Monday, August 22, 2011

3 Years & £10 Million later, ‘too close to lawyers’ Scottish Legal Complaints Commission left standing by 'more determined' Legal Ombudsman

SLCCComplaints against the legal profession appear to receive more of a hearing in England & Wales than in Scotland. THREE YEARS ON & after the better part of  TEN MILLION POUNDS has been squandered on the notoriously anti-consumer Scottish Legal Complaints Commission (SLCC), at least two of those millions coming from taxpayers via the Scottish Government, it may be an uncomfortable fact for some to swallow that complaints against solicitors & law firms in England & Wales are receiving more of a hearing, along with the expectation of enforcement action on case decisions from the Legal Ombudsman (LeO) than is the case in Scotland.

The major influence of the Law Society of Scotland on the SLCC’s ‘will’ to genuinely investigate consumer grievances against their solicitors, and the Scottish legal establishment’s almost deadly desire to keep regulating its own is seen as the key element in this now growing disparity between how Scots users of legal services can expect their complaints to be dealt with the SLCC & Law Society of Scotland compared to consumers in England & Wales who now deal with the LeO.

Legal OmbudsmanLegal Ombudsman for England & Wales, a world away from its poor Scottish relative the SLCC. In what may well be a good indicator of the determination to press ahead with regulation reform of legal services in England & Wales, a first came last week for the Legal Ombudsman’s office which began work in 2010, where Adam Sampson, the Chief Legal Ombudsman for England & Wales announced the LeO had taken legal action against two law firms which had refused to comply with complaints decisions issued by the LeO.

The enforcement case was one of two brought for the first time by the Ombudsman under the Legal Services Act 2007. It was only after the action was launched that the firm paid out £2,650 compensation to a client, as the Ombudsman had ordered, plus interest.

The client had complained after the firm paid money to a third party without authorisation. A district judge sitting at Birmingham County Court on Monday 15 August ordered the firm to pay the Ombudsman’s costs of bringing the case of £1,215.

A second case at the same court was adjourned to allow a different firm to comply with an Ombudsman’s decision.In that case the firm had mismanaged work for a property owner and the Ombudsman had ordered them to pay their client £5,704 compensation.

When the firm failed to comply, the Ombudsman issued proceedings for the court’s permission to enforce the decision as if it were a court judgement.

The firm initially tried to argue that the decision was defective but, when the Ombudsman produced the relevant legal materials, at the eleventh hour agreed to settle the matter and pay the Ombudsman’s costs of £1,000. The hearing was adjourned for 28 days for this to be done.

adam_sampsonLegal Ombudsman for England & Wales, Adam Sampson. Commenting on the decision to take legal action against the flaw firms who failed to comply with rulings by the LeO, Adam Sampson, the Chief Legal Ombudsman, said: “These are the first such enforcement proceedings we’ve brought under the Legal Services Act 2007. It’s regrettable that we had to take these steps, and that the firms didn’t act more promptly to bring matters to a close for the complainants.

Mr Sampson continued : “The cases are a reminder that Ombudsman decisions, once accepted by complainants, are binding. Lawyers need to remember that our decisions are enforceable through the courts and that failure to comply promptly can mean an unnecessary expense. Those who don’t comply are likely to have to pay costs ordered by the courts, and risk being referred by us on conduct grounds to their regulatory body.”

While it may be comforting to note the Legal Ombudsman for England & Wales after only one year in the job is pressing ahead with enforcing complaints decisions and online publication of a raft of information on complaints decisions & statistics which is of considerable value to consumers in England & Wales, it is now unavoidably noticeable that clients of Scottish solicitors have the short end of the stick in pursing complaints against their solicitors, or even access to the level of information now available in England & Wales which, if published in Scotland might lead to clients avoiding using the crop of “usual suspect” Scottish law firms who continuously abuse their clients.

As the record currently shows, the now three year old Scottish Legal Complaints Commission, having soaked up nearly ten million pounds from the legal profession & taxpayers, has so far admitted only one solitary complaint as being upheld by their ‘skilled investigations’ and in comparison to the LeO’s court action against law firms, forcing resolutions to client complaints, the situation in Scotland is exactly the reverse with the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission itself now a target of at least fifteen cases in the Court of Session brought by solicitors and the Law Society of Scotland against decisions by the SLCC either to refer cases to the Law Society for further investigation, or for its refusal to investigate third party complaints.

With regards to other key expectations of the SLCC, where the power to monitor the notoriously corrupt Master Policy & Guarantee Fund was given to the Scots law complaints quango via the legislation which created it, the Legal Profession & Legal Aid (Scotland) Act 2007, no further advance on the controversial subject has been made by the SLCC who are now reluctant to publish their latest attempts at ‘research’ into financial damages claims against ‘crooked lawyers, cases & claims which have been deliberately derailed by the Law Society of Scotland and its Master Policy insurers, Marsh UK and those who underwrite the Master Policy such as Royal Sun Alliance PLC & Aviva Insurance.

Let’s be clear, I am not saying the Legal Ombudsman for England & Wales is perfect. I am well aware there are a great many people who disagree with decisions the LeO has taken on complaints. However, the sea change in travelling over the border to see how complaints are dealt with and noting the attitudes of those dealing with complaints and the clients who make them, compared with what Scots legal services users can expect by way of an almost constant tone of disrespect from the SLCC, the differences are now clear to see.

