Monday, July 19, 2010

Justice for all ? Scotland’s Crown Office refuse to prosecute ‘crooked lawyers’ who 'wrongly' claimed £221K in Legal Aid funds

COPFSScotland’s Crown Office appears to operate a policy of not prosecuting ‘crooked lawyers’. WHILE CLAIMANTS OF LEGAL AID in Scotland who lie on their Legal Aid applications may expect to be prosecuted by the Crown Office, given that defrauding the Scottish Legal Aid Board is a criminal offence, the Crown Office’s application of the law in this regard seems to be somewhat uneven, as the SUNDAY MAIL newspaper revealed this weekend in the case of solicitors IAIN ROBERTSON & ALASTAIR GIBB, who, despite being accused of submitting £223,000 worth of false claims for taxpayers' cash from the Scottish Legal Aid Board over an 18-month period, are not to be prosecuted.

SLAB_logoThe Scottish Legal Aid Board reported both solicitors to the Crown Office for prosecution. The latest failure of the Crown Office to prosecute ‘crooked lawyers’ comes after a string of cases reported in the media where solicitors have swindled Legal Aid, or acted against clients in a way where ordinary members of the public may well have been expected to be charged and prosecuted to the full letter of the Law. In the case of Iain Robertson & Alistair Gibb, the Scottish Legal Aid Board reported both solicitors to the Crown Office for prosecution, yet as revealed in the media, there will be no criminal prosecution against either solicitor – yet a member of the public who may have falsely claimed much smaller amounts of legal aid can certainly expect to be prosecuted to the fullest extent.

The Scottish Legal Aid Board issued a Press Release today (pdf), announcing that it had removed from the list of solicitors registered to provide criminal legal assistance:·

The solicitor, Steven A Anderson of Andersons Solicitors, 2 Hillkirk Street Lane, Springburn Glasgow, G21 1TE and the firm of Andersons Solicitors.
The solicitor, Iain Robertson, director of Roberston and Ross Limited, 7 Causeyside Street, Paisley, PA1 1UW and the solicitor, Alistair Gibb, a former associate of the firm, Robertson and Ross Limited.

This means that these solicitors cannot now provide criminal legal aid or criminal advice and assistance. The removal follows investigations by the Board in relation to non‐compliance with the Board’s Code of Practice for Criminal Legal Assistance.

For Andersons Solicitors this non‐compliance included: holding unnecessary meetings with clients, and making inappropriate, multiple and repetitive grants of advice and assistance. For Iain Robertson and Alistair Gibb, the non‐compliance included overcharging the Board for travel to various prisons. As a result of non‐compliance with the Board’s Code of Practice, the firm Robertson and Ross Limited has re‐paid to the Legal Aid Fund, the sum of £221,847.

The Board has a substantial programme of monitoring and investigating legal aid expenditure involving both legal aid applicants and the legal profession. Under its powers, it can stop solicitors doing criminal legal aid work. Only the Law Society of Scotland has responsibility for stopping solicitors from doing civil legal aid work.

Where the Board has concerns about lawyers it can make formal complaints to the appropriate regulatory body (for example, the Law Society of Scotland or the Faculty of Advocates) and may also forward cases for consideration to the Crown Office Procurator Fiscal Service. In 2009‐2010, the Board’s compliance and investigations work resulted in savings and recoveries of nearly £2 million, and a number of cases involving solicitors, applicants and legally‐aided assisted persons were reported to the Crown Office.

The Scottish Legal Aid Board were asked for comment on the failure of the Crown Office to prosecute. A spokesperson replied saying : “The Board cannot comment on decisions made by the Crown.”

