Wednesday, December 16, 2009

OFT & Which? call for independent regulation of lawyers as Justice Committee hears evidence on Legal Services Bill

Debating chamberHolyrood’s Justice Committee heard regulation must be taken away from the Law Society of Scotland. THE OFFICE OF FAIR TRADING has told the Scottish Parliament’s Justice Committee the Law Society of Scotland should be stripped of its regulation role, to give better consumer protection in any reformed legal services market, after constant revelations in the media and in consumer groups investigations & public surveys of the legal profession’s constant habit of covering up complaints against the rising numbers of ‘crooked lawyers’ working in Scotland’s many law firms.

Office of Fair Trading & Which? call for independent regulation of legal services in Scotland.

The OFT, and Which? both reiterated their points that a separation of the Law Society’s regulatory role from the Society’s main function, which is to represent its member solicitors & law firms .. usually against the interests of clients and consumers, when a complaint arises challenging the conduct or service of a solicitor or law firm.

Sue Aspinal, team leader of the professions team at the OFT, said in reply to a question from Cathy Craigie MSP on the separation of the Law Society’s regulatory role : “From the evidence, we know that we are talking about public perception. If a body were to try to further the interests of both its membership and the public, tensions—even conflict—will arise. The best way in which to avoid conflict is to have a separation of the two roles.”

Julia Clarke, of consumer group Which? commented further on the issue, saying : “Which? believes that there should be a separation between the two functions. The system does not work satisfactorily, so it cannot be said that it is perfect. At the very least, particularly in terms of public perception, separating the two functions would be an improvement.”

Ms Clarke continued : “Obviously, the proposal for a lay majority and a lay chair is good news. That is progress, but our view is that there should be complete separation between the two functions. If that cannot be done, the proposed committee to advise the Government on future regulation is a way forward. It is important that its membership should be drawn from beyond the legal profession. It should certainly have a lay majority and a lay chair. It should be a statutory body because it is proposed that the Government will regulate the regulators. That is not ideal but, if it is to happen, it is important that we have a strong advisory body.”

After an additional question from Cathy Craigie MSP on whether consumers might benefit from more than one regulator in Scotland’s reformed legal services market, Sue Aspinall of the OFT replied : “Competition should normally have benefits for consumers unless there is a particular market in which it is best to have only one provider. The OFT's position is that approved regulators have an important role to perform in the way that they license and we hope that, if there is demand for a choice of approved regulator, that will develop the number of licensed legal services providers coming through, which will mean that there will be more such firms for consumers to choose from.”

nigel_donNigel Don MSP ‘ill informed’ over lack of client’s access to advocates. Justice Committee member Nigel Don MSP, also Parliamentary liaison to the Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill, entered the debate on the question of the Faculty of Advocates being left out of legal services reform, apparently putting forward Mr MacAskill’s own view that regulation of legal services by judges of the High Court, rather than consumer watchdogs, would be a preferable model. Mr Don also went onto make an outlandish, unsubstantiated claim that “0.5% of the population were not able to work through a solicitor to get the right advocate …”

Clearly Mr Don hasn’t spent much time with actual members of the public trying to pursue cases through the courts which require the services of an advocate. If he had, he would know his fantastic claim is well out ….

Nigel Don enquired : “I am told that 460 advocates practise in Scotland. That is a fairly small bunch of professional, highly qualified people. Do we really need a complicated structure for the regulation of 460 people who are regulated by the court anyway ?”

Julia Clarke, of Which"? replied : “The consumer principles are the same wherever people live in the UK. People are entitled to the same level of transparency and the same protections in the industry with which they are dealing. If services do not modernise, the consumer has no way of demanding their modernisation—they are just presented with what is available. If there is no opportunity for choice, the consumer cannot make their needs felt and must keep taking whatever is delivered. Unfortunately, that is the case at the moment.”

Nigel Don further added : “Would you not prefer to have a service—especially a legal one—that is regulated by the judges of the High Court rather than by some consumer watchdog? If I want lawyers, whose business is speaking to a court, to act professionally in my interests and the interests of justice, would I not much prefer them to be guided and regulated by the Lord President rather than by another organisation ?”

Julia Clarke of Which? replied : “I cannot see what is wrong with independent regulation that is properly regulated and comes with all the necessary safeguards. I think that everyone was keen that that should be in place and, by and large, that is what is proposed in the bill.”

