Friday, February 27, 2009

RBS collapse: Regulation of lawyers model cannot be used as example for safeguarding public against rule bending bankers who broke our banks

rbs_logoRBS – greatest UK corporate loss to-date. While our great banks such as the Royal Bank of Scotland, Lloyds, and the rest announce huge losses and effectively collapse around our ears on a global scale, the cries grow ever louder from the public and politicians alike, not only in the UK, but all over the world, for stronger, more effective regulation to prevent such disasters happening in the future.

Royal Bank of Scotland announces biggest loss ever :

While the hundreds of billions of pounds of public money flows into these institutions to prop them up, perhaps the public should be asking, will such regulation to prevent such a mess happening to our banks ever come to fruition ?

The short answer to that is "No", simply because what we have always seen is that when stronger regulation of a profession or industry is proposed, what sets out as a genuine attempt to introduce stronger measures to protect consumers, is stopped dead by many of those same politicians who are now bleating like sheep and blaming everyone other than themselves for the failures of our financial institutions.

Why do those attempts at introducing stronger, more independent regulation, fail at Parliamentary stage ?

Well they fail because the professions who are going to be affected by such regulation, co-opt the parliamentary process and ensure any parts of that planned regulation is either watered down to be so ineffective, or simply removed all together.

There is a prime example of this for everyone to take note of in these dire days of banking collapses - that being the introduction of increased regulation for the Scottish legal profession, during 2006, culminating in the Legal Profession & Legal Aid (Scotland) Act 2007

Despite the work of many campaigners & groups, and consumer bodies, the Law Society of Scotland co-opted the Parliamentary process at the Scottish Parliament, and watered down many parts of the LPLA (Scotland) Act which would have protected consumers of legal services in Scotland much more than what the act currently does.

You can read an earlier report on how the LPLA BIll passed Holyrood with amendments here : Legal Profession & Legal Aid Bill finally passed by Scottish Parliament, with amendments.

You can read more about the bitter battles to push through the LPLA Bill into law here : Scotland's LPLA Act - not doing well in regulating legal services

As a result of the LPLA (Scotland) Act 2007, we now have the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission, which originally under the previous Scottish Executive, was intended to effectively regulate the legal profession, with also consideration given to historical issues of complaints which had led to the creation of the legislation which created the commission in the first place.

However, with the intervention of the May 2007 election in Scotland, the SNP controlled Scottish Government, more precisely, the administrations of it's Justice Secretary, Kenny MacAskill, has allowed the legal profession itself to effectively castrate the regulator powers of rigid consumer protection, which were originally intended to put an end to all the 'crooked lawyer' problems of the past.

SLCC squareSLCC – as much use as no use at all to consumers. In actual fact, the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission has become such a besieged quango, bereft of public trust & confidence, it has become too afraid to publish pictures of its own members, for fear many consumers will realise that the Commission appointees, made by Kenny MacAskill personally, has become just another lawyers rubber stamp club for corruption and poor service in the legal profession which the Law Society of Scotland has managed to do so well for years.

Scottish Legal Complaints Commission – Would you trust them with complaints against lawyers ?

Scottish Legal Complaints Commission

Audit & Finance Committee montageSLCC prefers secrecy to transparency as FOIs reveal. It turns out the SLCC are just too busy keeping themselves so secret,it looks like they have forgot they are supposed to be there to investigate complaints against crooked lawyers, but with most of the staff coming from the Law Society of Scotland, which created the problem in the first place, where crooked lawyers were being let off the hook in thousands of whitewash investigations, there seems little hope for the SLCC to do any different .. and as things stand it seems we are in for more of the same – a definite example to keep away from in improving regulation of financial services after the banking collapse.

MacAskill tight lippedKenny MacAskill gave £2million ‘gift’ to lawyers quango. Strangely enough, the Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill has lavished millions of pounds of public money on his shiny new regulator while the quango was actually receiving millions of pounds from the legal profession itself. The SLCC, rather than get down to work as the campaigners including Cabinet Secretary John Swinney had originally hoped, then promptly spent it all on personal pension benefits, salaries, perks, medical benefits and just about anything other than actually helping consumers with complaints against legal services.

You can read more about Mr MacAskill's multi million pound gifts to the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission here : MacAskill silent on taxpayers £2million 'write off' to lawyers quango as Complaints boss reveals Law Society defaulted on levies

The legal profession in effect, re-wrote the rules of regulation and powers that the new legislation of the LPLA (Scotland) Act 2007, was supposed to give the 'independent' Scottish Legal Commission to help the public, and the SNP simply sat back and watched, even actually joined in the orgy of fiddling, and made sure it placed those who the legal profession wanted to be on the SLCC, at its helm.

As Mr MacAskill has always said - he will protect the legal profession at all costs. I wonder if John Swinney would be so bold to make such a sweeping statement for bankers and financial services ?

Kenny MacAskill - Claimed in Parliament he would protect lawyers against consumers, out of a great debt owed by the SNP Govt to the legal profession ...

So if you are looking for a new model of regulation for the banking sector, to prevent trillions of pounds of public money going on failed banks, while their ex Chief Executives walk away with 690,000 pension perks, then don't look to Kenny MacAskill or the SNP's ideas of regulating lawyers, because they simply don't work .. and don't look to leaders of the legal profession for much help, because as you can see, those same leading lights of Scotland's legal elite, couldn't wait to support the likes of Sir Fred Goodwin, and blame the Government for the failures, rather than the bankers themselves.

Ex Law Society Chief Douglas Mill speaks out in support of Sir Fred Goodwin and blames Govt for RBS failure.

You can read more about Douglas Mill’s support of Sir Fred Goodwin, and rush to blame everyone else for the RBS’s failure here : Royal Bank failure blamed on lack of regulation by ex Law Society Boss who campaigned against stronger regulation of solicitors

And finally ... we also learned yesterday that the possible legal case which may have caused the RBS a bit of pain financially, failed at a Sheriff Court in Oban yesterday, when Sheriff Pender ruled on Ian Hamilton QC’s small claims action against the RBS that the complexity of the case meant it could not be heard as a "small claims" action, which would have limited expenses to around £150.

Ian Hamilton QC's action against RBS is abandoned

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Scottish Government's £10m in-house lawyers make their mark against legal reforms & public access to justice

ScottishGovernmentScottish Government – more lawyers than ever. While many in Scotland face access to justice restrictions or problems in obtaining legal aid, the SNP controlled Scottish Government has no such problems with the legal profession, as figures reveal the SNP administration has recruited a hugely expensive and all time high army of in-house lawyers & legal firms to work for the Government.

The Government Legal Service for Scotland, otherwise known as GLSS, boasts nearly two hundred in-house lawyers working across the full range of Government Departments and allegedly 'independent' institutions such as the Scottish Law Commission, the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission, even the Scottish Parliament, and many others.

2007 GLSS salariesAccording to salary scales & statistics from 2007, the costs and numbers of lawyers involved in GLSS operations has risen sharply since the Scottish National Party took office, showing a rise from 114 posts to at least 175, and an almost doubling in cost to the Scottish taxpayer from £5 million to around £10 million pounds today. However, as if nearly two hundred strong army of lawyers weren't enough to defend the Scottish Government from all & sundry, it is also the case that additional legal teams & private legal firms are contracted in on almost "blank cheque" operations, as one Justice Department insider put it today.

From the GLSS own promotion, the current levels of salaries and posts for 2009 are as follows :

GLSS 2009The GLSS offers excellent working conditions and career prospects, supported by a commitment to training and development. Salaries are in the range of £27,153 to £32,583 for Legal Officers and £36,203 to £46,700 for Principal Legal Officers, the main recruitment grades. Appointments are permanent and pensionable. There are part-time and job-share opportunities as well as other flexible working arrangements. The current salary for trainees is £17,000 in the first year, rising to £18,955 in the second year.

However, a full range of unmentioned perks for these in-house lawyers exist, where for instance, each solicitor's professional indemnity insurance subscription (required by the Law Society for a valid practising certificate), which can vary up to several thousand pounds each, levied as a result on claims against 'crooked lawyers' to the Master Insurance Policy, is also paid out of public funds as an 'expense'.

A Scottish Government spokesman refused to comment on why the current administration felt it needed to waste many more millions of pounds of taxpayers money on yet more lawyers & legal affairs, however an insider to the Justice Department condemned the GLSS as an unaccountable costly branch of Government which has deliberately put the boot into many legal reforms over the years, and more so since the last election.

"There is little that can be done by Ministers, the Government, Parliament, you name it, if solicitors working at the GLSS issue advice opposing assisting an individual on something like seeking an inquiry into a sudden death, or a medical scandal, or even such things as reform of the legal profession or legal services."

