The Scottish Legal Complaints Commission have refused to monitor claims against crooked lawyers. THE Scottish Legal Complaints Commission which has received over £2 million of public funds & many more millions from lawyers, and which was triumphed by both the Scottish Government & Scottish Parliament as an ‘independent’ regulator of complaints against the legal profession has today reneged on substantial parts of its legislative remit to ‘monitor’ claims made against the Law Society of Scotland’s Master Policy – the infamous insurance scheme which clients who attempt to recover financial losses through negligent or ‘crooked lawyers’ are forced to deal with, if they can find legal representation to take their case to court.
It can now be revealed the SLCC has refused the first ever invitation to monitor two claims made by an individual who contends negligence & more on the part of his legal representatives. The SLCC however went further in its response to the client’s request, and claimed it would not monitor any claims made against the Master Policy, despite the powers given to it under Section 39 of the Legal Profession & Legal Aid (Scotland) Act 2007.
Letter reveals SLCC’s latest Chief Executive told client they will not monitor claims made against crooked lawyers while revealing quango boss is part-time only at £35K a year. In a letter released today to Diary of Injustice, the SLCC’s latest Chief Executive, Rosemary Agnew apologised for taking a month to reply to the claimant, as the SLCC’s Chairwoman, Jane Irvine who receives over £35,000 a year “only attends the office on a part-time basis”. Ms Agnew then went onto write : “..it is not within the SLCC’s remit to monitor individual claims made under the Master Policy. Under the Legal Profession & Legal Aid (Scotland) Act 2007 (Section 39), the SLCC may monitor the overall effectiveness of guarantee funds, etc and professional indemnity arrangements put in place by the Law Society of Scotland for its members (ie the Master Policy). This power does not extend to our active involvement in the way in which individual indemnity claims are being dealt with by the insurers.”
Ms Agnew, the SLCC’s second Chief Executive, who replaced Eileen Masterman who herself resigned after a bitter exchange with Cabinet Secretary for Finance John Swinney over issues involving meetings the SLCC held in connection with the Master Policy, went onto question why the claimant was even writing to the SLCC with regard to monitoring Master Policy claims, even disputing the claimant’s capacity to invite the SLCC to carry out its monitoring role. I reported on Ms Masterman’s resignation, here : SLCC’s Eileen Masterman resigns, questions remain on attempt to mislead Cabinet Finance Chief John Swinney over secret meetings with insurers Marsh
Ex Law Society Chief Executive Douglas Mill, resigned after memo revealed he interfered in Master Policy claims. Legal insiders today questioned the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission’s refusal to monitor individual claims made against crooked lawyers to the Master Policy, saying it had been expected for some time the SLCC would involve itself in monitoring work to specific claims, as several MSPs, including John Swinney when he was in opposition, had hoped for and was intended in the spirit of the LPLA Act, which had a bitter passage through the Scottish Parliament during 2006, even provoking legal threats against both the Parliament & Scottish Government by the then Law Society Chief Executive, Douglas Mill, himself brought down by questions over his involvement in blocking claims against the Master Policy.
A consumer official also criticised the SLCC’s refusal to keep watch on claims made against the Master Policy and rounded on their refusal to look at individual claims. He said : “If the SLCC do not take up their monitoring role on claims made to the Master Policy in a fashion which allows them to keep an eye over individual claims, I have to wonder how the commission expects to gain any experience from how claims to the Master Policy progress once they have been made.”
(1) The Commission may monitor the effectiveness of—
(a) the Scottish Solicitors Guarantee Fund vested in the Society and controlled and managed by the Council under section 43(1) of the 1980 Act (“the Guarantee Fund”);
(b) arrangements carried into effect by the Society under section 44(2) of that Act (“the professional indemnity arrangements”);
(c) any funds or arrangements maintained by any relevant professional organisation which are for purposes analogous to those of the Guarantee Fund or the professional indemnity arrangements as respects its members.
