Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Deputy First Minister to look into death of baby McKenzie Wallace after parents complain of ‘whitewash’ report by SPSO investigator Eileen Masterman

Death of baby McKenzie Wallace montageHealth Minister to look into NHS failures in case of death of baby in NHS Forth Valley hospital & SPSO report whitewash. SCOTLAND’S DEPUTY FIRST MINISTER Nicola Sturgeon has said she will look into the case of the death of little baby McKenzie Wallace at an NHS Forth Valley hospital after an exclusive report in the Sunday Mail newspaper revealed the baby’s grieving parents have fought a long & difficult battle to get answers over why little McKenzie died. The report in the Sunday Mail also revealed NHS Forth Valley FAILED to pick up on a rare heart defect in the couple’s baby which should have been detected during a 20 week scan but was missed after the scan, conducted by a trainee under the supervision of an experienced midwife was not properly interpreted. However, a senior consultant obstetrician who later studied the ultrasound pictures from the Stirlingshire hospital found a heart problem was visible and had been missed by both the midwife & the trainee.

On receipt of a further report into the tragedy, the family have accused the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman (SPSO) ‘Complaints Reviewer’, Eileen Masterman of producing a ‘whitewash’ report in the SPSO’s investigation of their complaints against NHS Forth Valley regarding the deadly failures in the provision of medical services which ultimately led to the death of McKenzie Wallace just five days after she was born.

While the death of baby McKenzie has been a terrible toll in itself for the family to bear, the nightmare continued when their complaints to NHS Forth Valley over the events which led to the death of their child were mishandled, leading to the family using Freedom of Information legislation to uncover more facts not disclosed by NHS Forth Valley during their investigations and ultimately, making a complaint to the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman who used an unnamed ‘expert’ to exonerate the hospital’s role in the death of the child.

The files accumulated by the family in their complaint to NHS Forth Valley can be read here : Complaint to NHS Forth Valley - Death of Baby McKenzie Wallace The responses received from NHS Forth Valley can be viewed here : NHS Forth Valley FOI - Death of Baby McKenzie Wallace and the report by the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman into the way the hospital handled the case, can be viewed here : SPSO Report - Death of Baby McKenzie Wallace

m2Former SLCC Chief Executive Eileen Masterman wrote SPSO report which exonerated negligent medical staff at NHS Forth Valley. In what may come as a surprise to many, the author of the SPSO report now branded a whitewash is none other than Eileen Masterman, former Chief Executive of the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission (SLCC), who took a six month sick leave from the SLCC and then employed teams of lawyers to negotiate a massive SECRET PAYOFF so large & subject to such a complex agreement, the secret deal was required to be signed off personally by Scotland’s Justice Secretary, Kenny MacAskill. Legal insiders commenting on the case said today they were shocked to see Eileen Masterman show up again at the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman so soon after resigning under a cloud from the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission, with an official explanation of “ill health”.

mkmc slcc openingFOI investigations by Diary of Injustice revealed Justice Secretary MacAskill personally signed off secret unpublished payment to Eileen Masterman. One Scottish Government insider who now claims he “did not agree with the terms of the settlement as put to Mr MacAskill” said the Justice Secretary was out on a limb over his involvement in the secret payoff to Masterman. The insider called for all details of the negotiations involving Ms Masterman, the SLCC & the Scottish Government along with the amount of the secret payoff to be made public.

The Scottish Government insider said : “Clearly there is a public confidence issue here were someone can resign from the highly controversial and underperforming Scottish Legal Complaints Commission claiming ill health and then go back to work at the highly questionable Scottish Public Services Ombudsman who have similar public confidence issues. There must be full transparency here otherwise there can be no confidence in the SPSO.”

