Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Scottish Legal Complaints Commission pays organisations £20K of YOUR MONEY to spy on Kenny MacAskill, Law Society, its own staff & media

SLCC MacAskillSLCC paid organisations £20k to spy on Kenny MacAskill, Holyrood, Law Society, media & others. CLIENTS of all Scottish solicitors are unwittingly helping to fund a little talked about yet HUGELY EXPENSIVE media monitoring & spying policy operated by the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission (SLCC) which reports back on news & any other reports or references relating to Kenny MacAskill, the Law Society of Scotland, Faculty of Advocates, Scottish Parliament, MSPs and even the SLCC’s own staff, according to documents & admissions disclosed under Freedom of Information legislation yesterday.

So far the SLCC has spent well nearly TWENTY THOUSAND POUNDS on spying on the media, £7555.72 in its first financial year (2009-2009) the same year it received a whopping two million pounds of taxpayers money, with the spying project’s costs increasing to £9863.07 in financial year 2009-2010 and rumoured to be even more for the current financial year. Income received by the SLCC from the levy imposed on all solicitors, which in turn is recovered from clients through increased fees, funds the SLCC’s operating costs including the media spying project. Earlier this year it was revealed the SLCC has only managed to uphold one single complaint in its three years of existence and has made not one single referral to the Scottish Solicitors Discipline Tribunal, a worse record than even the Law Society of Scotland.

SLCC cost admission media monitoring FOIKeeping the SLCC informed of how they, and their targets look to the outside world, at a cost of £10K a year. The bizarre spying policy, the principle aim of which is ‘to keep the SLCC informed of any media activity where the organisation is mentioned’, uses two companies to monitor reports & references relating to : “SLCC (UK), SLCC in all Scottish daily and weekly press, Staff Mentions, Faculty of Advocates, Justice Committee, Law Society of Scotland, The Association of Commercial Attorneys, Alternative Business Structures, Client Relations Partners, and Kenny MacAskill”. The arrangement with two companies, one called Meltwater News, the other so far not identified by the SLCC, provide reports of daily mentions of the SLCC’s search terms from all online sources and has also netted critical stories on Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill and on disgraced former MSP Bill Aitken, who resigned his position as Convener of the Scottish Parliament’s Justice Committee after he attempted to blame Sunday Herald journalists to cover up comments he made on a rape victim.

The FOI disclosure showing how the SLCC’s media monitoring policy operates, can be viewed or downloaded here : SLCC media monitoring policy

A legal insider speaking this morning on the revelations said : “Have they never heard of using a free search engine like google to find out what's happening on the internet ? For an organisation which is supposed to be saving money, the SLCC seems to have a lot of it to waste on worries of how to maintain its image rather than attending to its duties of regulating complaints about the legal profession”

A Scottish Government source condemned the SLCC’s costly spying project. He said : “I think the 20K might have been better spent on other areas of policy rather than worrying about how they are being reported in the media.”

He also claiming the SLCC “had failed public expectations of cleaning up the poor reputation of complaints regulation in the legal profession” adding that “stalking the Justice Secretary and the Scottish Parliament at a significant cost to solicitors and their clients for signs of criticism from Scottish Ministers & msps does not do the organisation any favours.”

An official from one of Scotland’s consumer organisations braded the SLCC’s media spying policy “a complete waste of money”.

She said : “The SLCC have been so concerned about the cost of consultations such as the report into the Master Policy which happened on a shoestring budget yet we regularly see that the SLCC throws money down the toilet on anything to do with boosting its own image or keeping tabs on its critics.”

She continued : “Is this the way we expected the SLCC to perform as a complaints regulator ? I think the answer to that is a resounding ‘No’.”

While the SLCC claimed websites such as “Diary of Injustice in Scotland” were banned at the organisation’s luxurious half million pound a year Edinburgh HQ located at the Stamp Office, which is populated with staff earning up to £1350 a week & board members receiving up to £300 plus a day with almost unlimited expenses claims schemes & lucrative pension arrangements, copies of articles from this site are apparently regularly printed off from the SLCC’s Head of Communications computer and distributed around the organisation out of concern for rising levels of criticism of the now widely discredited law complaints regulator.

