Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Officials pull FOI disclosures as Guarantee Fund "chancer" emails show Law Society anti-client bias has migrated to Legal Complaints Commission

SLCC squarePressure is mounting from all quarters for believable explanations from the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission after the publication of a series of emails obtained under FOI laws, depicted commission members & senior officials condemning consumer groups, law reformers and clients of solicitors who have submitted claims for compensation against 'crooked lawyers'.

Consumer groups and some inside the legal profession itself are angry that such anti-client sentiments are still so virulent at the SLCC, created in 2007 and intended to be a new beginning for regulating complaints against the legal profession, after the Law Society of Scotland's total failure in complaints role which has caused record levels of cronyism in covering up complaints against crooked lawyers.

MacAskill must clean up SLCCDiary of Injustice : anti-client feelings run deep at the SLCC. While officials at the Scottish Government's Justice Department have privately expressed anger at the conduct of several SLCC board members over 'bile' expressed against consumer groups, and rants over boozed fuelled nights, some officials are now worried the comments made by Margaret Scanlan which apparently are ‘personal opinions’ made against the personal characters of claimants to the Law Society of Scotland's "Guarantee Fund", may amount to the same type of conduct & intervention which eventually ended the career of ex Law Society Chief Executive, Douglas Mill, who himself was brought down after appearing before the Scottish Parliament's Justice 2 Committee, Mill openly arguing with John Swinney about the content of his own memos - which also detailed clients claims against crooked lawyers.

Memos of a feather flock together ? SLCC’s Margaret Scanlan's email echoes Douglas Mill's policy against Master Policy client claims :

Margaret Scanlan & Douglas Mill  - similar attitudes towards clients of solicitors

One official who did not wish to be named said "People who read these emails may have good reason for thinking the same client bashing closed ranks sentiment which came out at J2 from Douglas Mill has now crossed over to the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission. Some here feel the way that members have acted at the Commission has badly damaged its reputation & credibility."

He went on : "There has been a briefing about the weekend media coverage in the Sunday Mail and on 'A Diary of Injustice in Scotland' and I heard that orders have been given out to the SLCC to prevent such embarrassing documents from being disclosed in the future."

Coincidentally, a Freedom of Information request which was due to be delivered to me on Monday 16 March, was pulled at the last minute by the SLCC's office Manager, after the blaze of publicity in the weekend press & online media of board members booze fuelled antics & personal enmity expressed towards consumers. Suspicious are high that orders have been given to prevent documents being disclosed which could further embarrass the beleaguered law complaints body.

The SLCC official, when asked why the FOI disclosure had been pulled said : "The contents of the FOI request I am dealing with … are being pulled for scrutiny by me alone no other agencies have been involved."

A legal insider this morning however said that if the SLCC were removing documents considered controversial simply because problems had been exposed in the organisation, they could well be in breach of the Freedom of Information Act, and should be investigated by the Scottish Information Commissioner, Kevin Dunion.

He said : "Just because a public body finds itself at the heart of a scandal of its own making, doesn't mean it can go around removing or destroying evidence of what its people are up to in order to avoid further damaging disclosures in response to Freedom of Information requests.I think the Information Commissioner should be looking into this as a matter of urgency."

Jane IrvineJane Irvine, Chairman, SLCC. Jane Irvine, the SLCC Chairman was asked for comment on the Scanlan email which took issue with the personal character of a claimant to the Guarantee Fund. She said : ”The remark you refer to in the email sent by Margaret Scanlan to Eileen Masterman has been taken out of context. If you read it again you will see that Mrs Scanlan was referring to Lending Institutions. Her remark was a personal opinion regarding one individual who has not been involved with either the SLCC or SLSO.”

However, if the individual has not been involved with the SLCC or SLSO, it begs the question why details of the claim have been brought up and why Scanlan apparently has detailed information on the claim in the first place and felt it necessary to apply personal opinions on claimants characters to the SLCC’s discussion on its monitoring role of the Law Society’s Guarantee Fund & Master Policy insurance schemes designed to compensate clients for the actions of rogue solicitors.

