Monday, November 23, 2009

Calls to scrap 'complaints laundering' Scottish Legal Complaints Commission as expensive anti-consumer quango revealed as talking shop for lawyers

slcc squarePoliticians & consumer groups feel SLCC is having a laugh at Scots public. THE SCOTTISH LEGAL COMPLAINTS COMMISSION, which is due to publish its first annual report in December, has been roundly condemned by politicians, consumer groups, and members of the public forced to approach it over complaints against 'crooked lawyers' as being an expensive, incompetent & anti-consumer quango which is focussed more on salaries & expenses than its once promised task of cleaning up mounting complaints of corruption in Scotland's legal profession.

SLCC Expenses claims & salariesSLCC Chief Executive Eileen Masterman at 70K a year was named in a survey as one of the highest paid quango Chiefs in Scotland. While board members of the SLCC have raked in a staggering £135,000 plus in expenses claims over the past year, and its Chair, Jane Irvine nets £308 plus, a day, along with Chief Executive Eileen Masterman who gets a whopping £1350 per week, the complaints body has shown itself over the past year to be a very poor regulator of complaints against ‘crooked lawyers’, leaving many clients finding their complaints have been ‘whitewashed’ in a way reminiscent of the Law Society of Scotland’s Client Relations Office investigations, which are well known to have let thousands of crooked lawyers off the hook from even the most serious of complaints.

Debating chamberMSPs have been asked to assist consumers caught out by anti-client SLCC. While the SLCC has focussed on huge salaries and expenses claims, little by way of complaints victories for consumers have been achieved by the cash hungry quango. The public’s dealings with the SLCC have now reached such a low point that MSPs across Scotland have been called in by many constituents to help complainers get the SLCC to give them a fair hearing that Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill had promised would be routine with the failing SLCC, once styled as a 'new broom' but which has now lost its bristles, and it seems, the will to address public complaints against the legal profession.

This morning, an MSP spoke of being called in by a constituent to ask the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission why it had continually failed to address serious issues in a complaint made against a rogue solicitor and his law firm which now includes a complaint against the Law Society itself.

The MSP said : "A constituent who has become embroiled in a dispute with the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission and the Law Society of Scotland over a complaint made against a solicitor, asked me to write into the SLCC seeking to untangle the mess they had made of my constituent’s problem. The responses I have received so far from the SLCC demonstrate nothing has been learned from the failures of the Law Society’s complaints system.”

“Each time I received a response to my enquiry, they would seek to complicate the issue further to the point that matters became very unclear as to what was happening with my constituent’s complaint and what they intended to do about it. I was left with the distinct impression I was dealing with an organisation that has a very bad attitude towards the public. Clearly the SLCC has become unfit for purpose.”

A member of the public who has been waiting several months for his complaint to be investigated by the SLCC said today : "I have been writing letters back & forth for months to people at the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission and I feel they are just doing all this on purpose to lose me in a paper chase. I think the legal profession are just having a laugh at us consumers by using the SLCC to launder complaints made against crooked lawyers. I have lost all trust in the SLCC. They should be replaced with something that can help people with complaints not hinder them and there should be no lawyers on whatever replaces it in the future.”

The Scottish Legal Complaints Commission was asked for information on how many MSPs had contacted it over problems faced by constituents who had encountered difficulties with the law complaints body. However, the SLCC refused to hand over any information or documents on this subject, and tersely said that requests for such information would now be charged for.

SLCC minutes Nov 2009 4 months behindQuango secrecy to maximum as SLCC website reveals lack of board meeting minutes and accurate information on its actual performance. While the SLCC was being secretive about its own difficulties and the lack of trust it suffers from public & politicians alike, the quango’s own website amazingly reveals today that up to today, 23 November 2009, it has failed to post any board minutes since July 2009, begging the question what has the Commission actually been doing all this time, while its members have been raking in huge expenses claims & salaries while complaints and the public have become its last priority. An insider commented on the lack of minutes information, claiming that due to poor media coverage which had revealed the SLCC to be unfit for purpose, the commission had now taken the decision not to release much information on its internal workings to the public, for fear that the details of its daily operation and board meetings would continue to portray it to be a pro-legal profession body, rather than an impartial regulator of consumer complaints against poor legal services.

SLCC report headerSLCC’s July 09 report into Master Policy claims revealed client suicides but quango did nothing. A spokeswoman for a consumer organisation today rounded on the SLCC and agreed the quango needed to be reformed. She said : “While the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission may argue this has been their first year of operation, they have without doubt made a huge mess of handling complaints and attending to their duties.” She continued : “Probably the worst example I can think of from the SLCC’s first year would be their Master Policy investigation, which revealed so much, yet has still to see any action or reform of the horrendous claims process which clients are forced to use when claiming negligence or damages against their solicitors. I think that failure on its own, demonstrates the SLCC is too weak, too unwilling, and too close to the legal profession to be of any use to consumers as the impartial, independent regulator it claims itself to be.”