One senior solicitor who does not wish to be named has already claimed the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission had been told during the “bitter negotiations” that “Eileen Masterman’s health was so bad that she may never work again”. It has also been alleged that involvement from Cabinet Secretary for Finance John Swinney, who accused Ms Masterman of lying over secret meetings she took part in with convicted US insurers Marsh who handle the Law Society of Scotland’s notoriously corrupt Master Policy protection for negligent solicitors also ‘contributed to Ms Masterman’s alleged ill health’, an issue reported earlier by Diary of Injustice here : SLCC’s Eileen Masterman resigns, questions remain on attempt to mislead Cabinet Finance Chief John Swinney over secret meetings with insurers Marsh

However it appears after only a few months of leaving the SLCC, Eileen Ms Masterman was re-employed by Jim Martin, the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman, whose organisation was savaged last year by Scottish Government Minister Alex Neil during his testimony to the Scottish Parliament’s Petitions Committee, which Diary of Injustice reported along with video footage of Minister Neil’s testimony, here : Holyrood considers nine petitions against Scottish Public Services Ombudsman as Housing Minister dubbed ‘out of touch’ over accusations

The Sunday Mail newspaper spoke to the parents about their views of Ms Masterman’s report on the death of their baby. The Sunday Mail reported : “The couple have also criticised a report issued last month by Eileen Masterman, of the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman. She rejected the view of the Forth Valley doctor. Instead, she agreed with an unnamed expert who said there was no need for a second scan due to the limited nature of what could be seen. She said: “The advice indicated that, even if the scan had been done again, it would have been likely the results would have been the same.”

Andrew said: “I have no faith in Masterman. The SPSO have refused to say who the expert is or hand over their report. “McKenzie’s death cannot be for nothing. Some sort of lesson has to be learnt.”

spso-logoSPSO refused to issue any comment on Eileen Masterman’s report. The Scottish Public Services Ombudsman was asked for media comment on Ms Masterman’s position at the SPSO and to explain how she was able to return to work so soon. One of it’s Press Officers said : “I am sorry but we are unable to comment on the employment status of individuals. This would be unfair to those individuals and in breach of data protection.” Later, the SPSO angrily REFUSED to disclose any material in response to Freedom of Information requests regarding Ms Masterman’s apparent speedy return to work at the SPSO, with SPSO officials blocking all further attempts to secure disclosures via Freedom of Information legislation.

Nicola SturgeonScottish Deputy First Minister & Health Secretary Nicola Sturgeon MSP. Deputy First Minister & Scotland’s Health Secretary, Nicola Sturgeon was asked by Diary of Injustice for a comment on the tragic events and the SPSO’s handling of baby McKenzie’s parents complaints against NHS Forth Valley. Questions put by Diary of Injustice journalists to Ms Sturgeon, which were accompanied by papers relating to the case asked : “Has the Health Minister any comment on how the complaint involving the death of the baby has been handled, the fact this family have received little support in spite of what appears to be a cover up by NHS Forth Valley, and why can one individual who travels between regulators show up again in an old post to carry on her work after claiming she could never work again.”

A spokesperson for the Scottish Government replied to the questions put to the Health Secretary, stating : “The circumstances surrounding this event are extremely tragic, and our thoughts are with the parents. Where recommendations are made in an Ombudsman’s report, we expect NHS Boards to fully implement all necessary steps to ensure that similar circumstances do not recur.”

The spokesperson continued : “The SPSO is an organisation independent of the Scottish Government and as such appoints its own personnel. The circumstances surrounding any appointment of any individual is a matter for the SPSO.”

The parents of baby McKenzie have since received a letter from the Scottish Government replying on behalf of Scottish Health Secretary Nicola Sturgeon. Andrew & Joanne have now been told Ms Sturgeon has agreed to look at the papers relating to the circumstances of baby McKenzie’s death, and how Andrew & Joanne were treated by NHS Forth Valley & the SPSO. Ms Sturgeon also offered her condolences in the letter to Andrew & Joanne over baby McKenzie’s death. The parents of baby McKenzie have also asked for a meeting with Ms Sturgeon over the case.

Clearly, the tragic case of the death of little baby McKenzie Wallace, just five days into her live is yet another clear demonstration of medical negligence in the NHS and the cover ups which kick in to prevent any justice for the bereaved family. The family deserve answers and the life of a child cannot be lost in an SPSO report or a promise of “lessons will be learned” which are, as we are all now sadly too aware, never learned.

The Sunday Mail reports :

Grieving parents say medics missed tragic toddler's heart problem Sunday Mail March 25 2012Grieving parents say medics missed tragic toddler's heart problem

Mar 25 2012 Exclusive by Russell Findlay

HEARTBROKEN parents yesterday told how they fear a midwife missed their baby daughter’s fatal heart condition because she was in the huff. McKenzie Wallace died just five days after being born because of a heart defect linked to rare genetic disorder Ivemark syndrome.