Mortgage Man stole my £24k - Nigel MacFarlane Mortgage Scandal Sunday Mail 070210Solicitor Catriona MacFarlane covered up her mortgage broker husband’s theft of £24K from a client. In a recent scandal involving solicitor Catriona MacFarlane, who covered up her mortgage broker husband’s theft of £24K from a client, later repaid after difficult & prolonged negotiations saw the Crown Office even refuse to acknowledge reports of the MacFarlanes to its highest ranking officials. During my own investigation of the MacFarlane case, it transpired the Law Society of Scotland and the Scottish Solicitors Discipline Tribunal FAILED to inform both Strathclyde Police and the Crown Office that criminal activity had been detected during their investigation of the complaints made against Catriona MacFarlane. You can read my earlier report revealing the failures to inform the authorities, here : Law Society ‘routinely fails to report crime' as Crown Office admits it never received report on Glasgow lawyer theft cover-up investigation

Crown Office Stirling - 2 October 2007 REDACTEDCrown Office bizarrely admitted a solicitor had committed ‘a crime’ yet refused to prosecute. In one particular instance, where a solicitor had been reported by a number of individuals to authorities, the Crown Office contacted one of the victims, bizarrely admitting a crime had been committed, yet refused to prosecute the solicitor concerned. The Crown Office letter read : “A decision has been taken by the Crown Office to take no further proceedings in this case : this decision was not taken lightly as we realise the seriousness of this crime. I hope the decision has not caused you any distress, as this was not our intention.”

Crown Office on prosecutions of solicitorsCrown Office admit they don't gather statistics on how many crooked lawyers are prosecuted. In response to Freedom of Information queries to the Crown Office on the disclosure of statistics engathered relating to charges or prosecutions against members of the legal profession in Scotland, which includes paralegals, solicitors, and anyone working in a solicitor's office, it was disclosed that "The COPFS database has no information routinely recorded indentifying the present (or previous) occupation of accused persons reported for prosecution. We do not extract any information regarding cases in which the accused person is (or was) a solicitor, so do not hold any statistical information which would answer your question." The terms of the response leave little doubt an attitude exists where prosecuting the legal profession itself is not to be encouraged, or recorded …

Clearly the Crown Office is unwilling to prosecute ‘crooked lawyers’ and the evidence is mounting this is a policy, rather than decisions taken on a case by case basis …. after all, if 20 solicitors are reported to the Crown Office, and 20 decisions are taken not to prosecute … then something is very wrong with those who are charged to uphold the law and these constant decisions not to prosecute solicitors becomes more of a policy not to prosecute solicitors in the eyes of the public …

The Sunday Mail reports :

LIAR AID Solicitor in probe escapes prosecutionLIAR AID : Fury as shamed lawyer stays out of court despite admitting £221k of bogus claims

Jul 18 2010 Exclusive by Derek Alexander, Sunday Mail

A LAWYER has escaped the dock - after handing back more than £200,000 of bogus legal aid claims.

A criminal probe into Iain Robertson has been dropped after he returned £221,847 to the Scottish Legal Aid Board. Amazingly, Robertson is even allowed to continue claiming legal aid for civil cases while waiting to discover if he will be struck off.

The scandal centred on the 57-year-old shamed solicitor and his firm Robertson & Ross in Paisley. Another lawyer - Aberdeen-based Alastair Gibb - was also investigated.

Scots Lib Dem justice spokesman Robert Brown demanded to know why Robertson is not being taken to court. He said: "It seems that the Crown Office have some questions to answer as to why they didn't prosecute what appears to be a straightforward fraud involving a significant amount of money."

Labour justice spokesman Richard Baker added: "This is a very serious issue and we should have clarity on why the Crown Office decided not to proceed. "The sum of cash is huge and I'll be interested to know why the lawyers involved haven't faced criminal charges."

Robertson was accused of submitting £223,000 worth of false claims for taxpayers' cash from SLAB over an 18-month period. The claims were based on Gibb travelling thousands of miles from Paisley to see clients in Aberdeen and Peterhead prisons. In reality, Gibb was living in Kingswells, near Aberdeen.

Earlier this month, Robertson agreed to pay have back £221,847 to SLAB and was banned from claiming criminal legal aid cash in the future. But he's still allowed to claim legal aid for any civil cases he undertakes. Gibb, 60, did not renew his certificate to practise as a solicitor with the Law Society of Scotland after SLAB called in police two years ago.

Fraud squad detectives submitted a detailed report about the case to Crown prosecutors in April, 2008. But officials marked the case "no proceedings" and stubbornly refuse to explain their decision.