"Everyone knows that much of the advice "not to act" on occasions where the public have asked for help to their MSP, comes solely as a result of professional bias against the issue being discussed".

The source went on to claim that many of the private legal firms brought in under contract by the Scottish Government operated without much worry over financial accountability :”When law firms are brought in to do contract work the costs of what they are doing go through the roof !”.

In professional circles, it is widely known the GLSS have been involved in many inquiries & scandals which have taken years to resolve in Scotland, ranging from the Shirley McKie fingerprint scandal, where advice from the GLSS prolonged the then Scottish Executive's cover up of why fingerprints were misidentified by the then Scottish Criminal Records Office, and onto other serious issues such as the contaminated blood products scandal, where to this day, the Government's in house legal teams are seemingly attempting to wait out the issue so those victims who were caught up in the affair die off.

Notably for the issues which I campaign on, it seems the GLSS have been 'very active' in opposing parliamentary and government assistance to those who fell victim to the Scots legal profession, and recent information shown to me by one MSP, which came from the GLSS and was marked "not for disclosure to the constituent" urged the politician "to find a way out of involvement in the constituent's case", which strangely enough, related to the Law Society of Scotland and several crooked lawyers.

Advice to MSPsAdvice to MSPs : ditch your constituents. An example of advice offered to one SNP politician who was told by a Government lawyer to ditch their constituent simply because the issue related to dealings with crooked lawyers and the Law Society of Scotland. To MSP : “I suggest you find a way out of any further involvement in your constituent’s case and do not reply to any further letters from him on this or any other matter.”. The lawyer in question, had not only ruined the constituent’s finances, he had conducted a long campaign of harassment allegedly even using contacts in the Police to hound his former client’s family out of their home.

The following is a description from the Scottish Government's website on the current state of the Government Legal Service for Scotland. No mention however of the role it plays in stymieing the public's access to justice, on everything from medical scandals, child abuse cases, construction & planning application scandals, scandals involving the legal profession, and even the revelations of material under Freedom of Information requests ....

Which part of helping Scots to gain access to justice and human rights does this lot play ? they seem little more than guardians for the professions, adept at preventing ordinary people getting help with problems involving vested interests rather than helping us all along ….

Government Legal Service for Scotland (Lawyers in Government)

The Government Legal Service for Scotland ( GLSS) is a professional community of lawyers in government in Scotland.

It exists in order to -

* raise awareness of the roles of public service lawyers and of the GLSS member offices
* promote contacts, share information and develop skills and knowledge among staff in its member offices
* provide shared services to member offices and their staff.

who we are

The member GLSS offices are -

* Office of the Solicitor to the Scottish Executive
* Legal Secretariat to the Lord Advocate
* Office of the Solicitor to the Advocate General
* Legal Secretariat to the Advocate General
* Scottish Parliament's Directorate of Legal Services
* Scottish Law Commission

The GLSS also provides legal staff to (for example) the Crofters' Commission, the Lord President's private office and the Scottish Land Court. It works closely with others, in particular with the Office of the Scottish Parliamentary Counsel ( OSPC), responsible for drafting most Scottish legislation.

uniqueness of GLSS work

Lawyers working with the GLSS and its related offices are engaged on a wide variety of interesting and intellectually challenging work, much of it unique to government. A central theme is the development and implementation of new law. Preparation of legislation for both the Scottish Parliament and Westminster forms a large part of the workload. It also includes handling high profile, sensitive litigation and dealing with novel devolution or other constitutional problems. The work of the GLSS is often newsworthy, and it is always necessary to consider political consequences and potential sensitivities or wider implications. Given the nature of the work, the GLSS lawyer has a very influential role and a real opportunity to make a difference.

GLSS lawyers are involved in almost all aspects of government - whether it be resolving legal problems in policy development, operational delivery of services to the public or the smooth running of corporate services. European Union, human rights and devolution law and practice form a constant background to government legal work.

GLSS lawyers may also be seconded to work in policy posts, particularly in areas which relate to legal policy such as the Scottish Executive's Justice Department or Constitutional Policy Unit. GLSS lawyers also provide support for public inquiries. Lawyers working at the Scottish Law Commission contribute directly to the Commission's aims of improving, simplifying and updating the law of Scotland and lawyers at the Scottish Parliament are central to the Parliament's work as a legislature.

Opportunities also exist for secondment to one of the EU institutions or a placement with an external organisation, whether in the public or private sector. This has, on occasions, involved temporary postings to places as far afield as Indonesia.

One aspect of working practice which differs markedly from many private sector firms is that lawyers in the GLSS tend to move between different areas of work over the course of their careers. They are viewed as specialist government lawyers, rather than specialising in a particular subject area for lengthy periods of time. This approach means that lawyers develop transferable skills and are able to deal with novel subjects which frequently arise.

Office of the Solicitor to the Scottish Executive

OSSE is the largest office in the GLSS, providing legal services to the Scottish Executive and its agencies. This covers a very wide spectrum including litigation and tribunal work, property and commercial law and procurement advice, instructing Bills and drafting subordinate legislation, including implementation of EC Directives. These responsibilities include the provision of legal advice to the Scottish Ministers. A major focus of OSSE's advisory and legislation work is in ensuring that Ministers act always within the powers conferred on them by the devolution settlement and that Executive Bills presented to the Scottish Parliament are within the legislative competence of the Parliament. This aspect of the office's work invariably involves consideration of human rights issues.

OSSE reports to the Lord Advocate and Solicitor General for Scotland who are the principal ministerial advisers to the Scottish Executive on legal matters. It currently has 109 lawyers, plus a range of support staff.

For more information see

Legal secretariat to the lord advocate

The Lord Advocate and the Solicitor General for Scotland (formally known as the Scottish Law Officers) are the principal legal advisers to the Scottish Executive. One of their roles is to provide legal opinions to Scottish Ministers in cases where advice at the highest level is required. Both are members of the Executive and the Lord Advocate attends Cabinet.

The function of the Legal Secretariat is to support the Scottish Law Officers in this role, for instance by researching and helping to draft opinions and by providing advice on other matters referred to the Law Officers. The work very often involves complex issues of human rights and constitutional law. The Legal Secretariat also has an important role in maintaining close liaison with OSSE which provides most of the legal advice required by the Executive and with their UK counterparts.

The Legal Secretariat currently comprises three lawyers, plus support staff.

Office of the solicitor to the Advocate General

The Office of the Solicitor to the Advocate General for Scotland ( OSAG) is part of the Department of Constitutional Affairs, which is a Department of the UK Government. The Advocate General is the Law Officer responsible for advising UK Ministers on Scots law. OSAG is responsible for advising UK Government Departments operating in Scotland on all matters relating to Scots law. It instructs UK legislation applying in Scotland and represents its client Departments in litigation before the Scottish courts. It has special expertise in administrative law and in the division of legal powers between the devolved Scottish institutions and their UK counterparts.

The Office also provides support for the Advocate General in carrying out his statutory functions under the devolution settlement. Devolution issues arising in the Scottish courts are intimated to the Advocate General and OSAG staff co-ordinate their consideration in Whitehall and arrange for any intervention which the Advocate General considers appropriate. Legal staff also consider legislation which comes before the Scottish Parliament so as to identify any issues about competence which may arise. These issues are then considered in co-operation with Cabinet Office and other Whitehall legal advisers.

The Office comprises 18 lawyers, plus support staff.

legal secretariat to the advocate general

The Advocate General is one of the three UK Law Officers, along with the Attorney General and Solicitor General, and is the principal legal adviser to the UK Government on Scots law. The Legal Secretariat is a small team of three lawyers based in London. They assist the Advocate General in preparation of Law Officers' opinions (many of which are prepared jointly with the Law Officers for England and Wales), and support him in relation to Parliamentary business, Cabinet committee meetings, correspondence, speeches and other general business. The legal staff take part in Cabinet Office committees of officials and other Whitehall co-ordinating meetings on European law, human rights and devolution.

For more about OSAG and the Legal Secretariat see

Scottish Parliament's directorate of legal services

GLSS staff in the Directorate gain experience as parliamentary lawyers. The work is diverse. Much of it is legislative - helping produce non-Executive Bills, advising the Presiding Office on legislative competence, scrutinising Minister-made subordinate legislation. There is also work on procedures and governance such as advising the Scottish Parliamentary Corporate Body which is responsible for providing the Parliament's property, staff and services. Most of the lawyers work not only with colleagues in the Parliament staff group but also with Members across the parliamentary political spectrum, in committees and other forums.

The Directorate has 13 lawyers, and four support staff.

For more information see

Scottish Law Commission

The Scottish Law Commission is an independent statutory body which recommends reforms to improve, simplify and update the law. Its recommendations, if accepted, are generally implemented through legislation in the Scottish or Westminster Parliaments. Lawyers seconded from the GLSS play an important role in managing and contributing to the development of legal policy on all of its reform projects.

