemned the scandal surrounding the appointments process involving the lawyers and lay members to the SLCC.

One client who has been waiting years for a resolution to his complaint against a well known legal firm said "There has been too much fiddling from the Law Society in what is supposed to be an independent body to take over complaints against lawyers. We are just getting another talking shop to save crooked lawyers again. Its a disgrace I didn't think the SNP could give us"

Mr MacAskill, who is being blamed from all quarters for the appointments furore which has brought discredit to the new Commission, even before it begins its work, seems to have allowed the legal profession too long a hand in controlling the entire formation process of the 'independent' complaints commission which was designed to address significant levels of corruption by the Law Society of Scotland in its role as self regulator of the legal profession.

Late today, calls were being made to First Minister Alex Salmond for a fully independent investigation into the appointments & formation process of the SLCC and for the sacking of Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill over this highly public let-down to Scotland's legal system.

For further reading : The Scottish Government's Press Release on Kenny MacAskill's appointments to the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission ... more interesting in what it leaves out than what it leaves in ...

Scottish Legal Complaints Commission


Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill today announced the appointment of Jane Irvine to chair the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission (SLCC), the new independent legal complaints handling body. Jane Irvine is currently the Scottish Legal Services Ombudsman. Mr MacAskill also announced Alan Paterson, David Smith, Margaret Scanlan and David Chaplin as lawyer members and Douglas Watson, Linda Pollock, George Irving and Ian Gordon as non-lawyer members of the Commission. The SLCC will be a new, independent, complaints handling body which will receive and deal with complaints which could not be resolved at source. The Commission will be located in Edinburgh and is expected to be operational in October 2008.

Kenny MacAskill said:

"This Government is committed to modernising the legal complaints handling system to ensure that any complaints against the legal profession are resolved quickly and effectively. That is why we supported the setting up of this Commission.

"Jane Irvine and her fellow commissioners will have a strong remit to deal with complaints and I am confident that their independent scrutiny will safeguard the rights of both the profession and the users of legal services throughout Scotland.

"Complaints handling is not just about dealing with things that go wrong, but ensuring that things go right. The commissioners will help to build a culture of learning from complaints through their oversight and promotion of standards. This focus on the quality of service will undoubtedly benefit both consumers and the profession alike."

Jane Irvine said:

"This new Scottish Commission is an important body. It will provide a modern system for resolving complaints about legal services that both the profession and public can have confidence in. I am delighted to have been appointed with such a strong group of commissioners who bring with them a diverse and exceptional range of skills and experience."

Chairing member

Jane Irvine has been the Scottish Legal Services Ombudsman since April 2006. She is a specialist in consumer complaints having held a number of positions as a mediator, arbitrator and adjudicator of consumer complaints. Between 2001-05 she was HM Lay Inspector of Constabulary considering handling of complaints against the police in Scotland. She later prepared a report on modernising police complaint and conduct systems for the Justice Minister. She has sat on a range of disciplinary tribunals and currently sits on the Discipline Board of the Institute of Actuaries.

Non-lawyer members

Douglas Watson has been a police officer for 30 years and is currently an adult protection development officer for Edinburgh, Lothian and Borders Executive Group. Mr Watson has previously been a chairing member of the Child Protection Committee, Scottish Borders Council and Edinburgh Drug and Alcohol Action Team. He is currently a Committee member for the Law Society of Scotland and is a sessional inspector for the Social Work Inspection Agency.

Linda Pollock has had a broad based career in the NHS with clinical, teaching, research and management experience. She has been in leadership roles since 1989, an Executive Nursing Director until 2006, and interim Board Nurse Director (2002-2003). Her last role, before leaving the NHS, was a full time secondment as the Chief Nursing Officer's Advisor for Nurse Prescribing. Dr Pollock was a part time nurse member of the Mental Welfare Commission (1997-2005) and is currently a registrant member of the Nursing and Midwifery Council Appointments Board

George L Irving CBE was Director of Social Work North Ayrshire Council and during the period 1999-2000 he served as President of the Association of Directors of Social Work (Scotland ). From 2001-2006 he was Chair of NHS Ayrshire and Arran. He led the National Support Team, Management of Offenders 2005-2007 and is currently a Visiting Professor to Glasgow Caledonian University School of Health and Social Care.

Ian Gordon OBE, QPM, LL.B (Hons) is a retired Deputy Chief Constable of Tayside Police. He is currently an associate professor in policing for Charles Sturt University (Australia). He was Chair of the Association of Chief Police Officers in Scotland (ACPOS) Professional Standards Business Area and Vice-Chair of ACPOS General Policing Business Area.

