Friday, July 16, 2010

Another Way to Spy : Complaints form allows Law Society a ‘blank cheque’ to snoop on clients who identify crooked lawyers

Law Society of ScotlandLaw Society of Scotland’s role in complaints now extends to snooping on complainers. THE LAW SOCIETY OF SCOTLAND is now routinely asking clients who complain about their solicitors to give the discredited law complaints self-regulator permission to snoop on the complainer’s own background as well as that of the solicitor identified in the complaint, a policy revealed in today’s publication of the latest version of the Law Society’s own ‘complaints form’, which asks anyone making a complaint about a lawyer to authorise the Law Society to authorise the Law Society of Scotland to contact “any person, firm or body contacted by the Society to provide and deliver any information, files and related papers required by the Society.”

SLCCScottish Legal Complaints Commission give clients a choice to authorise similar snooping powers. Curiously while the Law Society says it requires such a vague, open ended level of unprecedented access to the private lives of consumers before it will complete an investigation into conduct complaints against solicitors - access which apparently includes asking for criminal background checks, medical details and other private information on complainers themselves, the ‘independent’ Scottish Legal Complaints Commission offers complainers a choice to authorise whether or not those it approaches in connection with an investigation can disclose information, documents, files or related papers in order to investigate the complaint. The Law Society offers no such choice and claim they will not be able to complete an investigation without all of its terms being agreed to.

Snooping Complaints Form : Sign this, and you give permission for the Law Society to snoop on every detail of your life, not just that of the solicitor complained against.

Law Society complaint form scan

A senior official with one of Scotland’s consumer organisations, commented on the Law Society’s complaints form expressed dismay at the wording of several parts of the document, and agreed that ‘Item 2’ on the complaints form in its current wording allowed the Law Society unusual levels of access to the personal details & lives of anyone making a complaint against a solicitor.

He said : “While it may be a case of poor wording, although since this form is coming from the Law Society itself one would expect them to get it right, the terms, after being signed by a complainer would in effect allow the Law Society to approach any individual, any public body, a Police Force, local health trusts, financial institutions etc for information on the actual complainer.”

He continued : “Personally I would have to question why the Law Society would need access to such private information on consumers. If I were put in the position of having to approach the Law Society over a complaint, I would be hesitant to sign the document in its current terms. I would advise consumers to question the wording of this form before they sign it, and ask to see all the data the Law Society gains from the form’s use during their investigation of the complaint.”

Shockingly, it transpires from details leaked by a legal insider, there have been numerous uses of private information apparently engathered by Law Society officials during the course of investigations into crooked lawyers, key information on the private lives of the complaints which has been used during Complaints Committee meetings to sway decisions in favour of the lawyer, quashing numerous complaints, many involving the most serious of offences. In several instances, it appears that Law Society Complaints Committees were even told of criminal background information on complainers, and members were asked to ‘find for the solicitor’ on the argument the complainer’s criminal background was of such bad character it merited letting the lawyer off the hook from the complaint.

The legal insider, citing one example said : “We were told the complainer had a driving conviction for an SP30. I had to ask what that was as I had no idea. I was told "breaking the 30 mph limit". The complaint being considered in that case was in relation to the solicitor making a mess of the complainer's father's will. The solicitor's agent at the committee implied the complainer was of bad character as he had been convicted of the driving offence and we should find for the solicitor. Myself and a lay member said this information had no relevance to the complaint. Even so, a decision was taken to find for the solicitor."

In another instance, a Complaints Committee were informed the complainer had an assault conviction with a suspended sentence. Members were supposed to take this into account even though the complaint being considered related to the solicitor's mishandling of a property transaction. The complaint against the solicitor in this case was also quashed, yet the solicitor in question has faced and is currently facing several more complaints made by other clients.

In another revealing instance, where it appears private medical information on a complainer was gained, either from the use of the form or from the solicitor who was the subject of the complaint, members of a Complaints Committee were told the complainer suffered from mental health issues and was undergoing treatment. Members were told his local NHS trust had confirmed this. A lay member asked why the committee were being told this and who had disclosed the information but his question was not answered. The complaint on that occasion related to contested fees for work the complainer said he had not instructed to proceed.