But mum Joanne Weir, 27, and dad Andrew Wallace, 31, say the condition would have been picked up at a 20-week scan if the midwife had not been annoyed that they asked the sex of their baby. The scan was conducted by a trainee sonographer at Forth Valley Royal Hospital in Larbert and was supervised by an ­experienced midwife, who did not flag up any problems.

But a senior consultant obstetrician who studied the ultrasound pictures from the Stirlingshire hospital found a heart problem was visible. He also stated that “he would have suggested a repeat scan or asked for a second opinion”. As a result, the midwife who supervised the trainee was ordered to undergo further training. The couple said that a consultant at Yorkhill Hospital, Glasgow, agreed the heart defect – known as right atrial isomerism – should have been spotted.

Joanne, who is due to give birth again in 10 weeks at Edinburgh Royal, said: “It should have been glaringly obvious and was ‘too big to miss’, according to McKenzie’s consultant at Yorkhill.”

Fuel tanker driver Andrew, who lost a brother and an uncle to the genetic condition, said: “A trainee carried out the scan but the supervisor was so busy moaning at us for daring to ask if we were to buy blue or pink that she was obviously distracted.“Apparently it’s all right, though, because she has now been for training – but this should not have happened.

“We had to make the decision not to attempt to treat McKenzie as all options were horrific and had life-extending probabilities of less than a few months. Had we known she had this condition, we may have considered ­termination early in pregnancy as it was incredibly unfair to put McKenzie through that.”

The couple, from Bo’ness, Stirlingshire, also said that another midwife ignored their concern about McKenzie’s blue appearance when she was born at Stirling Royal Infirmary. During Joanne’s labour, a sewage pipe became blocked below the maternity ward, which caused chaos. Andrew said: “They were distracted. They should have listened to what I was saying about McKenzie turning blue.”

It took 24 hours before they admitted any problem and the baby was immediately sent to the Royal Hospital for Sick Children at Yorkhill. From there, McKenzie was sent to the Rachel House Hospice in Kinross, where she died in her parents’ arms on February 18 last year.

The couple have also criticised a report issued last month by Eileen Masterman, of the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman. She rejected the view of the Forth Valley doctor. Instead, she agreed with an unnamed expert who said there was no need for a second scan due to the limited nature of what could be seen. She said: “The advice indicated that, even if the scan had been done again, it would have been likely the results would have been the same.”

Andrew said: “I have no faith in Masterman. The SPSO have refused to say who the expert is or hand over their report. “McKenzie’s death cannot be for nothing. Some sort of lesson has to be learnt.”

The NHS said: “We carried out an internal review and could find no evidence of errors in the clinical care provided by staff.”

Monday, March 26, 2012

‘Fear of the front page’ provokes Crown Office condemnation over media’s publication of SCCRC Lockerbie miscarriage of justice report

COPFS Bonuses Lord AdvoccateCrown Office hit out at media publication of report alleging miscarriage of justice in Lockerbie trial. AS surely as night follows day, Scotland’s institutionally inept and always-willing-to-hide-a-judge’s-criminal-record Crown Office & Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS) have hit back today at the Sunday Herald’s publication (yesterday) of the Statement of Reasons issued by the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission (SCCRC) in connection with the case of Abdelbaset Al Megrahi, in which the SCCRC appear to have sided with the vast majority of legal and non legal minds over the conclusion Mr Al Megrahi may well have been unjustly convicted by an unjust Scottish pantomime court based in the Netherlands.

Within the Crown Office statement, issued earlier today, it was stated “It is not appropriate or helpful to seek to try a case in the media. The only place to determine guilt or innocence is in a court of law. The trial court accepted that this was an act of State sponsored terrorism and that Megrahi did not act alone.”

Shooting the messenger is a favourite tactic of the Crown Office, particularly when any resulting publicity portrays Scotland’s prosecution service as anything less than perfect.

