Friday, December 30, 2011

SLCC board members depart, taking £1/2million for 3 years of anti-consumer chaos, a pocketful of upheld complaints & no prosecutions of dodgy lawyers

SLCC DoorOriginal SLCC board members exit after a disastrous 3 years of complaints handling & not one single prosecution of a crooked lawyer. AFTER raking in over HALF A MILLION POUNDS in expenses claims & remuneration, the seven original remaining board members of the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission (SLCC) comprising two former senior Police Officers, a clutch of lawyers, and quangocrats who were personally appointed by Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill in early 2008 to front what quickly became an anti-client law complaints quango made more famous for booze fuelled anti-consumer rants than prosecuting crooked lawyers, will finally depart their lucrative £212 a day plus expenses appointments tomorrow on the expiry of their controversial term of office, leaving behind little or no evidence of improvement of consumer protection against crooked Scottish lawyers in the past three years.

The departure of former Lothian & Borders Chief Supt Douglas Watson, Dr Linda Pollock BSc, RGN, RMN, Dist Nursing, Diploma (Clinical Nursing), PhD, MBA, ex Deputy Chief Constable Tayside Police Ian Gordon OBE, QPM, LL.B (Hons), Law Professor Alan Paterson OBE, FRSE, David Smith (retired lawyer & husband of Court of Session judge Lady Smith), divorce lawyer Margaret Scanlan OBE & retired lawyer David Chaplin leaves a bitter legacy of feuds with the media, cover-ups against Freedom of Information laws, arguments over the SLCC’s mishandling of complaints against the Scottish legal profession and little evidence of any success against crooked lawyers in the past three years, all in stark comparison to the progress of the Legal Ombudsman for England & Wales (LeO) which has seemingly powered ahead on complaints cases, even laying plans to name & shame solicitors & law firms who abuse their clients. No such moves have been made by the SLCC who bitterly refuse to name & shame rogue Scottish lawyers.

During the term of the now departing board members, the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission has since 2007, raked in an average of £2.5 million a year from the legal profession in complaints levies (funded by hikes in solicitors fees taken from clients), and a whopping £2 million of taxpayers money from the Scottish Government.

However, the dreadful reality of the worst piece of theatre in Scots regulation is that despite the huge intake of money & effort, the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission has in the past three years, fully upheld only a handful of complaints against solicitors & law firms and has paid out staggeringly small amounts of compensation to victims of ‘crooked lawyers’ compared with how much consumers have lost to their legal representatives. In one case, a client of a rogue lawyer received a meagre £10 compensation award after falling victim to shoddy legal work. The SLCC also blew more than 1/4 million on legal fees to law firms, some of which are linked to its own board members, as reported by Diary of Injustice here : £10 compensation for victims of crooked lawyers while Scottish Legal Complaints Commission spend more than £1/4 MILLION on law firms & ‘legal advice’

To add to the regulation nightmare facing consumers of legal services in Scotland,, not one crooked lawyer has yet been prosecuted on the basis of any work carried out by the SLCC in the entire three years, a fact which even drew criticism from the Chairman of the Scottish Solicitors Discipline Tribunal as reported HERE.

The SLCC experienced a few of its own nightmares, as covered by Diary of Injustice over the past three years, where in particular, the former Chief Executive Eileen Masterman resigned on grounds of ill health, but not before negotiating via lawyers a payoff, reported here : HUSH & MONEY : Former SLCC law complaints Chief Executive Eileen Masterman received secret Scottish Government approved payoff in deal with lawyers

7&8th April 08 SLCC Meeting Blanked outSecretive & anti-client SLCC became famous for censorship & battles over Freedom of Information requests.The failures of the SLCC over the past three years leaves an inescapable conclusion that over TWELVE MILLION POUNDS of public funds & fees gathered from clients of solicitors have gone down the drain on what is now obviously little more than a joint venture between the Law Society of Scotland & Scottish Government to shore up the Law Society’s influence & exclusive control over self-regulation of the legal profession in Scotland, leading to the SLCC’s continuing stitch-up of consumer complaints against rogue solicitors. In short, consumers have not benefited from the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission. The Scottish Government, the Law Society of Scotland & the legal establishment have seen to that.

Diary of Injustice featured in an earlier article what it took to be a member of the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission’s board : More ‘jobs for the boys’ than action on ‘crooked lawyers’ : What it takes to be a Board Member at the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission. As far as new appointments to the board of the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission are concerned, reported by Diary of Injustice HERE, HERE & HERE no improvement in the hapless anti-client law complaints quango should be expected.

Read all about it : Scottish Legal Complaints Commission - The story so far


WATSON 2 Douglas Watson

• Former lay member of a Law Society of Scotland Committee dealing with Access to Legal Information. The role was unpaid.
• A cousin, Bruce Minto, is a partner in Dickson Minto, Solicitors.
• Formerly a Chief Superintendent with Lothian and Borders Police.

Dr Linda Pollock Dr Linda Pollock

• Executive Nursing Director (1989 -2006).
• Interim Board Nurse Director (2002-2003).
• Chief Nursing Officer’s Professional Advisor on nurse prescribing (2005-6).
• Past External Examiner with Robert Gordon’s University and Queen Margaret University.
• Research Honorary Fellow in the Social Science Faculty of Edinburgh University.
• Formerly, a part time nurse member of the Mental Welfare Commission (1997- 2005).
• Currently, working as a Primary Care Consultant, undertaking research work commissioned by the Queen’s Nursing Institute in Scotland.
• Registrant member of the Nursing and Midwifery Council Appointments Board.
• Member of the Royal College of Nursing.
• Dr Pollock has a track record of authorship and chapter contributions in professional books, and continues to write articles in nursing journals.
• Board Member of the Accounts Commission (from 1st October for three years).
• Chair to a UK-wide Advisory Board with Pain Concern (from Jan 2010).

Ian Gordon Ian Gordon OBE, QPM, LL.B (Hons)

• Convener of the Standards Commission for Scotland (from 1 February 2010 for four years).

• Member of the Registration and Conduct Sub Committees of the Scottish Social Services Council. Appointed by the Council on 29 April 2010 for 3 years.
Payment from Scottish Social Services Council.
• Associate Professor in Policing for Charles Sturt University (Australia)
• Director (Trustee) of Blairgowrie and Rattray Regeneration Company (BARRC) Registered Charity – Not remunerated.
• Member of Rotary International
• Retired Deputy Chief Constable of Tayside Police.
• Formerly Chair of the Association of Chief Police Officers in Scotland (ACPOS)
Professional Standards Business Area.
• Formerly Vice-Chair of ACPOS General Policing Business Area.

Margaret Scanlan - Called to the Bars - Sunday Mail  15 March 2009 email Margaret Scanlan

• Consultant, Russells Gibson McCaffrey, Solicitors.

• Member of the Law Society of Scotland and holder of current practising certificate.
• Husband is a senior partner Russells Gibson McCaffrey.
• Husband is a member of the Law Society of Scotland and holder of current practising certificate.
• Past Chair of the Family Law Association.
• Former member of the Scottish Legal Aid Board.

David Smith SLCC David Smith

• Member of the Law Society of Scotland.

• Former member/partner of Shepherd and Wedderburn LLP, Solicitors. Retired on 30/04/08.
• Non-Executive Director, Value and Income Trust Plc.
• Wife is a Senator of the College of Justice and a non practising member of the Faculty of Advocates.

David Chaplin SLCC David Chaplin

• Former member of Anderson Fyfe LLP, Solicitors. Retired on 30/04/08.