6Reports by Diary of Injustice on Eileen Masterman’s resignation caused grave concern at SLCC. One particular subject covered by Diary of Injustice has, according to insiders, “caused grave concern and much anger among the SLCC’s board members & staff”, relating to reports from April 2010 on the six month disappearance of the SLCC’s now former CEO, Eileen Masterman, which prompted an announcement Ms Masterman had resigned over grounds of “ill health” after less than seven months in her £80,000 a year, £1,350 plus, a week job.  However, enquiries amid a host of refusals by the SLCC to disclose information on Ms Masterman’s resignation revealed there had been bitter & drawn out negotiations with legal teams on the terms of a rumoured-to-be “large ex-gratia” payment to Ms Masterman, approved by the Scottish Government in secret, which I reported on here : HUSH & MONEY : Former SLCC law complaints Chief Executive Eileen Masterman received secret Scottish Government approved payoff in deal with lawyers :

According to insiders, even greater concerns were raised by the SLCC’s board members regarding earlier articles from Diary of Injustice which focussed on the sheer hostility of the board members towards clients of solicitors who were participating in the University of Manchester Law School’s 2009 investigation into the Law Society of Scotland’s Master Policy, the notoriously corrupt Professional Indemnity Insurance scheme which covers all Scottish solicitors for negligence & other client service failures.

Frequent Flyers SLCCFrequent Flyers : SLCC’s David Smith expressed anti-client jibes to Eileen Masterman in emails around the anti-consumer law complaints quango. Among the papers ordered to be disclosed in a decision by the Scottish Information Commissioner, Kevin Dunion and featured in reports on Diary of Injustice were emails containing anti-client jibes,sent by SLCC board member David Smith to Ms Masterman in July 2009. Mr Smith, husband of Court of Session judge Lady Smith, was personally appointed to the SLCC by Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill. Mr Smith, a lawyer who served much of his career at law firm Shepherd & Wedderburn, who themselves often act for the Master Policy in protection of questionable solicitors against negligence claims, referred to participants in the Master Policy survey & deceased clients who had committed suicide as a direct result of involvement with the Master Policy, as “Frequent flyers”.

An earlier story in the Sunday Mail newspaper, revealing the boozed-up antics of SLCC board members who went on to make bitter hate fuelled remarks against members of the public & consumer groups in their emails to each other, prompted calls by some connected to the organisation “to take action” against Diary of Injustice and “attempt to discredit any reporting of internal goings on or information perceived to be anti-consumer” at the hapless law complaints quango.

Margaret Scanlan - Called to the Bars - Sunday Mail  15 March 2009 emailCalled to the Bars featured in newspapers, pointed to SLCC’s anti client culture among board members & senior officials. Margaret Scanlan’s ‘cross eyed’ email said : ““Was out on the razzle, again, last night so bit cross-eyed this morning. Please excuse any consequent gibberish. Here are my comments on Master Policy and Guarantee Fund…. The consultation should be viewed with some caution. It provides very little by way of a sound evidential basis for us to do anything…. One unidentified responded … reports complaints about difficulty in finding solicitors to pursue a claim under MP (Master Policy). Apart from fundamental misunderstandings about MP which is for benefit of practitioner and in respect of which consumer has no rights ..”  Ms Scanlan's rant against the Master Policy investigation was featured in the Sunday Mail newspaper, depicting a bitter, hate fuelled anti-client culture operating at the highest levels of the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission, which also saw Ms Scanlan rubbish victims of crooked lawyers who tried to recover money misappropriated by their solicitors as “complete chancers”.

Despite the bitter tirades of Scanlan & Smith against consumers & victimised clients, the University of Manchester’s report published by the SLCC in 2009 linked the Master Policy to the deaths of clients, more on which can be read here : Suicides, illness, broken families and ruined clients reveal true cost of Law Society's Master Policy which 'allows solicitors to sleep at night'

The Scottish Legal Complaints Commission was asked to justify their expenditure on spying on the media in the face of requirements by all public bodies to save money and whether they considered this is money wisely spent. The SLCC were also asked if their media monitoring spy service brought any benefits to regulation of the legal profession. A spokesperson for the SLCC said : “The SLCC has no comment.”

BACKGROUND TO PAYOFF & RESIGNATION OF SLCC CHIEF EXECUTIVE EILEEN MASTERMAN :

Sources in late 2009 had informed Diary of Injustice that Ms Masterman had failed to respond to correspondence from consumers & msps, however it was not until early 2010, firm evidence was made available Ms Masterman had been missing from her role as the SLCC’s Chief Executive for some time, as I revealed in an article on April 13 2010, here : £70K Chief Executive ‘missing for 6 months’ at Scottish Legal Complaints Commission as Justice Secretary dodges questions on scandal-hit law quango The day after my initial article on Ms Masterman’s disappearance from  work, April 4, 2010, the SLCC were forced to announce the resignation of Ms Masterman from her post on grounds of “ill health”, which I reported on, here : SLCC’s Eileen Masterman resigns, questions remain on attempt to mislead Cabinet Finance Chief John Swinney over secret meetings with insurers Marsh