Law Society of ScotlandEven some solicitors think Law Society is now ‘too crooked itself’ to be trusted with regulatory role. A solicitor described Mr Don’s comments this morning as ‘ill informed’, saying : “Mr Don should come in and ask some clients if he can follow their cases all the way to court. If he did he would realise that obtaining the services of an advocate is not like turning on a tap to get water.”

He went on : “We as a profession can fool ourselves as much as we want about who trusts the Law Society to regulate solicitors, but the fact is the public do not trust self regulation, nor do they have a reason to trust self regulation, certainly going by the numerous bad examples set by the Law Society. Putting the Lord President in charge, as Mr Don suggests, would probably only make matters worse from the public’s perspective, given the fact that even the Lord President was once himself, a lawyer.”

You can read the full report of the Justice Committee meeting and the evidence from the OFT & Which?, here : Legal Servies Bill evidence, Justice Committee Official Report 8 December 2009 and watch the video coverage on the Parliament’s website HERE, or at the following links from InjusticeTV here :

Scottish Parliament : Which & OFT give evidence on Legal Services Bill Part 1 Pt 1 Scottish Parliament : Which & OFT give evidence on Legal Services Bill Part 2 Pt 2 Scottish Parliament : Which & OFT give evidence on Legal Services Bill Part 3 Pt 3

Scottish Parliament : Which & OFT give evidence on Legal Services Bill Part 4 Pt 4 Scottish Parliament : Which & OFT give evidence on Legal Services Bill Part 5 Pt 5 Scottish Parliament : Which & OFT give evidence on Legal Services Bill Part 6 Pt 6

Scottish Parliament : Which & OFT give evidence on Legal Services Bill Part 7 Pt 7

Over the next few days, more will be reported from the Justice Committee hearings on the Legal Services Bill, including coverage of Professor Alan Paterson’s evidence, and sessions with the Law Society of Scotland, Faculty of Advocates, and other sections of the legal profession who attended Parliament.


Anonymous said...

Yes.All very well but you are forgetting that politicians (certainly some of the ones in those clips) live in cloud cuckoo land where everyone has access to a lawyer and there is no such thing as "complaints".

I fear much work is needed to convince MSPs to do anything that involves using up more calories than sitting at a desk pontificating on something they clearly have no personal experience with.

Anonymous said...

It seems quite obvious to me that consumers would benefit from independent regulation so why the hold up and who but only the most ignorant or perhaps the dead trusts lawyers to regulate themselves anyway ?

Anonymous said...

Good post.
Keep rattling their cages Peter !

Anonymous said...

trying to preach independent regulation to MSPs who are themselves self regulated must be like banging one's head against the wall

remember there is not one single politician who thinks they have done anything wrong EVER but would they have independent regulation ? not on their life they wouldn't !

Anonymous said...

No doubt the Law Society spent their time telling the receptive audience of msps why self regulation is so great ?

Anonymous said...

What a joke.That looked more like some county council meeting ! and you lot want independence ? haha !

Anonymous said...

Good afternoon Peter,

I totally agree, we need independent regulation no lawyers or their supporters involved.

Mr Smart of the Law Society of Scotland, Role reversal time.

I am your lawyer. I have ruined your finances, and you have lost a lot of money by my negligence or corruption. You complain to the Law Society of Scotland. You complain to the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission. YOU GET NOWHERE. THE SCOTTISH LEGAL SYSTEM SHUT YOU DOWN BECAUSE I HAVE TO BE PROTECTED AND MY INSURERS THROUGH THE MASTER POLICY DO NOT WANT TO PAY YOU COMPENSATION. YOU GO TO COUNTLESS LAW FIRMS, AND ARE REVILED.

This is the reality for clients Mr Smart. We are in the real situation of being lawyer barred. I know you do not give a **** about clients. The current system is a lawyer protection racket.

You cannot keep the power you use so ruthlessly to protect lawyers, because there is no balance here.
In politics to some extent we have checks and balances against government, the press, voter participation, pressure groups etc. The Law Society of Scotland and Scottish lawyers are reaping what they have sown. There is a progressive massive distrust of the legal profession, and you will all pay for your filthy ways. Make no mistake, we are engaged in a cold war, and the lawyers will lose. You know that, that is why the Law Society of Scotland are on the way out. You are totalitarianists, the Law Society exists for two purposes.

Protecting Scotland's lawyer criminals.

Protecting RSA Insurance, your underwriters.

When I found out my litigation lawyer was insured by Royal Sun Alliance, I knew why he did nothing for me. My employer was also insured by the same company so the Law Societies insurers would have been paying my damages.

