Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Law Complaints Chief secretly lobbied, met Information Commissioner Dunion over FOI investigation into Scottish Legal Complaints Commission

Jane IrvineSLCC Chair Jane Irvine secretly lobbied FOI Commissioner’s office to produce favourable investigation results. DOCUMENTS REVEALING A SECRET WORLD of public bodies directly lobbying the Freedom of Information Commissioner Kevin Dunion and his staff to produce favourable outcomes against FOI requests from the media, amid expectations of transparency & public accountability through the use of FOI legislation, have exposed attempts by Jane Irvine, the Chair of the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission to pressure the Information Commissioner’s office over the results of several critical investigations carried out into FOI appeals against the SLCC’s refusal to disclose information on its now highly questionable role of investigating complaints against Scotland’s legal profession.

Kevin Dunion FOI CommissionerScotland’s Information Commissioner Kevin Dunion’s office was pressured by SLCC. The controversial cases being investigated by the Information Commissioner which provoked such a storm at the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission’s headquarters at the Stamp Office, Edinburgh, eventually leading to demands of direct meetings between the SLCC Chair, Jane Irvine & FOI Chief Kevin Dunion, related to heavily censored Board meetings minutes of the SLCC during 2008, when the law complaints quango was publicly funded to the tune of a whopping £2 million while its Board Members claimed a staggering £130,000 in expenses from the public purse, and also included issues surrounding the SLCC’s Master Policy research, carried out in mid-2009 which linked client suicides to claims against the Law Society’s infamous Master Policy insurance scheme, which is supposed, but fails to compensate victims of ‘crooked lawyers’.

Jane Irvine to FOI Staff 21 December 2009Emails from SLCC Chair Jane Irvine reveals FOI staff were badgered by the law complaints chief to produce favourable outcomes so the SLCC could prevent appeals against non-disclosure. Details contained in a slew of emails between the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission & the FOI Commissioner’s staff show Jane Irvine, the SLCC’s Chair was desperate to ensure Mr Dunion’s staff produced favourable outcomes to enable the law complaints quango to prevent the media appealing to the FOI Commissioner’s office each time the SLCC refused to disclose information being requested. Jane Irvine said in her email : “We have asked you about this case. I will however have to keep raising it with anyone dealing with our appeals. We are keen that the Commissioner appreciates the link between the cases. In short terms, your Decision on this first appeal is vital in either setting fundamental precedents for us, pointing to a need to appeal or affecting the way we operate and so pushing up our budget costs which we need to be setting now.”

Ms Irvine’s email concluded, leaving little doubt she wanted Mr Dunion’s staff to produce a favourable investigation result, darkly suggesting to Mr Dunion’s staff if the investigation fell in favour of the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission, all further freedom of information appeals to the SLCC by the media or members of the public could be dealt with or thrown out by the SLCC itself instead of being investigated by the Information Commissioner’s office. Jane Irvine stated : “Put very simply if we had the answer on your case we might be able to halt the flow of appeals to you !”

FOI staff to Jane Irvine 06 January 2010The FOI Commissioner’s staff reminded the SLCC Chair in their reply each appeal to Mr Dunion is considered on a case by case basis. Responses from Mr Dunion’s staff to Jane Irvine’s desperate bid to interfere in their investigation appear to show Ms Irvine being reminded on how cases are investigated. The reply from Mr Dunion’s office states : “I am required to consider each redaction in turn and consider each exemption applied to this information. this has been a time consuming process … However, I must also advise you, noting your comments regarding the importance of this case, that each application considered by the Commissioner is treated on a case-by-case basis and therefore the conclusions reached in this case may not be the same for similar information in a different set of circumstances.”

Jane Irvine to FOI Staff 07 January 2010Further emails reveal the SLCC Chair put extra pressure on investigating FOI staff to produce favourable outcomes, citing high costs to the SLCC of dealing with information requests. In a blistering response to the email from the Information Commissioner’s staff, Jane Irvine, the SLCC Chair rebuked Mr Dunion’s staff for failing to produce a desired outcome for the SLCC, as information requests had allegedly incurred considerable costs to the law complaints quango. Ms Irvine stated in her email : “I’m very aware of the necessity to look at each redaction individually & of the time it takes! I’m also aware that each case and issue is to be considered individually. Equally I am very that we Know what tramlines we’re working within. ****** has caused us to incur considerable costs as have his colleagues this year and our overall FOI case load shows no signs of reducing. Under current law we simply have no option other than to bear the very high costs.”