• Member of the Law Society of Scotland.
• Director and shareholder in Baliol Properties Limited.

AlanPaterson Alan Paterson

• Professor of Law and Director of the Centre for Professional Legal Studies at Strathclyde University.

• Research adviser to the Scottish Legal Aid Board.
• Member of the Law Society of Scotland.
• Professional contact with Guild & Guild, Solicitors and McCash & Hunter, LLP.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Going to court is like being taken to the cleaners ? Participate in the Review of Expenses and Funding of Civil Litigation in Scotland Consultation

Taylor Review Page Cover_Page1Taylor Review consultation on costs of justice aims to tackle widespread evidence that litigation in Scottish courts is expensive, exclusive & unproductive. GOING TO COURT is like being taken to the cleaners, whether its down to the fees of your own solicitors, the fees of the other side’s legal team or the court’s fees. No matter how you word the dreaded ‘access to justice’ equation, going to court in Scotland is a bit of a rip-off. There is no escaping the fact that justice, and access to it, is, with ample evidence, widely perceived to be the domain of the rich, vested interests, someone who can slip a judge a benefit on the side, or the ones who know how to bend legal aid rules to pick up public funds for taking on cases for convicted rapists, murderers & fraudsters which make the rest of the nation sick.

Put it this way, if you’ve ever had the feeling a serial child murderer stands a better chance of obtaining access to court & millions in taxpayer funded legal aid for a dispute over prison rights, as opposed to your own court case involving claim against a swindler who stole your investments, a lawyer who ruined a will or took your house, a medial professional who committed negligence or who caused a death in your family, or some other professional who, through their actions ruined your life and then kept on ruining your life in some kind of vendetta, you are in the right country. It all happens here, every week of every month of every year.

Those of you who attempt to pursue a case through Scotland’s antiquated “Victorian” court system to gain ‘justice’ simply end up joining a queue of thousands of people who walk in & out of Scotland’s revolving door courts system each year achieving nothing more than lining the pockets of the legal profession, the courts, & the judge who sits there on a £200K plus salary, managing an occasional grumble or mumble in some kind of inaudible verbal abortion more reminiscent of a silent horror movie, while frequently finding or ruling for the vested interests who his or her lordship dare not upset.

In an attempt to address the cost aspect of obtaining justice in Scotland’s Victorian civil courts, the Scottish Government’s Taylor Review of Expenses and Funding of Civil Litigation in Scotland has announced a consultation which readers and anyone with an interest in access to justice issues in Scotland should participate in. I also encourage anyone who does participate in the Taylor Review to ask their msp to participate. After all, you can bet your last penny the vested interests of the legal profession are participating in the consultation, and demanding costs be kept as they are, so justice can be delivered at great expense rather than being delivered on the cheap.

Heaven help Scotland’s greedy multi billion pound legal services rip-off industry if costs of going to court or conducting litigation were ever likely to be reduced …

The Taylor Review consultation paper is available to download here:

Consultation Paper (Word Document) 2253.5 kb

Consultation Paper (PDF Document) 856.85 kb

An announcement from the Taylor Review Team encourages participation in the consultation, stating : We hope that the consultation process will generate considerable debate and that you will feel able to respond to the questions that we pose.  Please do not feel that you must respond to every question.  There may be particular issues which interest you and you should feel free to limit your answers to such areas.  If there are additional points that you wish to make that are not covered by the Consultation Paper then please feel free to do so.

You can find out more about the Taylor Review HERE and readers should note responses to the consultation are to be received by the review team no later than Friday 16 March 2012.

Review of Expenses and Funding of Civil Litigation in Scotland



In September 2009, the Scottish Civil Court's Review (SCCR) under the chairmanship of The Rt. Hon. Lord Gill presented its Report to the Scottish Government. I am pleased that the Scottish Government has responded so positively to the recommendations in the Report.

The Board of the SCCR knew that Lord Justice Jackson was undertaking a Review of Civil Litigation Costs in England and Wales and would be reporting in early 2010. Accordingly, the Board thought it would be prudent to await the outcome of LJ Jackson's Report before formulating recommendations on judicial expenses in this jurisdiction.

LJ Jackson reported in 2010 and the Westminster Government has responded to that Report. The Legal Aid Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill is presently making its way through the Westminster Parliament.

Earlier this year I was invited by the Scottish Government to chair a Review into the Expenses and Funding of Civil Litigation in Scotland. Part of my remit is to consult widely. Since the Review commenced, we have spoken to a number of people with an interest in the Scottish civil judicial process in order that we might identify those areas where it is thought that reform is necessary. We wrote to over 90 individuals and bodies seeking guidance on the issues upon which we should be consulting. I am also deeply indebted to the members of the Reference Group who have given of their time both generously and free of charge. Their contribution has been invaluable. This consultation document is the product of these discussions and responses. The responsibility for the content is, nonetheless, mine.

The consultation document covers a wide range of issues which have a significant impact on access to justice. Access to justice is a right and it has been said with some force that its absence is "an enemy of the rule of law". For example, we ask for views on whether access to justice would be improved if lawyers in Scotland were allowed to enter into agreements with clients whereby the lawyers could express their fee as a percentage of the damages recovered. We also give an opportunity for members of the public and lawyers alike to give their views on the desirability of referral fees which is an issue which has generated considerable interest south of the border.

It is a matter of chance that we embark upon consultation at a time when the Westminster Bill is being debated in the House of Lords. The Scottish Government recognises the importance of access to justice and has adopted a different approach from its English and Welsh counterparts. It does not intend to make major changes to the scope of legal aid even in these times of austerity. It would however wish legal aid to become "a funder of last resort."

I hope that there will be considerable debate generated by this document and that I will receive responses from as many sources as is possible. By so responding the Scottish public and professions will hopefully draw attention to all aspects of the issues contained in the consultation document. To assist the consultation process we propose to have public meetings in Aberdeen, Dumfries, Edinburgh, Glasgow and Perth. A wide range of responses should minimise the risk of there being unintended consequences arising out of the recommendations which will eventually be contained in my Report. I intend to report before the end of 2012.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Season’s Greetings to readers, injustice campaigners, and victims of injustice in Scotland & around the world

Lewis Chess Christmas 2Season’s Greetings from Diary of Injustice in Scotland. EARLIER this year, Scottish judge & Deputy President of the UK’s Supreme Court Lord Hope described Scotland's justice system as containing “a corrosive anti-English sentiment” adding that this “sentiment can be a real obstacle to progress”. Scotland’s justice system is exactly that, and much worse besides. Whether the case relate to criminal or civil law, there is ample evidence in the opinions, rulings, attitudes & activities of more than a few members of the Scottish judiciary to show that Scotland’s “Victorian” justice system and its courts serve themselves and the interests of vested interests before they serve justice.

Scotland’s courts have become corrosive, vindictive, people-hating places which regularly stamp upon anyone whose interests collide with vested interests of the professions, big business & the establishment. In short, ‘justice’ in Scotland is bought & paid for, long before you, the public, the litigant, even the party litigant, ever get a look-in.