Last year Robertson & Ross received £367,600 in legal aid compared to £832,000 between 2007 and 2008. Legal aid exists to pay fees for those who can't afford to hire a solicitor.

Gibb claimed he was sacked by Robertson & Ross but was awarded a cash settlement by the firm before an unfair dismissal tribunal. He said: "What went on between SLAB and Robertson & Ross is totally outwith my knowledge, other than that I assisted SLAB once. I'm now 60 and don't have a hope in hell of getting a job now. I've been wiped out."

In December, 2008, Robertson was censured by the Scottish Solicitors' Discipline Tribunal for ripping off a client for £21,308. He took cash payments from the woman while claiming legal aid for the work. He was fined £5000 and found guilty of professional misconduct.

A SLAB spokesman said: "Iain Robertson and Alastair Gibb have been investigated. The sum of £221,847 has been paid back."

Robertson said: "It was accepted that payments had been wrongly claimed and as the supervising partner I had to accept responsibility. "We dealt with the matter and agreed the figures. I'm disappointed that SLAB have taken the decision they have."

A Crown Office spokeswoman said: "We received a report in relation to two men aged, 60 and 57, in relation to an alleged incident in Paisley in 2008. After full and careful consideration of the facts and circumstances, Crown Counsel instructed there should be no proceedings in relation to this matter."

34 comments:

Anonymous said...

What can I say, the Crown Office are criminals. Scottish justice is rotten.

Anonymous said...

This screams, Scottish lawyers help yourself to taxpayers money. Cronyism that is what this is and this proves how bent and mendacious the legal eagles are.

The Crown Office has no credibility. They do not even care about their integrity with the public. Jail all of them.

Anonymous said...

Another demonstration of lawyer loyalties. If a member of the public could take this sum in legal aid I wonder how many years they would face behind bars.

It is little wonder the Scottish justice system is corrupt when lawyers had to pay back £2 million last year and now this. The Crown Office are condoning and encouraging lawyer criminality. The way events are unfolding Scotland's legal reputation will be in the be gutter, if it is not already with the Lockerbie bombers release.

Anonymous said...

Sheriff Marie Smart at Hamilton Sheriff Court said a £4,000.00 benefit fraud was the largest to come before the court, and the perpetrator was prosecuted.

Lawyer claims £221k and no prosecutions.

Cronyism in action. An example of how loyal lawyers are to each other and a perversion of justice by the unjust.

Lawyer integrity and credibility = zero.

Anonymous said...

so if Mr Moat had been a scottish lawyer he would have got off!

Anonymous said...

What's that, a Banana Republic?

Anonymous said...

This demonstrates once again that the two tier justice system the Scottish Public are forced to suffer is endorsed by the Crown Office, their political allies, and
by extension the Judiciary.

No surprise then that the Law Society of Scotland has always been able to rely on such support.

Anonymous said...

Good to see at least one Scottish newspaper has some balls against these legal thugs.

Congratulations to the Sunday Mail !

Anonymous said...

The newspaper story says :"In December, 2008, Robertson was censured by the Scottish Solicitors' Discipline Tribunal for ripping off a client for £21,308. He took cash payments from the woman while claiming legal aid for the work. He was fined £5000 and found guilty of professional misconduct."

so why the hell were the legal aid board still allowing him to claim legal aid ????

It stands to reason if a lawyer is ripping off clients they are going to rip off legal aid too surely !!!!

Anonymous said...

Big surprise here that Angiolini's Crown Office doesnt want to send crooked lawyers to jail !
or is it party orders from MacAskill & co ?

Anonymous said...

I was told you were outspoken but this is something else !

Oh well the lawyers made their own bed of treachery against you so its their fault and its good to see someone helping others to speak out so keep it up!

Anonymous said...

Interesting letter from the Crown Office on their lack of prosecutions of lawyers.
As you say clearly they dont want to do it or record the cases as statistics yet if some Government politician or Police Chief asks them for backup over prosecutions of a particular group of the public they will be up there with the figures in lights.

It is corrupt but its so bare faced.

Anonymous said...

Phew what kind of a country is Scotland ?
Full of crooked lawyers by teh looks of it !

Anonymous said...