Jury  still out on law in the dock - The Scotsman 2 March 1998Law Society Committees have often been the scene of information gathered by Law Society snooping to save a crooked lawyer. The Law Society’s desire to snoop on complainer’s backgrounds is of course, nothing new, as I personally found out in the early 1990’s when I was forced to make a complaint against Borders solicitor Andrew ‘Drew’ Penman of Stormonth Darling Solicitors, Kelso. Thankfully, the Scotsman newspaper, under its previous ownership had reported extensively on the Law Society’s concerted attempts to thwart any prosecution of Mr Penman by using a similar smear tactic session against of false information relating to my bad character (a bad character of publicising the complaint in the Scotsman) as well as Mr Penman’s own marvellously long career in the law, to get Mr Penman off the hook from jointly ruining my late father’s estate with a crooked accountant Norman Howitt, currently of the JRW Group based in the Scottish Borders.

Scotsman 5 June 1998 Law Society accused of closing ranks as claim failsLaw Society Chief Douglas Mill stepped in to block court action to reveal Law Society’s misuse of information back in the 1990’s. It was so important to the Law Society of Scotland I was not able to find out exactly what was said at the Complaints Committee and that I be prevented from taking judicial steps to reveal the Law Society’s method of halting the prosecution of Andrew Penman, the then Law Society Chief, Douglas Mill stepped in to block my legal aid application for legal action against the Law Society over its protection of Penman and misuse of information, which was widely reported in the Scotsman again, and later became evidence in two Scottish Parliament inquiries into regulation of the legal profession in Scotland, which eventually led to the creation of the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission.

It now appears, from the wording of the current version of the Complaints Form, the Law Society of Scotland are attempting to legitimise their snooping on consumers, by ensuring they get signed permission to do so, thus protecting themselves from the raft of privacy laws now in existence since I had my own battles with the Law Society during the 1990’s …

A client of a solicitor who is currently attempting to file a complaint with the Law Society of Scotland today branded the form an attempt at intimidation to stop people making complaints against their lawyers.

He said : “I think the form is designed to put people off making a complaint. Clearly the Law Society want every single piece of information on you they can get their hands on yet at the end of the day what do they do against the lawyer you are complaining against ? Nothing.”

He continued : “I think the Law Society just want to be able to look into people’s backgrounds to see if there is anything they can use to get the lawyer off the hook. I wont be signing it until they change that wording and give me assurances any information they are using about me I get to know about too.”

Another client who has approached the Law Society over the content & wording of the form has so far been refused an explanation over its terms, from both the Law Society of Scotland and the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission.

The Scottish Legal Complaints Commission have been asked for their reaction to the revelations and the terms of the Law Society Complaints Form. The SLCC were also asked if they monitor who the Law Society approach as per item 2 of the complaints form, and what type of information is engathered by the Law Society. While no reply has yet been received I have been informed a response will be forthcoming, which will be published in an update to this article.

For now, I would advise clients who are complaining against their solicitors to the Law Society of Scotland, not to sign the Law Society complaints form until it is reworded to be more specific in detailing who exactly the Law Society can approach seeking information on consumers.

Also, since the Law Society of Scotland is currently exempt from the transparency of Freedom of Information legislation, clients who make complaints against their solicitors to the Law Society of Scotland should ask to be made fully aware of each & every organisation, body or individual the Law Society approaches concerning their complaint, along with the Society giving to clients, a full disclosure of any information they have gathered on the complaint.

As I note the solicitor who is being complained against (and their legal agent, along with other bodies such as the Legal Defence Union) appear to be entitled to see all the information the Law Society accumulates on a complaint, therefore the client making the complaint should have equal access & disclosure of all information engathered regarding the complaint.

Complaints forms & advice on how to complain from the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission can be downloaded at the following links :


Anonymous said...

