Thursday, March 05, 2009

Witch-hunt at Legal Complaints Commission 'ends at MacAskill's doorstep' as Justice officials forced to confirm leaks inquiry

SLCC squareSLCC once again under fire. Officials of the Scottish Government's Justice Department have been forced to admit a series of interventions with the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission, over leaks to the media which depict the quango which handles consumer complaints against solicitors as more interested in protecting the legal profession than investigating actual complaints.

Culture of fear at SLCC Feb 2009Diary of Injustice reveals SLCC’s secret leaks inquiry. As I revealed earlier last month, a witch hunt at the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission began after the Justice Department ordered an investigation into leaks which began in August 2008, one of which gave details on non Law Society staff at the SLCC who were being subjected to an attempt by the Law Society and Scottish Government to 'drive them out of the Commission, ensuring total control of the 'independent' SLCC by the legal profession itself.

You can read last month’s report on the witch-hunt at the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission here : 'Culture of fear' grips Scottish Legal Complaints Commission as Justice Department witch-hunt threatens whistleblower staff over leaks to media

You can read my earlier report on the leaks as they began at the SLCC here : Law Society target ‘outsider staff’ for exit at Complaints Commission as lawyers undermine attempts at independent regulation

ScottishGovernmentScottish Government initially denied any involvement. The Scottish Government was asked to explain why it had ordered an investigation at the SLCC, however officials initially sought to play down and deny, several times, that any such investigation, or even discussions between the SLCC and Justice Department took place. A Justice Department official would only admit : "Staffing is a matter for the SLCC. If they have concerns about security of their information then it is a matter for Eileen Masterman and her team."

SLCC Staff Governance meeting 17 October 2008 - Justice Dept & Risk Management Leaked SLCC papers show Justice Department ordered investigation. However, after initial denials from the Justice Department, a further leaked document quoted an SLCC meeting where mentions of “Action and impact arising from the unauthorised leak of information that was raised by the Justice Dept.” exposed the Government's account of matters as completely false. Justice Department officials were then hurriedly forced to admit they had directly intervened with the SLCC and demanded immediate action to curb any information reaching the public. Officials sought to justify their attempt to clamp down on dissent at the quango by claiming that when the leaks be some of the staff under suspicion were still employed by Scottish Ministers.

A Justice Department official sought to play down the leaks investigation and protect the Justice Secretary from involvement, claiming : "I had a very brief discussion with Jane Irvine in her capacity as Scottish Legal Services Ombudsman last summer when it seemed from your website and an approach that you made to her that you were receiving information about the Ombudsman’s staff."

The official went on "These members of staff were at that time employed by Scottish Ministers so it was appropriate that I should be made aware of any concerns. Jane and I discussed whether or not we thought there had been a breach in security and we concluded that there had not been. We agreed that it was unlikely the information was coming from the Ombudsman’s office because it was completely inaccurate and we therefore decided to take no further action.That is why there are no minutes or notes"

However, the Justice Department official had no explanation to offer for how the entire episode came to light in leaked documents from the SLCC (more yet to be published) which reported a meeting where the Justice Department raised the leaks issue and demanded action.

A Justice Department official on being handed a copy of one of the leaked documents said : "I have no idea why the matter was raised at a meeting of the SLCC in October. I was not at the meeting."

However, an insider at the SLCC countered "That is pure rubbish from the Government's point of view. We were all warned to shut up after these discussions between Jane Irvine and the Government. The fact of the matter is there has been a lot of inequality between members of staff at the SLCC and the Law Society want everyone out who isn't under their thumb."

"Law Society staff who transferred over were being paid higher salaries and were to be considered for more senior positions. Whoever denies that is a liar and they know it, and even though you reported it there is still an undercurrent of mistrust between Law Society staff and non Law Society staff."

"What I said last year to you stands, the present Scottish Government are simply allowing the Law Society to dictate terms to the SLCC and we are not able to perform our role as was intended under the previous administration which created the SLCC in the first place."

MacAskill tight lippedJustice Secretary Kenny MacAskill must have known his department intervened with SLCC. A senior source within the Government said however, he doubted the Justice Department’s explanation on the matter and pointed to the leaks of documents, and reports of bitter infighting within the Commission as a direct challenge to the reliability of the Government’s explanations.