Therefore, news reports of the Crown Office being institutionally racist, instructionally corrupt, institutionally vindictive, or just plain paying themselves tens of thousands of pounds in bonuses, or covering up millions of pounds of legal aid theft by solicitors and seeing to it no one is prosecuted, and of course, more recently, concealing the criminal records of members of the judiciary, some of whom seem to have been giving the Lord Advocate’s PF’s their desired verdicts in trials, are not welcome in Chambers Street, and certainly not welcome in four feet high headlines in the press.

Clearly in the case of the Lockerbie Trial, the media, and campaigners are more interested & motivated at getting to the truth of what happened over Lockerbie, Scotland in December 1988 than the Crown Office, or indeed the same discredited justice system which originally convicted Abdelbaset Al Megrahi in 2001, and which, we are now told by the Crown Office, should be relied upon once more to determine guilt or innocence.

Of course, it is a given that any appeal in connection with Mr Megrahi’s conviction must be decided by a Scottish court. However, as we have seen time & time again in Scottish courts, a very prejudicial venue where the Crown Office & their Procurators Fiscals seem to have the run of the playground, the question Scots may now wish to ask themselves is, can any of our judges now be trusted to come clean over the growing feeling their colleagues brought about a serious miscarriage of justice in the original Lockerbie Trial, and went on to cause many more miscarriages of justice to cover it up ?

The Crown Office Press Release attacking Scotland’s Sunday Herald :


The Crown notes the publication today by the Sunday Herald of the Statement of Reasons of the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission in the case against Megrahi.

The Commission was working to facilitate the publication with appropriate protection for all of the persons named in it taking account of their human rights [articles 2 and 8] and issues of confidentiality. The unauthorised publication by the Sunday Herald today does not deal with any of these issues which rightly constrain all public authorities by law.

We have become very concerned at the drip feeding of selective leaks and partial reporting from parts of the Statement of Reasons over the last few weeks in an attempt to sensationalise aspects of the contents out of context.

Persons referred to in the Statement of Reasons have been asked to respond to these reports without having access to the statement of reasons and this is to be deplored. Further allegations of serious misconduct have been made in the media against a number of individuals for which the Commission found no evidence. This is also to be deplored. In fact the Commission found no basis for concluding that evidence in the case was fabricated by the police, the Crown, forensic scientists or any other representatives of official bodies or government agencies.

Other matters of significance are:

1. The SCCRC found nothing to undermine the trial court’s conclusions about the timer fragment, namely that it was part of a timer manufactured by a Swiss company, MEBO, to the order of the Libyan intelligence services.

2. The SCCRC report confirms that Tony Gauci was paid a reward by US authorities only after the first appeal.

3. No inducements or promises of reward were made by US and Scottish Law enforcement prior to his evidence being given.

4. At no stage was he offered any inducement or reward by Scottish authorities who acted with complete propriety throughout the case

5. The SCCRC recognised that Tony Gauci was not motivated by money and that he had allegedly been made an offer to go to Tripoli and be rewarded “by Libyan Government officials”

With regard to the differing accounts by Megrahi the Commission noted that:

i. There were inconsistencies and differences in account between his statements to an investigative journalist, his defence team and the SCCRC in matters of significance.

ii. He had “personal relationships” with various members of the Libyan intelligence services, including Senussi and accepted that he had been seconded to the Libyan intelligence services (JSO) and that Said Rashid was his superior in the JSO.

iii. Senussi was involved in his secondment to Libyan intelligence services (JSO).

iv. He had travelled with a Colonel in the Libyan intelligence services (JSO) on a false passport in 1987

v. Megrahi gave the Commission conflicting accounts of his connection to the Libyan intelligence services (JSO)

vi. Megrahi confirmed he had knowledge of a man in Spain who was assassinated because he was allegedly an American spy

vii. Megrahi has given a number of different explanations to his lawyers and the Commission about his presence in Malta and use of a false passport on 21 December 1988

viii. The SCCRC believed “there was a real risk that the trial court would have viewed his explanations … as weak or unconvincing” “In particular, the Commission notes the unsatisfactory nature of aspects of their (Megrahi and Fhimah) explanations and the various contradictions which are apparent both within and between their accounts.

Although it is possible there are innocent reasons for these deficiencies, they do lead the Commission to have reservations about the credibility and reliability of both as witnesses.”