There are currently five senior GLSS lawyers working at the Commission. The Commission also recruits legal assistants for assignment to particular projects. For more information about the Commission and its work see


opportunities for lawyers in the GLSS

Throughout some 175 legal posts in the various offices staffed by GLSS lawyers, the GLSS provides excellent opportunities for a varied and stimulating career.

GLSS lawyers are all civil servants and recruitment is by way of open competition. Vacancies are advertised on the Scottish Executive website as well as in the national press ( Assignment to a particular post takes place after recruitment and is determined by the business needs of the different offices, taking into account, so far as practicable, the experience and preferences of successful candidates.

trainee solicitors

The GLSS offers a varied legal trainee programme which is advertised on the Executive's website and in the national press, as well as through its participation in annual law fairs run by the main Scottish Law Schools. The training covers a wide range of government legal work, from core professional areas - such as contract, litigation and commercial law - to specialist advisory work for departments and associated agencies. Trainees have four six-month placements during their traineeship. There may therefore be opportunities to work with the Legal Secretariat to the Lord Advocate, the Office of the Solicitor to the Advocate General, the Scottish Parliament or the Scottish Law Commission as well as a short placement in the Legal Secretariat to the Advocate General in London. There is also an exchange scheme under which some trainees may spend six months with a private sector firm.

pay and conditions

The GLSS offers excellent working conditions and career prospects, supported by a commitment to training and development. Salaries are in the range of £27,153 to £32,583 for Legal Officers and £36,203 to £46,700 for Principal Legal Officers, the main recruitment grades. Appointments are permanent and pensionable. There are part-time and job-share opportunities as well as other flexible working arrangements. The current salary for trainees is £17,000 in the first year, rising to £18,955 in the second year.

summer placement scheme

The GLSS operates a summer placement scheme offering law students one month's paid work experience, normally between June and September. The scheme is open to students in the fourth year of their degree or currently completing their diploma and is advertised each year through the university Law Schools and Faculties.

for further information contact: Ann McKenzie, GLSS Secretariat, G B(N), Victoria Quay, Edinburgh EH6 6QQ Tel no. 0131 244 0815 or email

Monday, February 23, 2009

Scottish blood infections inquiry will be 'another whitewash' as documents expected to be withheld to cover up public liability

Prospects for an effective open inquiry into the use of contaminated blood products in Scotland, which has left thousands of victims suffering from fatal infections such as Hepatitis C, do not look good as the results of the private inquiry held in England were announced today, revealing the fact that several witnesses refused to attend, and that documentary evidence was withheld by the NHS once again.

You can read the report from the English inquiry, Chaired by the Rt Hon. Lord Archer of Sandwell QC, here : The Archer Inquiry

ScottishGovernmentThe Scottish inquiry into contaminated blood products, announced nearly a year ago by the Scottish Government, has yet to begin work, and while Nicola Sturgeon, the Cabinet Secretary for Health promised on BBC Radio today : "Not only are we promising a full and open inquiry but we will deliver a full and open inquiry." it turns out the Scottish Inquiry cannot compel witnesses from the rest of the UK to attend, despite assurances from Westminster there will be full cooperation.

While Ms Sturgeon's claims may raise the expectation of some, the fact is that while there are elements of the Scots legal profession who are representing victims of the tainted blood products scandal, victims who are most certainly owed an explanation of why they received tainted blood products from the NHS, and are given a measure of justice so far denied to them, there are other, more powerful elements of the Scots legal profession in the form of the Government Legal Service for Scotland (GLSS), who will be ensuring that many decisions undertaken within NHS Trusts in Scotland, which resulted in the use of the tainted blood products, will never come to light.

GLSS2In-house legal team little more than ‘bouncers’. The GLSS is the Scottish Government's in-house legal team, which represents virtually all aspects of legal business carried out by Government, the Scottish Parliament, and most public services in Scotland, and lawyers from the GLSS have been known to have taken part in many cases over the years, both civil and criminal, where decisions were obviously taken by Ministers on GLSS advice to withhold, lose, & possibly even destroy evidence from inquiries & investigations which could have compromised the Government's line on what really happened in a particular instance.

It seems to be the case there are still a few solicitors at the GLSS who were at their posts during the use of the tainted blood products by NHS Trusts in Scotland and some are sceptical those same solicitors will reverse or even reveal any advice given at the time which seems to have allowed some involved in the scandal to destroy or ‘lose’ documents relating to the use of knowingly tainted blood products.

One legal insider speculated today "This is all about delaying any admission of negligence and any compensation to the victims.Its little more than playing for time in the usual way, and the current Scottish Government are no better on that score than those who were in office when it all happened".

Lets hope Lord Penrose feels otherwise when his inquiry eventually starts ….

More from BBC News :

Concern over Scots Hep C inquiry

By Eleanor Bradford
Health correspondent, BBC Scotland

Scots who were infected with deadly viruses through contaminated blood are calling for a Scottish inquiry to have more powers.

Lawyers acting for hundreds of victims said an independent inquiry, set up by the Scottish Government, would only have the power to call witnesses in Scotland.

As the blood supply was contaminated before devolution, many key decision makers were in Westminster.

More than 4,000 people were infected with Hepatitis C, and in some cases HIV, through blood transfusions or haemophilia treatments before effective screening of blood donations was introduced in the early 1990s.

A separate private inquiry into contaminated blood supplies, headed by Lord Archer of Sandwell, is due to announce its findings.

Although it interviewed Scottish victims and witnesses, it had no powers to force witnesses from the Department of Health to attend because it was not set up by the UK government. Several witnesses refused to attend and documents were withheld.

Lawyer for Scottish victims, Frank McGuire, said: "All these events took place before devolution. The Department of Health had an important role to play in it, and we can't get that evidence."

High Court Judge Lord Penrose has been appointed to lead the Scottish inquiry. He has not yet set a date for the start of his investigations.

“We're not really getting to the heart of the matter. It's another whitewash”
Frank McGuire (Lawyer for Scottish victims)

Health Secretary Nicola Sturgeon told BBC Radio's Good Morning Scotland programme the UK Government's Department of Health had given assurances it would co-operate fully with the inquiry.

"The inquiry has the maximum powers we are able to give it under the 2005 Inquiries Act," she said.

"It is the case that there may be issues of access to evidence or documents that are in possession of the UK Government but under the 2005 Inquiries Act no Scottish inquiry can compel that evidence.

"But we have been given assurances by the Department of Health that they will co-operate fully with Lord Penrose's inquiry."

She added: "Not only are we promising a full and open inquiry but we will deliver a full and open inquiry.

"I believe this inquiry is capable of giving those that have campaigned on the issue the answers they are looking for."

One of the victims, musician Andy Gunn, from Inverness, said he expected the Department of Health to withhold evidence from a Scottish inquiry, as it did in the Archer inquiry.

"Whilst we're grateful that they're holding an inquiry it's no use really because they're stopping short and withholding crucial documents and crucial witnesses," he said.

"We're not really getting to the heart of the matter. It's another whitewash."

Friday, February 20, 2009

Former Law Society Chief Douglas Mill who resigned over ‘crooked lawyer’ memo scandal lands £80k Glasgow University legal post

Douglas Mill at the Scottish ParliamentGlasgow University’s Friday the 13th ? Former Law Society Chief Douglas Mill, who made himself famous as the most senior Law Society official who publicly & personally intervened in complaints & claims against crooked lawyers, he himself described as 'valid', has been appointed "Director of Professional Legal Practice of the University of Glasgow's School of Law". The post was announced on Friday 13th February 2009, and pays around £80,000.

More on the scandal which brought down Douglas Mill from his 11 year stint as the Law Society’s Chief Executive, can be read here : Breaking News : Law Society Chief Executive Douglas Mill who lied to Parliament, pursued 'personal vendetta' against critics - to resign

The University of Glasgow has issued a Press Release, but no one was apparently available, or willing to expand on it. However, a source at the University joked yesterday : “We got to hear about it last week on Friday the 13th. I wonder if its going to be anything like the movie ?”. “I heard he will be giving a cradle to Granny’s grave course!”

A former Council member of the Law Society, who spoke on other issues earlier this week, said “The consultation business isn’t doing too good these days, like the rest of us, but I’m sure Douglas will pick up a good salary at Glasgow for doing what he’s best at, and we all know what that is.”

A quick recap on who Douglas Mill actually is :

The Herald 5 June 2006 - Would granny swear by the law societyDouglas Mill used his dead granny to protect crooked lawyers. Mill, known for his 'pugnacious style' famously swore on his "Granny's Grave" during a session of Holyrood's Justice Committee in their consideration of complaints reforming legislation, boasted he had never intervened in claims & complaints against crooked solicitors & legal firms, but ended up being exposed as a liar before Holyrood by Cabinet Secretary John Swinney during a bitter debate which saw the contents of Mill's own memos & efforts to interdict members of the public from access to justice against a series of corrupt legal firms across Scotland.

