Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Law Society protects legal aid fraudster lawyers from criminal charges as SLAB nets £1.6 million ‘repayments’

Law Society of Scotland Law Society seems to prevent criminal prosecutions for solicitors legal aid fraud. The extraordinary world of legal aid fraud is once again in the news, as the latest annual report from the Scottish Legal Aid Board reveals that lawyers have been forced to repay some £1.6 million in ‘wrongly claimed’ legal aid funds over the past six years. While it appears much of that ‘wrongly claimed legal aid’ may be ‘fraudulently claimed legal aid’, there doesn't appear to be any solicitor who has gained a criminal record for legal aid fraud.

There is an easy answer to why there are no solicitors with criminal records for fraudulently claiming legal aid. That answer lies with the Law Society of Scotland and the ever so corrupt regulatory system which ensures that while clients who fraudulently claim legal aid will obviously end up in court, and end up with a criminal record if found guilty, the odds are that any solicitor who defrauds the taxpayer by making false legal aid claims, will only face his colleagues in the closed shop world of the Law Society’s regulatory structure .. in short, getting a slap on the wrist for a financial fraud well deserving of a criminal conviction.

Philip YellandPhilip Yelland, Law Society Director of Standards.The Law Society don’t have a press release up on their website today, but Philip Yelland, who has went from being Director of Client Relations in the early 1990s to the current Director of Standards at the Law Society said "Any matters referred to us by SLAB follow the society's procedures for dealing with complaints. "We have a robust investigation process which can lead to the society considering disciplinary action, which may involve prosecution before the independent Scottish Solicitors Discipline Tribunal. "The tribunal, which has different powers to those of the courts, can impose various sanctions from a censure to striking a solicitor from the roll, banning them from practice."

However despite Mr Yelland’s claim of robust procedures, and headlines of lawyers fleecing the system for their own ends, there has been not one single case in Scotland in which a solicitor has been convicted in a criminal court of legal aid fraud. It transpires that only two solicitors have ever been fined following prosecution by the Law Society before the ‘rubber stamp’ Scottish Solicitors Discipline Tribunal – fines which usually occur in order to prevent any real prosecution of offenders taking place and allowing the legal profession to keep the matter ‘in house’ where members of the public of course must face the full weight of the law & criminal justice.

Here are previous articles I have written relating to media exposes of solicitors committing legal aid fraud : Lawyer caught in media sting bribing clients to defraud Legal Aid Board - the tip of an iceberg &

Lawyers look after their own - Legal Aid fraud lawyer faces no charges as Crown Office avoids explanation

SLAB fraud 2Legal Aid Board manages to trumpet client prosecutions for fraud but no prosecutions against lawyers. This rather amazing lack of any criminal prosecutions against solicitors for legal aid fraud contrasts sharply with prosecutions against legal aid claimants, where obviously there are individuals who have been prosecuted & found guilty of fraudulently claiming legal aid, and the report from SLAB wastes no time in trumpeting convictions against members of the public for fraudulent legal aid claims, while giving no real reasons why solicitors too had not been prosecuted in the criminal courts.

SLAB’s records show that : “Mr A Failed to tell us of his interest in two properties other than his main residence. He was found guilty of fraud and ordered to complete 250 hours of community service.

Mr G told us he was only earning £67 a week – this was on the advice of a “friend” who told him that this would mean that he would get legal aid. Our enquiries revealed his net earnings were £211 a week. He was found guilty of fraud, fined £100 and ordered to repay us his legal costs.

Mr D told us that his only source of income was benefit. Our enquiries revealed that he was living with a partner who was employed and whose income should have been declared to the Board. He was found guilty of fraud and fined £200.

All three now have criminal records”

Fine .. but why no criminal prosecutions and criminal records for crooked lawyers defrauding legal aid ? Obviously its going on …

slabLegal Aid Board investigates lawyers, doesn’t prosecute. SLAB’s rather different attitude on legal aid fraud regarding solicitors is expressed as follows : “Our investigations into fraud and abuse also pay for themselves many times over. In the last year, we have acted against several solicitors for abuses ranging from exaggerated claims for travel or charging for work carried out by unqualifed staff at solicitor rates, to false claims for attending court or tribunal hearings and fictitious meetings with clients.

