Monday, March 23, 2009

MacAskill’s ‘no intention to include Law Society in FOI review’ allows lawyers to keep scandals & criminal records hidden from public scrutiny

Law Society of ScotlandLaw Society of Scotland - How many criminals among their ranks ? Would you allow a rapist, a drunk driver, a serial fraudster or even a paedophile to attend to your legal affairs ? The answer to that question is most probably a resounding "No". However if left up to the SNP's Justice Secretary, Kenny MacAskill, there may be no prospect you would ever get to find out one shred of detail including the criminal records of the solicitor trusted with your most intimate legal affairs, as the Minister revealed today, the Law Society of Scotland will retain for now, their exemption from Freedom of Information laws.

Kenny MacAskillKenny MacAskill today suggests continued secrecy on lawyers. Scots Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill, apparently angered by continued inquiries on the Law Society's FOI exemption status, today issued a terse statement ending any public hope of openness reforms for the Scots legal profession’s regulator. His spokesman said : "The Law Society are a professional organisation and are not covered in the Freedom of Information Act. There is no intention to include them in the review."

SLCC squareSLCC is FOI compliant, Law Society is not. Mr MacAskill's statement appears to end any hope of real transparency being brought to regulation of the legal profession in Scotland. This leaves Scots consumers of legal services with a nightmare scenario of Government backed secrecy for crooked lawyers in that while the 'independent' Scottish Legal Complaints Commission is subject to Freedom of Information legislation, the Law Society of Scotland - who will actually carry out any disciplinary actions or prosecutions ordered after SLCC complaints investigations, remains FOI exempt, rendering most information available on rogue lawyers secret to public inquiries & external scrutiny.

You can read an earlier article I wrote about the Law Society ‘s FOI exemption status here : Consumer protection weakened by lawyers FOI exemption while new Legal Complaints Commission must comply to information laws

The Minister’s stance of earlier today however, contrasts starkly with previous indications from not only Mr MacAskill himself, but also the previous Scottish Executive that the Law Society's exemption status may well be ended.

Current Justice Secretry MacAskill shared former Minister Cathy Jamieson’s policy on Law Society FOI exemption until today :

Scottish Government attitudes on Law Society FOI exemption 2006 - 2007

ScottishGovernmentWhen asked why there had been an apparent U-turn by the Justice Secretary on the Law Society’s exemption status, a spokesman indicated contrary to earlier statements on the Minister’s behalf, there had in fact been no change in Government policy on the issue of the Law Society’s FOI exemption status, and that it was still open for action to bring the Law Society within the scope of Freedom of Information legislation.

A Scottish Government spokesman said this afternoon : “There is no change in their line on the Law Society or any other organisation – no decisions have been made in respect of extending coverage of the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002. The Law Society are not currently covered by the Act However, the current discussion around extending coverage should not be seen as a one off. The operation of the Act – particularly in terms of the bodies, is kept under review and contributions/arguments putting forward organisations for consideration are always welcome.”

A legal insider this afternoon questioned the Justice Secretary’s continued exclusion of the Law Society from Freedom of Information laws.

She said : “It is a ridiculous situation for regulation of solicitors and consumer protection that on one hand. we have the Law Society of Scotland FOI exempt, and the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission FOI compliant.”

“I am amazed the Justice Secretary cant seem to get to grips with any issue involving the Law Society and from what I read of previous policy indications, I don’t believe this 'eternal review’ situation of FOI compliance & exemption will ever see the Law Society subject to FOI requirements in the future because the Law Society does not want to be FOI compliant.”

bikerPolice Officers are subject to FOI, so why not lawyers, judges and the courts ? Any blind guarantees of FOI secrecy for lawyers is highly questionable, given the fact that most other parts of the legal system are indeed subject to Freedom of Information laws. Recently for instance, revelations saw statistics released on the numbers of Police Officers in Scotland who have criminal records . Strangely, while some feel that bashing the Police on FOI matters is ok, the public's right to find out if their lawyer is a convicted criminal doesn't seem to merit the same consideration in their eyes, however, it certainly does.

A solicitor who has represented members of the legal profession who have been charged with criminal offences (and in cases, found guilty)was asked for his opinion today on how many members of the Scottish legal profession have criminal records.

He said : “Out of about ten thousand practicing solicitors, you are probably looking at a hundred or more who have been convicted of criminal offences, but if you add paralegals and office staff to the equation the number will jump significantly”.