The commission's role is to conduct an investigation and determine whether there may have been a miscarriage of justice. It does not follow that there was a miscarriage of justice, only the Appeal Court can decide that. It should be noted that not all referrals by the SCCRC result in convictions being overturned; less than half of convictions referred to the Appeal are overturned.

In preparing for Megrahi’s second appeal [which followed the Commission's report] the Crown had considered all the information in the Statement of Reasons and had every confidence in successfully defending the conviction in the Appeal Court for a second time. Although it is entirely a matter for the Commission if the case is referred again to the Appeal court the Crown will defend the conviction.

It is not appropriate or helpful to seek to try a case in the media. The only place to determine guilt or innocence is in a court of law. The trial court accepted that this was an act of State sponsored terrorism and that Megrahi did not act alone.

Investigations will continue to bring the others involved in the murder of 270 persons to justice. As a result the Crown will be making no further comment on the evidence in the case and on the Statement of Reasons.

Notably, the First Minister welcomed the Sunday Herald’s publication of the SCCRC’s statement, more on which can be read at Scottish Law Reporter Crown Office ‘misled court’ : SCCRC statement on Lockerbie Trial reveals possible miscarriage of justice over conviction of Abdelbaset Al Megrahi

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Reform of civil justice & court costs ‘a dying duck’ : Lawyers vested interests respond to Scottish Government’s Taylor Review

Taylor Review Page Cover_Page1Taylor Review consultation will fail to address, reform Scotland’s rip-off justice system. NEARLY FOUR YEARS AGO, the Lord Justice Clerk, Lord Gill issued his Civil Courts Review, describing Scotland’s justice system as “… a Victorian model that had survived by means of periodic piecemeal reforms. But in substance its structure and procedures are those of a century and a half ago. It is failing the litigant and it is failing society.” The well respected judge who some hope will replace Lord Hamilton as Lord President, went onto criticise the civil justice system even further, leaving little doubt in anyone’s mind of the futility of using Scotland’s civil courts, saying “Its delays are notorious. It costs deter litigants whose claims may be well-founded. Its procedures cause frustration and obstruct rather than facilitate the achievement of justice”. The Scottish Government’s response to Lord Gill’s two year Civil Courts Review was, more talk, and little action, and adding insult to injury, a review of Lord Gill’s review, branded the Taylor Review.

Over a year after Lord Gill had issued his highly critical findings on Scotland’s Victorian civil justice system, the Scottish Government announced their plans, with a proviso many of the ‘reforms’ would take years to implement, if ever. This was reported here : Scottish Government’s response to Civil Courts Review : Class Actions, more cases to Sheriff Courts, & faster, easier access to justice ‘over years’ and finally in 2011, the Scottish Government announced a review of Lord Gill’s review, seen by most as a time wasting exercise for vested interests, reported here : Scottish Government delay reforms on costs of litigation & access to justice as Minister announces 18 month 'time wasting' review by retired sheriff.

It took at least another six months before the Taylor Review team launched their consultation, covered by Diary of Injustice, here : Going to court is like being taken to the cleaners ? Participate in the Review of Expenses and Funding of Civil Litigation in Scotland Consultation.

While the Taylor Review has yet to report on, & recommend reforms to the way justice is obtainable (usually unobtainable) in Scotland, the vested interests of the legal profession have, predictably, released their own responses to the Taylor Review, giving little prospect of any changes to the ridiculous cost of litigating in Scotland’s civil courts.

Readers can view the legal profession’s responses to the Taylor Review at the following links : Response from the Law Society of Scotland, Law Society of Scotland’s Remuneration Committee on shortfall in judicial expenses, Response from the Faculty of Advocates, Response from the Glasgow Bar Association

Not withstanding the amount of time which has passed since Lord Gill’s critique on Scotland’s costly, antiquated civil justice system, nearly a full four years which have seen costs of going to court spiral in Scotland, there is little if anything in the responses from the legal profession which may contribute to any significant falls in the costs of obtaining justice in Scotland. Lets face it, lawyers are never going to concede justice could, and should become cheaper, simply because it affects their profits, and of course, the wider influence of the legal profession on public & political life in Scotland. Scots therefore, should not expect easier or cheaper access to justice anytime soon.