(2) The Commission may make recommendations to the relevant professional organisation concerned about the effectiveness (including improvement) of the Guarantee Fund, the professional indemnity arrangements or any such funds or arrangements as are referred to in subsection (1)(c).
(3) The Commission may request from the relevant professional organisation such information as the Commission considers relevant to its functions under subsections (1) and (2).
(4) Where a relevant professional organisation fails to provide information requested under subsection (3), it must give reasons to the Commission in respect of that failure.
Exactly how far along the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission actually is with its monitoring role of claims against crooked lawyers after three years of discussing the issue was revealed in an article of last week, here : 15 court challenges, huge expense claims, lack of consumer confidence & no Master Policy scrutiny after two years tells all on Scots law quango SLCC
SLCC’s Master Policy report revealed client deaths were covered up by Law Society & insurers. Clearly the word “may”, which is liberally inserted into the terms of the LPLA Act is playing a vital part in the SLCC’s lack of interest in monitoring claims against the Master Policy, a remit which is still in discussion three years since the Commission was created. Additionally, the 2009 independent investigation into the Master Policy, compiled by the University of Manchester’s law school, which I reported on report on the, here : Suicides, illness, broken families and ruined clients reveal true cost of Law Society's Master Policy which 'allows solicitors to sleep at night' appears to have had little effect on the road to taking the Master Policy issue since the law complaints quango was created in a blaze of publicity to restore public confidence in the handling of complaints against Scottish solicitors and to keep an eye on how clients are compensated for the actions of ‘crooked lawyers’.
SLCC’s Chairwoman Jane Irvine who couldn’t answer letter sooner due to part-time position. While wronged & robbed clients have been left in the lurch by the SLCC’s refusal to monitor claims made to the Master Policy, its ‘part-time’ Chairwoman, Jane Irvine who receives over £35,000 a year in her post at the SLCC is revealed in the SLCC’s register of interests to have a string of jobs including that of Chair of the Disciplinary Board of the Faculty and Institute of Actuaries, and the position of Deputy UK Pensions Ombudsman, for which Ms Irvine receives a further £30,000 per annum with expenses claimed of £3883.70 up to August 2010, according to a response received in relation to a Freedom of Information request.
The Faculty of Actuaries are exempt from Freedom of Information legislation and would not reply to enquiries as to how much Ms Irvine earned in her position as Chair of the Disciplinary Board of the Faculty and Institute of Actuaries.
The SLCC’s register of interests also reveals Ms Irvine is a Director of a company called “Daleway Ltd” and a 2006 report in the Law Society of Scotland's in house magazine, the Journalonline stated Ms Irvine was a director of “Resolutions Ltd” “which provides decisions and mediation services for disputes in a range of areas including holidays, funerals, surveying and financial services. She is also the chairman of the Scottish Branch of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators.”.
The Journalonline article of 2006 went onto state : “She sits on disciplinary boards for the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors, the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Scotland, the Institute of Actuaries and the Faculty of Advocates. She has also served on the Local Government Property Commission in Scotland where she dealt with disputes over property ownership between local authorities.”
Many other SLCC board members hold multiple jobs & paid positions, as is revealed in their register of interests which will be featured in a further report next week, where it appears the board members have so many other positions, they don't appear to be able to focus on the SLCC’s expected remit to be a vigorous defender of maligned clients at the hands of many a crooked lawyer …
It is certainly a sorry state for consumers of legal services in Scotland that over a year on since the SLCC’s own report tied up the Master Policy to deaths, the SLCC is still bogged down in discussing what it should be doing with regard to its ‘monitoring role’ over the Master Policy & Guarantee Fund.
The Scottish Legal Complaints Commission issued a less than convincing statement this afternoon on the matter of their monitoring role over the Master Policy, saying : “We understand that under the Act, the SLCC’s powers do not extend to the monitoring of individual cases.”
Clearly if the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission is not up to the job of monitoring the most controversial parts of regulation of complaints & claims against the legal profession, the public need a regulator who can do, not one that cant do, or wont do …