I agree.
Its clearly designed to put people off complaining but what are we going to do about it ?
The SLCC are so ineffective they haven't even spotted the obvious privacy concerns you are highlighting !

Anonymous said...

This is a Law Society form yet it carries an SLCC case reference number ?

Who is sending this out ? The Law Society or the SLCC ?

Anonymous said...

What right do the Law Society have to use such a low level driving offence to fail a complaint against a solicitor ?

Anonymous said...

Great idea from the Law Society.As a solicitor I think the committee should be made fully aware of the complainer's background just as much as they are about the solicitor and if some miserable wretch comes along complaining because they were found guilty of a criminal offence then tough for them.In my experience most who come through the door claiming innocence are guilty anyway.Incidentally was the complainer with the assault conviction complaining because his solicitor didn't get him off? Hopefully on his next offence he will be left to rot in prison.
Should my career go down the tubes because of some idiot with a criminal record expects more than the law will allow me to do for him? No!

Anonymous said...

"Poorly worded" is putting it mildly.

I wouldnt sign that form either Mr Cherbi.

Anonymous said...

Shouldn't it be the lawyer who is under investigation by the Law Society and not the person making a complaint ?

Peter Cherbi said...

# Anonymous @ 13:56

Yes indeed ... although the SLCC form also uses similar language but at least offer a choice whether a complainant will authorise the disclosure of details regarding his own person or not ...

# Anonymous @ 14:02

This form is being sent out by the Law Society ...

# Anonymous @ 14:13

None ...

# Anonymous @ 14:43

If you are a solicitor I think you are in the wrong job ...

# Anonymous @ 14:56

Neither would I ...

# Anonymous @ 15:15

Yes .. however it has been the case for years, decades even, the Law Society looking into and using anything they can find on a client's background to diminish the offences committed by the solicitor ...

I think the wording of the complaints form is just designed to legitimise their use of such information on complainers ...

Anonymous said...

Very good Peter.

This is what I like about the internet - we get to see all these kinds of documents with twisted agreements that only get sent out to people and then have to be returned.

I wouldn't put my name to that form.Probably too dangerous to give the Law Society a sample of handwriting or your signature since they get up to all sorts by the looks of it.

Great work !

Anonymous said...

What if the lawyer has a criminal record ?
Their clients should be told about this !

Anonymous said...

Have to agree the wording on the form is a little too open-ended for its own good.

Maybe a rewrite will now be in the offing

Anonymous said...

This is outrageous, a disgrace to any country claiming to be a democracy, and your readers might wish to consider if the demands of the Law Society do not also contravene Article 8 of the Human Rights Act (below).

The Law Society is always ready to threaten the Scottish Parliament with legal action - its financial reserves and those of its disgraced insurance provider Marsh allow it that luxury - while its contempt for authority and the rule of law was clearly demonstrated by its infamous 'go take a hike' response to a perfectly proper enquiry, as revealed by Mr Swinney.

Article 8

Right to respect for private and family life

1 Everyone has the right to
respect for his private and
family life, his home and his

2. There shall be no interference
by a public authority with the
exercise of this right except
such as is in accordance with
the law and is necessary in a
democratic society in the
interests of national security,
public safety or the economic
well-being of the country, for
the prevention of disorder or
crime, for the protection of
health or morals, or for the
protection of the rights and
freedoms of others.

Anonymous said...

This is no surprise. The form states "If you do not sign and date this form The Society may not be able to properly investigate your complaint". What they mean is

Sign this so we can investigate you the client to protect our precious lawyers.

In my opinion complaining to the Society or SLCC is expecting fair treatment from corrupt warped scumbags.

Allowing lawyers to investigate lawyers is like putting a paedophile ring in charge of childcare.

So dig up muck about clients (or invent it) to clear lawyer filth. Welcome to Scottish justice folks.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...

What right do the Law Society have to use such a low level driving offence to fail a complaint against a solicitor ?
There is no regulation of lawyers in Scotland, only protection. They are blind, prejudiced and blinkered, that is self regulation in action.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...