Holyrood confrontation between Douglas Mill & John Swinney over 'crooked lawyer' memos ended Law Chief’s stint as Chief Exec

Douglas Mill Secret MemosMemos of a downfall. Douglas Mill, in his post as the Law Society’s Chief Executive, found himself obsessed with hounding hundreds of members of the public who dared register complaints against crooked legal firms. Mill could not resist the opportunity to personally intervene in client complaints and financial claims made against crooked solicitors and their legal firms and his efforts depicted a concerted policy to ensure members of the public were constantly denied access to justice & legal representation solely to derail cases against legal firms reaching Scotland’s courts.

Douglas Mill - A Lawyer's never loved in his own home land - The Scotsman 15 August 2006Mill became so desperate to protect self regulation, he made newspaper suicide jibe. However, Douglas Mill became the legal profession's own worst enemy, as his policies and those of his Law Society colleagues became clearly out of touch with civilised thinking, and in his tenacious battle with consumers & the Scottish Parliament over regulation of the legal profession reforms, became so desperate he famously drafted in an English QC to argue it was a breach of a lawyer's human rights to have someone else other than a lawyer investigate complaints against lawyers, an issue I reported in an earlier article here : Law Society of Scotland & Lord Lester QC challenge new legislation to protect Scottish public against crooked lawyers

Holyrood in Solicitor's Sights Octover 30 2006 The Herald Douglas Mill threatened legal action over lawyer's right to regulate themselves. When the 'rights for lawyers to investigate themselves' argument didn't work, Mill then turned his anger towards the Parliament & Government, threatening court action over the Legal Profession & Legal Aid (Scotland) Bill - legislation designed to usher in a new era of independent regulation of Scotland's solicitors. Mill's threats of courtroom attacks on the Government & Parliament brought new lows in public opinion of the Law Society of Scotland, viewed by many clients these days as little more than an organisation bent on protecting the criminal element of Scotland's legal profession.

Scotsman 5 June 1998 Law Society accused of closing ranks as claimi fails Douglas Mill hounded victims by blocking their legal aid. Douglas Mill went on to be featured in many more scandal busting media reports, which depicted an operational policy of protection for crooked lawyers at the Law Society of Scotland. Subjects ranged from fiddling client’s legal aid applications to take on the Law Society, to even telling the Financial Services Authority to "take a hike" over scrutiny of the Law Society's Master Policy & Guarantee fund.

Cash link to law chief stabbingDouglas Mill demanded press censorship after attack on Leslie Cumming. Never one to miss an opportunity, Douglas Mill even used the attack against former Law Society Chief Accountant Leslie Cumming, as a chance to blame those who criticised the legal profession for whipping up a feeling of hate, Mill going on to demand the media, critics and clients all be silenced on ‘crooked lawyer’ stories …. however, Mill’s plan backfired when it turned out the mafia style hit against Cumming, which is yet to be resolved after three long years, was organised by some of the crooked lawyers within the profession Mill’s policies had shielded from complaints & investigations.

However, Mill’s time at the top of Scotland’s legal profession came to a bitter end after the video coverage of his confrontation with Cabinet Secretary John Swinney was posted to You Tube, and it became clear to everyone he, the Law Society of Scotland and the Scots legal profession as a whole had no credibility left with the public.

Douglas Mill’s best known gift to the legal profession has been that of crooked Borders lawyer, Andrew Penman, who ended up costing every Scottish solicitor hundreds of pounds a year in complaints levies, and levels of public disrespect which have put lawyers on a par with rapists or sex perverts.

Here’s the announcement from Glasgow University. Judge for yourselves if Scotland might get better law students under Mr Mill’s tuition …

From the University of Glasgow's news release :

School of Law appoints Director of Professional Legal Practice

Former Chief Executive of the Law Society and Glasgow graduate, Douglas Mill has been appointed as the Director of Professional Legal Practice of the University of Glasgow’s School of Law. He will take up his post on 1 March 2009. Douglas, who currently runs his own business consultancy after 11 years at the helm of the Law Society of Scotland and 18 years experience of private practice, will take up the newly created post on 1 March 2009.

Douglas will lead the team that will develop and teach the Diploma in Legal Practice at the University of Glasgow for September 2010. Assuming that the Law Society's proposals for reform of solicitor's education and training are accepted by the members at the May AGM, this will coincide with the start of the new framework for professional legal education under which the new Diploma will be significantly different from the current Diploma. Glasgow will also be offering post-diploma education for trainees in terms of the new framework from September 2011 and CPD. In recent years, Glasgow has run the Diploma jointly with the University of Strathclyde through the medium of Glasgow Graduate School of Law (GGSL). From September 2010, Glasgow will be offering the Diploma independently.

Douglas Mill said: “I am delighted to return to my alma mater to take up the challenge of delivering the University’s ambitious strategic plans for the School of Law. I enjoy working with students and have always been very involved in Legal education. With the Law Society poised to outline a new style of diploma, Glasgow has the opportunity to develop full ‘cradle to grave’ law training which will link into lifetime learning for solicitors in Scotland. Glasgow has always been unimpeachably good as a legal university but it has been ten years since they have run the diploma independently. With the 300th anniversary of the Regius Chair in School of Law coming up in 2013, we aim to establish a centre of excellence for professional legal studies at Glasgow.

Professor Tom Mullen, Head of the Law School said: “We aim to make the University of Glasgow’s School of Law one of the top 7 law schools in the UK, and expanding professional legal education is a key part of our strategy for achieving that aim. With his background and experience, Douglas is ideally placed to lead the team that will enhance our provision of professional legal education, and the timing of the appointment is perfect given the Law Society of Scotland’s plans for new quality-based continuous professional development.”.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

'Culture of fear' grips Scottish Legal Complaints Commission as Justice Department witch-hunt threatens whistleblower staff over leaks to media

SLCC squareWhile the culture of secrecy continues to breed at the beleaguered Scottish Legal Complaints Commission with the blanking out of FOI responses to inquiries from the media, allegations have now emerged that staff have been threatened with spying, possible prosecution and job losses over recent leaks of information which has heavily compromised the quango whose function is to investigate complaints against Scotland's crooked lawyers.

SLCC Staff Governance meeting 17 October 2008 - Justice Dept & Risk ManagementLeaked SLCC document ‘serious concerns on leaks’. Stunningly, in documents from the SLCC seen by this reporter, the Scottish Government’s Justice Department intervened yet again with the ‘independent’ commission, raising it’s ‘serious concerns’ over leaks made to the media which resulted in stories such as Law Society target ‘outsider staff’ for exit at Complaints Commission as lawyers undermine attempts at independent regulation being reported. Strong demands were made by representatives from the SNP controlled Scottish Government to “end the leaks or else there would be trouble", claimed an informed source yesterday.

MacAskill tight lippedMacAskill demanded leaks be plugged "or else". After the spectacular intervention from the Justice Department on behalf of Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill, members of the commission's staff were allegedly given a 'friendly word in their ear', where the implication was that if anyone told the outside world, including the media, and me, what was really going on inside the SLCC, they would be sacked and possibly face prosecution for their whistle blowing.

ScottishGovernmentScottish Govt may use RIPSA surveillance ?. A source within the Government claimed “it was the determined intention of the Justice Department to plug any leaks at the SLCC, and if need be, RIPSA legislation would be used to discover the culprits and deal with them accordingly.” Although personally, I imagine it may well be more of a HBOS-FSA style cover up to silence the whistleblower, than a very public scandal which could ultimately damage the Government.

RIPSA, for those of you who do not know, is the anti-terrorist styled Regulation of investigatory Powers (Scotland) Act, which can authorise surveillance and spying on individuals where it is felt those who are the target of surveillance orders are breaking the law in some way as to threaten the fabric of society, or as it appears here, the fabric of crooked lawyers … You can find out more about the Scottish Government's approach to RIPSA here : Scottish Govt Covert Surveillance : Code of Practice

One insider to the Commission, on being asked about the witch-hunt broke down in tears, giving a full account of recent goings on, claiming "the whole thing was being orchestrated by the Law Society to get rid of those members of staff who transferred over from the Scottish Legal Services Ombudsman."

The insider went on : "The Law Society want full control over the Commission and it staffed by their own people and the Government seem to be quite happy to let them get their way".

I have to say, I fully support the ex members of staff of the Scottish Legal Services Ombudsman’s Office. I see those few people as a balance to the Law Society’s infiltration of the organisation, and a hope, sadly now perhaps lost, that the public could have had a fairer hearing in complaints against solicitors.