Lawyer members

Alan Paterson is Professor of Law and Director of the Centre for Professional Legal Studies at Strathclyde University, an independent "Think Tank" on the Scottish Legal System. He has researched in, and published on, the regulation of lawyers and the provision of public legal services for over twenty years. Although he is qualified as a solicitor in Scotland, Professor Paterson has never practised. He is currently a research adviser to the Scottish Legal Aid Board, a lay member of the Judicial Appointments Board and a co-opted member of the Council of the Law Society.

David Smith has been a partner in Shepherd and Wedderburn for 33 years. He has spent over 20 years as part of the firm's management board and was Chairman between 1999-2005. Mr Smith is a senior commercial property lawyer. Since 2004 he has been the Client Relations Partner within Shepherd and Wedderburn and since 1998 he has chaired the firm's Compliance Committee which monitors professional indemnity claims, client complaints and risk management issues.

Margaret Scanlan is an accredited specialist in family law at Russells Gibson McCaffrey. She has also tutored in family law at Glasgow Caledonian University. Mrs Scanlan was a member and latterly Deputy Chair of the Scottish Legal Aid Board between 1997-2007. She has also been Director of the Legal Defence Union between 1998-2002. Mrs Scanlan was a founder member of both Strathkelvin Women's Aid and the Family Law Association. She held the post of Chair of the latter between 1992-93.

David Chaplin has been a senior partner in Anderson Fyfe for the last 15 years and is a specialist in insolvency law. He has been the Client Relations partner for his firm for ten years. Mr Chaplin advises in pre litigation resolution of commercial disputes for clients. He was a member of the Education Committee of the Royal Faculty of Procurators in Glasgow during 2004-05.

The SLCC is established by virtue of the Legal Profession and Legal Aid (Scotland) Act 2007. Its main functions are to resolve complaints alleging inadequate professional service or negligence by legal practitioners, to refer complaints which allege professional misconduct or unsatisfactory professional conduct to the relevant professional body and to promote good practice in complaints handling.

The chairing member has been appointed for a five year term from 1 January 2008 to 31 December 2012. The lawyer and non-lawyer members' appointments will be for four years, from 1 January 2008 - 31 December 2011.

The posts are part-time and attract daily fees of £302 for the chairing member for a time commitment of four-six days per month and £205 for the lawyer and non-lawyer members with a time commitment of four days per month. Jane Irvine holds one other public appointment, that of the Scottish Legal Services Ombudsman, with remuneration of £56,746 for 37 hours a week. All the other members do not hold any other Ministerial appointments.

These Ministerial public appointments were made in accordance with the Commissioner for Public Appointments in Scotland's Code of Practice.

All appointments are made on merit and political activity plays no part in the selection process. However, in accordance with the original Nolan recommendations, there is a requirement for appointees' political activity (if there is any to be declared) to be made public. Within the last five years members have not been involved in any political activity.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Law Society 'can never change' as lawyers spin machine struggles to justify existence over catalogue of corruption

I have written more than enough articles on the woes of the Law Society of Scotland for readers to understand it has failed both its member base - solicitors, and even more importantly, the client base, and public.

Scarcely a week has gone by without some kind of legal scandal in Scotland, where a solicitor has ripped off or ruined a client, or multiple clients, and got away with it all because the Law Society of Scotland allowed them to, while making sure the poor ruined client got nothing.

So common a practice of lawyer ripping off client, and client getting nothing after a trek to the Law Society ... has become and so common a story to the newspapers, a news editor of one of Scotland's major newspapers last week in a phone call to me nicknamed the Law Society's office "The Shark Bowl", going on to say there were "too many politicians still in the pockets of the legal establishment who were preventing these continuing scandals from being put to bed." How true.

Nothing any of us who has had the bad luck to have to make a complaint against a lawyer didn't know already .. but nevertheless, heartening to know there are others 'on our side' who know the score ....

Well, last week, while I was writing my earlier story on the Master Policy insurance scheme of the Law Society of Scotland, one of the legal profession's hopeful entrants was writing about how the Law Society was, laughably but desperately trying to emerge as a "different organisation".

To get to this aim of being a "different organisation", the shadow of Douglas Mill rears itself once more, with the creation of yet another post, this time titled 'Head of Strategic Change' 'Director of Spin', taken up by Neil Stevenson, who will of course, be reporting directly to Douglas Mill.

Another rather sorry excuse from the Law Society, albeit paid for by the ever willing membership base of solicitors, who are seemingly only too happy to throw lots of money at Douglas Mill's self preserving policies ... for himself.

Oh .. and all these solicitors are seemingly only too happy to throw even more of their money (or clients money) at Douglas Mill while not even having a vote in what is actually going on inside the Law Society of Scotland ... and to think Mr Mill dared play the Zimbabwe 'dictatorship' card last year when trying to argue against the passage of the now passed Legal Profession & Legal Aid (Scotland) Act 2007 ...

