Scottish Legal Complaints Commission prefers sending complaints against solicitors back to Law Society. CLIENTS OF SCOTTISH SOLICITORS are less protected against ‘crooked lawyers’ now than they were before the ‘independent’ Scottish Legal Complaints Commission came into existence, say campaigners & consumer groups today as it emerged the bitter anti-client SLCC, which itself has now formed its own trail of victims, is still handing over complaints to the notoriously corrupt Law Society of Scotland in a policy which could alarmingly extend for yet another 10 years, depending on when legal business was first instructed by clients to their solicitors..
Law Society Regulation Chief Philip Yelland still receives most complaints about crooked lawyers. Huge numbers of consumers with complaints against their solicitors which involve legal work or matters instructed to solicitors before 1st October 2008 are still being told by the SLCC they will pass their complaint back to the Law Society, which was so corrupt in its handling of complaints against lawyers, it sparked numerous legislative attempts to reform the legal profession’s system of self-regulation into what was hoped would be a cleaner model in the SLCC. However victims of rogue lawyers are being treated just as poorly by the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission as they were under the Law Society’s complaints handling regime, headed by its Director of Regulation, Philip Yelland who has reigned over consumer complaints against crooked lawyers for twenty years.
After receiving millions of pounds from taxpayers, the SLCC’s letter informs clients their complaint will be dealt with by the Law Society. A letter from the SLCC, sampled out of many recently sent out to unsuspecting clients, in this instance to a member of the public who has made complaints against Perth Law firm Kippen Campbell, states : “Although the SLCC can investigate most complaints about the service received from a Scottish solicitor or advocate, it cannot under the provision in the 2007 Act, investigate complaints relating to business instructed before 1st October 2008. Nor can it become involved in complaints about a solicitor's or advocate's conduct before 1st October 2008. These complaints must be referred back to the Law Society of Scotland or the Faculty of Advocates to consider.”
SLCC Board members voted against investigating complaints before October 2008, while making huge expenses claims. The letter is quite an effort from the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission – after receiving £2 million of public funds and well over £6 million from the legal profession, yet after several years of its Board members paying themselves an average of £135K expenses per annum (some with several paid jobs on other quangos), and its staff on salaries of up to £1350 per week, the SLCC can only manage to inform the majority of Scots their complaints against their lawyers cannot be investigated by the ‘independent’ law complaints quango as their legal work began in a time the SLCC want to avoid regulating, guaranteeing the SLCC is not forced in to compromising situations where it may have to investigate complaints deliberately mishandled by the Law Society of Scotland.
An official from one of Scotland’s consumer organisations was asked for his reaction to the SLCC’s policy of passing complaints back to the Law Society. He attacked the terms of the SLCC’s ‘avoid the complaint letter’, branding it ‘an excuse to do nothing’, and condemned it as being ‘very anti-consumer and laden with untruths’.
He said : “The SLCC’s policy to exclude all legal business instructed by consumers prior to 1st October 2008 is a betrayal of the intentions of the LPLA Act, which is widely known to have come into being after a long campaign to secure a more level playing field for consumers with regards to regulation of the legal profession.”
He continued : “Consumers who are currently going through the long process of litigation stemming from legal issues arising from before October 2008 may well find in 5 or 10 years time, if they are put in a situation where they require to make a complaint about how their legal representatives handled their long running case, their complaint will still be handed back to the Law Society. This I am sure was not the intention of the LPLA Act, nor was it a situation envisaged by the many campaigners & consumer groups who helped bring the Act into being.”
A client who has complained to the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission and received a similar letter said he felt betrayed by the SLCC. He said : “Now that I’ve been told my complaint is going to the Law Society I know there is no chance of getting a proper investigation.They will cover it up like they always do.”
In the ORIGINAL VERSION of the Legal Profession & Legal Aid (Scotland) Act 2007, the legislation which created the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission, laughably, to cure the ills of the Law Society of Scotland, there was no mention of the now infamous 1st October 2008 cut off for complaints relating to business instructed to a solicitor or advocate.
However, during 2008 when the SLCC and its Board Members were voting through its operational rules, one of the issues decided by its members was that the SLCC would not investigate complaints before 1st October 2008. I reported on this significant anti-consumer development during September 2008, here : Scottish Legal Complaints Commission that wont investigate complaints posts rules of no help to many victims of crooked lawyers
So, as you all see, the ‘independent’ regulator which was created by legislation to cure the prejudiced, anti-consumer practices of the Law Society of Scotland’s self regulation of complaints against solicitors, has itself become as anti-consumer & prejudiced as the organisation and the profession it was designed to clean up. The SLCC is nothing short of a failure in terms of raising the levels of consumer protection against poor legal services, and a very costly, bitter, anti-client failure at that.