This action results in us recovering significant sums from such solicitors, as well as ending activity that would otherwise continue unchecked. In total, the value of money recovered and future losses prevented came to an estimated £2 million.

This includes £812,000 recovered in the most serious fraud ever uncovered by the Board, in which a solicitor specialising in cases involving children defrauded the Legal Aid Fund over several years. The balance of £1 million was recovered by the Civil Recovery Unit of the Crown Office.”

We learned from the Scotsman report today that “In 2007-8 alone, 115 individual solicitors and firms were forced to pay back legal aid.”

So ? Where are the names & identities of these individual solicitors & legal firms who were forced to pay back legal aid ? What where the exact reasons in each particular case which necessitated the repayments ? Why no criminal prosecutions after all the investigations ?

It has to be said it is rather odd, after reading SLAB’s spin on its investigations into the legal profession itself, that there has been no criminal charges or criminal convictions against solicitors & their employees for legal aid fraud to date in Scotland.

Odd it may be, but of course, no coincidence, for as long as the Law Society of Scotland are allowed to stage manage regulation of the legal profession in Scotland, including ensuring their members avoid criminal charges on matters which would give anyone else a criminal record .. the likes of this imbalance in the application of justice will continue to occur.

You can read the Scottish Legal Aid Board’s annual report for 2007-8 here : Annual Report 2007 - 2008 - in pdf format

You can find out which legal firms, advocates & solicitor advocates received the money here : Legal Aid paid to firms of solicitors and Legal Aid paid to Advocates and Legal Aid paid to Solicitor Advocates

Now read the Scotsman’s version of the story :

Lawyers repay £1.6 million in crackdown on legal aid

Published Date: 24 March 2009
By Michael Howie

LAWYERS in Scotland have been forced to repay £1.6 million in wrongly claimed legal aid over the past six years.

An investigation by The Scotsman reveals that the number of solicitors and legal firms investigated for apparent legal aid irregularities has increased by 50 per cent in that time.

In 2007-8 alone, 115 individual solicitors and firms were forcedto pay back legal aid.

Much of the money repaid to the Scottish Legal Aid Board (SLAB) that year came from the widow of James Muir.

He conned the body out of £1.8 million by embellishing scores of child abuse cases to claim extra money. The solicitor took his life in 2005.

A handful of the cases have been reported to the Law Society of Scotland and the Crown Office for alleged fraud.

However, it is understood that no solicitor has ever been convicted in a criminal court of defrauding the legal aid board.

The high number of investigations and repayments reflects a drive by SLAB to clean up the distribution of legal aid, which last year cost taxpayers some £155 million – an increase of 3 per cent on the previous year.

The legal aid board says it has "focused" its efforts to rein in falsely claimed funds in recent years. With fraud notoriously difficult to prove, it is often not known whether the false claims were criminal, but experts insist in many cases they will be honest mistakes.

Philip Yelland, director of standards at the Law Society of Scotland, said the "vast majority" of solicitors adhered to high professional standards.

"Any matters referred to us by SLAB follow the society's procedures for dealing with complaints.

"We have a robust investigation process which can lead to the society considering disciplinary action, which may involve prosecution before the independent Scottish Solicitors Discipline Tribunal.

"The tribunal, which has different powers to those of the courts, can impose various sanctions from a censure to striking a solicitor from the roll, banning them from practice."

Two solicitors in recent years have been prosecuted by the tribunal.

Paul Kirk's firm was prosecuted for submitting false accounts and inflated charges – netting him thousands of pounds of legal aid which he should not have been paid. The Lanarkshire solicitor was fined £10,000 in 2007.

Meanwhile, Meredith Graham Sykes was fined £2,500 the same year for trying to obtain payment from the board "by misrepresentation".

Labour's justice spokesman, Richard Baker, said the Scottish Legal Aid Board needed to "get a grip" on the issue to ensure all monies paid were claimed properly.

"The SLAB budget has increased greatly over the years and to ensure access to justice for as many as possible, it's vital that the board ensures absolute accountability and transparency."

Robert Brown, Lib Dem justice spokesman, said: "It's absolutely vital that the Scottish Legal Aid Board is as rigorous as possible in these matters and that, where appropriate, cases are reported for prosecution."