So who gets to benefit from these 'strategic changes' at the Law Society ?

Well, not the public or client, that's for sure.

Its all to do with furthering the aims of the Law Society of Scotland, coming up with new ways to stifle pro consumer reforms, preventing the full opening of the legal services market to increase public choice in legal representation & service, and ensure ultimately the Law Society remains in charge of the legal market in Scotland.

In short, nothing good .. a talking shop if you like .. or even perhaps, just some 'window dressing' which a few political allies within the Scottish Parliament & Government can quote from time to time, insisting things are going to change, when we all know, they are not.

Surely if we have learned anything from the way the Law Society has failed solicitors & clients alike, it is that a separate independent organisation is needed to represent the public & users of the legal services industry.

The new Scottish Legal Complaints Commission will do none of that - it is there simply to look at 'service complaints' against solicitors - and more to come on that next week ...

What the public and client need is an organisation, completely independent from lawyers, which will represent them and ensure there is a dedicated team of people able to help those who fall into the trap of poor unreliable untrustworthy and yes, crooked, legal services .. which for now certainly are more the norm than not in Scotland's legal services market.

The Law Society has done well out of corruption for years - made itself a good position in public life, given itself an extended power base particularly with regard to influence over public life, and political & financial decisions in Scotland which it does not deserve. The people within the Law Society are too used to these 'perks' of the job and will never give them up.

The Law Society, just as the leopard, will never truly change its spots. It will always be a club for lawyers to protect each other at the expense of the public.

The Scotsman reports :

'We can emerge as a different organisation'


IF THE turn of a new year is a time for looking ahead to new challenges, then Neil Stevenson has more change than most to grapple with.

In his new post as the Law Society of Scotland's head of strategic change, he will be trying to stay on top of all the big issues currently facing the profession – revamping education, standards and, of course, alternative business structures.

If that wasn't enough to keep his in-tray piled high with lever arch files filled with background reading, the society is also carrying out a governance review that could lead to significant changes in its internal structure.

This newly created post represents a promotion for Stevenson, who was previously the society's deputy director of education and training.

But when strategic management is usually the domain of a chief executive, why did the society need him to step up?

"You must have picked up on the level of change facing the society at the moment and the profession," Stevenson says. "There is a great list of projects I could rattle off – the highest profile ones are education, alternative business structures and standards in the profession.

"It was just felt that the society had traditionally had real areas of expertise but had not had many people working across all the departments, and so that's really what the role is about. It's trying to make sure all these projects are co-ordinated and that they stay on track within some overall framework."

In recent years, planning must have seemed something of a luxury for the society, which has found itself on the back foot over issues like complaints handling, the Legal Profession and Legal Bill and, thanks to the Which? super-complaint, alternative business structures. Stevenson acknowledges that the society has often had to be reactive and now needs to take a more proactive approach.

"So often when issues that the society is tackling get covered in the press and suddenly become very visible to practising members of the profession, it's because there's been some external driver," he says.

"But actually most of these areas are being worked on, and what these external drivers have done is make the work more noticeable, more visible and more under scrutiny. But it is not necessarily been why the society started off on a project."

While Stevenson will report direct to chief executive Douglas Mill and his deputy, Henry Robson, he stresses that he will be working closely with other senior staff members including his old boss, director of education and training Liz Campbell, director of professional practice, Bruce Ritchie, director of law reform, Michael Clancy, and director of regulation, Philip Yelland.

"It is really about me working with other senior colleagues," he says. "That is why I am so excited about getting the job, because instead of just working with Liz, which was fantastic, now I am getting to work with all my senior colleagues and get involved in all the big projects that are going on. They are still leading them – I am trying to make sure everything is co-ordinating together."

Stevenson, who studied law at Edinburgh University and previously worked for NHS Education for Scotland, has considerable experience in running major projects for the society, such as the research into women and the profession and the recently published profile of the profession. He has also played a significant role in the ongoing consultation into education and training.

While education underpins many issues facing the profession, particularly regarding standards, he says he has much to learn about the bigger picture, and what practising solicitors think.

"There is a certain amount of getting up to speed – I am regularly being passed lever arch files of reading at the moment," he laughs. "I am also trying to make sure I am aware of the profession's views on new areas. I spoke to them a lot over education issues, but I want to make sure I am aware of what people who are practising think, as well as where we are trying to take policy."

With so many pressing changes facing the society and the profession, it will be difficult for Stevenson to have a priority. However, the short-term agenda is likely to be dominated by the society's consultation on alternative business structures, which is due to end on 31 January.

