Scottish Legal Complaints Commission concealed meetings with Institute of Chartered Accountants of Scotland. Investigations into ties between insurers & the Scottish Government reveal the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission were authorised to conceal cooperation and meetings with the Institute of Chartered Accountants from Freedom of Information enquires, after officials at the Justice Department deemed their release to media too sensitive on the grounds that the secret meetings, details of which had been leaked to reporters, had been arranged by Marsh UK, insurers to Scotland's legal profession and the Scottish Government itself.
Freedom of Information replies from the Legal Complaints Commission brought denials all round. The Scottish Legal Complaints Commission replied to Freedom of Information enquiries on their involvement with the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Scotland with all round denials : “The SLCC has no involvement with Institute of Chartered Accountants of Scotland therefore I am issuing you with notice that the information requested is not held in line with Section 17(1)(b) of the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002” and went on in email correspondence to further deny reports that Marsh UK were involved in arranging the meetings with ICAS, allegedly on instructions from the Scottish Government's Justice Department, who were concerned the Scottish Government’s own links to discredited insurers Marsh, ICAS, and even the Law Society of Scotland itself on insurance issues would be revealed in FOI disclosures.
Law Society of Scotland has strong ties to accountants regulator ICAS. I have reported earlier on the Law Society of Scotland's involvement with the Institute of Chartered Accountants here, where even a former President of the Law Society, Ruthven Gemmel, was posted to ICAS committees to keep up representation from the legal profession : Fears over corrupt self regulation as accountants regulator draft in ex Law Society President and solicitor as Public Interest members
SLCC Chief Executive Eileen Masterman arranges meetings with ICAS through crooked insurers Marsh. The round of secret meetings was kicked off by the SLCC's Chief Executive, Eileen Masterman, who wanted meetings with ICAS over discussions on the SLCC's role in monitoring the notoriously corrupt Master Policy & Guarantee Fund, the two compensation schemes run by the Law Society of Scotland which are intended to compensate clients of crooked lawyers who commit negligence while representing their clients legal affairs or stealing clients funds.
SLCC denied all involvement with ICAS & Marsh but now documents reveal otherwise. Investigations which sprang from leaks from the Scottish Government & ICAS revealed the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission had been in discussions with the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Scotland over suggestions for the names of experts and other individuals from the legal & accounting world to include in the SLCC’s research into the Master Policy & Guarantee Fund. However, as Marsh UK arranges insurance for both the legal AND accountancy professions, the Scottish Government's Justice Department (who are also insured through deals with Marsh UK) ordered any documents relating to SLCC meetings with ICAS to be kept secret from the media.
This is not the first time the SLCC have lied about meetings with Marsh and the Law Society, as I featured in an earlier article here : MacAskill’s SLCC lied over secret meetings with Law Society & Marsh as quango announces £15k 'study' into master policy & guarantee fund
Scottish Government allegedly now control all FOI requests to law complaints quango. A source today from the Scottish Government confirmed the Justice Department's policy on FOI enquiries to the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission : "All Freedom of Information enquiries to the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission are now relayed to the Scottish Government due to the scandals surrounding the organisation, some of which have already appeared in the media."
"Ever since leaks sprung from the SLCC last year on the staffing arrangements and arguments over positions which were going exclusively to former Law Society staff, the Justice Secretary himself and senior Justice Department officials have become paranoid over what the commission releases, and have ordered the SLCC to hand over all FOI requests and copies of email communications from certain individuals for their approval before replies are sent out."
“There is no doubt in my mind we are talking about Government backed interference in the FOI process to conceal facts.”
The Scottish Government's concern over Freedom of Information enquiries to the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission stems from consistent reporting of problems at the hugely expensive quango, which has spent more time deciding perks for its members, and fumbling through its duties to regulate complaints against Scottish solicitors, rather than cleaning up Scotland's notoriously corrupt legal services sector, which is being hit with spiralling complaints against solicitors who are committing fraud & embezzlement against their clients on an almost daily basis.
You can read more of failures at the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission here : Complaints Commission 'unfit for purpose' as secret meetings with insurers & pensions take focus over consumer protection against crooked lawyers and much more coverage of the SLCC and many of its problems HERE.
Further internal documents from the SLCC reveal existence of non-existent meetings with ICAS and insurers Marsh UK. While the SLCC were busy denying any involvement it had with the infamously corrupt Scottish accountants regulator, ICAS, even more documents are now emerging of the cosy meetings held between Eileen Masterman & the Chief Executive of ICAS. However, while the SLCC has been forced to disclose some material on the secret meetings it claimed never took place, access to any records or minutes of the meetings themselves between SLCC officials and ICAS Executives have been denied for varying reasons, the latest of which amazingly implies that no actual records of the meetings between Ms Masterman and accounting chiefs exist.
ICAS investigation into Borders Accountant Norman Howitt proved to many that self regulation of accountants is as corrupt as self regulation of lawyers. A good example of how the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Scotland handle investigations against crooked accountants, can be found in my own case, here : A picture is worth a thousand words - Images of fraud reveal corruption & deceit by lawyers & accountants in the Scottish Borders
The SLCC and the Scottish Government could not be reached for comment today, however a Law Society insider admitted both the Justice Department and the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission had been caught on the hop with the revelations.
He said : “This is what happens when someone tries to manage the truth and conceal some very dirty business going on behind the scenes, which will no doubt further erode the public credibility of the SLCC if indeed there is any left to speak of.”
So, should the Scottish Government continue working to conceal corruption within the self regulation of complaints against solicitors ? I think not .. and much more needs to be made of this Government interference in the FOI process, which is why the FOI Commissioner Kevinn Dunion will be asked to investigate the SLCC’s conduct in this affair.