Great idea from the Law Society.

As a solicitor I think the committee should be made fully aware of the complainer's background just as much as they are about the solicitor and if some miserable wretch comes along complaining because they were found guilty of a criminal offence then tough for them.In my experience most who come through the door claiming innocence are guilty anyway.Incidentally was the complainer with the assault conviction complaining because his solicitor didn't get him off? Hopefully on his next offence he will be left to rot in prison.

Should my career go down the tubes because of some idiot with a criminal record expects more than the law will allow me to do for him? No! The law protects you sunshine, that is why the Mill's Yelland's Penman's still operate and you talk about rights? "Miserable wretch", is that how you see your clients?

Good afternoon solicitor.

A law firm phoned me and after some discussion asked if I wanted them to help me recoup my Payments Protection Insurance. I said no way.

I would rather let the finance company keep it than deal with a lawyer bastard. It is less stressful that way. If the lawyer took most of my money, I would have to complain to the Law Society or SLCC. I have been there before, losing money is easier than dealing with criminals. Glasgow lawyers taught me the hardest lesson of my life and I never want to deal with a lawyer again.

I tell my kids lawyers can take their money without prosecutions. Corrupt low life scum in wigs.

Anonymous said...

Should my career go down the tubes because of some idiot with a criminal record expects more than the law will allow me to do for him? No!
Perhaps you are an idiot with a criminal record, after all the authorities do not keep details of lawyer criminality, so they tell us. Your Law Society will protect you, and you know it. The result, you can and will do whatever you want, hardly balanced justice.
Law schools are breeding grounds for criminals.

Self regulation is a perverted ideology that breeds contempt in those protected by it, and leaves the public powerless.

If I robbed a bank and police arrived and said you are a mate Robert, go, I have a licence to do what I want. This model applies to lawyers robbing clients wills, etc, you the lawyer are far more important that the client who paid your fees. So a complaint goes into the Law Society, the Douggie Mill's dig up the fact that the client's son had a parking fine, and that will be used to admonish the lawyer. If you think this system is fair you are a warped individual indeed.

Anonymous said...

Very interesting as always Peter.

Clearly there is no mistake on the wording of both forms from the Law Society and the SLCC.

Do you think this be an attempt by both regulators to gain powers other public bodies have in RIPSA which you wrote about earlier this week ?

Anonymous said...

Big Brother meets Law Society!
I wonder what that shithead lawyer who wrote the earlier comment would say to his clients if they were all told he/she used their criminal records to escape punishment for ripping them off ?
This kind of stuff proves to me more than ever we need to tackle these robbing bastards head on instead of filling out forms and letting the Law Society protect their own criminals.


Peter Cherbi said...

# Anonymous @ 15:57

I agree .. the more documents on complaints are published for all to see, the more wise people will become to these little traps the Law Society & SLCC use to stage manage the complaints process ...

# Anonymous @ 16:14

I agree .. clients should be told whether their solicitors have criminal records or not ...

# Anonymous @ 17:18

I agree with your comments ..

I also believe the Law Society & SLCC's attempt to gain such information on complainants is an invasion of privacy ...

# Anonymous @ 17:21

Yes .. fair points .. we can expect no fair hearing of complaints against solicitors from either the Law Society or its front organisation, the SLCC ...

# Anonymous @ 18:22

Yes I think it is ... after all, why use RIPSA when people are forced to sign away their rights to privacy in a document authorising a pair of infamously corrupt law complaints regulators to do as they please ...

Anonymous said...

NO WAY would I sign that form - too dangerous to allow the Law Society insider your life

This needs to be stopped NOW

Anonymous said...

No Mr Cherbi I am happy in my job as a solicitor.Its not my fault 90% of clients coming through my door are criminal filth on legal aid.Why should a complaint from any of them be allowed to ruin my life's work?I'm off out soon to enjoy myself.Have a nice weekend everyone and dont overdo the hooch!

Anonymous said...

A ghastly example of power mad control freaks at the Law Society who have no place in civilised life.