John SwinneyCabinet Finance Chief John Swinney revealed he felt Ms Masterman had mislead him over accounts of meetings. However, Eileen Masterman’s resignation leaves questions over increasingly bitter exchanges between the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission & the Scottish Government’s Finance Chief, John Swinney, on a matter which I have previously reported where further documents obtained under Freedom of Information legislation revealed the SLCC had clearly mislead Mr Swinney over secret meetings between its officials including Ms Masterman and officials from Marsh, the Law Society’s Master Policy insurers.

Ian GordonFrequent Fryers of FOI : SLCC Board Member ex-Deputy Chief Constable Ian Gordon, also the Convener of the Standards Commission for Scotland refused disclosure on Masterman. Given the many questions raised over the resignation of Ms Masterman, and the lack of progress the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission had made on key issues including scrutiny of the Master Policy, Freedom of Information requests were made to the SLCC asking for details surrounding the resignation. They were refused. Upon a request for a review of the SLCC’s refusal to disclose information through Freedom of Information legislation, one of its board members, former Tayside Deputy Chief Constable Ian Gordon, who is also, amazingly, the Convener of the Standards Commission for Scotland, abruptly refused the Freedom of Information review, as did the SLCC’s new Chief Executive, Rosemary Agnew, who considered and again abruptly refused a second request for an FOI review.

The Scottish Information Commissioner, Kevin Dunion was asked to investigate the SLCC’s refusal to hand over information on Ms Masterman’s resignation. He has found the SLCC must release some details although has allowed other information to remain secret. His decision can be read here : Decision 114/2011 Resignation of the former Chief Executive Officer

44 comments:

Anonymous said...

I think there's a 1.99 app for the iphone which does all this stuff for a lot less than 10thou

Anonymous said...

She continued : “Is this the way we expected the SLCC to perform as a complaints regulator ? I think the answer to that is a resounding ‘No’.”

I agree!

Anonymous said...

Every single person/company should stop paying their legal bills in Scotland - that would force change a lot quicker than the stupid parly

Anonymous said...

I get the feeling the SLCC aspire to be something grander than they were ever meant for and funded by the taxpayer of course.

Anonymous said...

I get the feeling the SLCC aspire to be something grander than they were ever meant for and funded by the taxpayer of course.

Anonymous said...

MORE LAWYERS RIPPING OFF TAXPAYERS AND MACASKILL ISNT WORTH TUPPENCE FOR FOLLOWING!

Anonymous said...

What a joke!

I could sit at a pc and scour the Internet for their stupid stories for 10k a year!

Anonymous said...

Nothing surprises me on your blog now Peter. Great journalism.

Anonymous said...

Hmm it looks like they are stalking you too - better be careful in case they try to set u up but maybe they've tried it anyway ?

Anonymous said...

Anyone who trusts a lawyer these days must be foolish or insane. The establishment can protect their own but they cannot control trust in them, trust that vital quality is being destroyed every day, and the SLCC and the rest of them are helping us destroy lawyers reputations.

Anonymous said...

I think this is a case of you not being able to see the wood for the trees if you dont mind me saying so Peter.
Its not MacAskill who is their real threat its you and this much is evident from the full disclosure you published.

Keep up the good work!

Anonymous said...

‘One complaint upheld’, 928 more sent back to Law Society & £1.8million spare cash : Scottish Legal Complaints Commission's 2010 annual report.
===================================
This quango is staffed by lawyers who are more corrupt (if that is possible) than the lawyers who are the subject of SLCC complaints from the public.

This profession is rotten to the core and when they police their own how can we expect any other outcome.

Anonymous said...

The SLCC are all crooks, well paid crooks rewarded well for for protecting their own scum.

Anonymous said...

Why is the SLCC allowed to carry on like this ?
Simply because there is no oversight of the gang of lawyers and their allies who run it.

Anonymous said...

She said : “The SLCC have been so concerned about the cost of consultations such as the report into the Master Policy which happened on a shoestring budget yet we regularly see that the SLCC throws money down the toilet on anything to do with boosting its own image or keeping tabs on its critics.”

I think the SLCC should be FLUSHED DOWN THE TOILET and whoever the person is who created it should be up on charges of wasting public funds!

Anonymous said...

What are they worried their own staff might say to the press?
Something like "We are a f*cking joke and we know it"?

Anonymous said...