"We are looking at how we analyse the results of that, and what might happen next," he says, adding that this is far from straightforward. "Alternative business structures are something that members of the public will have a view on and will want to have their say on, but they are also in some ways quite difficult to understand.

"There will be complex regulation and overlaps with Companies House and the Financial Services Authority and so on, whereas standards of service that solicitors should be delivering, almost everyone you spoke to would have a view on that."

On standards, Stevenson plans to set up focus groups in the spring to gauge what consumers expect from solicitors, before moving to a full public consultation later in the year.

Of less direct interest to the public – and possibly even many in the profession – will be ongoing work to look at the governance of the society itself. Stevenson believes that structural change could be fundamental to ensuring the society "delivers what people want", but he cautions that it won't necessarily mean the society can respond more swiftly in the future.

"Some of these areas are incredibly complicated and they do take time – what we want to avoid is having a quick reaction just to prove we can move quickly," he says. "We want to make sure that where it's about areas such as public protection, we really are looking into what all the implications are before just making a quick response because one group wants it.

"Having worked in the public sector before coming here, I think we can be faster than some of the areas I have worked in previously. Equally I know there are probably examples of where we have been a bit slower.

"One of things we are trying to do is make sure we get it right and things like involving the public do take time to do properly. In some ways it is very easy to rush out a quick document, give people a few weeks to reply and say that's consultation."

Ultimately, amid the myriad challenges facing the society, Stevenson sees opportunity: "If you look at alternative business structures, standards, education, the fact we are reviewing internal structures – there's actually a huge package of change in place.

"Over the next couple of years, we have an opportunity to emerge as a very different type of organisation. For me, that is what is should be all about."

Monday, January 07, 2008

Lawyers negligence insurance branded corrupt, anti-consumer as evidence reveals only one per cent of clients get chance of payout

Imagine your house has just been storm damaged. You have insurance so you call the insurers, inform them you need to make a claim, and the process begins of an assessor showing up at your house, estimates being made of the financial cost of the damage, and usually, work is then authorised to repair your home.

Sounds simple enough ? and while there may be some bumps along the way, generally, your home will be repaired under the insurance policy, if it covers the damage.

You would expect nothing less ... paying into an insurance scheme for years, meticulously making sure the policy covered such instances, and making sure you were satisfied with your insurance company and that your policy would be there for you when you needed to depend on it.

Translate this to making a claim for damages against a lawyer though, and the whole claims process turns into a nightmare of corruption, deceit & anti consumerism. In fact, trying to make a claim for damages against a crooked lawyer turns so bad that figures reveal only 1% of financial claims for damages against lawyers even get access to a courtroom, never mind the chance of an actual payout from the much vaunted but usually absent "Master Policy Insurance" for Scotland's legal profession.

Trevor Goddard of Royal Sun Alliance & Law Society Chief Exec. Douglas Mill - 'Only 1% of claims against crooked lawyers ever get a chance'

The "Master Policy", sometimes known as the "Master Fund" has been touted by the Law Society of Scotland as giving "unrivalled consumer protection" for Scotland's enormous solicitor's client base, but in reality, payouts are very few & far between, particularly when it comes to the question of 'negligence' - which is so prevalent in Scotland's vast army of 10,000 solicitors, it almost equates to that 'storm damage' on your home insurance ...

If you thought there was only a 1% chance of you getting 'storm damage' to your home paid for by your insurance policy, or indeed, any other type of damage covered by your insurance policy, would you remain with that Insurer and keep paying for such an insurance policy which would never pay out ? ... Probably not. I know I wouldn't ...

You would rightly go somewhere else and find another insurer, as there would probably be such a high level of bad publicity against your current insurers who never pay out, you would know that blindly handing over money each year for an insurance policy which has a 1% chance of payout, would be a total waste of your money so, why would you use a solicitor whose insurance policy only has a 1% chance of paying you out when you find out your solicitor has ripped you off, or acted negligently, or worse, made off with your family's assets, even your home ?

Well, currently of course, the Scots public has no choice at all in this. Basically, if you want access to legal services, access to the courts, or access to a solicitor, you have to use a solicitor who is insured by the "Master Policy Insurance" of the Law Society of Scotland and if you have any problems with your solicitor which requires you to make a claim for damages against their insurance, you need to hire another solicitor who is also a member of that same insurance scheme.

Alistair Sim, Director Marsh UK (Brokers to the Master Insurance Policy) - You need a lawyer to sue a lawyer

Marsh inquiry page 1Marsh inquiry page 2

A party asserting a claim cannot pursue his or her claim directly with the insurers of the Master Policy. It is for the solicitor concerned to intimate any claim to the Master Policy insurers and to request the benefit of the cover. In simple terms, the Master Policy insurers cannot become involved until the matter is intimated by the practice.