Your readers will know very well that when it comes to a solicitor being convicted of a criminal offence, we are not talking about trivial matters, we are talking about serious criminal offences. Perhaps clients do have the right to know this information before making their judgement on allowing a solicitor or indeed any other legal services professional to represent their legal interests.”

Surprisingly honest words from a solicitor on how many of his colleagues may have criminal records. I for one would wish to know who exactly it is I am dealing with who will handle my legal business, and many other clients I have spoken to over the years would of course, like to know the full history of their legal agents, which if some had known about earlier, may have saved them some costly decisions to allow what turned out to be a ‘crooked lawyer’ to mishandle their legal affairs to the point of financial ruin.

Surely therefore it must be said : Mr MacAskill, do the right thing. Give the public the right to know all there is to know about their legal representatives – bring the Law Society of Scotland within the scope of Freedom of Information legislation.

27 comments:

Anonymous said...

ouch ! and yes you are spot on mister (as usual)

why should the LSS be exempt from foi anyway

Anonymous said...

Interesting piece Mr Cherbi.
I have no idea how many lawyers are crooks but out of 10,000 I'd say the figure is much higher than 100 Probably 300 or more and yes I too would want to know if my lawyer has a criminal record !

Anonymous said...

there are lots of lawyers who are pedofiles ! no wonder no one wants to tell us !

Anonymous said...

Good point Peter and I had no idea the Law Society had any exemption from FOI.

Glad you are keeping up with the attention on it and hope you raise it with MacAskill again so people are properly protected from these legal thugs.

Good luck and good work !

Anonymous said...

If you dont disclose your criminal record for a job you are out.Same should apply for lawyers and their clients otherwise you are going to get crooks defending crooks although that probably happens anyway since most lawyers are crooked in some way!

Anonymous said...

I think you angered MacAskill so much he shot his mouth off and let slip his true intentions.Law Society will remain FOI exempt by MacAskill's words.

I bet the Law Society are pleased to hear that after the mauling you gave the SLCC last week !

Anonymous said...

MacAskill has again shown where his priotities lie, and they are certainly not with the Scottish Publis or anything remotely connected to Justice.

Quite Disgraceful.

Anonymous said...

Another about-face by MacAskill and this one in the space of a day !

I'm sure you have him rattled Peter so keep it up mate.

Anonymous said...

have to admit I never even gave it a thought lawyers were not registered with foi but thanks for pointing it out

this should be in a newspaper so more people can read about it before they go to a lawyer

Anonymous said...

Obviously MacAskill does not want to make the Law Society comply with FoI which is why he said what he said first.

Good news break Peter.

Anonymous said...

Hi Peter

As far as I am aware the Law Society protest to be a public body even if they don't comply with freedom of info.

Re-educate Mr MacAskill please.

Anonymous said...

Well Kenny didn't come out of that looking very honest and neither do the law Society.
The more you let the public know about these 'omissions' the more they should (and hopefylly will) insist on knowing who they are dealing with.

I'd agree with anyone who said they had a right to know what their lawyer had been up to before they dealt with him or her!

rob roy said...

another slip up for MacBuckfast but this time no slip up - the guy obviously means what he says when it comes to his buddies at the law society

Peter Cherbi said...

# Anonymous @ 2.36pm

There is no valid reason for the Law Society to remain exempt from FOI.

# Anonymous @ 2.43pm

Yes, I believe the figure is probably higher than 100, perhaps closer to 300 as you suggest, although until the Law Society are made FOI compliant, and the Crown Office desists from their dishonesty over the statistics on how many members of the legal profession have been prosecuted for criminal offences, we shall be none the wiser.

# Anonymous @ 3.43pm

Thanks, and I recommend to all clients they make a point of asking for any information they want on their solicitor before they decide to do business with them.

# Anonymous @ 4.03pm

Good points.

# Anonymous @ 4.4pm

Yes I agree. I believe Mr MacAskill will allow the Law Society to retain their FOI exemption status, although more media attention to the issue may force a change ...

# Anonymous @ 5.05pm

I agree ... there is no public interest in Mr MacAskill's actions or words these days .. only self serving sound bytes, which dont do much for his political party or Scotland as a whole.

# Anonymous @ 6.30pm

I agree, the media should pay more attention to this issue .. a change could be forced with adequate coverage ...

# Anonymous @ 8.41pm

Its a team effort .. spread the word so others know about these issues ...

Anonymous said...

A truly excellent blog Mr Cherbi and you are to be commended on your determination on these matters of crooked lawyers.

Keep up the good work for all our sakes !

Kenny : My name is Lawyer now sod off anyone who isnt said...

"The Law Society are a professional organisation and are not covered in the Freedom of Information Act. There is no intention to include them in the review."