"We need to move on from this mistake and create a fully independent regulator that is able to do the job the SLCC was supposed to do, but cannot do due to overwhelming influence and control from the legal profession itself."

You can read my earlier reports on how the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission handled their investigation into the Law Society of Scotland’s Master Insurance Policy, here : 'Ground-breaking' investigation into Law Society's Master Policy insurance reveals realities of corrupt claims process against crooked lawyers and here : Suicides, illness, broken families and ruined clients reveal true cost of Law Society's Master Policy which 'allows solicitors to sleep at night'

Well, I can only agree with the sentiments expressed by others, that the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission is most certainly, unfit for purpose, and should be replaced with a fully independent body which operates under external oversight, and is free of influence & control from the legal profession, to ensure that consumers are fully protected from the many rogue elements of Scotland’s very poor, untrustworthy, legal profession.


Anonymous said...

Yes indeed Peter - scrap the bloody thing now and claim back all that wasted money.


Anonymous said...

Jane Irvine nets £308 plus a day (doing the laundry)
Eileen Masterman who gets a whopping £1350 per week (to do more laundry)

Evidence enough this quango should go right on the long promised bonfire (which will never come)

Anonymous said...

Maybe the lack of minutes are down to too many on the razzle boozed up orgies during board meetings ?

Derail this gravy train please Peter !

Anonymous said...

or in other words "Law Society Mk2" has to go

Anonymous said...

They haven't met for 6 months but still getting paid I see.

Anonymous said...

Snouts firmly in the trough.No wonder this bunch were falling over themselves to get onboard the SLCC.
Bloody scroungers.

Anonymous said...

So Masterman is now at the Scottish Criminal Protection Commission and getting another fat paycheck.
She's always been that way if you check out her history.

Anonymous said...

My husband is at his wits end over writing to these horrible people since January and getting nowhere.

Could you help us please ?

How do I contact you Mr Cherbi ?

Anonymous said...

I'd like £1350 a week for doing sod all but I wouldn't take it for crawling up to bent lawyers

Anonymous said...

So its unanimous, this Law Society clone is a waste of space and the taxpayers money.

Time for the politicians to get rid of it.

Anonymous said...

Masterman is another one of the whitewash crowd who should never be allowed near complaints investigations and I say that with experience as I knew of her when she was at the RICS.

If you point your readers to here :
you will see a transcribed interview where she has input.

Now just go to the end of the interview, reminding yourselves Masterman was at the RICS at the time, and read the conclusion which says it all : "We also asked how many surveyors have been struck off. The RICS admitted they don't keep records, but they thought it was quite a small figure So are consumers getting a good deal - you decide."

Now having read that you can see why the same is going to (and probably is) happening at the SLCC.

If only Peter wrote for a newspaper all of Scotland would all be clued up on people like Eileen Masterman and what they really represent - which is nothing good.

Keep up the good work Peter Cherbi.

Anonymous said...

I'm sure the Law Society of Scotland will be happy to hear this because MacAskill will never make an SLCC replacement as long as he has his way.

Crooks defending crooks.

Anonymous said...

With your permission I have downloaded the picture with the slcc members and want to turn it into a poster or leaflet.Is that ok ?

Anonymous said...

Kenny MacAskill is obviously happy with them but thats because they are letting all his crooked lawyer pals off from all the embezzlement they get up to.It stinks.

Anonymous said...

Why are these people getting £308 a day to deal with complaints against lawyers ? That is really disgusting

Peter Cherbi said...

# Anonymous @ 3.20pm

I agree .. and £308 a day to do the laundry is obviously far too much !

# Anonymous @ 4.47pm

Indeed, yes.

# Anonymous @ 8.20pm

Yes, I'm sure if the SLCC is scrapped, Mr MacAskill will only be too pleased to return all its duties to the La Society of Scotland.

Perhaps that was the plan all along and it wouldn't surprise me if this actually happened.

# Anonymous @ 9pm

Yes, that's fine. Use it as you wish.

# Anonymous @ 10.10pm

That is the price of defending corruption in the legal profession ...

# Anonymous @ 7.24pm

Thanks for that very interesting link & comment.

I knew Eileen Masterman was a Director of the RICS but did not know how bad things were there.

What you have said and reading the transcript of the excellent BBC Frontline programme seems to indicate the RICS was and probably is a mirror image of the Law Society of Scotland & SLCC in terms of biased self regulation ...