Lord Gill Lord Justice ClerkThe Lord Justice Clerk, Lord Gill, author of the Civil Courts Review. The Lord Justice Clerk, Lord Gill, in his speech to the Law Society of Scotland’s 60 year anniversary conference last year, reproduced in full here said : “The civil justice system in Scotland is a Victorian model that had survived by means of periodic piecemeal reforms. But in substance its structure and procedures are those of a century and a half ago. It is failing the litigant and it is failing society. It is essential that we should have a system that has disputes resolved at a judicial level that is appropriate to their degree of importance and that disputes should be dealt with expeditiously and efficiently and without unnecessary or unreasonable cost. That means that the judicial structure should be based on a proper hierarchy of courts and that the procedures should be appropriate to the nature and the importance of the case, in terms of time and cost. Scottish civil justice fails on all of these counts. Its delays are notorious. It costs deter litigants whose claims may be well-founded. Its procedures cause frustration and obstruct rather than facilitate the achievement of justice."

The Scottish Government’s full response to Lord Gill’s Civil Courts Review can be viewed online here : Scottish Government Response to the Report and Recommendations of the Scottish Civil Courts Review or can be downloaded directly, here : Scottish Government Civil Courts Review response (pdf)

Readers can download the Civil Courts Review report in pdf format, from the Scottish Courts Website at the following links : Volume 1 Chapter 1 - 9 (Covers McKenzie Friends, procedures, advice etc, 2.99Mb) Volume 2 Chapter 10 - 15 (Covers mainly the issue of Class (multi party) actions etc, 2.16Mb) Synopsis (215Kb)

Readers may also wish to gauge how Holyrood and the Scottish Government are treating the Civil Courts Review, from a report covering the last Holyrood debate on the subject, along with video footage, here : Holyrood debate reveals civil justice reforms & McKenzie Friends may be a long way off as Scottish Ministers stumble over Lord Gill review proposals

Diary of Injustice’ coverage of the Civil Courts Review from its publication to the present, can be found here : Civil Courts Review - The story so far.

Friday, March 16, 2012

ALL THE LORD PRESIDENT’S MEN : Benefits cheats, drunk drivers & tax dodgers, yet identities of convicted Scottish judges to remain secret for now

Courts Judges Scotland montageProsecutors & Lord President refuse to identify colleagues convicted of criminal offences. AN ongoing investigation by Diary of Injustice into the backgrounds of Sheriffs, High Court Judges & Senators of the Court of Session which has already revealed at least SEVEN Scottish judges have CRIMINAL CONVICTIONS for road traffic offences while others face charges involving BENEFITS FRAUD, featured in the Scottish newspapers earlier this week where msps including the Scottish National Party’s John Finnie joined calls for the Crown Office & Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS) to identify the accused benefits cheating judge, along with the remaining members of Scotland’s judiciary who are now known to have criminal convictions even though the Lord Advocate has claimed it is not in the public interest to release the identities of Scotland’s criminally convicted judges.

The investigation into judges backgrounds which has already turned up shifty relationships with criminal gangs, law firms who have serially defrauded clients on a massive scale, dodgy financial institutions, insurance companies convicted of criminal offences in foreign jurisdictions & other ‘vested interests’, both within the UK & in offshore tax havens, has now uncovered evidence of further cases where members of Scotland’s judiciary were interviewed by Police under caution yet were not charged despite the seriousness of some of the alleged offences ranging from assaulting wives or partners, to making threats against members of the public, and in at least one case, straying too close to an organised crime gang based in Glasgow.

Since the revelations were exclusively reported in the Sunday Mail newspaper last week and followed up by the Daily Record on Monday, further information has been provided to Diary of Injustice alleging at least one High Court judge was interviewed under Police caution in connection with liaisons with prostitutes & fears he may have strayed too close to organised crime gangs. No charges appear to have been made in the case and the judge was apparently allowed to retire and keep his substantial pension.

A legal insider told Diary of Injustice “…there is now concern within the Crown Office of accused persons or those already convicted of criminal offences may use the information to find out whether the judge at their trial has an undisclosed criminal record”. It has also been indicated to Diary of Injustice journalists that there is a strong possibility sheriffs found guilty of drink driving & road traffic offences have pronounced guilt on members of the public charged with similar offences.