In any claim for alleged negligence, the party asserting the claim [the client] will require to establish :

- Whether a duty of care was owed

- Whether the duty has been breached, and how

- What loss has arisen as a direct result of the breach

For that reason, those pursuing claims against solicitors are advised to seek legal representation in pursuing claims.

As you can see from Marsh's own statement, supported by the Law Society of Scotland, an individual cannot pursue a claim directly with the insurers of Scotland's legal profession. You have to go through a lawyer, spend some more money, and hope against reality, that your new lawyer - if you are even able to get another lawyer to sue a lawyer, will actually do the job properly, and without any outside interference.

Sadly, outside interference, particularly from Law Society officials, is indeed the order of the day, as previous articles I have reported on the lawyers insurance scheme show quite clearly ...

Law Society boss Douglas Mill lied to Swinney, Parliament as secret memos reveal policy of intervention & obstruction on claims, complaints.

Law Society intervention in claims 'commonplace' as ex Chief admits Master Policy protects solicitors against clients

Even worse for you, as the poor client who may have been financially ruined by your solicitors actions, you cannot even being the claims process until the lawyer who ruined you actually tells the insurers he suspects you may make a claim against their actions, and even after that, all the steps you have to go through in the "Master Policy" insurance must be conducted, at significant financial cost, by another firm of solicitors you have to find willing to take on the case.

Using the Master Policy of the Law Society of Scotland to sue a negligent lawyer is impossible

Does any of this so far qualify for "unrivalled consumer protection" ? Probably not.

There is no doubt, the "Master Policy" insurance scheme for the Scottish legal profession is good at what it does best, which is - protecting crooked lawyers, keeping them in practice, and keeping payouts to wronged & ruined clients - you, to a minimum.

This is the sole aim of the "Master Policy" insurance - not to pay out when you need it, rather to ensure you don't get paid anything whatsoever - and there is a trail of thousands of ruined clients of crooked solicitors who have received not a penny from the "Master Policy" insurance, while their crooked lawyers have went on to remain in practice, even ripping off more clients.

Solicitor John O Donnell faces 21 separate negligence claims involving the same insurance scheme and he is still in practice - it could so easily be YOUR solicitor and you know nothing about it ...

Alistair Sim once said, there isn't a lawyer in Scotland who hasn't had a complaint & claim made against their insurance - and he would be correct.

You as the client don't get to know anything about that though .. . indeed, as the above link to an earlier story I covered shows, you could well find that your lawyer has as bad a record as Mr O'Donnell and is facing or has faced multiple claims by ruined clients made against his insurance, and no one has ever been paid out .. and there is no way you can truthfully find out whether that is the case or not ...

The way the "Master Policy" insurance scheme for Scotland's legal profession is sold to the public is under the guise of "unrivalled consumer protection" so let's take a brief look at what Marsh, the Brokers, and the Law Society of Scotland claim you get for your trust in your lawyer ...

Master Policy details - a crooked lawyer's charter, written by crooked lawyers, for the protection of crooked lawyers.

Master Policy for Professional Indemnity Insurance 1

"The Master Policy provides cover for all practice units for the mandatory limit of indemnity - £1.5m. All claims attributable to the same act, error or omission or series of acts, errors or omissions consequently upon or attributable to the same original cause or source will be regarded as one claim., In the event of cover being required in excess of the mandatory limit of indemnity, additional Excess layer ("top-up") cover requires to be arranged which may be taken under the facility provided by the Society's Brokers.

The cover is wide and provides indemnity in respect of claims or alleged claims in respect of "any civil liability (including liability for claimant's costs and expenses) incurred in connection with the Practice ..." The definition of "the Practice" refers to "all manner of business ... which is customarily (but not necessarily exclusively) carried on or transacted by Solicitors in Scotland"."

An amazing claim by the insurers and the legal profession, but one hardly consistent with reality given the fact that a paltry 1% of claims only ever make it to payout ...

The Brokers information then amazingly goes on to claim that "The Master Policy also provides cover for dishonest, fraudulent, criminal or malicious acts or omissions involving clients funds on the part of a partner or member of the firm's staff. This cover in respect of clients funds does not apply if the act or omission was committed or condoned by a sole practitioner or by all principles of a partnership."

An equally further amazing claim by the Brokers, completely inconsistent with reality. Just try making a claim against the "Master Policy" for such things as dishonestly, fraud, criminal or malicious acts, and see if you get any further than the thousands of clients who have tried & failed over the years to make similar claims - only to be denied access to the very legal representation required to make such a claim - and thus denied access to justice.

Notification of Claims and Circumstances - or how to kill off a client's claim ...