# Anonymous # 7.06pm

Yes indeed .. and stronger comments were actually made by the particular MSP in question, although I have chosen not to publish them for now.

The SLCC is as you say, officially, a waste of space and taxpayers money.

# Anonymous @ 6.02pm

If you would like to leave your email in a further comment, or you can contact me via my profile page and I will see what can be done.

Publicity is certainly something the SLCC and its expenses claiming members don't seem to enjoy .. so anyone with a case involving the SLCC and facing problems, please make the most of publicising it, and the way you are being treated by the SLCC or the Law Society.

Anonymous said...

So Masterman was whitewashing surveyors too ? christ these people keep it all to themselves dont they

Keep exposing them

Anonymous said...

Peter, interesting comments here. I didn't know Masterman was a chartered surveyor but it occurs to me that as Jane Irvine was also a chartered surveyor (see: there may be more to Masterman's appointment than meets the eye. According to the journal piece Irvine "sits on disciplinary boards for the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors".

Is nepotism the word I'm looking for?

Anonymous said...

A solicitor contacted the paper to say he was going to take out a judicial review against the SLCC over their handling of a complaint.Guess what,nothing happened and he's gone quiet.

Peter Cherbi said...

# Anonymous @ 12.15am

Thanks for pointing that out ...

Yes it does seem a bit odd, that people connected with regulation on one institution (here, the RICS) jumped ship to regulate solicitors ... and coincidentally of course, it turns out the RICS were as badly or worse regulated than solicitors ...

Hardly surprising now the SLCC is a failed quango clutching at straws, expenses and high salaries ...

# Anonymous @ 10.32am

When did this happen ?

Anonymous said...

Good point about the meetings and so much for this SLCC being open about what they do.

Also very interesting to hear Irvine and Masterman have both served at the RICS.No wonder they are at the SLCC now as the RICS are famous for doing nothing against bent surveyors.

Anonymous said...

I also have a complaint with the slcc and they have done just as badly as the Law Society.Now they tell me I have to wait again until the Law Society gets back to them and they are just delaying the whole complaint to our lawyer wriggle out of excuses over losing our titles.
Maybe we should all start going to the slcc office and protesting until they do different.

Anonymous said...

Its telling that not one solicitor is complaining about the SLCC's expenses/high salaries.Its so obvious they are here just to pass the parcel on complaints they dont even bother disguising it.

Anonymous said...

I'd make them pay it all back.
As for their report on the suicides thing - well if they found out there had been suicides and have still done nothing about it they are a real bunch of b*stards.Hope they all go to you know where.

Anonymous said...

A crazy situation here with this lot allowed so much money and so little work.What about all their meetings and why are they now refusing to publish it ??

Anonymous said...

I knew Masterman was at the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors.
She was and still is a menace to regulation and just look at some of the things she said in those emails Peter wrote about awhile ago.She obviously hates anything to do with campaigners or people who have been wronged by her beloved colleagues so she has no place in any institution controlling complaints against lawyers or anyone for that matter.

Anonymous said...

I knew Masterman was at the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors.
She was and still is a menace to regulation and just look at some of the things she said in those emails Peter wrote about awhile ago.She obviously hates anything to do with campaigners or people who have been wronged by her beloved colleagues so she has no place in any institution controlling complaints against lawyers or anyone for that matter.

Anonymous said...

Thought you'd like this posted before it gets taken down by the Law Society now it reveals the surveyors link between Masterman & Irvine :

Jane Irvine is new ombudsman
26 Apr 06
Experienced arbitrator and mediator takes up legal services role

Jane Irvine takes up office today as the new Scottish Legal Services Ombudsman.

Ms Irvine practised as a chartered surveyor for 16 years before re-qualifying to act as a chartered arbitrator and accredited mediator. She was lay inspector within HM Inspectorate of Constabulary for Scotland from 2001 until 2004, examining complaints lodged against the police in Scotland. She then chaired a working group reviewing legislation governing police complaint and conduct issues.

Ms Irvine is a director of Resolutions (Scotland) Ltd, which provides decisions and mediation services for disputes in a range of areas including holidays, funerals, surveying and financial services. She is also the chairman of the Scottish Branch of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators.

She sits on disciplinary boards for the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors, the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Scotland, the Institute of Actuaries and the Faculty of Advocates. She has also served on the Local Government Property Commission in Scotland where she dealt with disputes over property ownership between local authorities.

She succeeds Linda Costelloe Baker who retired as Scottish Legal Services Ombudsman at the end of March. Her appointment is an interim one as the post will be abolished if the Legal Profession and Legal Aid (Scotland) Bill becomes law.