However, as a ‘seasoned observer’ of all things legal, it does seem to me there is an organised attempt to undermine the work & credibility of the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission, both by the Law Society of Scotland, and the Scottish Government itself.

Cash Link to Law Chief Stabbing Scotland on Sunday 29 January 2006MacAskill 'more determined to hunt whistleblowers than attackers of Law Chief’. A former Council Member of the Law Society, condemned the apparent witch hunt against SLCC staff & media journalists investigating crooked lawyers, claiming the Government seemed to be spending more time on protecting the Law Soceity’s position on regulation than pursuing the attackers of the Law Society’s former Chief Accountant, Leslie Cumming, who was injured in a mafia style ‘hit’ in early 2006.

He commented : "It looks like the Scottish Government are more determined to conceal the truth at the SLCC and protect rogue lawyers than discover who tried to kill the Law Society Chief Accountant Leslie Cumming and they still haven't got anyone for that".

I agree wholeheartedly of course, given the fact that three years on, despite the then Law Society Chief Executive Douglas Mill attempting to blame the Cumming attack on all & sundry, no one has yet been brought to justice for that vicious incident, which has amazingly gone unexplained for all this time.

The ex Law Society Council member went on : “This kind of conduct by the SLCC and the Government is not doing the profession or the public any good and what was to be an independent commission to raise the standards of regulation and public confidence in the legal profession is not happening.”

So, exactly how did we get to this point that the SNP Government are allegedly threatening to spy on, prosecute and sack whistleblowers of an 'independent' authority, just to protect the secrets of crooked lawyers and the legal profession ?

Is it really the case that RIPSA is actually being used by the Scottish Government or the SLCC, against SLCC staff members, journalists and law bloggers to discover the source of leaks at the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission ?

Well, at least to ascertain the intentions of Government, we don't need to look any further than the actions & words of the Justice Secretary, Mr MacAskill, who himself told us very clearly what side he is on in the debate on regulation of crooked lawyers :

Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill will protect crooked lawyers from those who misrepresent them ?

John SwinneyJohn Swinney – didn’t do ‘a MacAskill’. Contrast Kenny MacAskill's actions, with those of John Swinney, the Cabinet Secretary for Finance, and a key member of the Scottish Government who enjoys a lot of cross party respect & public popularity for his work, as he took on the worst elements of the Law Society of Scotland, and exposed a key part of the Law Society's policy of protection for crooked lawyers by taking former Law Society boss Douglas Mill to task over the content of secret memos which stalled complaints & claims against several firms of crooked lawyers which, even after Mill's tirade against Mr Swinney still remain to be resolved !

John Swinney battles with ex-Law Society Chief Douglas Mill - Mr MacAskill would never have done such a thing as we now know ..

A Government spokesman could not be contacted today for comment, although allegedly an explanation will be forthcoming, which I will bring you in a further report on the matter.

Denials all round as usual perhaps ? ... but we all know what "denials" means these days as just like in the Banking crisis which has brought our coveted financial institutions to their knees, denials no longer work on people now suspicious of most of the professions & politicians motives when their interests coincide … and that realm of suspicion also includes the current Scottish Government.

Oh one last thing, for anyone interested whether the SLCC have improved their culture of secrecy towards Freedom of Information requests in response to my previous article here : FOI disclosures censored to law journalists as MacAskill’s legal complaints commission prefers secrecy to public accountability.

Well, the answer is ….. they have not, as you can see from some of the SLCC’s latest releases, this time on the mega top secret subject of … “mediation” :

It seems “Mediation” is also a taboo word at the SLCC as more blacked out FOIs reveal …

SLCC Mediation Advisory Forum 23 May 2008 - Too many secrets

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Scottish Government's protection for lawyers business monopoly wins, as 'bullied' Holyrood delays access to justice reforms until 2014

Kenny MacAskillKenny MacAskill vowed to protect lawyers. Greedy lawyers celebrated last night as the Scottish Parliament effectively barred the public until at least 2014 from the freedom to choose their legal representatives, as the latest petition to bring the free market to Scotland's monopolistic legal services market, failed after intervention from Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill and elements of the Scots legal establishment, worried their profits would tumble as people wised up to cheaper, better quality and independently regulated legal services.

Petition 1197, brought to Holyrood by Bill Alexander, who has fought a long battle to open Scotland's monopolistic legal services market, currently controlled by the Law Society of Scotland, was closed by the Holyrood Petitions Committee after a meek hearing, with only two members of the Petitions Committee even bothering to voice their views.

Petitions Committee thwarts efforts to bring wider public access to justice in Scotland.

One of those speaking, firstly to apologise to the Committee and everyone involved in the petition, was Nigel Don MSP, parliamentary assistant to Kenny MacAskill who recently came to fame for creating a series of property transactions to allow him to claim £688 a month from the public purse to pay his mortgage.

You can read more about Mr Don’s mortgage claims here : Influencing Justice reforms in Scotland worth ‘price of a mortgage allowance’ as MacAskill's ministerial aide gets £688 a month to fund capital flat

nigel_donNigel Don 'got the wrong end of the stick'. Mr Don, who was 'pulled up' for his comments by Justice Secretary MacAskill in his letter to the Petitions Committee demanding the petition be closed, firstly had to apologise for his lack of understanding of the issues involved, which generated his earlier, somewhat lengthy talk on the virtues of using a Law Society solicitor during the first hearing of the Petition late last year.

However, Mr Don in this week’s Petitions Committee hearing, simply could not resist overtly supporting the legal profession's demands to protect their business monopoly, and after making his initial apology, claimed that solicitors were right to defend their business monopoly, and that people who want to get into court should "get themselves qualified to do so".

Nigel Don said this week : "My reading of the large number of words we've got in front of us is that basically what the professionals are doing is defending their patch which is what you would expect them to do but having said that I think they might very well be right and that really if you want to represent people in court the message is get yourself qualified to do so".

Comparing Holyrood’s two hearings of the access to justice petition, one can see a general lack of will to bring access to justice to the Scots public …

Holyrood’s earlier hearing of access to justice Petition during November 2008

You can read about and watch the earlier hearing of Petition 1197 which took place last November, here : Scottish Parliament calls for 'access to justice' moves as solicitors struggle to maintain monopoly on legal business

As the current system stands, by way of rights of audience applications, which Mr Don knows full well along with the rest of us, it takes approval from the Justice Secretary, the Lord President, and seemingly a ‘back door’ approval from the Law Society of Scotland to get an application for rights of audience considered, let alone passed, for individuals or organisations to offer the public legal services in Scotland.

Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill to Cabinet Secretary for Business John Swinney 26 July 2007MacAskill’s letter to Swinney on access to justice - Ministerial misinformation ? Difficulties in pursuing access to justice applications have been well documented in previous articles I have written on the subject, even on one such occasion, leading the Justice Secretary to mislead & misinform John Swinney, the Cabinet Secretary for Finance, over the ease of how access to justice applications were being considered by his office.

You can read more about that leaked letter from the Justice Secretary here : Leaked letter from MacAskill to Swinney on legal services 'misleads' Cabinet Secretary Swinney & Parliament on legal services admissions

Lord HamiltonLord Hamilton took the blame for delays. In one incident, involving the actual application of Petition 1197's author, Bill Alexander who was seeking rights of audience & representation in the Scottish courts, the Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill took over a year to consider matters, then famously blamed the Lord President, Lord Hamilton, for holding up approval of the application, which ended up being granted swiftly after an earlier article I wrote on the matter HERE, along with the video of Mr MacAskill's pitiful blame game with the Lord President :

Kenny MacAskill plays the blame game with Lord Hamilton over access to justice applications :

Lord Advocate Andrew Hardie - Repeal Sections 25-29 of Law Reform Act 1990Lord Hardie wanted Scotland’s 1990 ‘access to justice' laws repealed. Also let us not forget that revelations from a bitterly contested Freedom of Information request, made by the same petitioner, Bill Alexander seeking information on why Sections 25-29 of the Law Reform (Miscellaneous Provisions) (Scotland) Act 1990 had been delayed for 17 years, exposed papers which implicated a former Lord Advocate, now High Court Judge, Lord Hardie, who had sought the repeal of Scotland’s very own 'monopoly busting’ legal services legislation which if enacted two decades ago would have given all Scots more freedom of choice in legal services, rather than the continued protection of ‘use a solicitor and pay the earth if you want something legal done in Scotland’ for all these years.

Alex SalmondFirst Minister claimed arc of prosperity for Scotland, but no arc of justice for Scots ? While some in the Scottish Government continue to rant on about the 'arc of prosperity' of Scandinavian countries, which they promote that Scotland could have followed as a model of independence (although the credit crunch & global downturn has put paid to that), it seems the fabled 'arc of prosperity' which Scotland could have mirrored, does not include bringing any Scandinavian 'arc of justice' for the Scots public, given that those same Scandinavian countries have a much more open legal services market, which does not restrict public choice of legal representation.