A further email from Jane Irvine to the Information Commissioner’s staff also alleged the SLCC had “involved legal advisors” in compiling FOI disclosures & responses to the Information Commissioner’s office.

However things were to take a more direct turn as papers now reveal Jane Irvine insisted on a meeting with the Information Commissioner over his office’s investigations of the SLCC’s FOI disclosures.

Jane Irvine to Kevin Dunion 21 May 2010SLCC Chair Jane Irvine, not content with badgering the Information Commissioner’s staff, lobbied the FOI Commissioner himself in a meeting ‘to discuss’ his office’s investigations of the SLCC. A letter only now released from Mr Dunion’s office portrays a desperate situation at the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission in March 2010, provoking the SLCC Chair, Jane Irvine, accompanied by the SLCC’s Acting Chief Executive Rosemary Agnew to meet the Information Commissioner Mr Dunion to lobby for the SLCC’s position with regard to the investigations being carried out by Mr Dunion’s staff. The letter read : “You may recall when we met on 19 March 2010; we discussed the three appeals currently with your office. I think I emphasised that the SLCC was keen to learn of your conclusions. We have chassed since and were last told they would be with us this week. I am disappointed they have not arrived and this is because as we explained to you when we met, the outcome of the appeals could significantly affect how we deal with future FOI requests and might also have a knock-on effect to our business. I should be grateful if you could let me know when I can expect to receive your decisions.”

A legal insider studying the papers released from the Information Commissioner’s office was of the opinion the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission had attempted to pressure the Information Commissioner and his staff for outcomes of their investigations which would be favourable to the SLCC.

He said : “The wording of the letters from Jane Irvine to the Information Commissioner and his staff should leave no one in any doubt the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission are determined to put a stop to Freedom of Information requests which appear to have revealed significant shortcomings at the SLCC.”

He continued : “Anyone reading the letters from Ms Irvine to the Information Commissioner and his staff could easily conclude there was an atmosphere of undue pressure put on Mr Dunion and his team by Ms Irvine, to come to conclusions which favour the SLCC while disadvantaging those making Freedom of Information requests or appeals to the SLCC.”

SLCCSLCC now want to handle investigations into FOI appeals against themselves ? A law reform campaigner who has made Freedom of Information requests to the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission said the letters between Jane Irvine & Mr Dunion’s staff amounted to a clear attempt to ensure the investigation of the appeal went the SLCC’s way. He said : “From the sounds of Jane Irvine’s emails & letters it looks like she wants to do the investigating of the FOI appeal and reach the conclusion herself instead of letting Mr Dunion and his staff do their job. This is not how Freedom of Information is supposed to work, is it ?”

A Scottish Government insider commented on the situation, saying : “We all know the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission have been caught out several times with information obtained under FOI legislation. However, if this contact with the Information Commissioner’s office is the SLCC’s attempt to cover up their own failures which have come to light through the use of FOI, it is an entirely inappropriate way to go about it.”

He continued : “If the SLCC want to avoid an unduly high workload on FOI requests & appeals, I would suggest they become more open and publish more of what they do rather than attempting to blame Freedom of Information for their own failures and poor reputation.”

7&8th April 08 SLCC Meeting Blanked outBlacked out FOIs are preferred by the SLCC. The Scottish Legal Complaints Commission have been ‘caught out’ several times with information obtained under Freedom of Information legislation, among those instances, several of which I have reported earlier, such as : MacAskill’s SLCC lied over secret meetings with Law Society & Marsh as quango announces £15k 'study' into master policy & guarantee fund, also here : Officials pull FOI disclosures as Guarantee Fund "chancer" emails show Law Society anti-client bias has migrated to Legal Complaints Commission, here : Fresh appointments sleaze at Scottish Legal Complaints Commission as FOIs reveal protests against independent oversight of board member recruitment & here : Censorship & ‘frequent flyers’ at Scottish Legal Complaints Commission reveal attempt to write off consumers evidence in Master Policy report. More can be found HERE

The Scottish Legal Complaints Commission and its Chair, Jane Irvine, refused to give any comment or explanation for their attempt to lobby the Information Commissioner on the investigations involving the SLCC. However, a legal insider close to the law complaints quango claimed late last night the SLCC had now embarked on “a policy to delay, prevaricate and refuse further Freedom of Information requests it considered may be damaging to its operations”.

This latest claim seems to support a recent slew of decisions by the SLCC to intimidate journalists making requests for information as to whether they are requesting it on their own behalf or for someone else.