Anonymous said...

I have to watch what I'm writing or Peter wont publish it but I hope the solicitor in comment 4 pisses off the wrong client one day and gets whats coming to him!

Anonymous said...

Complaining to the SLCC Law Society about a lawyer is like complaining to the Nazi's about the holocaust.

Anonymous said...

A very sinister development Mr Cherbi.

Glad you reported it and as an earlier comment says its good to have the internet so everyone is able to see these papers before its thrown at them with a demand for signing. This is certainly the first time I've ever seen such a thing and now I'm able to see it I wouldn't sign it either.

Anonymous said...

Imagine if the Law Society has their own Brownshirts or SS. Clients would get a bullet through the head.

Anonymous said...

I will not have to sign the form (i would never do so anyway) because I have dealt with the Law Society.

They hate clients full stop.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...

No Mr Cherbi I am happy in my job as a solicitor. Its not my fault 90% of clients coming through my door are criminal filth on legal aid.

If you feel like this why do you represent them?

Anonymous said...

Typical of the Law Society to turn on clients from the outset but I'd have to ask how long has this been going on and why has no one twigged to it before now ?

Are we all so sheepish with the surveillance state we just forgot to check the terms ?

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...

This is no surprise. The form states "If you do not sign and date this form The Society may not be able to properly investigate your complaint".
The Law Society of Scotland's remit is to take away every persons rights with the exception of the self regulators.





Anonymous said...

Good show Peter you are educating us about these Law Society THUGS and CRIMINALS who are more interested in spying on us than their own criminal colleagues


Anonymous said...

There are criminals in Scotland Mr solicitor who are not subject to public scrutiny.

Anonymous said...

The Law Society must detest the internet. Dissident websites separate fact from Law Society rhetoric.

Anonymous said...

The claims fixing scandal, which involved senior members of staff at the Law Society of Scotland, apparently headed in an operation by Law Society Chief Executive Douglas Mill, saw a policy implemented by the Law Society and some of the UK’s largest insurers, Royal Sun Alliance PLC, and Marsh UK to delay and destroy client claims and complaints against notorious Scots legal firms with poor regulatory records.
Mr Mill should watch Michael Moore's documentary SICKO. Doctors are causing patients deaths by protecting their insurers, Health insurance in the USA is how insurers make money and their doctors prevent payouts. Just like the Master Policy and Marsh Mr Mill.

The result, lawyers can do what they want. Lawyers and doctors love their insurers, and are the barrier to compensation.

Mr Mills protection of notorious Scots legal firms with poor regulatory records, encourages corruption because no one is responsible.

People will not keep taking shit from lawyers Mr Mill, I thought you would be wise enough to realise this but perhaps you cannot see beyond the profession?

No doubt you will like the new Law Society form.

Anonymous said...

I signed that form when I made the complaint about my lawyer.It took them months to get back to me and when they did they ended up closing the complaint and doing nothing.
I had a feeling they had been doing things behind my back you are writing about so I will have to find out for sure now.
Thanks for making me aware!

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...

I have to watch what I'm writing or Peter wont publish it but I hope the solicitor in comment 4 pisses off the wrong client one day and gets whats coming to him!

Yes these lawyers are fools. Their decisions and contempt for clients will catch up with them. This is simply called common sense, pity the lawyers do not see things this way.

Anonymous said...

"Power corresponds to the human ability not just to act but to act in concert. Power is never the property of an individual; it belongs to a group and remains in existence only so long as the group keeps together" Dr Hannah Arendt political theorist.

The Law Society of Scotland and MSP's are that group. The former dictates policy and the latter implements it. The result, a corrupt legislature and corrupt regulator that have created the pressure groups.

That is why your Scottish Legal Complaints Register is required Mr Cherbi, because our MSP's are traitors to their constituents. The channels to ending self regulation are as blocked as the clients who cannot obtain the services of a lawyer, because lawyers do not ruin lawyers for members of the public.

Anonymous said...

The Law Society and SLCC are client hating scum, corruption is the consequence of self regulation.