ScottishGovernmentThe current Scottish Government consultation into legal services reform, dubbed “nothing more than a delaying tactic” by Scottish Government insiders, will not bring the envisaged opening up of legal services in Scotland, and delaying matters even further to the 8th program of ‘Law Reform” to be held by the ponderously slow Scottish Law Commission from 2010 to 2014 means there is, in reality, little prospect of ordinary consumers benefiting from an opened legal services market in Scotland for many years to come.

Why must Scots suffer the lack of freedom to choose their own legal representatives and competitively priced legal services when many other countries allow such a freedom of choice ?

It seems to be simply all down to the ‘greed is good’ logic of some in Government & politics, who are no doubt financially & politically benefiting from the protection of undeservingly long held business monopolies by the likes of the Law Society of Scotland who control the closed markets of access to justice and the regulation of legal services.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Insiders attack MacAskill's Legal Complaints Commission as 'a front' while millions go on quango which refuses to investigate crooked lawyers

SLCC squareThe Scottish Legal Complaints Commission has been condemned by members of its own staff as now being “little more than a front organisation for the Law Society” as revelations continue to emerge from within, that the commission would rather spend millions of pounds of public money and funds from the legal profession on itself while doing little of the work of investigating complaints against crooked lawyers which the consumer campaigns & legislation that created it intended the commission to do.

Eileen Masterman SLCC Chief Exec Eileen Masterman earns £70,000 p.a. While staggering salaries of up to £1,500 per week have been dished out to senior SLCC staff, and expenses of £300 plus, per day, 'handed out like smarties' to board members, consumers have not seen any improvement in handling complaints against crooked lawyers or improvements in standards of legal services.

SLCC Budget : The true costs of crooked lawyers to Scotland involves huge salaries, perks, and little action to help consumers

SLCC Budget 2008 1SLCC Budget 2008 2

You can read more about the SLCC budget in a previous report I wrote here: Commission budget 'protects lawyers not consumers' as taxpayers £2 million fails to be repaid despite economic meltdown

Scottish Legal Complaints CommissionToo many perks at lawyers quango ? A source within the SLCC admitted in an interview, they were "totally disillusioned" with the way things were going and warned of severe failures at the Commission which continues to dish out huge amounts of public cash on salaries, perks and other benefits to members while many complaints about crooked lawyers made by the public to the commission have so far been refused, on the staggering decision by its highly paid board that no cases which include any legal work instructed before 1st October 2008 will be investigated by its staff.

An SLCC insider said: "I don't believe the way the Commission is handling matters is what was planned under the previous Scottish Executive. The commission as it currently stands is nothing but a farce and there is a culture of fear among former Ombudsman staff that those who came onboard from the Law Society have taken over the organisation and are running it for their former masters".

The staff member went on : "The commission is about as organised as a herd of sheep and no one basically wants to upset the Law Society who have been very threatening over how the commission should proceed to do its work. Its like working under a dictatorship".

MacAskill tight lippedJustice Secretary Kenny MacAskill – out to lunch on SLCC failures ? I further asked the commission insider whether any help had been sought or was forthcoming from the Scottish Government to curtail the apparent influence of the Law Society on the SLCC, the response was blunt :

"Members of the public have no idea what is going on behind closed doors.The SLCC is being led like a dog on a lead and it now looks like the Government have given up on us doing anything positive for clients as the Law Society is calling all the shots".

"The SNP and MacAskill have made a total mess of the commission and there is a culture of fear that if anyone speaks out, they will face intimidation and the sack for rocking the boat".

Staggeringly, the commission insider also made allegations the recent decision by the SLCC to lower the levies paid by the legal profession, came about as a result of bullying from lawyers & advocates, who had "threatened to make unspecified problems for the commission if their requirements of a reduced annual levy was not met”.

Jane IrvineSLCC Chairman, Jane Irvine. After the alleged threats, the SLCC's Chairman, Jane Irvine, surprised many by announcing that levies would indeed be reduced, allegedly due to surpluses of millions of pounds of cash at the organisation, but despite the huge surpluses, Jane Irvine and the rest of the commission board members, many of whom are ex Police Chiefs and lawyers, felt it would be better to lower fees to solicitors than repay the public purse the millions of pounds of Scottish public money which has already been sunk into the commission without much to show for it.

You can read more about the annual £400 levies currently paid by solicitors to fund the SLCC, dubbed the “Penman levy” by some lawyers, here : Dean of faculty hints at rising fraud claims against solicitors as 'Penman Levy' bites hard into Scots law firms

A client who has spent three years trying to get the Law Society of Scotland to do something on his complaint against a well known Glasgow solicitor who himself is facing multiple complaints from other clients, expressed condemnation of the new commission. He said "This commission or quango or whatever it wants to call itself is just the Law Society under a different name. Maybe they should call it Law Society 2 for all the good it does".

He went on : "I have spent several weeks trying to get answers out of this SLCC and no one wants to help me, because the lawyer who has ripped me off is a well known crook and I think this commission lot want to let the Law Society let him off the hook so everyone who he has ruined cant get any compensation".

The Commission could not be contacted today for a response to the allegations from consumers & its own staff.

Since it appears the SLCC isn’t doing the job it was intended to do, perhaps we need a new Commission ? because the MacAskill version is definitely not working …

Monday, February 09, 2009

Scots must make nation’s voice heard on MacAskill’s ‘access to justice’ consultation, ensuring consumers champion over lawyers vested interests

ScottishGovernmentWhile it looks increasingly like the legal profession have decided to stuff the Scottish Government's consultation on legal services reform with replies written mostly by the Law Society itself, there is still a chance for the rest of us to put forward our views on what everyone else feels about access to justice in Scotland.

The consultation, titled "Wider Choice and Better Protection - A consultation on the regulation of legal services in Scotland", is all about reforming Scotland's monopolistic legal services market, where, if you want access to justice or the courts, you have to use a Law Society of Scotland solicitor.

If anything goes wrong with that arrangement (and the odds are it will), and your solicitor becomes (or unknowing to you already is) a crooked lawyer, you can expect as tens of thousands of people across Scotland already know, no compensation for the inevitable financial loss or hardship you will suffer as a result of your Law Society of Scotland solicitor's actions.

So, to put it bluntly, do you feel you should be able to choose your own legal representative ? or do you feel the legal profession should choose your legal representative for you ?

Do you believe that a solicitor, or the legal profession should have the right to deny you legal representation solely because pursuing your case is not in their own best interests to do so ?

Law Society of ScotlandLaw Society would rather control your legal affairs. Perhaps if you have, for instance, a medical injury claim, which a lawyer wont pursue because the same insurance firm who insure doctors for medical accidents or negligence, also insure lawyers ? Maybe if you have a case against a local authority or public body, no Law Society of Scotland lawyer will take the case on, simply again because there are too many professional links from the legal profession to that public body you have a legal dispute with.

If you feel you should be able to choose your own legal representative, at a competitive price, rather than have the legal profession itself bully you into a bad choice of lawyer who will probably end up doing not a lot for you other than charge huge bills for little work, then make your feelings known in this consultation and take a few minutes to complete the online forms.

The link to the online form for participating in the groundbreaking survey is here : "Wider Choice and Better Protection - A consultation on the regulation of legal services in Scotland"

You can also download a copy of the full consultation in pdf format here : "Wider Choice and Better Protection - A consultation on the regulation of legal services in Scotland" (pdf)

Your completed submission must be returned by 3 April 2009, only a month to go, so get your views in on one of the most important areas of business in Scotland, which all of us require access to - legal services, justice, and the Law. Make sure your voice is heard, and that fairness, and consumer protection prevails over the narrow minded interests of the Law Society of Scotland who wish to maintain control over Scots access to justice.

Kenny MacAskillKenny MacAskill limits consultation aims into regulation. However, Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill has his own views on access to justice, and reforming regulation of lawyers in Scotland. As a lawyer himself, it seems Mr MacAskill would rather protect lawyers from the public, than protect the public from lawyers, as you will see in the following video clip :

Kenny MacAskill would rather protect lawyers than the rest of us :

Please make your voice heard, before the lawyers and Mr MacAskill see to it that your access to justice remains under their control, rather than under your own control.

For anyone interested in those who actually took part in compiling Mr MacAskill’s consultation, here are some details from an earlier Press Release issued by Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill, which seem to show a heavy bias towards the legal profession and vested interests :

Expert group set up to help reform of legal profession

During October 2008, the Cabinet Secretary for Justice, Kenny MacAskill announced that he was to consult some of Scotland's leading legal experts as we continued to develop our plans to reform the legal profession.

The new group considered options for the forthcoming legal profession bill which will introduce alternative business structures for legal services in Scotland.