As another year draws to a close on reporting the ins & outs and ups & downs of the Scots legal world, a year in which some will find themselves struggling against a bleak midwinter of injustice brought upon them by a justice system we are taught will protect us all, I’d like to wish all my readers, in Scotland & around the world, my colleagues in the media, all victims of injustice, all those who tirelessly fight against injustice or fight for consumer rights, & those inside the Scots legal profession I personally know who bravely serve their clients in the interests of justice rather than in the interests of others, Season’s Greetings, a Merry Christmas, and good luck for the New Year, 2012.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Scottish Legal Complaints Commission forced to publish compensation data in annual report, reveals only 7 cases ‘fully upheld’ against ‘dodgy lawyers’

SLCC DoorReport reveals Scottish Legal Complaints Commission only fully upheld SEVEN complaints against crooked lawyers in 2010-2011. CONSIDERABLE media scrutiny of the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission (SLCC) has forced Scotland’s notoriously anti-consumer law complaints regulator to finally publish client compensation data for the first time in its three year existence. The figures released by the SLCC in its latest annual report for 2011 show that up to £2,061 has been awarded to clients during the SLCC’s investigation of complaints and in one case, an award of up to £9,261 after the SLCC had upheld a complaint. The annual report also reveals the SLCC received 2,598 enquiries and 1,090 complaints made by members of the public against ‘crooked lawyers’ to add to the 274 in hand at the start of the year, yet the ‘independent’ SLCC admits it only managed to fully uphold a meagre SEVEN COMPLAINTS (out of 88) against ‘crooked lawyers’ in the past year – six more than the ONE single complaint it fully upheld last year.

The SLCC’s latest annual report for 2011 reports that of the 1,090 complaints received by the £1.8 MILLION POUND cash-in-the-bank-happy Scottish Legal Complaints Commission this year, 503 complaints were ruled ineligible for investigation despite protests from many clients over the handling of their apparently ‘ineligible’ cases while 81 conduct complaints were referred to the Law Society of Scotland and 4 complaints were referred to the Faculty of Advocates for investigation. Of the remaining, 210 complaints were dealt with and closed by the SLCC, and 566 were still in hand at the year end, including 290 awaiting a decision on eligibility.

The most common reasons for a complaint being declared ineligible were that it was frivolous, vexatious or totally without merit (160 cases), or because the complaint was out of time (146 cases), the limit normally being one year from when the professional relationship ended. Some cases also continued to be referred to the professional bodies under the transitional arrangements.

Fifty seven complaints were resolved by mediation, and one was withdrawn. A further 42 complaints were resolved by report or conciliation at the complaint investigation stage, and 22 more were withdrawn. In six of the cases, clients were awarded an abatement of fees ranging from £200-£2,000 with an average payout of £893, and in 13 cases a payment of compensation was awarded to the client, ranging from £40-£2,061 with an average payout of £517. Total amounts awarded to clients at the investigation stage of complaints were £5,356 for abatement of fees and £6,723 in compensation awards.

However, mediation has its own dangers, as it appears law firms who are involved in disputes with multiple clients have used the mediation service to escape any determinations in complaints, and with the SLCC apparently not collating data on whether the same ‘crooked lawyers’ keep appearing at mediation hearings, the mediation system may well be doing more harm than good for consumer protection.

SEVEN COMPLAINTS UPHELD slcc annualreport online 2011_Page25The SLCC only managed to fully uphold a total of 7 complaints in the last year despite significant numbers of complaints made by the public against lawyers. A further 88 complaints progressed to the formal determination stage (where the SLCC is forced to make a decision on the complaint), of which ONLY SEVEN COMPLAINTS were upheld in full during the entire year, while 20 complaints were partly upheld, with the remaining 61 complaints not upheld. A small number of 26 cases from the 88 complaints required the practitioner to refund or abate fees and/or pay the complainer compensation (some required both). Awards made to clients at the determination stage showed the same range of fee abatements, with an average payout of £650, and compensation payments between £75 and £9,261 with an average payout of £979.

The total amount awarded to clients at determination stage for the last year was £4,550 for abatement of fees and £25,446 in compensation awards. However, the statistics  come with a large caveat, as the compensation award figures now published by the SLCC do not document or reflect the actual quantum of exactly how much money clients believe they have actually lost as a result of their solicitor’s actions in the cases where compensation awards were made.

It should also be noted no compensation award figures have yet been published for 2008-2009 & 2009-2010 and the total amounts paid so far in 2010-2011 which appear on the low side of expectations, dwarf the staggering costs of running the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission along with its lavish Central Edinburgh offices & generous remuneration packages of up to £312 a day for board members who between them have claimed up to £160,000 a year for the three years the SLCC has existed.

Rosemary AgnewSLCC Chief Executive Rosemary Agnew denied journalists access to compensation data amid false promises of early publication. Diary of Injustice had requested the compensation award figures for the last three years via Freedom of Information legislation in July 2011. However, the SLCC’s current Chief Executive, Rosemary Agnew refused to release the data, branding the request as “vexatious”. Ms Agnew went onto claim the compensation data was to be published within 12 weeks of the July request, however no publication was made and the Scottish Information Commissioner Mr Kevin Dunion found the SLCC had mishandled FOI requests for the data. A second FOI request after Mr Dunion’s investigation was also refused by the SLCC, who have now published only the compensation data for the last financial year available.

You can read more about the SLCC’s refusal to hand over the compensation data in response to FOI requests and the Scottish Information Commissioner's investigation, here : Scottish Legal Complaints Commission refuse to publish details of ‘loose change’ client compensation as board & staff live it up on YOUR millions and here : SCROOGE’D : Scottish Legal Complaints Commission buries ‘bad news’ annual report at Christmas, again refuses to release ‘compensation to clients’ data

A legal insider speaking to Diary of Injustice today explained the reluctance of the SLCC to publish client compensation data He claimed : “I think the SLCC have avoided publicising compensation figures in previous annual reports due to worries that if the amounts were published it may encourage more clients to make complaints & compensation claims in the hope they could recover their losses via the SLCC instead of pursuing complicated compensation claims against their solicitors via the Law Society of Scotland’s Master Policy.” which as we all now know holds little chance of success for members of the public making claims made against negligent or crooked lawyers via the client hating Scottish courts.

There is also a suggestion a deliberate decision was taken not to collect or retain data on compensation awarded to clients in previous years, a claim now being investigated by Diary of Injustice.

COMPLAINTS slcc annualreport online 2011_Page15Breakdown of complaints by subject handled by the SLCC in 2010-2011. The Commission also reports that it dealt with 50% of complaints within 100 working days, 85% within 200, and 95% within 300. The most common categories of complaints for the year were residential conveyancing (22%), litigation and family law (15% each), and executries, wills and trusts (12%), among others. Other categories of complaints running at around 2% per subject of the total numbers of complaints received by the SLCC were Housing, Landlord and Tenant, Financial Services - Other,  Bankruptcy and Insolvency, Business Category, Commercial and Company Law Financial Services - Endowment Policies, Mental Health, Planning and Compulsory Purchase, Child Law, Consumer Law, Welfare Benefits, Agricultural Law, Negligence, & Taxation.

The annual report also reveals that the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission managed to spend less money than budgeted, with actual expenditure of £2,408,000, against a budget of £2,839,000 and income of £2,232,000, giving a deficit on the year of £175,000. The Commission's reserves at the year end stood at £1,816,000 (down from £2,025,000 the year before), of which £1m has been earmarked to be gifted back to lawyers to underwrite the general levy in 2011-12.

Regarding the TWO MILLION POUNDS of taxpayer funds spent by Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill’s Justice department on the SLCC’s start up costs & lavish perks handed out to board members, not one single penny has been returned by the SLCC to public coffers despite calls for the money to be repaid so it can be better used in other areas of public services.