Curiously, the SLCC is also now operating a policy of terming many FOI requests as “vexatious” even if the subject matter requested has only come to light through the Information Commissioner’s own investigations. However, this latest attempt by the SLCC to stall the flow of information into the public arena will doubtless only result in more appeals to the Information Commissioner’s office, something the SLCC Chair, Jane Irvine, was keen to prevent as she expressed in her emails to Mr Dunion’s office.

Given we are now at the stage where the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission feels it must manipulate Freedom of Information legislation to protect its secrets, it must now lose any lingering trust of consumers forced to approach it over complaints against the legal profession.

It is now time to call time on the grave mistake the SLCC has turned out to be, and give Scots consumers the level of protection which only a fully independent regulator of legal services can provide.

41 comments:

Anonymous said...

Irvine and the gang obviously have too much to hide

Jane Irvine's "other job" said...

Should anyone with a pension be worried about the way Jane Irvine tried to twist the arm of Mr Dunion into not revealing the truth? Given she is also Deputy Pension Protection Fund Ombudsman I think I would be!

http://www.ppfo.org.uk/About_Us/Jane_Irvine.aspx

Jane Irvine

Jane Irvine was appointed Deputy Pension Protection Fund Ombudsman on 18th November 2009. This is a part time role that Jane combines with other complaint resolution work.

Jane specialises in resolving consumer disputes. She is currently also Chair of the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission. In the past her appointments have included Scottish Legal Services Ombudsman and HM Lay Inspector of Constabulary for Scotland. In this latter role she reviewed police forces in Scotland with particular emphasis on reviewing complaint handling. She has also dealt with a range of other service related complaints.

Anonymous said...

Yes Peter it looks like they want to become judge jury & executioner of FOI.

We can certainly cross off Jane Irvine from being Mr Dunion's replacement when the time comes !

Anonymous said...

I think Hans Kochler called this country a Banana Republic. If I am correct in this, he is right.

On the subject of Irvine her position is now untenable. I cannot believe how warped these people are, they are meant to help the public.

MacAskill knew what was in the Lockerbie appeal, but stopped Mr al-Megrahi getting the appeal. Compassionate release Mr MacAskill, but I wonder who the compassion was for, the convicted man or the Scottish Legal Despots you adore so much?

Anonymous said...

Why are the SLCC bringing in lawyers to deal with FOI requests ?

Also why should the SLCC's costs of dealing with FOIs have any bearing on the Information Commissioner's investigation ?

Very obvious attempt by Jane Irvine to intervene in their investigation and more to the point its taken awhile for Dunion to own up to what happened.

Worthy of a full investigation at least

Anonymous said...

The reality is Mrs Irvine, state actors are above the law. It is shocking what people like you do, and maintain they are acting for the public.

Complain about a lawyer and the justice system that is meant to provide fair trials shuts down. Your strategy of wanting the FOI office to paint a pretty picture of your SLCC only amplifies the fact that state actors and their cohorts are above the law. This is evident on the Lockerbie appeal issue when Hans Kochler stated the "totalitarian" nature of the second Lockerbie appeal process "bears the hallmarks of an intelligence operation.

I told a lawyer who phoned me I would not trust him with any of my business. I told him lawyers can do what they want to clients, and your conduct Mrs Irvine confirms I am right.

Anonymous said...

Shame on you Jane.

Anonymous said...

Jane Irvine was appointed Deputy Pension Protection Fund Ombudsman on 18th November 2009

so thats our pension protection f*cked too !

Anonymous said...

Looks like you got those from Dunion by doing an foi to him too ?

Bravo ! I bet Irvine hates your guts

Anonymous said...

Call me small minded I think anyone who tries to prevent freedom of information has got a lot to hide as the first comment says.Jane Irvine and her slcc have a lot to hide after reading your linked postings!

Anonymous said...

Very interesting Peter.

Its a pity this isn't in the newspapers although I can see from your investigation it is a little complicated for the average person to understand which is probably why Irvine and her kind get away with as much as they do.

Glad you caught them out once again.

Anonymous said...

Quite staggering.

Clearly Ms Irvine's concern does not centre on costs, if it did then delaying valid FOI requests is hardly the way to economise.

How many of us I wonder would be granted an audience with Mr Dunnion on request?

Wholly inappropriate conduct from an organisation which is suposed to set an example to others, and driven it seems by a pathological desire to 'keep things under wraps'.