Bill Aitken, for the Conservatives, added: "Bearing in mind that the bulk of the money involved has come from one individual, it seems that Scotland's lawyers can claim to have a reasonably clean bill of health.

"Some of them, however, do have to take more care in submitting accounts as, leaving aside the question of criminality or fraud, there are still cases where the claims submitted do not tie up and this costs a fair amount to investigate."


Anonymous said...

Superb article, with the Conservative Bill Aitken offering his predictable sycophantic drivel by way of response to the fact that no lawyer in Scotland has ever been convicted on criminal charges in Scotland for legal aid fraud - "this costs a fair amount to investigate".

Anonymous said...

yes,ever so slightly suspicious no lawyer has been jailed for cleaning out the legal aid !

Anonymous said...

That does take the shine off SLAB's spin.

Makes you want to ask who the 115 are ?

skewered said...

7 November 2006

Record exposes lawyer who dishes out fivers to addicts for legal aid work
Exclusive by Derek Alexander

A LAWYER who bribes junkies to give him legal aid work is facing a fraud probe.

Legal Aid bosses began a probe after the Daily Record gathered evidence of greedy Robert Taylor's actions.

Taylor, 58, a solicitor for more than 30 years, dishes out £5 notes to heroin users who sign legal aid documents.

Each of the documents - known as advice and assistance forms - earns Taylor up to £80.

He also pays addicts to bring new clients to his Glasgow city centre office to sign more of the lucrative forms.

Taylor's shady practice is a serious breach of both Law Society of Scotland and Scottish Legal Aid Board codes of conduct.

It could see him face criminal charges and be banned from working as a solicitor.

One legal source said: "This is a clear abuse of the system and it must be stopped.

"Taylor is a man whose integrity is supposed to be beyond question. It's shocking that he should take advantage of his trusted position."

Married Taylor runs his own law firm from an office in Glasgow's Bath Street.

The Record decided to investigate after learning he paid members of the public who signed advice and assistance documents indicating they had asked him to perform warrant searches.

The simple task involves a lawyer checking with the procurator fiscal whether a warrant has been issued for a client's arrest.

Three of our investigators visited him a total of seven times during a two-week period and walked away with cash on each occasion.

Their meetings with Taylor, during which he did not bother to check if the investigators were even eligible for legal aid, were secretly recorded.

On several occasions, Taylor got our reporters to sign more than one form.

A solicitor can claim a fee of up to £80 from the Scottish Legal Aid Board each time a client signs one of the pink documents, known officially as AA/APP forms.

SLAB bosses rarely examine the forms because solicitors are trusted not to abuse a self-certificate system.

Investigator One visited Taylor at his office while he was on a break from court and asked him to perform a warrant check.

Taylor then passed a folded £5 note to the investigator and said: "That'll cover your expenses."

As our man was leaving the office, Taylor followed him out to the landing and said: "Tell your pals to come up if they've got any citations or indictments, things like that."

Our investigator asked: "You want me to bring guys up to you?"

Taylor replied: "You can act as my agent, know what I mean?"

Investigator Two then visited Taylor and also asked him to perform a warrant search.

Again, Taylor reached into his left pocket and handed him a neatly folded fiver and said: "There you go."

The pair then discussed whether Taylor wanted our man to also bring him new clients.

Taylor replied: "Of course."

Our man asked: "Would there be something in it for me?"

Taylor said: "Yes. But we'd judge each case on its own merits."

As Taylor showed our man to the door, he repeated twice: "It's all confidential."

Both our investigators visited Taylor again.

Investigator Two asked him: "Do you want me to sign one of those forms?"

Taylor replied: "Can't. The last one is still lying on my desk but there's your expenses anyway."

Taylor then handed our man another fiver.

The Record sent a third and final investigator to Taylor's office this week.

Posing as a new client, our reporter was introduced to Taylor by Investigator Two. Taylor took Investigator Two into his office and asked about Investigator Three's background.

He then gave Investigator Two a £10 note and said: "There's a double dose for you."

Taylor then took Investigator Three into his office and gave him an advice and assistance form after being asked to do a warrant check.

He then reached into his pocket and gave him a folded £5 note.

He said: "Thanks for coming up, that will cover your expenses for getting here."