He said “I doubt this was left to an official to clear up, considering there is a great deal of interest in your reporting of the matter and criticisms of regulation of the legal profession”.

“I understand the Cabinet Secretary for Justice knows all about what took place and probably wants to shut the whole discussion on leaks down because ultimately the quango is his responsibility and the people there are at his appointment.These reports of problems at the Commission are making life very difficult for those who want to keep control of regulating lawyers for themselves.”

“Clearly responsibility for this rests with Kenny MacAskill himself no matter who tries to throw themselves into the path of the oncoming train and the Law Society has to be stopped from gaining full control of the Commission if the public are to be properly protected”

The insider went on to refer to claims in the Justice Department’s statement there were “no minutes or notes” of the Government’s intervention with the SLCC on the leaks issue.

He said : “It is preposterous to claim there are no minutes or notes of such a matter given the importance of it and implications for the SLCC and the Justice Department and why did they even put such a thing in their statement. I regret to say I sense this issue is being covered up deliberately to protect people here in Government, at the SLCC and probably at the Law Society.”

Jane IrvineSLCC Chairman Jane Irvine. The Commission’s Chairman, Jane Irvine was asked for comment on the situation, but refused. This does seem to leave the obvious impression the Commission is indeed in crisis, amid staffing problems, threats of resignation by its own members unless they get increased financial perks & insurance protection, and the intense layer of secrecy which the Commission has been operating under, seeking to blank out most Freedom of Information requests specifically to law journalists while releasing the same information to elements of the legal profession.

A brief history of leaked reports relating to the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission :

The story that started the ball rolling on leaks at the SLCC : Law Society target ‘outsider staff’ for exit at Complaints Commission as lawyers undermine attempts at independent regulation

Scottish Legal Complaints CommissionSLCC members demanded more perks or would resign. You can read an earlier article where the Commission members threatened their resignation over lack of perks and insurance cover, here : Legal Complaints Commission in crisis amid funds shortage & resignation threats over lack of insurance protection. The resignation threats came even though the SLCC had received a whopping £2 million of public money, and yet more was being paid in by the Scottish Government for demanded perks, as I reported here : MacAskill silent on taxpayers £2million 'write off' to lawyers quango as Complaints boss reveals Law Society defaulted on levies

I also reported that insiders to the Commission don’t even believe the SLCC is up to the job because of too much interference from the legal profession and a lack of will at the Scottish Government to protect it’s intended role, which you can read here : Insiders attack MacAskill's Legal Complaints Commission as 'a front' while millions go on quango which refuses to investigate crooked lawyers

Lets also not forget the SLCC seems to be so mired in problems it has to rely on a veil of secrecy to continue its operations, as I reported here : FOI disclosures censored to law journalists as MacAskill’s legal complaints commission prefers secrecy to public accountability

33 comments:

Anonymous said...

Well Peter I hate to admit it but if someone told me there were no minutes or notes about an investigation I'd think they were a bloody liar too.

Keep up the good work !

Anonymous said...

Ah now I see its the lawyers and their thugs who are the malcontents.They should have been sacked after threatening to walk out over lack of perks.
I vote for you at the slcc ! Don't let us down !

Anonymous said...

I can only feel sorry for those poor office staff at the SLCC who are clearly not wanted by the Law Society or MacAskill.
I hope they stick it out and expose the lot.

Anonymous said...

Lies. lies and mdamned lies - no wonder Ms. Irvine has retreated from issuing blanket denials to occupying a position distinguished by her deafening silence.

Brilliant writing - but where are the 'independent' press?

Anonymous said...

Well I just want to say the credibility of this quango must be zero now all this is public.

Have you got any suggestions for cleaning it up or is that just an impossible dream now.

Peter Cherbi said...

# Anonymous @ 3.04pm

I agree, and I feel much the same as you on that point.

# Anonymous @ 3.27pm

I agree those who threatened to resign should have been let go. Clearly their heart wasn't in it, and neither it seems is Mr MacAskill's. This is nothing but a lawyers first, public second policy.