Jane Irvine was then asked if the SLCC is now prepared to identify the individual concerned in Margaret Scanlan's email to Eileen Masterman and inform them of matters regarding Mrs Scanlan's personal opinion on their claim to the Guarantee Fund, which has now been made public in the media. No response has yet been received to that request.

MacAskill tight lipped Kenny MacAskill – distancing himself from scandal mired SLCC. Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill was asked for reaction to the scandal, however his spokesman issued a terse statement on his behalf, seeking to distance the Justice Secretary who had himself, personally appointed the SLCC board members who have now brought the law complaints body into disrepute.

A Scottish Government spokesman said on MacAskill’s behalf : “The SLCC has been established as an independent body to oversee complaints against the legal profession. Having established the SLCC as an independent body, it would be wholly inappropriate for Ministers to provide a running commentary on issues concerning it.”

It might well be the Justice Secretary wants to distance himself from the goings on at the SLCC, but its his responsibility as Justice Secretary to clean up the mess his own appointed members have caused both the organisation and the further damage to public respect in the legal profession, which obviously cannot police itself or even be involved in any matters of regulation of legal services in Scotland …


Anonymous said...

Clearly solicitors do not like paying up after they fleece clients and you are right - Scanlan is simply carrying on Douglas Mill's attitude (although very wrong to bring it to the slcc)

Very good.

Anonymous said...

a permanent record of any records destroyed (see paragraph 9.9 below),
 why they were destroyed,
 when they were destroyed, and
 on whose authority they were destroyed;

If the SLCC is stupid enough to destroy documents from your FOI Dunion should come down on them hard.

Anonymous said...

Jane Irvine cant be serious,
that will never wash.The Law Society must be having fits over that email and you can bet they have already been onto Irvine and Scanlan about it.

Keep up the good work Peter.

Anonymous said...

Given that many Law Society staff were transferred into what Mr MacAskill unjustifiably contends is 'an independent body', it is hardly surprising that the Law Society tactics of denial, delay and obfuscation should now be employed by the SLCC.

Clearly Mr. MacAskill and the Law Society have given delivery to what they both really, really wanted.....another fine mess.

Anonymous said...

Jane Irvine hasn't changed one bit since I met her years ago.

The moon is still made of cheese, is it Jane ?

Anonymous said...

Report them to Dunion as whoever that was suggestsed and then print the results.

I believe you anyway,they will probably be removing stuff from your latest foi now the press have latched onto it.All the worse for them!

Peter Cherbi said...

# Anonymous @ 4.07pm

I agree with your comment, although I'm sure Mrs Scanlan feels otherwise.

# Anonymous @ 4.13pm

Thanks for the link to that, and I will certainly report the matter to Mr Dunion when the time comes.

# Anonymous @ 4.37pm

Yes, I'd imagine someone from the Law Society has given the SLCC an earfull over the FOI and what not to release in the future. After all, the Law Society has the SLCC by the short and curlies, as it were ...

# Anonymous @ 4.48pm

I agree. The SLCC has been created this way in order to fail its mission.

Old habits for the staff die hard, or not at all, as the papers seem to reveal.

# Anonymous @ 7.06pm

Thanks, and yes, I will take up your suggestion when the time comes.

Anonymous said...

Hmmm well its good to see people are talking against this shower of bent lawyers but what can really be done about it Peter ?

I mean it looks like you and maybe a few others are the only ones willing to stand up to this thuggery and now they even stop you from getting a foi which has to be really bad move for desperate people.

I respect your work and admire you but I wonder if much will ever change.

Anonymous said...

I'm surprised Jane Irvine admitted Scanlan's email even existed.

I hope whoever is the "chancer" sues both and MacAskill too.Hope the papers make a meal of it and good on you for letting us all in on these cretins fiddles at our expense!

Anonymous said...