Anonymous said...

Yes definitely scrap it Peter and make these malcontents who sit on it pay back all the taxpayers money.

Good work as usual :)

Anonymous said...

These people are all puppets of the Law Society thats why they are getting paid so much.

Anonymous said...

I know a surveyor who goes round undervaluing houses for a local lawyer who then buys them up in a dummy company he runs and been doing it for years so dont trust surveyors either they are pack rats with lawyers.

Anonymous said...

Bet its worse than this in Scotland :

Now the expenses spotlight falls on Britain's judiciary

First-class train tickets, airfares and dining bills take annual claims by judges and magistrates to £32m

By Robert Verkaik, Law Editor

Monday, 23 November 2009

Expenses claims by judges and magistrates have risen by £3m in the last two years, according to figures obtained by The Independent under the Freedom of Information Act.

First-class train tickets, air fares, hotels and dining bills are among the record £32m claims made by the judiciary this year. The figure includes compensation paid to judges who buy homes closer to the courts where they work, and nightly allowances of £32 when they choose to stay at their second homes.

Under the claims for hotel accommodation, judges receive a maximum of £146 a night when they travel to London to hear a court case and £126 a night when they venture outside the capital. Sometimes judges have to spend weeks at a time on circuit when they can claim thousands of pounds in expenses.

Under guidance issued by the Ministry of Justice, salaried judges whose work requires them to move on a permanent basis to a different part of the country are entitled to claim "assistance" towards the additional costs of relocation. Compensation is paid for help with legal fees, stamp duty, estate agents and the cost of hiring a removal van. Under these rules reimbursement of up to £8,000 is exempt from tax and National Insurance contributions.

Night subsistence payments are only payable where a judge is required to be away from his or her normal home on judicial business. And the more environmentally friendly judiciary can claim 20p for every mile travelled on a bicycle.

The Ministry of Justice said it was unable to provide information on expenses claims for individual judges because this would cost too much money under the terms of Freedom of Information Act.

An official explained: "The Ministry records judicial office holders' expenses claims in a way which does not enable them to be readily attributed to individuals or easily broken down according to the type of claim, beyond the category of 'judicial travel and subsistence'. This is because the systems of authorisation and control are regarded as sufficient for the purposes of ensuring propriety of expenditure."

But the Lord Chief Justice said he was committed to publishing individual expense claims for the senior judiciary from next year.

The expenses bill for the 3,679 fee-paid and salaried judges for this year was £3,676,333 – a rise of more than £500,000 in the last two years. There was a similar increase for those serving on tribunals. For the volunteer force of magistrates the increase is just over £2m in the same period.

But judges lucky enough to be sent to a part of the country where there are stated-owned judicial lodgings can enjoy the services of chauffeurs, butlers and chefs. These 32 historic homes can cost as much as £2,000 a night and include penthouse flats and Georgian town houses. The cost of judges' lodgings are met by the general budget of the Ministry of Justice rather than the expenses scheme.

Anonymous said...

In simple terms this bunch of lawyer protectors are getting paid so much to break complaints at the front door.Its so obvious what they are doing and no one should ever trust them.PUBLIC PROTESTS ARE NEEDED !

Peter Cherbi said...

Thanks for all your comments & emails on this article.

It also appears the SLCC have been paying attention, because I received an email tonight to inform me the SLCC had put up their latest (August 2009) meeting minutes on their website, after reading my references to their lack of activity ....

Now if only the SLCC would help the public, rather than the legal profession .. and drop all those anti-client, anti-consumer attitudes .. we would be getting somewhere ...

Anonymous said...

"Now if only the SLCC would help the public, rather than the legal profession .. and drop all those anti-client, anti-consumer attitudes .. we would be getting somewhere"

It would take a serious Act of God to make that happen !

Anonymous said...

Good work Peter.You forced them to put up more of their info which obviously they didn't want to do.Looking forward to the next report as always :)

Anonymous said...

A result ! but what the hell have they been doing since August ??

Anonymous said...

The Scottish Legal Complaints Commission is a criminal quango, do not waste your time writing to these people, client bashers they are.

Anonymous said...

I am totally for scrapping this useless lot of wasters.They are about the most arrogant bunch of **** I've ever come across having written them for months and still no further foward on my complaint and while they **ck about I still cant get my titles back.


Anonymous said...

Honour among thieves is it ? This lot are more interested in their expenses than helping people against crooked lawyers so yes we should scrap them and make them pay all their expenses back now !

Anonymous said...

got a letter back from Irvine's lot today telling me they wont investigate my complaint AFTER 8 MONTHS OF LOOKING AT IT