The Record has all the cash that Taylor handed to our investigators in safe keeping.

A source said: "Robert has done so many warrant checks for me I couldn't even begin to give an accurate figure.

"It's well known round Glasgow's drug addicts that he's good for money.

"All you have to do is sign a form and he'll give you the cash.

"He always makes sure you put the money in your pocket before you leave his office.

"I've been in to see Robert twice a week for warrant checks before.

"Robert is just making more money from legal aid and he keeps addicts happy by giving them a fiver.

"He's taking advantage of their addiction and the legal aid system to make more money for himself."

Last year, Scotland's legal aid bill topped £152million. Experts say next year's figure will reach £168million.

And lawyers such as Taylor have helped make sure this rockets.

The Scottish Legal Aid Board make it clear that solicitors cannot offer inducements, even expenses, for business.

But Taylor, who lives with his wife in Bearsden, Glasgow, clearly ignores this rule.

Our evidence has been made available to the Scottish Legal Aid Board and the Law Society of Scotland.

Last night, a SLAB spokesman said: "The Scottish Legal Aid Board has confirmed that it will be investigating information provided by the Daily Record about solicitor Robert Taylor.

"We thank the Record for bringing this to our attention.

"We take allegations such as this very seriously. The board has an ongoing programme of monitoring and investigating legal aid expenditure involving both applicants and the legal profession.

"Under its powers, it can stop solicitors undertaking criminal legal aid work.

"Where it has concerns about lawyers, it has made formal complaints to the appropriate regulatory body. It may also forward cases to the Crown Office for consideration of police investigation or prosecution."

A Law Society of Scotland spokesman said: "The Society takes accusations of breaches of professional rules seriously and would welcome information about concerns people have about a solicitor.

"The society can prosecute solicitors before the independent Scottish Solicitors Discipline Tribunal for breaches of its rules and there are a number of sanctions available."

Taylor refused to comment.


Anonymous said...

so why are lawyers allowed to commit "fraud" in legal aid and get away with it while their clients get sent into court ?

very one sided arrangement as you point out and that should be in the news !

Anonymous said...

I don't think you will ever get SLAB bragging about how many lawyers they charge with fraud in their annual report.
Its just not the done thing old chap ! Lawyers all stick together !

Anonymous said...

The scotsman appear to have left a bit out of their story.

Oh and how much did Aitken get for his lawyer luvin praises ? lol

Peter Cherbi said...

# Anonymous @ 3.09pm

Yes, staggering that Mr Aitken seems such an apologist for the legal profession, no matter what the subject.

It is worth noting that it was Mr Aitken who raised many of the Law Society's amendments to the LPLA Bill as it was passing Parliament, in an attempt to water down independent regulatory powers which may have brought more legal aid swindling lawyers to book ...

# Anonymous @ 3.21pm

Yes .. I agree.

# Anonymous @ 3.45pm


# Skewered @ 3.57pm

Thanks, I am aware of that article. If it hadn't been for the Daily Record, nothing would have been done in that case at all ...

# Anonymous @ 4.14pm

Simply because they have the Law Society of Scotland to make sure their careers are saved from any criminal charges ...

# Anonymous @ 4.32pm

Lets see if we can break that habit then ...

# Anonymous @ 6.09pm

Yes .. and as far as Mr Aitken is concerned, you will have to ask him what benefits (if any) he gets from the legal profession for promoting their interests ...

Anonymous said...

I cant stand that man Yelland.I've been writing to him for years at the Law Soceity about a complaint they still haven't done anything with.
He keeps telling me I'm taking legal action and I don't even have a lawyer because his mob have seen to it I cant get any

Dont anyone kid themselves about the Law Society.They are all crooked

Anonymous said...

Interesting stuff as ever Peter and that comment about the lawyer bribing junkies.Well if Taylor didn't face criminal charges for that I don't know how anyone could believe the Law Society and their friendly politician Mr Aitken (a tory)

Of this 115 lawyers and legal firms how many did slab actually report ?

Anonymous said...

Just a thought - It might be the situation that lawyers who have stolen legal aid (criminals themselves) are getting more legal aid to defend more criminals.

How's that for a comment ! Hope you make the most of it Pete !

Anonymous said...