Jane IrvineJane Irvine, Chair of the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission. Introducing the report, the chair, Jane Irvine, said it had been a year of "significant progress" for the Commission. She was keen that the SLCC should "start saying more" to encourage the profession to learn from complaints, but commented: "we have decided to be cautious about drawing conclusions from the limited information we hold; including statistics regarding numbers and types of complaints coming to us. It is not sensible to draw inferences from only two and a half years of limited information about a profession as complex as the Scottish legal profession".

Ms Irvine, who at one point also supported making the Law Society of Scotland compliant with Freedom of Information legislation, also claimed the SLCC was continuing to "lobby the Scottish Government for changes to the Act to allow our complaint handling to become more efficient and user friendly" while in opposing circles, the Law Society of Scotland continues to lobby the Scottish Government at every chance to tone down what few powers the SLCC has, along with ensuring the SLCC refrains from protecting consumers against ‘crooked lawyers’.

Yet with only SEVEN complaints fully upheld in a single year, the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission has a long way to go before it can begin to be trusted to regulate Scotland’s increasingly corrupt legal services market, where client funds are often seen as easy meat by solicitors out to make a quick kill and an easy get-away from any repercussions via lawyer biased regulators such as the SLCC & Law Society of Scotland.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Crown Office ‘Bonus Culture’ delivers no justice bonus for Scotland as more than £1/2 Million is handed out in perks to Lord Advocate’s staff

COPFS Bonuses Lord AdvoccateInvestigation reveals Scotland’s Crown Office has been over-eager to get in on the bankers bonus culture while crime fighting suffers. AS major parts of Scotland’s criminal & civil justice system descend into farce, with trials involving charges for breach of the peace up to attempted murder & fraud being abandoned on an almost daily basis, suspects accused of even the most serious offences being allowed bail, refusals or failures to prosecute instances of racially motivated crimes, sexual assaults & high profile failures on alleged sectarian offences & criticisms from the judiciary over the state of the courts, an investigation has revealed prosecutors & other employees at Scotland’s much criticised & failing Crown Office & Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS) are benefiting from the bankers style bonus culture to the tune of HALF A MILLION POUNDS A YEAR, according to figures obtained from the Crown Office under Freedom of Information laws.

Crown Office Bonuses 2009-2011Crown Office staff appear more focussed on bonus culture than taking cases to trial with enough evidence in Scotland’s courts. The figures, reported in the Sunday Mail newspaper reveals that the Crown Office, under the current Lord Advocate Frank Mulholland, which costs taxpayers a staggering ONE HUNDRED & EIGHT MILLION POUNDS A YEAR has been dishing out bonuses of up to TWENTY THOUSAND POUNDS at a time to its senior employees and that bonuses of FOUR to EIGHT THOUSAND POUNDS are commonplace among higher end staff while others at the Crown Office have to make do with much smaller bonuses of £500 - £1,000 a year. These revelations come at a time when prosecutors have been blaming the failure of over a thousand cases on the infamous  Cadder v HMA ruling which saw the right to legal representation while being interrogated by Police brought into Scots law for the first time after a UK Supreme Court ruling which itself was castigated by senior politicians including the Justice Secretary & First Minister for alleged interference in the Scottish justice system.

Yet as the ink was barely dry on the release of the Crown Office’ bonus culture statistics, a Scottish Government insider has since come forward to Diary of Injustice this morning, admitting that “had it not been for the massive public sector finance cuts caused by the recession, the bonuses paid to Crown Office employees would have been significantly higher than half a million.”

Diary of Injustice recently reported in late October on arguments within the Crown Office over case backlogs & lost prosecutions, which culminated in the Lord Advocate attempting to refute claims from his own staff they were short of money and not enough in number to tackle crime : Lord Advocate tells Holyrood his own Fiscals are wrong over claims of case backlog & ‘stress’ as £108 million pours into failing Crown Office

In the wake of the latest revelations of a self serving Crown Office, there are growing numbers of Scots who feel the Crown Office has become an unaccountable public body which is out of control and in need of significant reform after being hit by constant scandals over collapsed high profile cases, corruption and allegations of institutional racism and even sectarianism amongst its employees.

Earlier this year questions were raised over the impartiality of the Crown Office in connection with prosecutions against the legal profession when investigations by Diary of Injustice & the Sunday Mail newspaper revealed the Crown Office REFUSED to prosecute FOURTEEN solicitors for legal aid fraud involving huge sums of public money. An additional investigation by Diary of Injustice revealed one of the alleged fraudsters who the Crown Office refused to prosecute, was married to a Procurator Fiscal.

And in what must be one of the most staggering wastes of resources many have seen from the Crown Office for a long time, around HALF A MILLION POUNDS has been spent by COPFS and a variety of other justice connected public bodies including several Police Forces on one single Breach of the Peace trial against an anti-abuse campaigner, as reported on Scottish Law Reporter here : The £1/2 Million Breach of the Peace charge, 13 hearings, 15,000 travel miles, Cross Border Police seizures, surveillance & a former Lord Advocate

The Sunday Mail reports on the bonus culture at the Crown Office ;

What Price Justice Sunday Mail 18 December 2011WHAT PRICE JUSTICE ? Crown Office staff net £580k in bonus payments in just two years

Dec 18 2011 Exclusive by Russell Findlay, Sunday Mail

STAFF at the Crown Office have pocketed bonus payments of more than £580,000 in just two years, we can reveal. Two years ago, 419 workers shared payouts totalling £326,844, while 518 were handed £253,330 for 2010-11.

The bonus culture in Scotland's prosecution service can be revealed days after a sheriff claimed underfunding was hampering justice. The Crown Office Procurator Fiscal Service - headed by Lord Advocate Frank Mulholland - has an annual budget of £108million, with £69million of that on staff costs. Bonuses were paid out to around a quarter of the 1650 employees.

Yesterday, MSP Sandra White said: "These public sector workers are paid to do a job - good performance should be in-built, not an added bonus. I would like to know why bonuses were paid, especially given so many high-profile Crown Office failings in recent years."

The Crown Office recently admitted the number of rape cases being prosecuted has dropped. They blamed the fallout from the Cadder ruling, when police interviews without lawyers present threw more than a 1000 cases into doubt. Last week, Dundee Sheriff Richard Davidson hit out at the lack of cash to run jury trials in the city. He revealed that cases were forced into adjournment due to funding problems. We also revealed that the Crown have failed to prosecute any of the 14 lawyers reported for alleged Legal Aid fraud.

Legal reform campaigner Peter Cherbi said: "It hardly seems appropriate that Crown Office staff are being paid bonuses. " The Crown Office say that bonuses are "based on performance levels attained and are made as part of the appraisal process".

A spokesman added: "No bonuses are being paid in 2011-12 and there are no plans to do so in future."

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Law Society demand Justice Secretary MacAskill intervene over SLCC report claiming ‘improper’ influences in Guarantee Fund client claims

Law Society SLCC MacAskillBully required, Urgent : Law Society of Scotland demand Justice Secretary intervene in SLCC ‘Guarantee Fund’ row. FIDDLING & MEDDLING by Law Society of Scotland officials in financial damages claims to the Scottish Solicitors Guarantee Fund made by clients who have been financially ruined by their ‘crooked lawyers’ have prompted the Law Society of Scotland to issue a stern rejection of statements made in the latest annual report of the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission for 2011, published Friday, that the outcome of compensation claims made by clients to the Guarantee Fund are influenced “by factors other than the merits of the claims” such as corruption, intervention by Law Society officials to halt claims going ahead, and an institutional prejudice against consumers trying to recover money stolen by Scottish solicitors.