Anonymous said...

Comment @ 28 July 2010 18:10

Very revealing.

Question : What is the common link between all the areas this Jane Irvine works in ?

Answer : All complaints about Pensions,Police,Lawyers all get covered up and the guilty get away with a slap on the wrist if that.

Not a very honourable career I think and even if it was she's wiped any good with her job at the slcc and especially these horrid letters pestering the FOI Commissioner and his staff.

Anonymous said...

Do you think this could happen to Marsh and the Master Policy ?
http://www.lawgazette.co.uk/news/solicitors-limbo-quinn-ruling-adjourned

Solicitors in limbo as Quinn ruling adjourned
Monday 12 April 2010 by James Dean

The concerns of 2,911 law firms and sole practitioners who took out professional indemnity insurance (PII) policies with Quinn Insurance are set to continue this week after the Irish High Court adjourned a hearing on the fate of the Irish insurer.

The court will now decide whether or not to place Quinn Insurance in permanent administration on Monday 19 April, leaving affected solicitors in limbo for another week.

The Solicitors Regulation Authority today reiterated its advice to solicitors to sit tight pending the outcome of the administration hearing.

According to reports, Quinn Insurance today presented fresh information to the court at the last minute, and the Irish Financial Regulator, which is attempting to have the company placed into permanent administration, asked for a week-long adjournment.

Quinn Insurance, which provides PII to around 10% of the solicitors’ profession, will remain in provisional administration for the time being.

Quinn Insurance was forced into provisional administration after the regulator successfully petitioned the High Court on 30 March. At the time, the regulator directed Quinn to cease writing new business in the UK ‘to prevent Quinn Insurance Ltd suffering further financial losses from its currently unprofitable UK business’, and simultaneously began an investigation into financial guarantees, estimated to be worth €448m (£394m) altogether, set up by subsidiaries of Quinn Insurance. The guarantees were alleged to have been used inappropriately to set off debts from other companies that make up the Quinn group conglomerate – an allegation that Quinn fiercely denied.

Quinn attacked the regulator’s actions as ‘pre-emptive, aggressive and unnecessary’ and said that a planned refinancing would have addressed the regulator’s concerns around the financial guarantees.

Solicitors’ rules state that law firms must find alternative cover or apply to enter the assigned risks pool within four weeks if an insurer has provisional administrators appointed, but the SRA said that the situation with Quinn falls outside its definition of provisional administration.

In a letter to the Gazette this week, Law Society chief executive Des Hudson says that Quinn's predicament is a cause for concern, but advises solicitors that there is no need for panic.

Update: On Tuesday 13 April, Quinn Group hired financial restructuring firm Talbot Hughes McKillop to provide financial restructuring services to the company. Talbot Hughes McKillop partner Murdoch McKillop was also appointed as an interim executive director of Quinn Group.

Quinn Group chief executive Liam McCaffrey said: ‘Mr McKillop’s role will be to assist the board and the executive management team to successfully work through the group’s current issues and to ensure that executive management are not excessively diverted from the vitally important job of running our manufacturing business.’

Anonymous said...

This mob are rotten to the core.If I had been sent emails like that I'd have reported it to my line manager as harassment

Anonymous said...

Compliments on the blog,its very well put together!

Anonymous said...

Irvine : “Put very simply if we had the answer on your case we might be able to halt the flow of appeals to you !”
This comment seals the deal - she was up for nobbling their investigation

Anonymous said...

If this had happened to some msp making an foi you can bet it would be well covered in the newspapers.However as it involves the Law Society you can be sure of not even a sentence !

Anonymous said...

So the so called investigators do not want investigated. That speaks volumes on their independence.

Anonymous said...

Totally improper the head of a public body meeting Dunion while he is investigating them.What else was said verbally we dont know about yet ??

Anonymous said...

Corruption here is like out of control, these people are masters of injustice. Irvine has no integrity, do these revelations not affect you Jane? What a bent system indeed.

Anonymous said...

BBC NEWS

Up to 60,000 people working in the public sector in Scotland could lose their jobs, according to an independent review commissioned by ministers.
==================================

Start with Jane Irvine's Commission the cemetary for client complaints.

Anonymous said...

The Ombudsman has always been a waste of space and money.

Anonymous said...

As soon as I read Jane Irvine investigated complaints against the Police I lost any surprise over her emails asking for the favoured result.Anyone who looks after complaints against the Police is not to be trusted in my opinion.Just look what happened to the Policeman who got away with Ian Tomlinson's death as an example.