Master Policy for Professional Indemnity Insurance 2

Now we come to the real dirty tricks of the claims process ...

Notification of Claims and Circumstances

The Master Policy requires (General Condition 1 of the Certificate of Insurance) practice units to :-

"give written notice to the Brokers (regardless of any Self-Insured Amount) as soon as reasonably practicable after becoming aware of circumstances which might reasonable be expected to produce a claim irrespective of the [practice unit's] views as to the validity of the claim or on receiving information of a claim for which there may be a liability under [the] Certificate."

There is no claim form which requires to be completed in order to intimate a claim or circumstance. All that is required initially is a letter to the Brokers, explaining the factual background. Copies of relevant correspondence should be submitted along with any Legal Aid Application, Writ, or Summons.

If the preparation of a detailed summary of the facts or a statement by those involved is likely to delay matters, the practice should simply write to the Brokers in the first instance with brief particulars of the available information rather than delaying their intimation until more detailed information is available.

Where a Writ, Summons, or notice of a Legal Aid Application has been received, clearly the matter should be intimated immediately, with these items, in order that the insurers may take whatever action is required within the appropriate time limits.

No claim form .. imagine that ... nothing like your house or car insurance now, is it .. preferring to keep everything as convoluted & complicated as possible, ensuring a bare minimum of input from the financially ruined client but obtaining the solicitor's point of view, who obviously will be pleading 'not guilty' to their financial crimes against clients ...

I particularly liked the part about "Where a Writ, Summons, or notice of a Legal Aid Application has been received, clearly the matter should be intimated immediately ... in order that the insurers may take whatever action is required within the appropriate time limits."

Yes, we all know what "the insurers may take whatever action is required" means, and it's not just the insurers who do that - the Law Society of Scotland joins in too, to make sure that anything, even a client's claim for legal aid to begin such an insurance claim against a crooked lawyer is stopped

Douglas Mill [regularly] intervenes with the Legal Aid Board to stop client negligence claims against crooked lawyers

Scotsman 5 June 1998 Law Society accused of closing ranks as claimi fails

oh .. but Douglas Mill testified before the Justice 2 Committee of the Scottish Parliament he never intervened in a legal aid claim against both the Law Society of Scotland and a crooked lawyer, which makes Mr Mill a liar in that case - and a liar which the Scottish Conservatives support in the Parliament via Bill Aitken, Convener of the Parliaments's only Justice Committee ...

Douglas Mill - 'I swear on my granny's grave I'm a liar'

So, not just having to be made do with the Law Society of Scotland's monopoly on the legal services market in Scotland, the Scots public are also forced to make do with a corrupt insurance compensation scheme which the lawyers claim is there to protect the public but which only protects lawyers from the public.

Surely such things are yet good arguments to open up the Scottish legal services market and come away from the hallmarks of monopoly, corruption, lack of accountability and anti client prejudice which have ruled the day for all these years ?

Wait a minute though ... the current Justice Secretary, Kenny MacAskill is a lawyer.

Mr MacAskill has paid for many years into the same "Master Policy" to protect himself from clients and ensure that if he did wrong, no one would get a penny so it's hardly surprising that Kenny MacAskill wants to preserve a large part of the Law Society's monopoly on legal services in Scotland and also the monopoly of the "Master Policy" insurance scheme which mandates that anyone who wants to practice legal services must pay into it ...

Kenny MacAskill - public can made do with second class rights - better to protect crooked lawyers monopoly on legal services & self regulation

Indeed, Mr MacAskill and the Lord President - another financial contributor to the same "Master Policy" insurance scheme, have been happily dismissing any & all applications for rights of legal representation, made by persons & organisations other than members of the Law Society of Scotland, under the 2006 implementation of Sections 25-29 of the Law Reform (Miscellaneous Provisions) (Scotland) Act 1990, which was designed eighteen years ago to open up the Scottish legal services market and break the Law Society of Scotland monopoly on the public's access to justice.

Mr MacAskill and the Lord President have cited among their reasons for their dismissal of all applications for rights of legal representation to-date the applicants are not members of the same "Master Policy" insurance scheme which only sees a 1% chance of the public ever getting financial redress for the negligent or crooked actions of their legal representatives. Isn't that a bit strange ?

Kenny MacAskill - If you don't pay into the "Master Policy" and aren't a member of the Law Society, we won't let you practice legal services.

Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill to Cabinet Secretary for Finance John Swinney 26 July 2007

It doesn't stop there though ... the same "Master Policy" insurance for crooked lawyers is also costing the Scottish public a pretty penny as each of you have to food the bill for all of the Scottish Government's GLSS lawyers, who have their "Master Policy" annual subscriptions paid as an 'expense freebie' ... and indeed, many Government departments within the Scottish Government also contract the services of Marsh and similar corrupt insurance schemes which do everything to ensure protection of their departments at any cost while any member of the public who has been wronged or financially affected by negligent decisions, never gets a chance of financial compensation.