I agree the slab story is fishy and there should have been a lot of prosecutions of lawyers if they had to pay back that money which they probably didn't pay back willingly.

dm said...

Every lawyer and their firm forced to pay back the money must be named & shamed if slab want to keep any credibility or respect

Same for the Law Society - consign it to the dustbin for good.

Anonymous said...

The legal aid board have a hell of a cheek putting that into their annual report and not even mentioning the cases where the lawyers have OBVIOUSLY defrauded the taxpayer.

One rule for one lot and the rest of us have to take it as it comes.Bloody disgusting to put it mildly

Anonymous said...

can only agree with what people are sayin

lawyers r scum n should be branded crooks just like it says people r crooks in that page u clipped

good blog whoever u are m8 :)

Margaret Drummond said...

Good angle
I think we have to get away from villifying ordinary people with criminal records if we are not willing to expose the white collar criminals who end up doing much worse to many more

The legal aid board is probably composed of many lawyers which makes then not want to name and shame their colleagues but that's too bad for them.

Keep on at this Peter you are a brilliant writer.

Anonymous said...

Margaret.Thats one of the most sensible things I've heard in hears.
Although I'm sure there will be someone today arguing that exposing white collar bank wrecker Fred Goodwin has caused the attack on his empty house in Edinburgh today so they wont be wanting any exposure of crooked legal aid lawyers just in case people end up on their doorsteps demanding to know why they are so bent!

Still it will give them a taste of what poor sods go through when they get their homes repossessed or some lawyer ruins them and goes onto life the high life.

I'm all for exposing these twisted bastards and if the legal aid board dont tell they are just as crooked

Anonymous said...

A very sanitised story from the Scotsman.Why didn't someone actually go out and find someone on legal aid to speak to for a comment ?

stinks as expected

Anonymous said...

Personally I blame MacAskill.After all he is the Justice Minister as you always point out and legal aid is his little nest egg (probably did well out of it before he jumped into politics)

Name and shame the bent lawyers Kenny or you will be no better yourself ! (are you anyway ?!)

Anonymous said...

I think slab are being economical with the truth.I know a solicitor who has been fiddling his legal aid for years and still gets away with it.Letter to the Law Society copied to the newspapers ?

Anonymous said...

I don't believe £155 million can be handed out and there isn't one lawyer charged with ripping off legal aid That's just hilarious ! no wonder nobody believes it !

Anonymous said...

You certainly write well about lawyers.I think your blog should be made standard reading for anyone who dares go over a lawyers door!

Anonymous said...

I agree with your angle on this Peter.SLAB are very wrong to single out the public for legal aid fraud convictions when their lawyers are probably as much to blame.After all remember its the lawyer who actually receives the legal aid not the client !

Full marks to you and none to the Scotsman for missing that point.

Anonymous said...

I like this blog and I don't like lawyers !

Anonymous said...

You are absolutely right Peter

There are a lot of lawyers on the legal aid take and absolutely nothing is done about it but the client always gets prosecuted as you so excellently pointed out

The last comment I read said that its the lawyers who get paid the legal aid anyway so they should also be made responsible for checking out their clients story if they are keen enough to represent them in court !

Anonymous said...

I want to see the names of the 115 lawyers who had to pay back the money.

Legal Aid board have hidden that so it must be worth seeing

Anonymous said...


Wasn't Margaret Scanlan holding a senior position within the SLAB recently?...


Peter Cherbi said...

# Judy @ 3.58pm

Yes she was with the legal aid board, and was given an OBE for her work with SLAB.

The JournalOnline reported the story here :

Anonymous said...

Phillip Yelland states
“"Any matters referred to us by SLAB follow the society's procedures for dealing with complaints. "We have a robust investigation process which can lead to the society considering disciplinary action, which may involve prosecution before the independent Scottish Solicitors Discipline Tribunal. "The tribunal, which has different powers to those of the courts, can impose various sanctions from a censure to striking a solicitor from the roll, banning them from practice."
Your robust procedures do not include payment from the Law Societies pot of gold, I do not believe you Mr Yelland and the Scottish Electorate do not believe you either. One question, Why are your solicitors not taking action against their accusers? There are defamation laws. You and your organisation have a COVER UP CULTURE, where you protect each other. The public should remember this fact regarding any profession, ONLY CRIMINALS INVESTIGATE COMPLAINTS AGAINST THEIR OWN. Your justice is protecting lawyers not the public. You have a Statutory duty to protect the public, but lawyers are needed to enforce that.