The Law Society is ‘so upset’ by the allegations, they have now called in Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill to bully ‘clarify’ the SLCC into withdrawing the claims.

slcc annualreport online 2011_Page30Claiming the obvious L Law Society Guarantee Fund is crooked, dishonest and claims are fiddled. The damaging claims made in the latest annual report of the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission (SLCC) which have prompted the row between the two legal complaints regulators, state : "There is a statistical relationship between the number and total value of the claims made on the fund in the same year as an individual claim, and the level of payment made in individual claims. This suggests that the outcome of claims is influenced by factors other than the merits of the claims". The claims are a result of research the SLCC commissioned into the Scottish Solicitors Guarantee Fund which supposedly exists to protect clients who have lost money as a result of the dishonesty of a solicitor. However, according to key SLCC insiders who spoke to Diary of Injustice earlier in the year, the research commissioned by the SLCC into the Guarantee Fund suffered a significant degree of control freakery, constant interference & a lack of cooperation from the Law Society of Scotland who wanted to control the entire project, and would rather the research not be published.

The Law Society of Scotland, angry at the claims issued a Press Release, rejecting any notion its 'attempt’ at consumer protection is little more than consumer fraud states : The Society has today rejected this assertion as wholly misleading as the merit of the individual claim remains the only consideration when considering the outcome of that claim and any subsequent payment from the Guarantee Fund.  This was clearly explained to the SLCC in meetings and in written correspondence from the President of the Society, all in advance of today's report publication.

With the SLCC annual report being laid before the Scottish Parliament, the Society has today written to the Cabinet Secretary for Justice and opposition justice spokespeople to clarify the situation and give a more accurate picture.

Alistair Morris, convener of the Society's Guarantee Fund committee, said: "It is deeply frustrating that the SLCC suggests the outcome of Guarantee Fund claims are influenced by factors beyond the merits of the claim, especially when we have made it clear verbally and in writing that such a suggestion is wholly wrong.  It is even more concerning that the SLCC do not even refer to those assurances from the Society in their report. The Society co-operated fully with the SLCC when it commissioned research into the Guarantee Fund earlier this year. However we raised significant concerns at the misleading and potentially damaging interpretation of raw statistical data relating to the Guarantee Fund which suggests that the amount paid out in any claim is dependent on the sums held in the fund at any one time. We have made it clear to the SLCC, both verbally and in writing, that all Guarantee Fund claims are considered entirely on a case by case basis and on their own merit, regardless of the funds held. It is extremely disappointing that the SLCC annual report now risks misleading people into thinking that the outcomes of Guarantee Fund claims go beyond their individual merits. “

Mr Morris continued : "There are significant reserves held in the Guarantee Fund currently. Additionally, it is backed by Stop Loss Insurance amounting to £6 million and the legislation covering the Fund allows the Society to levy members if we faced circumstances where there were insufficient funds in the Guarantee Fund and Stop Loss Cover to cover the cost of a claim. Following our discussions with the SLCC we were informed that it intended to commission further research as a result of some of these initial findings. I hope this goes ahead and there will be an opportunity to demonstrate that this statement contained within the annual report laid before the Scottish Parliament is inaccurate and misleading."

Commenting to Diary of Injustice today, an SLCC insider said the law complaints quango had only pursued the Guarantee Fund issue because of criticism from law reform campaigners & investigations carried out by Diary of Injustice into the Scottish Solicitors Guarantee Fund, revealing in an earlier article published in 2009 the Law Society's 'Guarantee Fund' for clients of crooked lawyers revealed as multi million pound masterpiece of claims dodging corruption

Earlier in September 2011, Diary of Injustice reported on the SLCC’s slightly controversial report into the Guarantee Fund which has now caused the apparent fall out between the two regulators, here : DISASTER REPORT : Scottish Legal Complaints Commission study of Law Society “Guarantee Fund” suffers 13% turnout, finds clients ‘treated as criminals’

13% response disaster for SLCC report on Law Society’s crooked Guarantee Fund. A REPORT carried out by the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission (SLCC) into the notoriously corrupt “Scottish Solicitors Guarantee Fund”, a ‘client protection’ scheme operated by the Law Society of Scotland to compensate clients who have lost money because of theft by dishonest crooked lawyers & their staff has been hit by an ABYSMALLY low response of only NINETEEN replies from ONE HUNDRED & FORTY FIVE questionnaires (13%) after the Law Society refused to hand over client contact details to the SLCC & its selected research company who were investigating claims against crooked lawyers in Scotland. One client who did reply to the survey said claimants “were made to feel like a criminal” at Guarantee Fund hearings.

THE REPORT, carried out on behalf of the SLCC by Progressive, a research company based in Corstorphine Road, Edinburgh, claimed the Law Society of Scotland had REFUSED to hand over a detailed contact list of members of the public who had contacted or submitted claims to the Guarantee Fund over the past 5 years. The company & SLCC were left with NO CHOICE other than to leave the Law Society of Scotland to distribute the forms to clients that it felt should be provided with a questionnaire.

Jane IrvineJane Irvine, SLCC Chair left out critical mentions in report announcement. In its announcement publicised online, the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission DID NOT mention the low turnout of NINETEEN PARTICIPANTS in its Press Release, available HERE, nor did the SLCC publicise the fact the Law Society of Scotland distributed the forms themselves after REFUSING to hand over Guarantee Fund claimant details to the company preparing the report or the SLCC itself. Legal insiders have commented today the survey was badly handed by the SLCC who were branded by one official from a Scottish consumer organisation as “too close to the Law Society for comfort” and “unwilling at best to get to the truth”. I reported on just how badly this latest SLCC survey was being handled in an earlier article, here : CENSORED : Scottish Legal Complaints Commission's secret new Master Policy & Guarantee Fund research 'shuts out' real victims of crooked lawyers

Progressive, the firm conducting the survey on behalf of the SLCC said in their now published report : “Progressive was not able to receive a database of contact details from the Law Society of Scotland. As such the questionnaire packs were sent to LSS for labelling and distribution.”

“There were two categories of respondents on the Law Society of Scotland’s database and therefore two methods of distribution. For the first category, LSS had contact details for the claimant themselves so packs were sent directly to them. For the second, LSS’s database only contained details for the names of the claimants’ solicitors. In order to account for this, the questionnaire packs included an additional letter asking the solicitor to forward on to their client named on the front of the envelope.”

“In total, 145 questionnaires were distributed; 85 that went directly to claimants and 60 that went to claimants via their solicitor. In order to optimise the response rates to the survey reminder letters were sent to respondents halfway through the fieldwork period. The fieldwork period was also extended to give maximise the opportunity for claimants to respond.”

“Questionnaires were returned directly to Progressive in freepost envelopes. In total 19 completed questionnaires were returned for analysis, denoting a 13% response rate.”

It had been hoped to send questionnaires out to 250 people although for unexplained reasons and doubtless due to the fact the Law Society of Scotland were controlling distribution, only 145 eventually went out.

The company were further critical of the Law Society’s methods of distribution, stating “A large proportion of questionnaires were not sent directly to claimants. Sending questionnaires first to solicitors to pass on to their clients would have affected the likelihood of the questionnaires reaching them and also their likelihood of completing them.” Progressive further warned : “This is likely to impact response rates.”

The report also claims : “Missing information on labels. A few solicitors fed back that there was no client contact on the packs they were sent so were unable to forward these on, again, affecting the final response rate (at least 4 reported this to be the case)” and that some clients who were sent questionnaires by the Law Society of Scotland could not be traced because they had moved address.