I can see now why you had trouble trying to prosecute Andrew Penman because it cant be done with the authorities being as corrupt as they are or controlled by fellow lawyers.No wonder people go off the deep end when faced with scum crooked lawyers who get away with all their crimes

Anonymous said...

It stands to reason if a lawyer is ripping off clients they are going to rip off legal aid too surely !!!!

Exactly and how can the prosecuters be prosecuted?

Anonymous said...

The title of your blog is so accurate Mr Cherbi. Please keep up the excellent work.

Take a law degree and steal from the taxpayer with impunity. How can you justify this Mr MacAskill?

Anonymous said...

BBC News

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.
----------------------------------
No prosecutions because the Crown Office look after the corrupt in their ranks, the result, they are all corrupt. The credibility and integrity of the legal system nil.

More evidence lawyers look after lawyers, when they steal from the taxpayer. The application of law is determined by who you are even when committing the same crime.

The COPFS are making a mockery of justice and themselves.

Anonymous said...

is it any wonder no one trusts lawyers when they are like this ?

Anonymous said...

If the Crown Office have refused to prosecute then everything should be made public what these lawyers did and how much they ripped us off.

Anonymous said...

A LAWYER has escaped the dock - after handing back more than £200,000 of bogus legal aid claims.

A criminal probe into Iain Robertson has been dropped after he returned £221,847 to the Scottish Legal Aid Board. Amazingly, Robertson is even allowed to continue claiming legal aid for civil cases while waiting to discover if he will be struck off.

The scandal centred on the 57-year-old shamed solicitor and his firm Robertson & Ross in Paisley. Another lawyer - Aberdeen-based Alastair Gibb - was also investigated.

Scots Lib Dem justice spokesman Robert Brown demanded to know why Robertson is not being taken to court. He said: "It seems that the Crown Office have some questions to answer as to why they didn't prosecute what appears to be a straightforward fraud involving a significant amount of money."

MR BROWN YOU ARE 100% CORRECT. DISSIDENTS ARE DESTROYING THE LEGAL PROFESSION DAILY AND THIS JUST DEMONSTRATES HOW BIASED LAWYERS ARE. WE NEED PROSECUTIONS OF THE DECISION MAKERS IN THE CROWN OFFICE BECAUSE WHAT WE HAVE HERE IS CRONYISM.

THE CROWN OFFICE AND PROCURATOR FISCAL SERVICE ARE CORRUPT.

IN POLITICAL SCIENCE MANY AREAS ARE CONTESTED, FREEDOM, SOCIAL JUSTICE, DEMOCRACY.

IF IGNORANCE OF THE LAW IS NO EXCUSE, HOW CAN LAWYERS DO THIS AND ESCAPE PROSECUTION. THEY ARE MAKING A MOCKERY OF THE JUSTICE SYSTEM.

FOUR MP's CHARGED, THAT IS ALL. THE STATES ACTORS ARE THE MOST DIFFICULT TO PROSECUTE.

Anonymous said...

Oh well the lawyers made their own bed of treachery against you so its their fault and its good to see someone helping others to speak out so keep it up!

This person is spot on, and you are a brave man Peter and your support grows daily. I tell everyone about your new Scottish Legal Comsumer Complaints Register. You are providing a brilliant public service of paramount importance. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

He took cash payments from the woman while claiming legal aid for the work.

so as my solicitor!He's been charging me fees for my son's breach of the peace charge and he made a legal aid form and is getting legal aid for it

Anonymous said...

If Joe Bloggs had done this he would now be doing time. I think the Crown Office are as crooked as these lawyers. Special treatment for lawyers by lawyers.

Anonymous said...

I wonder what citizens of other countries reading this think or our Legal Establishment?

Anonymous said...

So if I go to univerity, get a law degree and embezzle taxpayers money I will not be prosecuted.

Hmmm, how can this be about justice?

Anonymous said...

31st May 2010

Scottish solicitors have been urged to form a united front to fight a looming threat to legal aid budgets – because any cuts will have a hugely damaging effect on access to justice.

New Westminster Justice Secretary Ken Clarke has indicated that the legal aid budget for England and Wales is in his sights when he looks to identify cuts – although it has been frozen for the last six years and the Coalition Agreement states that a "fundamental review" of Legal Aid is planned.