Good posting Mr Cherbi.
I decided to do some reading of my own on this Guarantee Fund just to check up you were correct and from what I can see the thing should be called the "Non Guarantee Fund" because there is no chance in hell of getting any money out of it.
I suspect Scanlan is protecting her colleagues just as you say and like Mr Mill wants to keep all the money for the legal profession.No big surprise to me or anyone else who can take the time to look at the thing themselves.

Keep up the good work and in my book you deserve a medal !

Peter Cherbi said...

# Anonymous @ 8.15pm

Yes, that may be so, but there must be debate and exposure of wrongdoing or injustice, particularly when it comes to the law itself.

I do agree with the thrust of what you say ... always an uphill battle with anything legal ... but that's because there's so much money at stake for the legal profession to lose if things change.

# Anonymous @ 9.05pm

I agree !

# Anonymous @ 9.57pm

Thanks, and nice to see someone taking the time to read through the articles and verify matters for themselves.

I agree with what you say ... the Guarantee Fund is anything but a Guarantee Fund ... I will be publishing more details on the GF at a later date.

No medals please ... just a measure of justice for all who have fought for, and deserve it, would do nicely !

Anonymous said...

Margaret Scanlans email on the Law Society's Guarantee Fund is very concerning indeed!

She refers to a comparison between the Law Society providing the Guarantee Fund as a safeguard for crooked solicitors clients versus the banks who, as we all now know because of the economic crash, had a flat safeguard of the first £30,000 of all deposit accounts.

Hardly an equitable comparison as the Guarantee Fund is a fund of last resort and only pays out statistically in about 3% of claims made against it.

She also states that a comparison be made with 'others (banks) who hold peoples money'!

Does she mean that the Law Society/Guarantee Fund Directors are holding onto crooked solicitor clients money?

Especially given that the Guarantee Fund is a fund paid into solely by solicitors!

What does she mean by, 'only paid from it (GF) once the Law Society has stripped the solicitor carcass clean'?

Further, is it significant that banks have made claims against the Guarantee Fund?

I wonder, under what possible circumstances would lead banks to have a claim against the Guarantee Fund?

As I say, Interesting....


Anonymous said...

Hi Peter

I saw in the Scotsman that SNP stopped them from getting foi releases and its much the same they did to you over your fantastic writing
Go read it here,

Anonymous said...

I've heard clients called a lot worse in emails b ack & forth to the Law Society.Its a pity they dont have to comply with foi or you would have some brilliant news to post on the likes of Mr Yelland !

SNP Scotland is getting very crooked said...

That's quite a slip up from the slcc but you can bet your boots you wont get another document like that now.
SNP Scotland is getting very crooked !

Peter Cherbi said...

# Judy @ 12.20am

Thanks for your comment.

Yes, Margaret Scanlan's email is very interesting.

From what I have seen over the past few days, the Guarantee Fund is definitely less than honest, and I will be writing something about it in the near future.

The banks should stick their neck out and reveal a bit more about their claims .. although I suspect the dirt will be flying in both directions if that ever happened ...

# Anonymous @ 12.53am

Thanks for the link.

How ironic the SNP are censoring FOI which they claimed others do.

Secret Scotland marches on under the First Minister.

# Anonymous @ 10.01pm

If you come by any such documents ....

# SNP Scotland is getting very crooked @ 11.23am

I agree.

Anonymous said...

Easy to see MacAskill created this to fail so when he needs his old job as a lawyer back he can get back to it and do to his clients what all other lawyers do to their clients ! rip them off !

Anonymous said...

Hiding behind secrets wont get this lot anywhere.
I think you have probably killed their credibility stone dead.Good.

Anonymous said...

crooked lawyers running scared now that you broke their secrets but whats the point of foi if they are going to withdraw info?

Anonymous said...

Margaret Scandal, oops Scanlan, get rid of her and all of the other individuals fighting against an independent complaints handling body.
The Scottish Legal Complaints Commission is another Law Society of Scotland. Nothing has changed.