The report went onto state all of those who eventually responded to the survey (NINETEEN PEOPLE IN FIVE YEARS) were suspiciously successful in their claim “to some extent” but even among those, there was still evidence of some dissatisfaction with the outcome and the decisions behind it. Clearly the Law Society of Scotland had chosen clients it thought would give the Guarantee Fund a better write up than others with more horrific experiences.

The report states : “Ten of our respondents were successful in their claim, all of whom were satisfied with the outcome. Six were partially successful and of these, four were dissatisfied.”

From the comments provided as to the reasons why, one respondent’s dissatisfaction stemmed from the perception that they were not provided with direct answers for the decision. Three comments related to respondents not receiving full compensation and feeling that the decision made and the reasons for it were not clearly explained to them.

One respondent to the survey stated : “It seemed as if the Scottish Solicitor’s Guarantee Fund were trying to pay as little as possible and were looking after their own interests. Again you were made to feel like a criminal at the hearing.” Another respondent said : “I was not fully compensated for a fraud that was not my fault but my solicitor's, who was now in jail and yet I had to suffer financially and with stress.”

Comments from the five people who provided reasons for their satisfaction expressed relief that the process had come to an end and they perceived that the Fund had worked well for them.

One respondent said : “Achieved desired outcome although would have preferred not to have gone through the process at all.”Another respondent said : “[Because] I felt that I could move forward and bring closure to the whole affair [as] I had felt very let down by the solicitor involved in my particular case.”

Bearing in mind the turnout for the report is so small, its findings & recommendations are very limited, due mostly to the notably poor advertising of the survey by the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission (who apparently wanted as small a number of participants as possible) and the fact the Law Society of Scotland were allowed to distribute the forms on their own, rather than identification & distribution be handed over to the report’s authors or an independent body.

Margaret Scanlan - Called to the Bars - Sunday Mail  15 March 2009 emailChancers Calling - SLCC Board Member Margaret Scanlan branded Guarantee Fund claimants as “chancers”. It should also be borne in mind SLCC Board Members have already expressed anti-client sentiment against claimants to the Guarantee Fund, where in one publicised incident, SLCC Board Member Margaret Scanlan raged against claimants to the Guarantee Fund, branding them “chancers” in a series of bitter emails revealed to the public by Freedom of Information legislation, revealed here : Officials pull FOI disclosures as Guarantee Fund "chancer" emails show Law Society anti-client bias has migrated to Legal Complaints Commission & here : MacAskill must clean up law complaints body as members 'booze culture conduct' reflects lack of discipline & will to investigate crooked lawyers

Speaking to Diary of Injustice this afternoon, a client who has been waiting FIVE YEARS for his claim to the Scottish solicitors Guarantee Fund to be paid after his solicitor stole nearly SEVENTY THOUSAND POUNDS from his client’s bank account, felt the argument between the SLCC & Law Society “is somewhat staged”. He went onto say it was his experience neither the Law Society or the SLCC can be trusted to properly regulate the legal profession in Scotland.

In spite of the Law Society’s condemnation of the claims contained in the SLCC’s annual report, it is now an established fact that claims against the Scottish Solicitors Guarantee Fund have been the subject of delaying tactics & corrupt attempts to prevent any payouts in most damages claims made by members of the public who have been left in financial ruin after growing numbers of Scottish lawyers have embezzled their clients funds.

More analysis of the  latest annual report of the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission for 2011 will be published during the week.

Identity of Mr Big who paid for ‘hitman’ to slash Law Society ex Chief Accountant ‘is known to Police’ as Robert Graham gets ELEVEN years for attack

Robert Leiper Graham was sentenced to eleven years for attack on Law Society’s Chief Accountant Leslie Cumming. ROBERT GRAHAM (46), the ‘hitman’ who was convicted in mid November 2011 by a majority jury verdict after being extradited from Australia to face trial for carrying out an attack on Leslie Cumming the now retired Chief Accountant of the Law Society of Scotland,  was sentenced to ELEVEN YEARS earlier this week on Thursday at the High Court in Edinburgh for his part in what was alleged to have been an attempted murder bid rather than ‘a wounding’ (as key legal insiders suspect) to warn Mr Cumming off investigating ‘crooked lawyers’.

The mysterious attack on Leslie Cumming in 2006, was the subject of private briefings given by the Law Society’s most senior officials, seeking to blame the attack on critics of the legal profession yet only one single newspaper ran the Law Society’s claims after it had become clear the attack was most likely organised by a crooked colleague of Mr Cumming connected to or from within the legal profession itself.

Reported on BBC News and in the Daily Record newspaper, Judge John Morris QC, passing sentence in Edinburgh, told Graham: "You have been convicted by a jury of a pre-meditated and sustained murderous attack on a member of the public going about his lawful business, and you did that apparently for financial gain.” He continued : "In these circumstances I'm sure you'll appreciate a substantial custodial sentence is appropriate." Judge Morris also recommended deportation for Graham after he had served his sentence.

While Graham has never admitted who paid him to carry out the attack, it is widely accepted Police are well aware of the identity of the villain(s), reported to be connected to Scotland’s legal world. However as of yet, no steps have been taken to arrest anyone else in connection with the 2006 attack, casting doubt on the ability of Lothian & Borders Police to get the individuals behind the crime, whose identity & position some say “may be causing fear & alarm in legal circles for the opening of a larger can of worms if additional arrests are ever made.”


During the trial, Graham denied attempting to murder the Law Society accountant, claiming he did not assault Mr Cumming, rather he intervened in the attack, (allegedly carried out by another party) to stop Mr Cumming getting “a bigger hiding”. Graham also told the court he was born in Ireland as Paul Francis McGhee before emigrating to New Zealand at the age of nine but in Britain he called himself Robert Graham. The court also heard from a witness that Graham had confessed to a colleague that he had "done a judge in" and was paid £10,000 by a guy in a BMW to give him "a good working over".

The witness who told the court of the alleged boast by Graham, scaffolder Nicholas Wells said he started work at Wembley Stadium in January 2006 and Graham joined a few weeks later. In a statement to police, he said: "He told me around this time he had done a judge in in Edinburgh, having jumped out some bushes at him. I can recall him telling me the guy from the BMW paid him £10,000 to do the job and told him to give the guy a good working over." Mr Wells told the court he had been approached by the police at a site he was working on in Edinburgh in 2009. Asked if he had told them the truth, Wells replied: "As I remember it at the time." He added: "I was taking a lot of drugs at the time. I was taking a lot of sleeping tablets ... it is hard to remember it all clearly now."

The court heard that during the assault, Mr Cumming grasped the balaclava worn by the attacker in an attempt to pull it off while further DNA evidence was recovered from the Barbour jacket Mr Cumming was wearing at the time of the attack. Additional DNA material was taken from Mr Cumming before doctors treated his wounds, and the DNA was linked back to Graham in tests.

At the conclusion of the trial, John Logue, Area Procurator Fiscal for Lothian & Borders, said: “In 2006 Robert Graham targeted and tried to kill Leslie Cumming because he was paid to do so. Today, almost six years later, he has been found guilty of this vicious and cowardly attack after being extradited from Australia.”

Mr Logue continued : “He was brought to justice by the perseverance and diligence of officers in Lothian and Borders Police who tracked him down, assisted by Interpol and authorities in New Zealand and Australia. I hope that today’s successful prosecution will secure the confidence of the Scottish public that those who try to evade justice will be pursued and brought before the courts.”