# Anonymous @ 3.51pm

I agree, and U certainly have given my support to those members of staff who are trying to 'brave it out'.


# Anonymous @ 4.06pm

As one Editor of a newspaper put it - I don't have advertising revenues to worry about or threats from the Law Society ... which might explain the lack of general media coverage .. that, and the scale of lies simply being told by officials to overcome difficulties & scandals within the legal profession ...

# Anonymous @ 4.33pm

I think the SLCC needs a full restart, and independent oversight of its operations.

Anonymous said...

Clearly the right hand doesn't know what the left hand is doing.

Good catch with the slcc document.You seem to have really put MacAskill's office in a spin now !

Anonymous said...

Sounds like there are a lot of unhappy folks at the slcc but should we really be bothered about who leaked what and when ?

Just get the thing working properly instead of planting it full of cops and errm others !

Anonymous said...

It looks like the leak fried the numpty who said nothing happened.Good one!

Anonymous said...

Irvine refuses to comment? no wonder!
I bet they will be burning all the evidence now to get out of this pickle but keep up the pressure !

Anonymous said...

We are talking about civil serpents here.They write memos about farting,let alone discussing leaks with supposedly independent authorities.
There will be minutes and there will be notes.Whoever said there is none is probably hiding something.I also go along with your sources view that MacAskill is involved.It would be negligent of him not to be as Justice Minister particularly since he funds the SLCC.

wee eck lands in the soup said...

clearly a lie from the government

what happened to the snp not going to be as bad as the rest now ?

Anonymous said...

Yes Peter writes brilliantly but the problem is this is incredibly complex material that most newspaper readers are too stupid to pick up on and that is why there will always be dodgy lawyers and only a handful who write about them as effectively as PC does!

Anonymous said...

You will never get anywhere with MacAskill or anyone in the Government.I saw Reporting Scotland tonight and watched Salmond whitewash everyone connected with the failure to rescue that poor wee kid Brandon Muir.All Salmond could say was the guilt stopped with the killer and not one msp raised their voice.Thats what the Snp think about dealing with agencies that sit on the fence while people get killed so dont expect anyone to raise a finger just because lawyers are having their way with complaints.Sick really sick the lot of them but at least you are writing about it so maybe someone pays attention.

Anonymous said...

To the earlier post suggesting the issue was too involved and complicated to report - there is only one point at issue here, the Government and other agencies funded by taxpayers money are lying to the public...repeatedly.

Let them answer the charge, if they dare.

Anonymous said...

8:32pm

Couldn't have said it better myself.Salmond should be ashamed of himself what he said.Who the hell is he to say who the guilt stops with when there hasn't even been an investigation of the social services yet
Macaskill is just as bloody minded about the lawyers stuff

Anonymous said...

All this proves to me is that anything with Scotland in it is to be avoided just the same as your banks.Bye!

Anonymous said...

The SNP are the party of toffs at the end of the day not really the common man so dont be surprised when Messrs Salmond & chums come out with sweeping statements as in the Brandon Muir case that no one is to blame except the man convicted.
Same applies for anything else sent to numpty eck for comment or action when lives are at stake

Anonymous said...

MacAskill will now be telling the slcc to destroy all the papers of that meeting but at least you got there first.

Keep up the good work.

Anonymous said...

I don't believe there are no minutes or notes if it already appears in those documents you have.
Cover up.

MacAskill and Salmond are corrupt, corrupt, corrupt said...

# Anonymous @ 8:32pm

Could not agree with you more.

I know for a FACT that it is MacAskill's personal policy (and Salmond's too it seems) to protect those in local authorities who abuse their powers and cover up the most appalling neglect and abuse cases over several years.

They are not going to help anyone who approaches them with their cases of neglect, abuse and wrong-doing at the murky hands of very devious, deceitful, cunning and corrupt local authority officials - especially when they are personally
involved in that neglect, abuse and wrong-doing over several years ... ain't that right Messrs Salmond and MacAskill?

Those who turn a blind eye in such cases, remain silent and do nothing (but protect their pals in high places) are as gulty as the perpetrators and not fit to hold the high office they do.

The "Right Honourable" Alex Salmond MSP/MP? Don't make me laugh!