Some articles I filed earlier on the Scottish Government's affiliation with Marsh UK and the insurers of the legal profession's anti consumer "Master Policy"

Corrupt Insurers of the Scottish legal profession linked to Scottish Executive

Scottish Executive budget on lawyers salaries revealed at over £5 million pounds while public face restrictions on legal representation

Government Legal Service for Scotland - 'no help to victims of injustice'

A good example of some of the public sector's insurers & lawyers dirty tricks may well be the Hepatitis C infected blood products victims, many of whom have died over the years, and are still battling the Government and these kinds of corrupt insurance schemes for compensation and in that case, where patients Health records were allegedly destroyed, it turns out that many think the order those Health records were destroyed, came from the lawyers and insurers of those Health Boards who infected their patients with the tainted blood products ...

What a coincidence that destroying solicitor & client records and faking up files is also one of the policies of the "Master Policy" insurance for crooked lawyers ... which has permeated Government to the highest level with even Ministerial backing from the Justice Secretary ... and a seemingly happy support from the rest of the SNP Government so far ...

Justice or injustice ? The rights and expectations of the public are certainly being trampled by such corrupt 'consumer protection' practices which in reality are 'consumer attack' practices we can all do without ...

Should it not be that our SNP Scottish Government will end such 'consumer attack' practices immediately and give Scots first class legal services instead of second class rights against Scotland's crooked lawyers ?

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Justice Secretary MacAskill insists on second class legal system for Scotland as England names & shames crooked lawyers

There are around 10,000 solicitors in Scotland as many of you well know, and all of those solicitors are members of the Law Society of Scotland. If solicitors are not members of the Law Society of Scotland, they are not allowed to practice law and you are not allowed to choose anyone to represent your most delicate legal affairs who is either not a member of the Law Society of Scotland or who isn't regulated by the Law Society of Scotland.

There are many solicitors within that vast army of 10,000 members of the Law Society of Scotland, who have client complaint records as long as your arms & legs put together, many of those complaints relating to things like .. embezzlement, theft, false accounting & billing, fraudulently altering clients documents, prolonging clients work & cases just to increase fees, theft of property, family homes, double dealing in property sales to see preferential bids & colleagues secure properties on the cheap .. and then there's the criminal complaints, many of which don't see the light of day simply because the Crown Office feels it's 'not proper' to prosecute a solicitor ... a decision the Law Society of Scotland seems to have a hand in too ...

So, if you go down to your solicitor's office today, you might be in for a big surprise, because you know nothing at all about them - nothing of their history, nothing of their client record, nothing of their regulatory record .. nothing at all.

You, as a prospective client, have to take at face value, what they tell you they can do, how competent they are, and how they go about their business ...

Solicitors certainly wont disclose their client complaint & regulatory records to you where perhaps they may have been through hundreds of client complaints of many serious offences .. and all whitewashed by their colleagues who regulate themselves ...

Solicitors wont for instance, tell you they faked up files to stop a complaint from being properly investigated where they stole 300,000 from a dead client. They wont tell you for instance, they created false statements & evidence to try and get themselves off the hook from an investigation into their dealings where, perhaps, they stole a client's home and sold it to a business partner.

Solicitors certainly wont tell you if they have embezzled clients money in the past and got away with it, or been subject to countless negligence claims which the good old Law Society of Scotland will cover up, just to keep them practicing and ripping off more clients.

Solicitors also wont tell you if they have any criminal records, maybe occasionally run drugs into the courts for their clients, organise a hit on a colleague to shut him up, that kind of thing ...

... and in all of this, Scotland's Justice Secretary, Kenny MacAskill, is happy. Happy, that you, the client, have no chance at all to find out anything about your solicitor, how good or bad they are, how good or bad they have treated clients in the past, and how they have wormed their way out of complaints & investigations into their dealings, how they have avoided paying clients compensation after ruining them financially .. nothing of that at all .. Kenny MacAskill, wants all that kept secret .. doesn't want you finding out any of that .. is happy you just trundle along to your lawyers office and stick your head in the lion's mouth, ready to be chomped like the unknowing victim you are almost guaranteed to become.

Kenny MacAskill is so motivated to ensure you find out nothing about crooked lawyers, he vehemently rejected any independent regulation of his legal colleagues, to ensure they can carry on doing what they do best - fleecing their clients.

You can read more about Mr MacAskill's rejection of an independent regulator for Scotland's failing legal profession & dismal quality legal services and perhaps some of his odd, unexplained, rather protectionist and selfish motives for doing so, here : Justice Secretary rejects independent regulation of lawyers and public right of choice in legal services market

Some examples of Scotland's legal profession perhaps ?