Let us talk legal. The law of Delict Mr Smart requires a causal link, that means a doctor's report saying my injuries were caused by my employer. But all of you lawyers have a secret causal link, don't you Mr Smart, you cover up people's occupational injuries because the lawyers, doctors and employers insurers are the same company. You are criminals who use public money (Legal Aid) to represent the injured, and the doctors cover everything up. I challenge you to respond to this Mr Smart, but I know you will not, because you know I am correct.

Brilliant Blog Peter, victory over Scotland's corrupt 10,000. Justice means those with right on their side, will prevail. We will win Mr Smart, perhaps you will be sent to the Law Society of Scotland's departure lounge, prior to losing your job.

Anonymous said...

and where are the Scottish Consumer Council aka Consumer Focus Scotland ??

forget to attend did they ?

Anonymous said...

"Sue Aspinal, team leader of the professions team at the OFT, said in reply to a question from Cathy Craigie MSP on the separation of the Law Society’s regulatory role : “From the evidence, we know that we are talking about public perception. If a body were to try to further the interests of both its membership and the public, tensions—even conflict—will arise. The best way in which to avoid conflict is to have a separation of the two roles.”

Yes but that was tried with the SLCC and look at the mess it is - full of lawyers, lawyer sympathisers and ex cops just falling over themselves to claim expenses and do sod all ! said...

First comment .. most msps just play act when told about crooked lawyers and pretend they dont exist probably because they are a bit crooked themselves

check out to see all the politicians who are in with the lawyers

Anonymous said...

I would recommend your readers to watch Parts 6 and 7 of those clips where Cathy Craigie has a go at the guests from the OFt over complaints numbers.
Maybe Craigie is close to a law firm ?
Peter : Maybe you should look at her voting record on things to do with lawyers ?

Anonymous said...

Honestly,Peter I am not very impressed with the team from the OFT & Which.I think they probably could have said a lot more than what came out and the committee members seem to have wrong-footed them far too many times.

Anonymous said...

That resembled a firing squad!
I feel sorry for the three ladies having to face that mob of do nothing politicians.

Anonymous said...

Interesting to learn from the hearing that Mr Don has a degree in law - something which, if I recall correctly, does not appear in his parliamentary biography where he is described as having previously been 'a musician'.

Anonymous said...

A fine demonstration of attitudes at the Scottish Parliament.
If you are a lawyer you can get anything.If not "Fuck Off".

Anonymous said...

Bill Aitken sat in for Douglas Mill ..

Anonymous said...

If Peter Tobin had been a lawyer that Justice Committee would probably have given him a medal.What a nasty bunch.Maybe they should ditch their positions salaries and expenses then try living like the rest of us and go try and find a lawyer to deal with life's little problems ..

Anonymous said...


I think, probably for me, the quote of the show came from Austin Lafferty - who said - his ideal client would be an old lady who came along to sell her house for £100,000 or something like that ... of course .. Garry Robertson quickly picked up on Lafferty's comment which sounded ..... shall we say .. stupid ?I thought ... along with, probably the whole audience, sure - an old lady with £100,000 to a Scottish lawyer must seem like an easy target .... and I can understand why then, he came up with such a thing .... because certainly from my own experience in the Borders - there has been many an old lady robbed by Scottish lawyers - while they were alive, and certainly after they died ... so, yes, a great quote to sum up the Scottish legal profession - let's rip off the old people ! - after all - he said it ! - the famous Austin Lafferty !





Anonymous said...

So what do you actually think of this bill Peter ?

Anonymous said...

I think the consumer lobby have to do better than this if they really want "consumer protection" to be improved.

Anonymous said...

Good to see more calling for the end of self regulation but it has to go much further than just an independent committee at the Law Society (surely that is a contradiction)

Anonymous said...

The Law Society will always be able to drown out consumers over complaints because many politicians come from their ranks.If they are not former lawyers they certainly want to suck up to lawyers as that justice committee clearly demonstrates.

stuart usher said...

Excellant report Peter.

As always the Consumer lobby, in this instance represented by OFT and WHICH, was so so very timid. We believe they behave in this timid manner for two reasons:

1 In the mistaken belief that a timid approach will impress the Justice Comm MSP's more than a robust one.

2 A fear of repercussions for themselves personally if they did not state their cae in a timid manner.

In our view they are quite mistaken with regard to Point One. With regard to Point Two we would advise them they would be much safer by adopting a more robust approach. Timid people are a very inviting target particularly to crooked lawyers.