In Scotland, while the legal aid system is not subject to Westminster control, it is certain to come under massive scrutiny, according to Andrew Alexander, the Law Society of Scotland’s Legal Aid co-ordinator.

I wonder what Mr Alexander thinks of lawyers taking legal aid illegally, what about access to justice for the taxpayer? £221K and no prosecutions. Do not talk about access to justice because this is about access by law firms to legal aid. Lawyers get paid whether the client wins or loses, and they win when they steal taxpayers money.

Justice for lawyers, by avoiding prosecutions is what matters to the Law Society of Scotland, and their silence on this COPFS decision is palpable.

Anonymous said...

Woe to the person who trusts a lawyer. Scotland's legal wolf pack.

Equal treatment before the law is bullshit, the COPFS prove that. sacl/info also have an article supporting the view that the COPFS do not prosecute lawyer criminality.

Anonymous said...

With things as corrupt as this in Scotland its little wonder no one belives what happened in the Lockerbie case and Megrahi's conviction.Those senators in America should launch their own inquiry into Scottish justice if they dare and they will fin dout there is NO JUSTICE in Scotland.

Peter Cherbi said...

Thanks for all your comments & emails on this article ...

Can I just say to anyone who is paying their solicitors while also claiming legal aid, there is a sliding scale for contributions to your legal action depending on your financial state ... however, if you feel your solicitor is taking money from you which they are not entitled to, post a comment here marked "Do Not Publish" and name the solicitor & law firm, or contact lawcomplaints@gmail.com and forward the relevant information including any allegations of legal aid fraud, which will then be passed to the Scottish Legal Aid Board's Compliance Unit.

Any information passed to me I will keep an eye on to ensure there is action taken - otherwise public scrutiny of the particular law firm or solicitor will take over, in the form of the media.

Reading through your comments, I agree there is a two tier justice system in Scotland ... one law for lawyers and their professional colleagues, and another for us ...

Unfortunately every time campaigners think they have succeeded with a little legislative reform here & there, the legal establishment come in and co-opt the reforms for their own ends - such as we have seen with the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission, now nothing more than a front company for the Law Society, which allows thousands of Andrew Penmans, Iain Robertsons, John O'Donnells, Catriona MacFarlanes & the likes to continue practising law, ensnaring ever more numbers of Scots into their lists of victims ...

This situation cannot be allowed to continue ...

Anonymous said...

To the American people,

MacAskill should be called by Congress to answer to the people on his decision to release the Lockerbie bomber. The problem is when you study the Scottish Judiciary it is little wonder the UN observer at the Lockerbie trial equated our legal system with a Banana Republic. I am Scottish and I would never trust any Scottish Lawyer, civil or criminal.

Anonymous said...

Reading through your comments, I agree there is a two tier justice system in Scotland ... one law for lawyers and their professional colleagues, and another for us ...

Yes Peter but the authorities do not even care how this looks, I mean surely in a democracy everyone must be equal before the law. Their own are not accountable for their corruption, beggars belief.

Anonymous said...

Lockerbie questions 'for British government'

Kenny MacAskill Kenny MacAskill said the questions to be answered were for the UK government.

Scottish Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill has said questions being asked about the Lockerbie bomber are matters for the UK government.

Prime Minister David Cameron is to meet US senators to discuss allegations BP lobbied for his release.

Mr MacAskill said he refused a bid to move Abelbaset Ali al-Megrahi to a Libyan jail under a prisoner transfer agreement between the UK and Libya.

Instead he released him on health grounds due to his terminal cancer.

NO KENNY YOU RELEASED HIM TO STOP HIS APPEAL, AND PROTECT THE RATS YOU LOVE SO MUCH. NO ONE TRUSTS YOU KENNY HERE OR IN THE UNITED STATES. YOU SHOULD GO TO CONGRESS TO EXPLAIN YOUR ACTIONS.

Anonymous said...

The Law Society are crooks.If not then someone prove me wrong !

Anonymous said...

Good one Peter Nice to see plenty publicity heaped on those crooked lawyers so we can all avoid them