Good on you Kenny show the rest of us you'd rather protect bent lawyers than anything else !

Cherbi is spot on (again) make these bloody lawyers comply with the laws of the land like everyone else has to !

Anonymous said...

Surgeons death rates are available through freedom of information so I don't see why the legal profession should be exempt.Just too much to hide of course.

MacAskill and Salmond are CORRUPT, CORRUPT, CORRUPT said...

Great article, as always Peter, exposing the crooked exploits of Scotland's INjustice Secretary and his utter contempt and disdain for his constituents and the Scottish public as a whole.

This is the scumbag Salmond put in post almost two years ago (May 2007), so ultimately Salmond is to blame for all the actions and inactions of this slimeball.

Anyone seeking the truth and justice from either of these corrupt rulers will NEVER find it at their doors ... I know that for a FACT. They will put Scotland's 10,000 solicitors, the Law Society and the establishment generally before their 5,000,000 fellow Scots ... I also know that for a FACT. So please don't ever waste your time and energies approaching these two crooks for the "Truth and Justice" about your case of injustice.

They are both, without any shadow of a doubt ...

CORRUPT, CORRUPT, CORRUPT.

Anonymous said...

As the Justice midget says there will be no application of FOI to the Law Society.The other comment you got later on is just fluff because someone must have realised MacAskill's temper got the better of him.
Fine article and good blog.

Anonymous said...

The Freedom of Information Act does not apply to the Law Society of Scotland. It must be a cesspit of corruption and criminality.
Lawyers beware, the tide is slowly turning against you. This is not lawyer bashing. When you defraud your clients, the latter have to lick their wounds. If a client accuses a lawyer of corruption the lawyer will get another law firm to deal with that client. A corrupt one way system.
The public must realise every lawyer in Scotland is a criminal. Why, because you cover each others backs by not taking legal action against each other for a client who has been a victim of a lawyer.

Anonymous said...

So MacAskill and his cronies have exempted the Law Society of Scotland from the Freedom of Information Act.
Shame on you minister, do the honourable thing and resign?
Clearly you are the Justice Minister for the Law Society of Scotland not the Scottish Electorate.

Anonymous said...

Peter,

There is a very good reason why FOI does not apply to the Law Society.

Simply because the Law Society have got too much to hide.

If FOI was freely and fully available I am sure the Law Society as a 'professional organisation' would quickly cease to exist.

It is clear for all to see that the Law Society has a hold over the Government and have greater control over what happens to the public than you would think.

Judy

Peter Cherbi said...

# Judy @ 3.50pm

The Law Society's FOI exemption must be challenged, and withdrawn.

I advise letting the public know about this all across Scotland and starting a campaign on the issue if Mr MacAskill continues to allow the Law Society to remain a secret unaccountable organisation.

Anonymous said...

Mr Cherbi
I am delighted you are going to have a campaign to highlight MacAskill's continuing protection of the Law Society of Scotland.
If you asked patients who have complained about doctors to NHS Primary Care you would find a cover up culture. How many NHS complaints handling managers are clinicians?
It would be interesting to ask patients for their experiences of NHS complaints handling positive and negative. From my own experience I am convinced a survey like this would show managers protect GP's as much as MacAskill protects his lawyer cronies.

Anonymous said...

Mr Cherbi
If a solicitor has been doing nothing for his clients then he or she will leave a trail indicating that. I always keep documents and I urge everyone else to do the same.
My point is we need to find a way to unite clients who have used the same solicitor. Then we can check if there are similarities in each case. We will not get a solicitor to represent us but we can expose this dishonesty ourselves.
I do not think any solicitor will raise and action for defamation if he or she has twenty ex clients all making the same accusation based on the written evidence.
The solicitor who represented my sister was working for the defenders by not making things legally difficult for them. I have no doubt there will be more of his clients with the same pattern throughout their documents.

Anonymous said...

Here is a quote from our so called Justice Minister

"The Law Society are a professional organisation and are not covered in the Freedom of Information Act. There is no intention to include them in the review.".

Here is what he should have said

"The Law Society are a criminal organisation and cannot be covered in the Freedom of Information Act. There would be many prosecutions if we included it in the review.".

Don't worry MacAskill Yelland will not yell and tell on you.

Anonymous said...

How to reform complaints handling.

Firstly-the Law Society and the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission need abolished.

Second step-set up an new body without any staff from the above.

Finally put the victims of crooked lawyers into the new body to check evidence.
The lawyers would baulk at this but the opposite situation is what we have at present.