Commenting after the majority verdict convicted Robert Graham of the attack on Mr Cumming, the Solicitor General for Scotland, Lesley Thomson QC, said : "He uses the name Robert Leiper Graham in this country and Paul Francis McGhee in New Zealand. The Crown is not in a position to say he is either of these people at this stage." Ms Thomson also said when Graham left New Zealand in 1999 there was an outstanding warrant out for him and that a notice had been served on him in a move to deport him from Britain.

Leslie Cumming, former Law Society of Scotland’s Chief Accountant. At the end of the trial, Mr Cumming commented : "The police perseverance and professionalism and the Crown Office input have been vital in securing the result. It's important to me that I got that closure and I just want to thank the members of the team who were involved in this complicated case for their efforts on my behalf. The actual event was horrific and bloody and having to explain to the court in such detail as we could recall at this time was traumatic for my wife and me. I hope now the trial is complete and the result is known that this nightmare has ended for us and we can get back to normal life."

However, the multi million pound investigation carried out by Lothian & Borders Police and the subsequent conviction of Robert Graham left more questions than answers over why the attack occurred in 2006, who allegedly paid Graham to carry our the attack and why Law Society of Scotland officials and a media outlet were so keen to pin the blame for the attack on critics & campaigners in a year where the Scottish Parliament had begun a major investigation into the Law Society of Scotland and its notoriously prejudiced closed shop handling of the regulation of crooked lawyers.

Over the years, insiders have claimed the Police have a good idea of exactly who ordered the attack on Mr Cumming, some even linking up the incident to other well reported frauds in Scotland which involved millions of pounds, well known crooked solicitors and a banker. However Lothian & Borders Police have said nothing officially on any of these claims.

The answer to the attack may well lie in Leslie Cumming's role with the Law Society of Scotland, where as its Deputy Chief Executive and Chief Accountant, Mr Cumming was in charge of teams of inspectors who audit the financial accounts of law firms to ensure compliance with the Law Society’s rules (rules to keep accounts, not rules to rip off clients as much as possible and undetected). Mr Cumming was also involved in disciplinary cases, of which there are many, many resulting in no criminal convictions where, for example a solicitor might make off with half a million pounds from a deceased’s client will, and get away with it, and be allowed to carry on working.

It is also noteworthy Mr Cumming in his role as Deputy Chief Executive played number two to the also now former Chief Executive Douglas Mill, who resigned in disgrace after a scandal involving the fiddling of Master Policy insurance claims against crooked lawyers which was exposed by the now Cabinet Secretary for Finance, John Swinney during a meeting of the Justice 2 Committee later the same year Cumming was attacked. The video footage of Mr Swinney’s exposure of Douglas Mill & the Law Society’s Master Policy fraudulent insurance fiddle scheme, can be viewed online HERE.

The conviction of Graham for the assault on Mr Cumming also closes the book on the Law Society’s attempt to fit-up critics & campaigners for the 2006 incident, where it was reported, senior Law Society officials had even provided statements to Police urging them to ‘collar’ persons the Law Society ‘did not get along with’.

Law Society of Scotland officials used Police, newspapers in attempt to link their critics to attack on Chief Accountant Leslie Cumming The Law Society of Scotland has of course, declined to explain why its senior officials gave private briefings to newspaper journalists just after the attack on Mr Cumming in late January of 2006, urging the publication of stories which were intended to pin the blame for the assault on Mr Cumming on critics & law reform campaigners who were seeking an end to self regulation of the legal profession (Cash laundering link to law chief stabbing, 29 January 2006, Scotland on Sunday). However, journalists at the time identified those at the Law Society who were involved in the private briefings & telephone calls to newspapers. Strangely, not one Law Society official was identified in the Scotland on Sunday story despite the highly charged accusations levelled against critics & law reform campaigners published in the paper.

A spokesperson for the Law Society of Scotland said of Mr Cumming at the end of the trial : "He was a dedicated and popular member of staff and the attack was a great shock to his former colleagues. Leslie was determined not to let the attack stop him from living life to the full and he has done that in so many ways."

Like his former Boss, Douglas Mill who has a consultancy business, Leslie Cumming now runs his own consultancy business, Leslie Cumming Consultancy Services.

The trial of Robert Graham at the High Court in Edinburgh commenced on 7 November 2011 and last for 9 days. It was prosecuted by the Solicitor General for Scotland, Lesley Thomson QC, who was the Procurator Fiscal in the abandoned Fatal Accident Inquiry into the death of a young girl who was massively overdosed with radiation, the Crown Office made the usual claims “lessons will be learned”.

Mr Logue’s claims that those who try to evade justice will be pursued & brought before the courts apparently do not apply to lawyers who swindle millions of pounds from the legal aid budget each year in multiple frauds, as revealed by Diary of Injustice in an earlier report here : FOURTEEN lawyers accused of multi-million pound legal aid fraud escape justice as Scotland’s Crown Office fail to prosecute all cases in 5 years

In a double slap to Mr Logue’s contentions of what happens to those who evade justice, one of the FOURTEEN alleged legal aid fraudster lawyers who escaped prosecution by the Crown Office, was/is married to one of Mr Logue’s own Procurator Fiscal colleagues, reported here : Admissible Evidence ? Crown Office Prosecutor married to lawyer accused of legal aid fraud, both still working, Legal Aid Board ‘convinced of guilt’

Diary of Injustice previous coverage of the attack on Leslie Cumming and the saga of the trial of Mr Graham can be read here : The blame game & who paid for attack on Law Society Chief accountant Leslie Cumming

Friday, December 16, 2011

Scots public support strengthening of Freedom of Information laws says Information Commissioner in final speech to Holyrood FOI Conference

dunionScotland’s Information Commissioner Kevin Dunion calls on Scottish Govt to strengthen FOI legislation. THE outgoing Scottish Information Commissioner Mr Kevin Dunion has today called on the Scottish Government to strengthen & extend Scotland’s FREEDOM OF INFORMATION laws after new research revealed 91% of the Scottish public view FOI as an important way to hold public bodies to account for their spending decisions, and over 80% want FOI extended to cover other bodies that provide public services. The Commissioner, who has today delivered his final keynote address to the Annual Holyrood Freedom of Information Conference, also warned AGAINST changes which might limit the public's access to information, in light of evidence that being charged for information would deter 64% of people from making an FOI request.

Speaking on the eve of the conference, Kevin Dunion said: "Freedom of information has been a success story in Scotland, and public awareness of the law is at an all time high. However, there are clearly a number of areas where the law would benefit from further clarification and enhancement, and we await the Scottish Government's proposals. More generally, I have long called for FOI to be extended to a greater range of organisations, particularly in light of the loss of rights that occurs from changes in the way that public services are delivered. We are in danger of falling behind the rest of the UK where, unlike Scotland, designation of bodies such as the Association of Chief Police Officers has already taken place. Furthermore, the Westminster Government has indicated its intention to designate many more bodies including the Law Society and the Local Government Association.”

Mr Dunion added : "Where amendments to the law are being considered we must be extremely cautious about any suggestion that the FOI right should be restricted, for example through wider exemptions or the introduction of increased fees for requesters. We know from the experience overseas that this can have a very damaging effect on the public's uptake of FOI. The research published today shows that a significant proportion of the Scottish public - 64% - believe they would be put off making an FOI request if they had to pay to receive the information, and this figure is even higher among more vulnerable groups, such as young people and the unemployed."