Anonymous said...

No criminal charges as 115 lawyers repay £1.6 million to legal aid board. If a member of the public tried to defraud the Legal Aid they would be jailed.
I am beginning to think these people have as much protection as Adolf Hitler had. Clearly we have a two tier prosecution system in Scotland. Lawyers keep protecting yourselves because, you are destroying public trust in the profession. No wonder the public have no faith in the Justice System.

Anonymous said...

"Scotland needs a justice system that is accessible, efficient and fair".
The above was taken from the reforming complaints handling document issued by the then Justice Minister Cathy Jamieson.
Well Miss Jamieson, it is not happening, MacAskill should resign and the Law Society and SLCC disbanded.
Regarding your statement above, the Justice System is only accessible if I do not want to expose a corrupt lawyer. It is not efficient and no lawyer has been prosecuted for the £1.6 million repayed the the Legal Aid Board. It is not fair because lawyers investigate complaints about lawyers.

Anonymous said...

A quote from John Swinney,
Last night, ex-SNP leader and legal reform campaigner John Swinney said:
Peter Cherbi, of Injustice Scotland, said: "If you buy a tin of beans, you can see the ingredients on the label. If you're paying a solicitor, you should be aware of what he or she has been up to.
I would add to what Peter says here,
If a doctor is giving you medical treatment you should also be aware of what he or she has been up to. We do not want another Shipman.

Anonymous said...

Good evening Peter.

There have been no prosecutions of lawyers stealing Legal Aid money for one simple reason. Our legal professionals are protected by a sinister Criminal Support System.
In an ideal world every citizen should have equal rights. If you have been stung by a crooked lawyer you have no rights. It is a simple as that.

Anonymous said...

Mr Cherbi,
Lawyers are a sinister profession, with dangerous levels of power.
It will not matter how much evidence is available to the Law Society regarding legal aid fraud. They are the legal professions undertakers, they bury any evidence which would incriminate their lawyers.

Anonymous said...

Donal MacIntyre on his website talks about a doctor who was convicted and jailed for raping a patient.
The General Medical Council failed to tell future patients of his past criminal conviction, because his colleagues said he was a good bloke and the woman should not be believed.
Donal also states that "the medical
establishment is changing but it is a disturbingly out of tune profession".
In my opinion lawyers are disturbingly out of tune also.

Anonymous said...

Mr Cherbi,
The following was copied from the Law Society of Scotlands website.

Solicitors depend for their livelihood on public support and confidence. The Law Society of Scotland and the legal profession aim to ensure that clients receive a high quality service.
Client relations is a very important aspect of the Society's work. Consumer protection and quality of service are paramount. Most people who use the services of solicitors are satisfied with the service they receive. However, if you are dissatisfied, we view this matter very seriously. Further information on the steps to take can be found in our section Complaints Against Scottish Solicitors.

Clearly this is a joke, the people who work in this organisation cannot ever work in an independant complaints handling body. NEITHER CAN MASTERMAN AND HER CROOKS.
Alex Salmond is always going on about an Independent Scotland. Mr Salmond you should be shouting about an independent complaints handling institute, so that the public can get justice against crooked lawyers.

Anonymous said...


Welcome to the website of the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission. The SLCC was set up under the Legal Profession and Legal Aid (Scotland) Act 2007 to investigate complaints made by members of the public about services provided by legal practitioners in Scotland. It operates wholly independently of the legal profession (A LIE IT IS CONTROLLED BY THE LAW SOCIETY OF SCOTLAND), and opened for business on 1st October 2008. (THEY WILL NOT INVESTIGATE COMPLAINTS ABOUT LAWYERS BEFORE THIS DATE).

Anonymous said...

One hundred and fifteen lawyers repay £1.6 million, in overclaimed legal aid. So the conclusion is get a law degree and you are above the law. This profession belong in the gutter, with the politicians who never break the rules on expenses.
As for Bill Aitken's comment that legal aid fraud by solicitors costs a fair amount to investigate, this is preposterous. Clearly the political will is not there to investigate this, the politicians are being bought off.