Is it worth £20K to spy on the likes of MacAskill & Aitken?

Anonymous said...

Its not much good monitoring the media for reports about justice if all they are going to say is "no comment" all the time.Also why the interest in abs?I thought the SLCC were to be kept out of it?

Anonymous said...

Damning evidence on 'the usual suspects' is, and has been, readily available for many years.


The question is, why has the SLCC not only done nothing to remedy the situation but actively avoided confronting it?

Anonymous said...

Don't you fancy signing up to the SLCC Peter?
If you were already there they wouldn't need to spy on this lot because you could tell them what they were up to anyway!

Anonymous said...

Haha did Jane Irvine ban the staff from reading your blog?
She must be worried some of them will talk.After all they cant all be subservient dummies licking the LSoS's ass.

Too funny for words about the spying lark.Is it really worth £20 grand to read MacAskill's daily trash?

Anonymous said...

"the organisation’s luxurious half million pound a year Edinburgh HQ located at the Stamp Office, which is populated with staff earning up to £1350 a week & board members receiving up to £300 plus a day with almost unlimited expenses claims schemes & lucrative pension arrangements"

Dont they know there's a recession on the go?
Huge strike tomorrow too yet these numpties pensions will be fat & protected unlike people such as teachers who actually do some good and work for a living.

Keep up the good reporting Peter.

Anonymous said...

Where did the SLCC get the idea to spy on MacAskill and the media?

Peter Cherbi said...

# Anonymous @ 29 June 2011 22:49

The SLCC got the idea from the Law Society of Scotland who monitor monitor the media and even get to write their own statements disguised as news in certain newspapers ...

# Anonymous @ 29 June 2011 15:23

Not a bad idea at all ...

# Anonymous @ 29 June 2011 16:47

I was warned some of their number were planting over-the-top comments ...

# Anonymous @ 29 June 2011 17:16

I agree ...

# Anonymous @ 29 June 2011 17:48

Possibly ... although Scottish Government Ministers such as Fergus Ewing have interfered with the SLCC's budget & funding policies already ... perhaps they are keeping their eye out for any future repeat ...

# Anonymous @ 29 June 2011 21:53

No thanks, too much backstabbing and no one to trust or with any credibility. My motives are to help consumers escape the complaints hell of the legal system ... their motives ... well, they dont appear to have any motives ... at least not pro-consumer ones.

# Anonymous @ 29 June 2011 22:12

Banning websites usually makes people ever more curious and willing to talk ...

Anonymous said...

The first comment is probably correct because I have a program on my pc to read the news so why do they need to pay another company?

Just an exercise in money wasting!

Anonymous said...

A ridiculous expenditure.

Anonymous said...

If the Law Society do this monitoring stuff and the SLCC then its duplication of effort at the very least.Anyway what does the SLCC want with such information when they know exactly where to find it?
Just another excuse to keep charging the complaints levy for a service no one (solicitors or consumers) trust.

Anonymous said...

The Scottish Legal Complaints Commission was asked to justify their expenditure on spying on the media in the face of requirements by all public bodies to save money and whether they considered this is money wisely spent. The SLCC were also asked if their media monitoring spy service brought any benefits to regulation of the legal profession. A spokesperson for the SLCC said : “The SLCC has no comment.”

Just the same as when you ask them about complaints and how long the bloody investigation will take "NO COMMENT" what a pile of crooks.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Every single person/company should stop paying their legal bills in Scotland - that would force change a lot quicker than the stupid parly

29 June 2011 15:23

BEST IDEA IVE HEARD IN YEARS

Anonymous said...

"Staff mentions" sounds suspiciously like they want to know when their own are being reported.

In the case of one of their board members something like -

http://www.thefreelibrary.com/FARE+COP%3B+EXCLUSIVE+Police+chief+probed+after+he+is+accused+of+using...-a0112770342

FARE COP; EXCLUSIVE Police chief probed after he is accused of using patrol car as a taxi on visit to see girlfriend.
Date: Feb 1, 2004
Words: 486
Publication: Sunday Mail (Glasgow, Scotland)
ISSN: 0307-5877


Byline: By STEPHEN RAFFERTY

ONE of Scotland's top police officers commandeered a patrol car to take him home after visiting his police woman girl friend in hospital.

Chief Superintendent Douglas Watson's unscheduled 60-mile taxi ride is being investigated by his force's professional standards unit.

The probe into Watson's actions comes as Lothian and Borders Police are under fire over the time they take to respond to crime reports.