Anonymous said...

Irvine wont want to comment to you but I bet she's been doing some objecting to Dunion's office over your expose!

Anonymous said...

No chance of Marsh going bust or being allowed to go under.

Not only does the company have annual Profit margins of some $12.5Billion dollars, no less a person than George 'Dubbya' Bush said at the time of the Spitzer Fraud Investigations that the company was too big and too important to the American economy to be allowed to fail.

Anonymous said...

It appears Irvine didn't get her way as the staff told her to get lost (diplomatically of course)

I'd ask for the details of that meeting and see what turns up although you've probably done this right ?

Anonymous said...

Why has it taken the Information Commissioner until now to release this material ?

I suspect he will be as embarrassed as Irvine or perhaps not as neither of them have any recourse to appeal their decisions.

Peter Cherbi said...

Thanks for your comments & emails on this article.

Clearly the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission have become as untrustworthy as the Law Society of Scotland in their role of investigating complaints against the legal profession ... and as people have pointed out, any public body which attempts to twist a Freedom of Information investigation in its own favour is most certainly, corrupt.

I am fully aware members of the SLCC are reading this blog so make no mistake in your understanding of what I say - the SLCC attempted to unduly influence and interfere in the Information Commissioner's investigations of appeals relating to FOI disclosures where significant amounts of material was censored, including evidence of anti-client, anti-consumer activities by its most senior Board members, indicating without a doubt the SLCC is nothing but a front organisation for the Law Society of Scotland and everything bad it stands for.

Anonymous said...

Well that's telling them then !

Is there anything you want us to do about the slcc ?

How about sending in a few FOIs ?

Anonymous said...

I think the SLCC are a bunch of crooked lawyer protectors!

Anonymous said...

It is worrying to read all this as I have contacted Mr Cherbi with details of a complaint I have with the SLCC over my solicitor refusing to hand over my home titles until I pay his outrageous bill.If the SLCC are so willing to fit up FOI then I doubt they will give my complaint the time of day.

Peter is correct we need something better than the SLCC and completly independent

Anonymous said...

You raise some very important points in your opening statement Peter.
I think questions should be asked about how many other public body chiefs have intimidated Mr Dunion's office in this way and what happened to those appeals he was investigating.

Ms Irvine seems to be very determined to get things going her way.There may be a few more like Irvine out there we dont know about yet.

Keep up the good work!

T.Mcleod, Edinburgh said...

A very revealing investigation by Mr Cherbi.

The whole thing smacks of 'if you scratch my back I'll scratch yours'

Kevin Dunion should be setting limits on who can meet him when his office is conducting investigations into their organisations otherwise there will always be suspicion over motives of meetings such as the one referred to in Ms Irvine's letter.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...

As soon as I read Jane Irvine investigated complaints against the Police I lost any surprise over her emails asking for the favoured result.Anyone who looks after complaints against the Police is not to be trusted in my opinion.Just look what happened to the Policeman who got away with Ian Tomlinson's death as an example.

29 July 2010 15:32

MY THOUGHTS EXACTLY

Anonymous said...

Have a question for you Peter.

Is there any oversight of the SLCC ?
(ie who do you go to if they get it wrong)

Anonymous said...

If everyone sends their complaints details to Mr Cherbi, (if I am correct, two to three years since the Commission opened) we will see how Jane Irvine's lot deal with clients complaints.

Here is my solution Jane, sack you and your staff and put victims of crooked lawyers in the commission. The opposite is what we have now.

Anonymous said...

Irvine overstepped the mark by harassing the Information Commissioner the way she did.She should be sacked and every member of the board who backed her moves to put a stop to FOI appeals.

Anonymous said...

http://www.i-p-o.org/lockerbie_observer_mission.htm


Verdict of the Lockerbie Court (31 January 2001)


Text of the Lockerbie judgements ("Opinion of the Court") (Trial and Appeal) (2001, 2002)


Dr. Hans Koechler's report on the trial (2001)

Dr. Hans Koechler's report on the appeal (2002)


Referral of the case by the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission to the High Court of Justiciary (2007)


Appeal Court: Opinion of the Court in Petition for Recovery of Documents (2008)

Reading through Professor Kochler's findings is alarming. See webite above.

Anonymous said...

I think you may have spoiled Ms Irvine's weekend!

Anonymous said...

If as you quote from a source the SLCC are deliberately refusing FOI requests on the grounds reported they will be breaking the law.