Issues considered included how best to protect the core values of the legal profession and ensure high quality of service, how to regulate firms which combine legal and other professional services, and how best to support access to justice in the new environment.

The group's findings will help inform the public consultation which is expected to be held early next year, with the bill expected to be introduced later in 2009.

The membership of the group is as follows:

Professor Alan Paterson, Director of the Centre for Professional Legal Services, Strathclyde University.
Richard Henderson CB, President, Law Society of Scotland.
Richard Keen QC, Dean, Faculty of Advocates.
Lindsay Montgomery, Chief Executive, Scottish Legal Aid Board.
Sarah O'Neill, Principal Policy Advocate, Consumer Focus Scotland.
Sue Aspinall, Principal Case Officer, Market and Project (Professions), Office of Fair Trading.

Which? and the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Scotland (ICAS) are also being consulted through correspondence.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Dean of faculty hints at rising fraud claims against solicitors as 'Penman Levy' bites hard into Scots law firms

richard keen qcRichard Keen QC. Richard Keen QC, the Dean of the Faculty of Advocates, has admitted there will be a sharp rise in claims against solicitors, with both the Master Policy & Guarantee Fund being heavily affected as many of the dubious buy-to-let schemes, involving solicitors apparently faking up securities for clients, begin to be discovered.

Richard Keen QC said in “The Firm” article which you can read here : Reasons to be cheerful : “Are there any prospects for growth in the present environment? I would predict that over the next 12 months we are almost certainly going to see a substantial increase in the identification of loan fraud related to buy to let projects. I would not be at all surprised if this came to dominate claims on the Master Policy and the Guarantee Fund.”

Law Society of ScotlandLaw Society will face many claims against crooked lawyers. Prospects for growth, as the Dean himself indicates, seem to be a huge jump in fraud claims against the legal profession, with the Master Policy & Guarantee Fund both being put to the test as many banks and financial instructions discover that many ‘buy-to-let’ schemes have frankly, been nothing short of bare faced fraud, on the part of many clients and solicitors, hungry for fat profits on highly dubious deals, backed by faked up securities many of the Banks failed to accurately confirm supported the transactions taking place.

You can read more about the buy to let fraud here : Buy-to-let fraud hits thousands

Buy-to-let fraud has hit the property market and the legal profession many times before, and many will remember how some clients of the defunct law firm Scott Moncrieff & Dove Lockhart (known for their jailed solicitor partner John McCabe where £4 million disappeared), were apparently also engaged with some of the solicitors in ‘buy-to-let’ fraud schemes, in which several Scottish banks lost a great deal of money.

Scotsman coverage of some of the stories relating to Andrew PenmanLessons to be learned – The ‘Penman Levy’ ends up costing Scots lawyers & legal firms dear. The growth in ‘buy to let fraud’ & claims against crooked lawyers is not the only growth area in the legal system these days .. as solicitors in Scotland must also now fork out a huge annual complaints levy, dubbed by some senior lawyers as the "Penman Levy", in reference to the multitude of 'crooked lawyer' scandals reported in the media after my own personal battle with the legal profession, which involved the Law Society's determination to defy prosecution in the case of crooked Borders lawyer Andrew Penman.

You can read more about the Scotsman’s reporting of the Andrew Penman case, here : Andrew Penman of Stormonth Darling Solicitors, Kelso -The Scotsman stories

However, while each Scottish solicitor was forced this year to pay an average of £400 each to fund the “Penman Levy" to run the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission, amounting to a whopping £2.4 million, it seems some solicitors have decided to recoup their ‘Penman Levy’ costs by fiddling their fee demands to clients, as many Scots are about to find out, if they are expecting a bill from their lawyer.

In a recent survey of 20 contacts throughout Scotland who have received demands from their solicitors for payment of fees, every single bill was found to be well far of the 'cost estimate' originally provided by the solicitor to the particular client, and it is also worth noting that in each case, where timescales for a resolution to the client's problem had been given, not one single case out of the 20 clients concerned, had progressed to a solution.

In one case, involving a boundary dispute with a neighbour, the client, of a famous Edinburgh legal firm, was told in 2005, it would cost in the region of £2,000 to study the papers, seek Counsel's opinion, and bring the case to court.

However, last week the client received a demand for an additional second Counsel's opinion, which came to £2,105.55 pounds alone, which the client was not informed had even been given in 2008. When the client asked to see the actual opinion, his request was refused, with a letter arriving two days later demanding full payment of the £2,105.55 otherwise immediate steps would be taken to recover the funds.

After a little checking by the client, directly with the Advocate, it has been discovered the QC who was supposed to have given Counsel's opinion on the boundary dispute, had never actually undertaken the work, nor even given the first Counsel's opinion the solicitor had charged his client £1520, during 2007.

Obviously in this case, a significant fraud has taken place against the client, by one of Edinburgh's 'most respected legal firms', and this particular case will no doubt generate another complaint against a 'crooked lawyer' to add to the thousands of complaints filed each year by clients against their solicitors in Scotland.

SLCC squareSLCC wont investigate cases before late 2008. However the ‘do-nothing’ Scottish Legal Complaints Commission will not even investigate this complaint or any matter arising from the case, as the SLCC conveniently decided it would not examine any complaints connected with legal work instructed prior to 1st October 2008, when the Commission began operation.

Studying the raft of solicitors bills recently sent out to clients, there does appear to be an increasing trend by Scots legal firms, desperate for any income they can get, to provide false accounts to clients, for cases which partners have taken on but have never seriously pursued as per agreements reached with clients to represent their legal interests.

The only advice I can offer for now is : If you have currently engaged a solicitor in any way whatsoever, you must carefully scrutinise your solicitors fee demands and bills, because the likelihood is, their fee demands are inaccurate and unjustified.

In another case, a family who were due to receive property as part of their deceased father's estate in the Scottish Borders, were forced to wait three years, before being told there was no assets left in the estate and they must put in money to pay a whopping £5,300 bill for legal services, undertaken by a notorious firm of solicitors based in the Scottish Borders.

In yet another instance, a client was recently sent a bill for £3,520 by a Glasgow law firm, despite the fact he actually settled the case with his neighbour over a land dispute in 2007. The recent fee demand was accompanied by a 7 day threat of court action if no payment was received, apparently being sent on the basis "the account had been misfiled and never sent out" - this despite the fact the client retained his fee payments and took his client file from his solicitor's office in 2007 after settling the case, and settling all fees due which totalled £1,477 at the time.

Many of the other cases brought to my attention of inflated accounts & demands from solicitors involve case work such as, land purchases or sales gone wrong, divorces, custody cases, boundary disputes, failures in executry work, false QC's opinions, backdated or allegedly misfiled accounts, fictitious work undertaken on cases which have no hope of reaching a settlement.

A paralegal I know who recently was sacked along with several other staff from her struggling legal firm, described the client billing situation in the Scots legal profession as "fraudulent at best", and went on to claim "at the moment its pandemonium in many legal firms I know of, where friends and paralegals I know personally have been asked to type up bills for clients which they know themselves are fictitious as the work has never been done".

"I remember a few weeks ago there was a client telephoned to speak to the senior partner over the size of his bill and the fact it was nearly £6,000 over the estimate initially provided. The senior partner told me he didn't want to speak to the client under any circumstances, and I was to call the Police if the client made any hint he would not pay or insulted any members of staff on the telephone".

"I know for a fact that client's case is a mess and twice the solicitor took the matter into court just to have the case adjourned so he could get more fees out of the client for doing nothing”

“The case, which involved a neighbour who had built on their land, has left the client with a property they cant sell. Probably the mess will be left for someone else to clean up if they can get another solicitor to look at it which I honestly don't think will happen after the mess my former employers made of their case."

So the lesson for anyone of you who has received or is about to receive a bill from their solicitor, is to check it out thoroughly, because the chances are, there is a lot of false work added to that account, which you either never authorised, or were never told would be required.

I suppose the other lesson, perhaps this time for solicitors is – speak out against the bad apples in the profession, because in the long run it will be a lot cheaper for you, generate much more respect, and probably bring in business & clients who for now, doubt your honesty and ability as a profession to regulate yourselves.

Oh, by the way, (I have to ask) how do solicitors really feel about having to pay out £400 a year to fund the SLCC, simply because the Law Society decided to fiddle the case against Andrew Penman, the Scotsman’s reporting of which brought about many hundreds more scandals involving crooked lawyers reported in the Scottish media to this day ?

Read on for some more examples of sleazy solicitors from Scotland’s legal profession (from the Scotsman) :

Sleazy side of legal profession

""We must ensure those with the highest standards are protected from the dishonest few" - leslie cumming


AS Leslie Cumming lay bleeding outside his Murrayfield home, the victim of a frenzied stabbing, his cool legal brain was probably already clicking into gear.

