Scottish Legal Complaints Commission in the dock over complaints. PERTH SHERIFF COURT will shortly see a first for board members & officials of the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission, who are to appear as witnesses in a case involving Perth law firm Kippen Campbell, who are currently being investigated by the Law Society of Scotland over a complaint made by a client who was being represented by the law firm in a personal injury claim against Arriva Motor Retailing Ltd & Reg Vardy plc.
In the dock : Jane Irvine, Chair of the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission. Documents revealed today show the SLCC’s Chair, Jane Irvine and at least one SLCC investigator are to be cited as witnesses to justify their investigation into the Perth law firm after parts of the SLCC’s complaints investigation were filed at Perth Sheriff Court in connection with a legal action launched by Messrs Kippen Campbell against their former client, for alleged outstanding but disputed fees.
Fee note released during the SLCC’s investigation shows Kippen Campbell tried to charge for dealing with the Law Society over complaints. The Scottish Legal Complaints Commission began an investigation into complaints made late last year against Messrs Kippen Campbell by their client, a Mr William Gordon over issues related to their representation of Mr Gordon in the personal injury claim. The SLCC’s investigation was ‘complicated’ according to legal insiders, but it has now emerged in court documents seen by journalists that the law firm had, among its now disputed charges to Mr Gordon, charged a fee note to their client for a phone call to the Law Society of Scotland over the actual complaint made by Mr Gordon, an action which sources at the Law Society say is severely frowned upon by the regulatory body as solicitors are ‘not allowed to charge clients for dealing with complaints.
Leading figures from Scotland’s legal profession said this evening the move to cite senior officials of the regulatory body as witnesses in a courtroom ‘was unprecedented’ and would shine a much needed light on the poorly performing Scottish Legal Complaints Commission which apparently has yet to show one single success for ‘protecting consumers’ against rogue solicitors & law firms in Scotland.
A legal insider said this evening : “After a year of scandal at the SLCC I doubt very much any of them want to be dragged into a court to explain exactly what it is they do for people but many solicitors and consumers I’m sure will welcome the opportunity for the SLCC’s officials to be questioned under oath on their work.”
A spokesman for a consumer organisation said he was delighted the SLCC may be held to account for its work in an open court. He said : “The SLCC to my knowledge have no successes to show after over one year of operation and all the millions of pounds of money both from the public purse and the legal profession they have taken in.”
He continued : “It is about time someone was able to get a firm idea of exactly what the SLCC stands for, what it does and how it does it. Unfortunately however, it seems in this case the defender, Mr Gordon does not have legal representation and might not be able to ask the same level of technical questions that an experienced solicitor may ask. I would hope this imbalance is corrected immediately to respect the infirmed defender’s Article 6 right to a fair hearing in court.”
SLCC Media release on Perth Court case initially lied over knowledge that officials would be called to give evidence. When questioned about the court appearances, a spokeswoman for the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission’s Chair, Jane Irvine, initially denied knowledge of the case, saying : “The SLCC are unaware of the situation and therefore have no comment to make.” However, after further investigation and media enquiries, the SLCC backtracked on their initial claim to know nothing with Jane Irvine issuing the following statement : “The SLCC has a duty of confidentiality to all parties involved in all complaints and this is under Section 43 of the Legal Profession and Legal Aid (Scotland) Act 2007. In general terms, if an action is raised, either party can submit SLCC documents as evidence without being obliged to inform the SLCC. With regards to the citation of witnesses, the SLCC would not be aware what witnesses either side chose to cite unless a citation was issued to a member of staff or Member.”
Roseanna Cunningham MSP called in to help constituent’s complaint amid SLCC delays. It has also emerged that Perth MSP Roseanna Cunningham has been called in to help the constituent’s complaint with the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission, after it emerged the SLCC had not apparently fully understood what had actually happened to the client, causing concern the law complaints body had failed to address all the issues put before it, and in a strange twist, a trail of documents between the SLCC and Mr Gordon reveal the law complaints body was slow to involve Ms Cunningham in the loop on the progress of their investigation and findings, despite receiving letters from Ms Cunningham early on in the case.
Law Society are now investigating law firm over fee charges. The media attention to the story has now prompted a new development, with an SLCC investigator announcing : “I have also now heard from the Law Society and am pleased to confirm it has accepted the SLCC’s recommendation to look further at your complaint that Messrs Kippen Campbell charged a fee in relation to dealing with your complaint to the Law Society. I understand the Law Society will be in touch with you to obtain information and evidence.”
No one was available at Kippen Campbell for comment this evening.
My advice to anyone dealing with the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission .. if you feel your complaint has been poorly dealt with, and you are fighting a legal case based on issues the SLCC has considered, make sure like Mr Gordon, you cite the relevant SLCC personnel or even board members as witnesses to justify whatever they have said or done in terms of their investigation into your complaints against solicitors & law firms.