It is now an unavoidable fact that Scots consumers are taking too great a risk in dealing with Scottish law firms who are poorly regulated by regulators who clearly have no time for, or in a growing number of cases even discriminate against consumers who are forced by circumstances to make complaints about their solicitors.

20 comments:

Anonymous said...

I can think of better uses for the 10mil..

Anonymous said...

Should we be surprised at this?Clearly the Law Society is holding MacAskill's puppet strings so there will be no justice against crooked lawyers for anyone until those doing the complaining bypass the SLCC to deal with the complaints instead of being locked into a letter writing exercise that gets you nowhere.

Anonymous said...

waste of money and I see you featured all their expenses claims too!

Anonymous said...

We had a Legal Services Ombudsman in Scotland.

However, when postholders such as Linda-Costelloe Baker spoke up and identified the 'mess' of proposed 'reforms' to our legal system and enquired why - after 15years of asking - nobody in the Law Society could or would explain why it was virtually impossible for a member of the Public to get one Scottish Solicitor to act against another, the position was allowed to fall by the wayside - and was replaced by the SLCC.

Talk about a bad joke, that's the Scottish 'justice' system all over.

Anonymous said...

You should also be advising your readers to record any phone calls they have with the SLCC.I has one of them screaming down the phone at me just because I asked why it was taking so long to do something about my complaint.
If my own experience is anything to go by I dont think these people like dealing with complaints.They probably enjoy picking up their outrageous salary though!

Anonymous said...

Mr Sampson must feel very honoured getting this high praise from someone such as yourself Peter.

I appreciate you are comparing the two and the striking differences and the raw deal we are getting up here with Irvine and her mob.

Keep up the good work Peter!

Anonymous said...

Incredible!
The SLCC are out to lunch!

Anonymous said...

Clearly the £10 million has been well spent as far as dodgy lawyers are concerned if none of them have been prosecuted or taken to court although the Scottish courts are so corrupt anyway nothing would happen other than slap on the wrist again?

Anonymous said...

But how can this be?
The SNP always say the Scottish justice system is the finest in the world and is completely perfect!
Perfect enough to be called a banana republic!

Anonymous said...

Its so f*ing obvious even a child could see this is £10million spent to stop the Peter Cherbi campaign for an end to the Law Society.
By the evidence you must be worth your weight in gold!

Anonymous said...

Granted the LeO does seem more determined to do something while the SLCC has just sat back and claimed their wages.
Perhaps the answer is to scrap the SLCC and allow the LeO to investigate Scottish complaints under a contract?

Anonymous said...

"The major influence of the Law Society of Scotland on the SLCC’s ‘will’ to genuinely investigate consumer grievances against their solicitors, and the Scottish legal establishment’s almost deadly desire to keep regulating its own is seen as the key element in this now growing disparity between how Scots users of legal services can expect their complaints to be dealt with the SLCC & Law Society of Scotland compared to consumers in England & Wales who now deal with the LeO. "

Obviously.

The question is what do we do about it given our MSPs are either members of the Law Society or appear to owe lawyers a few favours?

Still its nice to see the differences emerging now.Someone is bound to start asking questions as time goes on.

Anonymous said...

By the sounds of it we may as well move to England or at least avoid using dangerous Scottish liwyers (I can think of a few to avoid!)

Anonymous said...

there will be no justice against crooked lawyers for anyone until those doing the complaining bypass the SLCC to deal with the complaints instead of being locked into a letter writing exercise that gets you nowhere.

22 August 2011 20:20

I feel exactly the same way..

Anonymous said...

To the person who said we should record any telephone calls with the SLCC I support what you say because they tell you one thing on the phone and then send you a letter later on refusing to investigate your complaint.

Anonymous said...

Yes good to see something finally moving in England but this doesnt help us Scots much does it unless people like yourself continue to push for change to the rotten system controlled by the Law Society of Scotland.

Anonymous said...

The Legal Ombudsman might not exist up here and the SLCC might be keeping all the information to itself but you do a fine job yourself Peter writing about these criminals from the legal world.I think a lot of people will be learning from many of your write ups and exposes of what really goes on in the justice system.

Anyone need a lawyer?Better consult this blog first!

Peter Cherbi said...

Thanks for your comments on this article.

As there is very little in the way of debate over regulation of the legal profession in Scotland at the moment, Scots with an interest in the subject should be looking to England for ideas ... as it appears they are streets ahead of us, at least in the determination to name & shame crooked solicitors & law firms.

Anonymous said...

I wonder....

What do 'YOU' think would be the reaction of the Scottish People, if they were to find out that the Law Society and the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission were 'COLLUDING' to interfere with the process of justice in quashing valid complaints against crooked solicitors?

I'll hold the jackets...

Judy ;x

Peter Cherbi said...

"Judy x" @ 31 August 2011 19:03

Nothing will happen.

If Scots haven't realised by now the Law Society of Scotland & the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission "colluding to interfere with the process of justice in quashing valid complaints against crooked solicitors" after reading much of the evidence provided, they will never realise it.

Only so much can be done you know, to report these kinds of incidents, how clients are treated by the legal profession and how solicitors seem to escape punishment either at the hands of regulators or the criminal prosecuting authorities at every turn.

If consumers research their solicitor or law firm online and find out they are crooked, they should well understand the risks they are taking continuing to use that law firm and have been well warned in advance.

If someone wants to avoid getting lung or throat cancer from smoking, heed the warning label on the packet of cigarettes.

If someone wants to avoid using a crooked lawyer, heed the warnings from reputable websites or media coverage of law firms in Scotland, the majority of which are best to be avoided.