Corrupt, corrupt, corrupt ... Messrs Salmond, MacAskill and their Scottish "Nasty / Nazi" Party government.

Get rid of these charlatans Scotland ... for you will NEVER find the TRUTH and JUSTICE at their dooors ... EVER.

Anonymous said...

as I said before - MacAskill and co will be waterboarding the staff to see who talked and lets hope there is some more revealing stuff on this bunch of creeps to topple them soon.

Anonymous said...

What I find worrying is all these officials are willing to stick up for a group of obviously corrupt lawyers suggesting those who are defending them are themselves crooks or have a great deal to hide.
Do you think the Law Society has a thick file on some of these people ?

Peter Cherbi said...

Thanks for all your comments on this article.

I do agree with those who commented on what Alex Salmond said in relation to the Brandon Muir death ... it is not the time to say the guilt of what happened stopped with the poor child's killer, until a substantive transparent investigation takes place on the social services in that area.

We only need to look at last cases in Scotland such as the Miss X rape scandal of the Borders to know that guilt does not stop with those who committed the crime, rather guilt can extend to those who are tasked with the duty to protect all vulnerable adults & children.

I seem to remember Christine Grahame bleating on plenty about the Miss X scandal which led to a significant inquiry into social service in the Borders, resulting in alleged wide ranging improvements which have so far not allowed any repetition of the past.

There were indeed officials held accountable for their actions in the Miss X scandal, and only a thorough investigation in the Brandon Muir case will establish whether the First Minister can simply exonerate with a few words those involved in the matter.

I agree this does give an indication of accountability under the present Scottish Government, where there appears to be none and public bodies & professions can simply get away with what they want. Little wonder more sources are now coming forward with information on issues which those in power seem to want to keep from public eyes.

# Anonymous @ 1.48pm

I've heard stories ... one where an MSP was threatened over gambling debts being revealed (debts which the msp's lawyer was supposed to be resolving but decided to report back to someone more senior in the legal establishment instead).

Anonymous said...

Peter.
You are correct on all counts,as always.

Its a pity we don't have a few more like you in that useless lump of a parliament.

Anonymous said...

Interesting comments Peter.I think Salmond's remarks were stupid - the Scotsman reports them today but perhaps there is another angle to it.Maybe someone from the party is caught up in the social services that no one wants investigated.Have you thought about that ?
I'm sure there will be no minutes or notes of that one too just as the justice dept official claims in their statement to you.

Anonymous said...

yeah probably right too
if wee eck dont give a shit about the death of a wee boy then he winnae give a shit about peeps stuffed up by scum lawyers

wee eck said "fuck off and dinnae investigate the social services"

Anonymous said...

Obviously MacAskill ordered his staff to cover up and that is what you are getting.Good luck though in your investigation and its good to see you sticking with it despite the rats covering up for each other!

Anonymous said...

Trying hard to stay on topic here but if this is an example of our Scots Govt lying their way through a leak inquiry what hope is there for transparency in any other area if justice & law is already compromised ?

Anonymous said...

I think the Law Society will be laughing at this - its what they planned from the start - undermine the slcc from the beginning so it can never do its job and they have succeeded.

I agree with you it should be cleared out of the lawyers interests and start again.

Anonymous said...

how about them controlling my interest in the wrongful death. read this thoroughly and see what happened. how others have taken all the money and given a beneficiary as in ben franklin nothing. also how they used me as a "RIG" and sold me off like a pice of furtiture. this nevxt week I am going to find a new jude and ask them to help me since I have had nothing but the people who took me captive and lied to me in my life.not one person has ever said, here carrie this is the truth......... http://www.alaskabar.org/cle/2004-707.pdf

Anonymous said...

stopped by to read your latest and not disappointed.I wouldn't trust the snp as far as I could throw them and this proves it.

Whoever fiddled with the slcc had the approval of Macaskill I'm sure o f it

Anonymous said...

Impressively written and good comments.I'm sure there are a few such as Mr MacAskill who would like to silence you for your honesty.

Its a pity you don't have a newspaper column Peter,but I'm sure the lawyers would pull all their advertisements in any rag that took you on.

Keep up the good work!