All the key decision makers that have profound effects on peoples lives are protected by the state.

Anonymous said...

Considering what I've read about life in Britain and all the cameras I think I'd be worried about signing that form as well !

Anonymous said...

Harold Shipman murdered 215 of his patients using the drug diamorphine
19 July 2010 06:01am

Letters written by serial killer Harold Shipman while he was in prison have been made public for the first time.

The doctor murdered 215 of his patients using the drug diamorphine over a period of 20 years.

But he claims no-one saw him do anything in the letters, which are analysed in a BBC One Inside Out programme.

In one letter, he says: "No-one saw me do anything. As for stealing morphine off the terminally ill, again no-one saw me do it."

In another he says: "The police complain I'm boring. No mistresses, home abroad, money in Swiss banks, I'm normal. If that is boring I am."

Psychologist Dr David Holmes says Shipman's letters show he relished the attention of being Britain's most prolific serial killer.

Dr Holmes told the programme: "He saw no-one as being superior to him. In his own mind, in his own eyes, he was some sort of medical god."

Shipman died in January 2004 after hanging himself in his cell at Wakefield Prison in West Yorkshire.

Senior judge Dame Janet Smith led an investigation into the doctor's killing spree and went on to recommend changes to the structure of the General Medical Council, tighter access to controlled drugs and reform of death certification to make it less open to abuse.

But she told the programme she was "disappointed" that key recommendations from her report had not been achieved.

Anonymous said...

Politicians of every major party in Scotland effectively collude in, and tacitly approve of, the conspicuous wrongs your articles highlight.

I would urge your readers to bypass their domestic, and indeed European MPs, and write instead directly to authorities such as the European Competition Commission, explaining why you have felt it necessary to do so.

Anonymous said...

If the self regulators had their way dissidents would be in concentration camps.

It is no accident that the most corrupt people in Scotland are protected by self regulation and the policymakers.

Lawyers are just another form of rogue traders, with the exception that they have the luxury of being able to take legal action against their clients. Their crimes are often hidden and future clients are left in the dark. They are the most detested profession in Scotland.

The lawyer who dealt with the man from East Kilbride. Her husband took £24,000.00 of his mortgage money, and she covered it up.

Do not expect different treatment from the Law Society or SLCC. In my view that are all the same, the client is always at risk.

Anonymous said...

Did you know the Law Society also record all telephone calls to their office ?

Anonymous said...

Lawyers overcharged for legal aid.

Three lawyers have been barred from providing criminal legal aid services after being investigated by the Scottish Legal Aid Board over charges. (WHAT ABOUT CRIMINAL CHARGES AND PRISON MR MACASKILL)?

All three were found to be in breach of the board's code of practice. (TIP OF THE ICEBERG).

Solicitor Iain Robertson of Paisley-based Robertson & Ross and former associate Alistair Gibb were found to have overcharged the board for travel to various prisons.

Mr Robertson's firm has since repaid £221,847 to the Legal Aid Fund. (HE WILL NOT FACE A CRIMINAL COURT, BUT A MEMBER OF THE PUBLIC WOULD).

In a separate case, Glasgow lawyer Steven A Anderson and his firm Andersons Solicitors were found to have held "unnecessary meetings with clients" and made "inappropriate, multiple and repetitive grants of advice and assistance". (SELF REGULATION, PROTECTION FROM A MAN WHO BELIEVES SCOTLAND OWES A GREAT DEBT TO THE LEGAL PROFESSION) WARPED JUSTICE MR MACASKILL.

The Scottish Legal Aid Board monitors and investigates legal aid expenditure involving both legal aid applicants and the legal profession. (POLICE AND PROCURATOR FISCALS, CHARGE AND PROSECUTE)?

While it can stop solicitors undertaking criminal legal aid work, only the Law Society of Scotland has responsibility for stopping solicitors from providing civil legal aid services. (THE MOST BENT REGULATOR ON THE PLANET).

Last year, the board saved or recovered almost £2m following investigations.