These two organisations should have simply told the Justice Committee that which they both know to be the truth, namely that the Law Society of Scotland is a criminal organisation, full stop.

As you know we have called the Law Society of Scotland a criminal organisation and named many of its apparitchicks as criminals for many years, including their Mr Smart.

The MSP's on the Justice Committee look to further their careers and will react in amanner which they think will best achieve this. As things stand they will back what they perceive to be the side they think will win (ie the stronger side). The weak and ineffectual always back the side that appears to be the stronger, irrespective of the rights and wrongs (concepts of justice) of the situation. Unfortunately the vast majority of our MSP's fall into this category (ie weak and ineffectual). However the fact of the matter is that the stronger side does not always win (eg: Battle of Bannockburn).

It is only a question of time before the legal profession and system in Scotland is exposed for what it really is: a Cesspit. Today the RC Church in Ireland is being exposed. The same will happen to the legal system in Scotland sooner or later despite the cowardliness of our elected Reps.

On behalf of SACL

Stuart Usher.

Anonymous said...

Self regulation is the mechanism by which lawyers steal clients assets with impunity.

Anonymous said...

Mr Ushers Comment above

Mr Usher of www.sacl/info is totally correct. The Law Society of Scotland is a criminal cartel who exist to keep their criminals out of jail. Allow humans to self regulate and they look after themselves.

As Peter put it, their practising certificates are the keep lawyers out of jail cards. PEOPLE OF SCOTLAND TRUST A SELF REGULATOR AT YOUT PERIL.

These criminals tell witnesses in court "you are under oath" when they are accountable only to their own. Self regulators the world over are filth. End self regulation now Justice committee, and show the people of Scotland you represent justice for the laypersons.

Anonymous said...

See www.sacl/info

Leading lawyer charged with child sex assault

Another top lawyer faces disciplinary tribunal over alleged sex attack on Glasgow solicitor

Edinburgh Lawyer politician robbed disabled client

Glasgow Lawyer admits providing 'false alibi'

Procurator Fiscal indecency charge 'dropped'

Lord Fraser Air Rage charge also 'dropped'

Paedophile lawyer escapes jail sentence

Corruption case against PF is 'dropped'

Outrage as drug-dealing lawyer serves less than 1 year

Legal Profession blackmail Executive with sex-case threat

Lawyer wrecks 11 cars in drunken vandal spree

Freedom of Information victory for legal campaigner

Police Corruption trial held in 'Closed Court'

Legal Aid fraudster fined 10,000 pounds

Police officer 'cleared' of raping lawyer

Court Clerk blows whistle on boss
Report Courts' Failings

Anonymous said...

It seems Peter was right about lawyers and their mortgage frauds :

Lawyers face £50m fraud charges

Six people, including solicitors and a property developer, have been charged over a £50m mortgage fraud.

Laurence Ferrigan, 48, Ian McGarry, 40, Saghir Afzal, 47, and Simon Lawrence, 48, were charged with conspiracy to obtain a money transfer by deception.

Birmingham solicitors Fatema Patwa, 47 and Hardeep Sodhi, 33, are accused of the same offence. All six will appear at Southwark Crown Court on 4 January.

The case concerns alleged fraudulent mortgage applications.

West Midlands police launched an investigation in 2006 following a complaint by Cheshire Building Society.

The Serious Fraud Office then investigated the alleged fraud, which centred on mortgages taken out on six properties but not repaid.

Anonymous said...

Yes Mr Usher, the stronger side does not always win. Just like the 6th Army at Stalingrad, they thought they were invincible, but Scottish lawyers do not think they are invincible. Look at Mr Douglas Mill who put many clients through the mill, he had to resign.

No matter how long it takes, the lawyers will not win the battle for justice, because like Hitler's armies they are unjust. They have had their way too long, they are going to lose self regulation. The public are getting wise, and right will prevail. They have tried many times to stop your site Mr Usher, they do not take legal action, because you are telling the truth and they are not lawyer barred.

We will collectivley beat Scotland's corrupt legal profession who believe it is morally right to ruin clients and laugh in their faces. They will reap their nemisis.

Anonymous said...

It is only a question of time before the legal profession and system in Scotland is exposed for what it really is: a Cesspit.
The word is being spread every day, people need to understand the grave risks they take when they go to a lawyer, human garbage that is what they are. If the lawyers were treated by clients the way they treat clients they would want us hanged. Criminals, the only fitting name for Scotland's lawyers.