While his body fought to stem the flow of blood from a dozen wounds, his mind was whirring through the possibilities of who would have wanted to attack him. It wasn't long before the top law official was able, from his hospital bed, to give Lothian and Borders Police a rundown of lawyers he is and has investigated for suspected money laundering.

Now, two lawyers are to be interviewed by detectives in connection with the attack on the 62-year-old, while police also sift through all the Law Society files that are the work of months of painstaking investigation by chief accountant Cumming and his 12-strong team.

Yet while the attack on Cumming saw the reality of violent crime intrude into his highly regulated world of balance sheets and law books, it has also focused the public interest on corrupt lawyers. Ever since he was appointed chief accountant of the Law Society of Scotland back in 1984, Cumming has taken it upon himself to weed out rogue or "bent" lawyers throughout the country.

Back in the early 1990s, he ensured the Law Society took a hard-line stance against crooked lawyers who embezzled clients' money, changing the five-year inspection of firms' books to two years. The move came after lawyer John McCabe, who had worked for Edinburgh firm Scott Moncrieff & Dove Lockhart, was jailed for ten years for defrauding his clients out of more than £4 million.

More than two years ago the Law Society - which represents more than 8000 lawyers - along with the National Criminal Intelligence Service held a series of seminars aimed at raising awareness about the ways criminals might try to exchange stolen for clean money.

That was when the Proceeds of Crime Act became law, making it illegal for professionals to handle criminals' money without asking questions. As a further safety measure, he also oversaw the introduction of regulations which mean every firm must submit a financial certificate every six months to the Law Society, providing financial information about the firm and confirming compliance with accountancy rules.

Such scrutiny was bound to make him some enemies. Yet Cumming has always maintained that solicitors in Scotland are in the majority honest, with just a few spoiling the reputation of the profession. He has said: "Our system relies on the near 100 per cent honesty of the profession which is what we find time after time.

"It is our duty to the profession and their clients to ensure that those who maintain the highest standards and their clients are protected from the actions of the few who act dishonestly."

Sources in the legal profession claim there are currently 19 lawyers on petition charges - which means they've committed an offence which could mean a minimum sentence of more than five years in jail - although a spokesman for the Crown Office says they have no way of confirming the number as they don't list occupations.

Legal sources also suggest that, despite the Proceeds of Crime Act which could see lawyers face up to 14 years in prison for turning a blind eye to money laundering, there are still those who believe the rewards are worth the risk.

"It all depends on how well your practice is doing, that seems to be the excuse when people are struck off," says one Edinburgh lawyer. "That if business isn't going so well, and they have clients who have money to 'invest' in property, then it becomes an option. But lawyers know the risks. If a client comes in with £100,000 in cash and says he wants to buy something, be it property or shares, bells should be ringing.

"If a lawyer doesn't do the necessary checks, ask the necessary questions and then gets found out to be dealing with dirty money, then they go to jail, it's as simple as that. Most would think it isn't worth the risk, but there will always be those who are blinded by the cash."

Another adds: "The change in the law has been onerous for solicitors. It means that when a new client comes through the door we have to ask for passports, driving licences, utility bills . . . it's a bureaucratic nightmare.

"If there's any reason to suspect the client of trying to pass off stolen money you have to report them to NCIS in England. The solicitors are being asked to police clients rather than the police, and if we get it wrong we go to jail."

Another city solicitor says: "Embezzling has been seen as a way out of trouble for some lawyers in the past, but these days firms' books are gone through with a fine-tooth comb every two years. The accountants at the Law Society know exactly what to look for, so there's no hiding any dodgy practices."

However, despite all the checks and balances, one case which slipped Cumming's net for a decade, until just two years ago, was that of former solicitor John Kennedy Forster. A partner at Stranraer-based solicitors Ferguson & Forster, MacFie & Alexander, he admitted 35 charges of embezzling £667,000 from his clients to pay for school fees, his large home with outdoor swimming pool and foreign holidays.

His sentencing was deferred several times at the High Court in Edinburgh, to allow for compensation proceedings to be resolved and for a report to be submitted by forensic accountants. Finally though on March 18, 2004, he was jailed for six and a half years.

According to Cumming, the case took so long because it "involved a uniquely complex system with the evidence well hidden".

He added: "But as with all cases, once the cracks appeared layer after layer of the fraud was exposed and produced the evidence which we needed and which the Crown then used.

"Most successful frauds involve several strands and depend on a position of particular power or influence. The hardest to uncover are those where there's an element of complicity. It's a constant challenge and each time we find a scheme we ensure that all our inspection teams know about the mechanisms and how it worked so that they can recognise the signs in the future."

Police sources here in Edinburgh believe there are few, if any, corrupt lawyers working in the Capital, and that the Law Society's checks are currently adequate for preventing illegal financial activities, although they admit there will be those who don't get caught quickly enough.

One says: "I've seen a few dodgy lawyers in my time, but not on the financial front.

"There's more organised crime in Glasgow than Edinburgh but then the property market here is much more expensive and so that maybe proves the attraction. But I do think that there's only a few corrupt lawyers in Scotland - although they can be damaging to the whole of the profession."

But perhaps the most telling thing about crime among Scotland's lawyers is that claims on the Law Society's Guarantee Fund - a fund which compensates clients who have suffered loss as a result of a solicitor's dishonesty, and which is paid into by partners in law firms - have steadily fallen under Cumming's tenure.

Each partner pays around £200 a year into the fund, which is in excess of £1 million. For the year 2003-2004, the last year for which figures are available, the total paid out was £187,000, whereas when the fund was first established in the early 1990s, the compensation payouts were as high as £1.35m.


1991: Edinburgh lawyer John McCabe was jailed for ten years after admitting 34 charges of fraud totalling more than £4 million. He conned banks and building societies into handing over loans of up to £500,000 and ploughed the money into disastrous business ventures. He fled to South America, leaving a taped confession, but returned within a few days and was arrested at Heathrow Airport.

1996: A five-year sentence was handed to David Hoey, a lawyer from Leven, after he was found guilty at the High Court in Edinburgh of stealing more than £500,000 from elderly clients. He had already been struck off when the offence came to light.

1996: After a probe into his firm's financial affairs, Donald Pirie was struck off. A police investigation found that the Cowdenbeath-based lawyer, who lived in East Linton, had embezzled £63,000 from clients, including £40,000 from his parents. He was jailed for five and a half years.

1997: Stephen Crilley pocketed £45,000 in fees due to his firm because he believed he was underpaid. He was a partner with Grant & Wyllie until resigning in 1996 and was struck off the following year. He avoided going to prison by repaying the money.

1997: Pat Elliot was jailed for 18 months after she was found guilty of stealing £60,000 that was destined for two charities from a client's will. Elliot, of Crown Terrace, Glasgow, was also struck off.

1998: Alexandra MacRae, a lawyer who underwent a sex-change operation and was previously known as Steven Raw, admitted to embezzling more than £16,000 from a client's account in order to pay her Dundee firm's debts. She was struck off before later being sentenced to 15 months. However, she appeared in court again in 2001 and was sentenced to three years for embezzling almost £100,000 from an elderly client while she had worked as a lawyer.

2000: William Stevens of Saughtonhall Drive was jailed for four years at the High Court in Edinburgh for embezzling cash from elderly clients to pay for school fees. He was also struck off, although had resigned as a partner with firm Bennett and Robertson in 1997.

2001: Alistair Liddle prompted a police hunt in 1997 after vanishing, leaving his family in Forres, just as the Law Society was to investigate his firm. He was struck off in 1999 and traced to Cornwall in 2001, where he admitted embezzling £17,875 from a client's account. He was jailed for a year.

2001: Solictor Bruce Gordon of Piersfield Terrace in Edinburgh was struck off after being found guilty of professional misconduct for embezzling £55,000 from a dead man's estate. He was jailed for a year.

2003: Alastair Hall, a former partner of A&R Robertson and Black in Blairgowrie, was jailed for 11 years after stealing £500,000 from clients. He admitted five charges of embezzlement, two of fraud and a bankruptcy offence.

2004:Edinburgh lawyer Ricky McAnulty was jailed after admitting embezzling almost £20,000 from the accounts of five clients. He was struck off and sentenced to 18 months in Saughton.

2004: Douglas Criggie, who owned Cumberland Street firm Criggie & Co, was charged with embezzling £50,000 from clients. But his firm was sequestrated after it was discovered he had unpaid loans and bills totalling £300,000 and he went bankrupt. He was struck off by the Law Society in May 2004 and the Crown Office is still considering prosecution.

2005: Glasgow lawyer Calum Blyth was jailed for two years after being found guilty of embezzling £108,000 from his clients and obtaining a further £27,000 by fraud while working for Blyth Solicitors between 1996 and 1999