Law Society of Scotland covers up history of crooked lawyer as new President indicates little change on pro lawyer anti client policies

Ten Scottish Legal Firms to avoid - a roll call of infamy

Crooked ex lawyer & Conservative Politician gets off lightly with 27 month sentence for fraud against disabled client

Lawyer caught in media sting bribing clients to defraud Legal Aid Board - the tip of an iceberg

Andrew Penman & Norman Howitt : Lawyer & accountant team up to ruin Cherbi executry estate

Your solicitor could be as bad as any of the above, and you wouldn't know anything about it, until it was too late ...

Well, that's not how it is now in England & Wales.

England & Wales, have again, gone one better than Scotland, and slipped the bounds of secrecy & protection for the crooked & guilty, with the English Solititors Regulatory Authority approving moves to allow solicitors who treat their clients badly and have poor service records, to be named & shamed, for all to see and all to know.

What's good enough for England though, isn't good enough for Scotland, as Mr MacAskill totally rejected the idea of a Solicitors Regulatory Authority, because he is still far too in love with the Law Society of Scotland and it's quest to retain a hand in regulating complaints against it's own members - something it has managed crookedly to do for far too long, which has given Scotland some of the worst standards of legal services in the developed world.

Why, since we have a Scottish National Party now in power, does the party allow the Justice Secretary to protect crooked lawyers from widely accepted & needed independent scrutiny, while also restricting the rights of Scots to freely choose their legal representatives ?

Is it the Scottish National Party's mission to protect crooked lawyers ?

Personally, I think not, as some within the SNP have eluded to me they have no love of the legal profession and there are of course, people within the SNP such as Cabinet Secretary John Swinney, a man who enjoys considerably more integrity compared with those others who emanate from the legal establishment and who are seemingly hell bent on preventing law reforms in the public interest.

Indeed, Mr Swinney has vigorously tackled the issues of corruption in the legal profession, seeking out & exposing particular points of shameful conduct, and well understands the problems as I have previously reported here: Law Society boss Mill lied to Swinney, Parliament as secret memos reveal policy of intervention & obstruction on claims, complaints.

Perhaps its just Mr MacAskill's mission to protect crooked lawyers then ... and if that is so, then we certainly do need a new Justice Secretary, because the rights of the public and values of the community have to be held over & above professional privilege and favouritism for one's colleagues ...

Let's see how the English are going to manage things from a report in the Times newspaper - something we in Scotland can only dream of it seems, while Mr MacAskill obstructs changes & reforms in the public interest ...

How about lets give us Scots the same rights and access to justice as the rest of the country... and lets give Scotland and Scots, a Happy New Year in the legal services market ...

The Times reports :

Public shame for lawyers who break the rules

Frances Gibb, Legal Editor

Thousands of solicitors who are found guilty each year of a range of crimes and misdemeanours, from ignoring letters to plundering clients’ money, are to be identified publicly.

Solicitors in England and Wales found guilty of breaching professional rules will be listed on a Solicitors’ Regulatory Authority (SRA) website open to the public.

The move took effect at the start of the year and is the latest initiative by the SRA, which is responsible for the training, standards and discipline of 100,000 solicitors. Details are expected to appear at the end of this month.

The Solicitors’ Disciplinary Tribunal, which deals with the most serious cases of misconduct, publishes its findings. By the end of this year it will have dealt with more than 300 cases, 20 per cent up on last year. But hundreds more solicitors are disciplined by the authority for lesser offences of misconduct, which are dealt with privately. In the past 12 months from November 2006 1,984 solicitors had conditions put on their practising certificates and 351 were given warnings, rebukes and reprimands.

Peter Williamson, chairman of the board of the SRA, said: “The findings of misconduct that we deal with are not those most serious ones that go to the tribunal. But they are the majority, and you could say that any finding of misconduct is a serious matter in itself.

“This is about making our decision-making process transparent, which in turn helps create public confidence in the system for regulating solicitors by demonstrating where action has been taken. That is the most important thing.

“It will also provide information to the public to enable prospective clients to make a more informed choice, as well as enabling people to decide if a solicitor’s behaviour is such that it should be reported to us.”

All cases leading to a reprimand, rebuke, fine or conditions on practising certificates will remain on the website for three years, along with cases where the regulatory authority steps in to take over the running of a firm, for example when a solicitor has absconded with clients’ money. The website will also give details where the solicitor takes action to remedy a failing, such as refunding a client.

The regulatory authority came into effect a year ago as a body run independently from the Law Society, in a move to distance the regulation of the profession from the representative or trades’ union activities.