Freedom of Information legislation has played a particularly important role in revealing just how inefficient & anti-consumer the Scottish legal services market is regulated by bodies such as the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission, where consumers have faced regular & overt prejudice in the SLCC’s dealings with complaints made by members of the public against their solicitors. FOI also revealed earlier this year how corrupt usage of self regulation of the legal profession has led to millions of pounds of legal aid being stolen by solicitors who escaped criminal charges because their colleagues at the Crown Office did not gather enough evidence to prosecute.

The research, which was carried out by Ipsos MORI in December 2011 and can be downloaded via the  Commissioner's website or read online HERE here , also reveals that :

Awareness of FOI is at its highest level, with 80% of respondents stating that they were aware of the law, compared to 76% during the previous wave in 2009,

89% of respondents agree that it is important for the public to be able to access information held by public authorities,

Even in straitened times for the public sector, 77% disagreed with the suggestion that FOI was a waste of public money, with only 14% agreeing.

There is strong public support for FOI to be extended to cover additional organisations, with:

88% agreeing that trusts providing services on behalf of local authorities should be covered,
82% agreeing that housing associations should be covered,
83% agreeing that private sector companies who build and maintain local authority schools or hospitals should be covered,
73% agreeing that prisons which are run by the private sector should be covered.

The research was undertaken as part of Ipsos MORI's Scottish Public Opinion Monitor, a telephone survey of 1,001 members of the public. Fieldwork was undertaken between 1 December and 4 December 2011. 64% of respondents agreed that they would be put off making an FOI request if they had to pay for the information. For respondents who described themselves as "not working" this figure was 70%, while it was 80% for respondents aged 18-24.

In September the Scottish Government's Programme for Government 2011-2012 included a Freedom of Information (Amendment) Bill, which is intended to add strength and clarity to the FOI legislation. The Government has announced its intention to publish a consultation paper on the Amendment Bill today which readers can find out more about on the Scottish Government's Consultations website with a direct link to the consultation on FOI here : Freedom of Information (Amendment) Bill

Margaret Scanlan - Called to the Bars - Sunday Mail  15 March 2009 emailFOI investigations revealed SLCC board members cared more about boozing-up & insulting consumers than prosecuting crooked lawyers. Freedom of Information legislation has played a particularly important role in revealing just how inefficient & anti-consumer the Scottish legal services market is regulated by bodies such as the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission, where consumers have faced bitter booze fuelled anti-client hate rants by the SLCC’s own board members & regular & overt prejudice in dealings with complaints made to the SLCC by members of the public against their solicitors. While FOI has revealed many problems at the SLCC, the Law Society of Scotland, Faculty of Advocates & Scottish Solicitors Discipline Tribunal remain exempt from FOI legislation due to a variety of excuses and an intense lobbying campaign from the legal profession for their own organisations to remain secret & unaccountable from the law & public opinion.

FOI also revealed earlier this year how corrupt usage of self regulation of the legal profession led to millions of pounds of legal aid being stolen by solicitors who escaped criminal charges because their colleagues at the Crown Office were not able to gather enough evidence to prosecute, even though lengthy investigations had already been conducted by the Scottish Legal Aid Board.


Kevin Dunion was appointed as the first Scottish Information Commissioner in February 2003. In February 2008 he was reappointed for a second, and final term. He will demit office at the end of February 2012. The Commissioner is responsible for enforcing and promoting Scotland's freedom of information laws. In January 2012, the Commissioner plans to lay a Special Report before the Scottish Parliament. The report will set out the Commissioner's views on the current state of Freedom of Information in Scotland. Find out more about the Scottish Information Commissioner’s work and FOI generally at

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Vested interests breathe sigh of relief as Lord Hamilton bans “Tweeting” in Scottish courts ‘for now’, while English ‘tweet on’ with judicial blessing

Lord Hamiltion TwitterSpot the difference : Scotland’s Lord President Lord Hamilton continues ban on tweets in Scottish Courts for now while England can tweet away. TWEETING from a mobile phone or other electronic device in a Scottish court is still likely to get you sent down for contempt of court “until full consideration can be given to formulating suitable guidance” said Scotland’s Lord President, Lord Hamilton today after the Lord Chief Justice of England & Wales cleared journalists & legal commentators to use text based devices such as mobile phones & laptops to communicate from court.

While the guidance from England’s courts confirm journalists & legal commentators south of the border can now tweet with judicial blessing & without asking the court’s prior permission, members of the public are still required to make an application to tweet.

A Press Release, issuing the guidance from the Lord Chief Justice of England & Wales states : Interim guidance on live, text based communications from courts in England and Wales was first issued on 20 December 2010, following which the Lord Chief Justice consulted widely including the media, the Secretary of State for Justice, the Attorney General and members of the public After considering the responses he has published NEW GUIDANCE

The Lord Chief Justice for England & Wales, said : “A fundamental aspect of the proper administration of justice is open justice. Fair, accurate and, where possible, immediate reporting of court proceedings forms part  of that principle,” Interim guidance on live, text-based communications from courts in England and Wales was first issued on 20 December 2010, following which the Lord Chief Justice consulted widely including the media, the Secretary of State for Justice, the Attorney General and members of the public.

Under the interim guidance journalists had to make an application to the judge to request permission to use electronic devices to send text. The new guidance makes clear that there is no longer any need for representatives of the media/legal commentators to make an application to use text-based devices to communicate from court. Members of the public should make a formal or informal application if they wish to use these devices. Use of devices should not cause a disturbance or distraction. The judge always retains full discretion to prohibit live, text based communications from court, in the interests of justice. The “paramount question” for the judge in deciding whether to allow live text-based communications is whether it may interfere with the administration of justice. “the danger ….is likely to be at its most acute in the context of criminal trials, eg where witnesses who are out of court may be informed of what has already happened in court and so coached or briefed before they then give evidence” or where legal discussions in the absence of the jury may appear on the internet and be seen by jury members.

The guidance emphasises that anyone using electronic text is strictly bound by the existing restrictions on reporting court proceedings, under the Contempt of Court  Act 1981. Photography in court remains strictly forbidden under the Criminal Justice Act 1925.

Responding to the development in England & Wales, Scotland’s Lord President Lord Hamilton issued a statement continuing the ban on tweets & the use of electronic devices in Scotland’s Courts. Lord Hamilton said : “I note the Guidance issued today by the Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales on the use of live text based communication from court.  I will give full consideration to this Guidance and its implications with a view to formulating suitable Guidance in Scotland”.

The statement from the judicial office for Scotland went onto say “Currently the permission of the court is required to use devices that allow live text based communication from court.  That position remains unchanged.”

Tweets were first used in the trial of Tommy Sheridan earlier this year, where the judge, Lord Bracadale agreed tweets could be used in court for the first time in the perjury case' sentencing phase which also saw leaks of interview tapes from Lothian & Borders Police of Mr Sheridan’s wife being accused of adopting ‘terrorist tactics’ of looking at a fixed position during interrogation. No inquiry has ever taken place into who at Lothian & Borders Police leaked the tapes to a media organisation and no one has been arrested for leaking the tapes, an act which is thought to be a criminal offence in itself.

Clearly Scottish Courts may not be too happy about court observers tweeting yet another crooked lawyer or some other vested interest managed to wriggle out of a court case against them … possibly because Twitter would end up collapsing under the weight of Tweets of injustice … or that the numbers might start adding up on who is actually being provided access to justice in Scotland … not ordinary Scots, that’s for sure.