By cadging a lift from Edinburgh Royal Infirmary to his pounds 300,000 home in Peebles he removed a constable and a patrol car from operational duties for more than two hours.

Watson is in charge of the force's A Division, with more than 1300 officers under his command.

He had been visiting hospital to see his police woman lover, Allison Strachan, who had been injured when she fell from her horse.

Watson has already been criticised by some colleagues over his controversial initiative to change how Edinburgh is policed. As head of Operation Capital, he led a hand-picked team of officers and spent more than pounds 1 million to enforce his plans.

The shake-up merged three divisions into one superdivision A Division.

But some officers and politicians have claimed it has led to fewer officers on the streets and delays of up to three days for victims of crime to be visited.

Lothian and Borders' professional standards unit has interviewed PC Mischeck Muchemwa, who was given the task of driving Watson home, then returning to his HQ a 60-mile round trip.

A senior officer said: ''He took a driver and a car away from operational duties for almost two hours when they may have been needed for emergencies.''

Watson is no stranger to controversy. He dumped his second wife, Anne, and has been having an affair with Inspector Strachan, who he picked to work with him on Operation Capital.

In October 2000, as head of CID, he called off a surveillance operation which was tracking a dangerous paedophile. Sex beast James Clark, who had just been released from prison, was roaming Porto bel lo beach and was being tailed by detectives who feared he was about to strike again.

But Watson called off the watch on the grounds that it was too expensive.

The decision led to a furious row with Detective Chief Inspector Ian Mitchell, who was in charge of the operation.

Watson's response was to order an internal inquiry into who leaked the surveillance story to the Sunday Mail.

Senior officers were deployed to find the mole at a greater expense than the round-the-clock watch on Clark would have cost. The then Chief Constable, Sir Roy Cameron, eventually saw sense and called off the inquiry.

Lothian and Borders Police declined to comment on Watson's taxi ride.

Anonymous said...

Lack of financial controls just like all the other quangos.Imagine this occurring in every Scottish quango and you will end up with a few million pounds of wasted money.Keep bringing this stuff to our attention Mr Cherbi.

Anonymous said...

If Alex Salmond has any decency he will shut down this SLCC monstrosity and claim back all the money they have wasted.


If not well we know where his real loyalties lie.

Anonymous said...

I can tell you this SLCC is some piece of work I have about 16 letters from them over 12 months yet my complaint has been back and forth to the Law Society and nothing happens yet.I asked a question in one letter and they sent me back a nasty reply claiming I was being threatening with the words "I would like to know if you are really going to look into this complaint or not" can you believe it?

If the Law Society is crooked this lot are even worse!

Anonymous said...

Well there is one thing for certain Mr Cherbi - today you were probably getting lots of hits from Meltwater News and the SLCC!

Anonymous said...

And once again no mention of any of this by our glorious, independent, British Broadcasting Corporation.

Why I wonder is no-one surprised?

Anonymous said...

slcc banning blogs!
They must be afraid of you!

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Every single person/company should stop paying their legal bills in Scotland - that would force change a lot quicker than the stupid parly

29 June 2011 15:23

BEST IDEA IVE HEARD IN YEARS

30 June 2011 12:23

Me too!

Anonymous said...

looks like a few people are making a lot of money off taxpayers for reading the internet !

Crazy situation when everything is being cut to the bone in the name of saving public money !

Anonymous said...

Who authorised this waste of expenditure?
The board or the CEO?

Anonymous said...

I think they were just trying to lower their cash pile which you wrote about awhile back.It might be interesting to check out their other expenses and see what else comes up like the occasional duck house or dog kennel.

Anonymous said...

Erm.... Ive just read the website, they're funded by the lawyers anyway, not the taxpayer.

Anonymous said...

These are the horrible characters who kept my brother waiting for 6 months for action on his complaint,promised him they would do something and then nothing AND they found for the solicitor on all counts.
So dear Jane Irvine and your fantastic board members where did my brother's money really go to and why did his lawyer go behind his back and do an underhanded deal with the opposition?Cant answer that one now can you.

Anonymous said...

Disgusting and as usual nothing will be done about it because its the poor sodding customers of lawyers who are paying for this (in other words US)

Peter Cherbi said...

# Anonymous @ 2 July 2011 20:12

The SLCC received £2 million pounds from the Scottish Government, never repaid to the public purse despite receiving well over £2 million pounds a year since 2007 from the legal profession.

Lawyers now pay the levy to fund the SLCC, and as you well know, lawyers are funded by their clients.Lawyers have in some cases significantly upped their fees to cover this levy, despite it only being around £200 a year.