The original disclosure from the Crown Office, released late in 2011 relating to the criminal convictions of members of Scotland’s judiciary stated :

COPFS CRIMINAL CHARGES JUDGES SCOTLAND• 3 contraventions of the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984, section 89 – all pled guilty – sentences of £120 and 4 penalty points; £400 and 6 penalty points and £140 and 3 penalty points.

• 1 contravention of the Road Traffic Act 1988, section 143 with an alternative charge of a contravention of section 165 of that Act – pled guilty to the alternative charge – sentence of £100

• 1 contravention of the Road Traffic Act 1988, section 5(1)(a) – pled guilty – sentence of £650 and disqualification from driving for 2 years

• 1 contravention of the Road Traffic Act 1988, section 3 – pled guilty – sentence of £200 and 4 penalty points

• 1 contravention of the Social Security Administration Act 1992, section 111A(1)(a) – plea of not guilty has been entered and the case is presently ongoing

However, the Crown Office REFUSED to release any further information on the cases, citing fears the public may be able to speculate on the nature & seriousness of the allegations & criminal charges made against the judges who Scotland’s prosecutors are increasingly relying on to hand down verdicts in cases where the Crown Office fails to present accurate or substantive evidence against accused.

Speaking for the Crown Office, Mr McGeechan continued : “The courts have indicated that the most important safeguard in that regard is an absolute guarantee against publication. In particular, I consider that the details of charges contained within a report to the Procurator Fiscal from the police or other reporting agency are not necessarily a reflection of any charges which the Procurator Fiscal may bring or deem appropriate and to release these to the public could cause speculation over an allegation without it having been tested in open court. Having considered the circumstances of this particular case, I have come to the conclusion that the public interest falls overwhelmingly in maintaining the exemptions in this instance.”

Mr McGeechan also admitted in one of the cases where ANOTHER judge had been charged with committing a criminal offence, there was “insufficient evidence to justify criminal proceedings”, a term now familiar in Scotland where members of the justice system appear to have escaped criminal proceedings on multiple occasions after ‘Crown Counsel” gave their usual ‘independent instructions’ not to proceed like in the case of the FOURTEEN LAWYERS who were not prosecuted for millions of pounds worth of LEGAL AID FRAUD after Crown Counsel gave similar instructions claiming a lack of evidence to prosecute.

The Crown Office were forced to admit : “The one case that was not prosecuted, having carefully considered the facts and circumstances of this case, Crown Counsel gave an independent instruction that there was insufficient admissible evidence to justify criminal proceedings.”

The information disclosed by the Crown Office, which can be viewed online here : Crown Office : Criminal Charges against Scottish Judges while the ongoing investigation by Diary of Injustice into members of Scotland’s judiciary has already revealed a series of judges appear to be involved in OFFSHORE TAX AVOIDANCE schemes, associations with convicted criminals & organised crime, prostitution rackets, accepting hospitality & payments from well known corrupt solicitors representing dodgy law firms while others on the bench are engaging in questionable investments & duties which appear to be in conflict with their positions as members of the judiciary. More on these findings can be read in an earlier article here : Offshore trusts, property holdings, insurance syndicates, hospitality from dodgy lawyers, yet no plans for a register of interests for Scottish judges

The Judiciary of Scotland were also asked, via Freedom of Information legislation for more details about the convictions, and what steps were taken after the judges joined the ranks of Scotland’s criminal fraternity, however the Judicial Office for Scotland claimed that as they held the information for the Lord President who is not accountable to FOI, they were not required to disclose it.

The Judicial Office for Scotland stated : “As far as your request for information relating to disciplinary measures taken against members of the Scottish judiciary is concerned, I can confirm that the Judiciary and Courts (Scotland) Act 2008 places a number of responsibilities on the Lord President as head of the Scottish judiciary including responsibility for matters regarding judicial conduct. In that regard the Lord President has issued a Statement of Principles of Judicial Ethics for the Scottish Judiciary and has made Complaints About the Judiciary (Scotland) Rules 2011 both of which can be accessed at However, the Lord President is not a public authority for the purposes of the 2002 Act. Accordingly he is not required by law to provide information in terms of that Act.”

The Judicial Office continued to evade disclosing the identities of the judges, stating further : “The Judicial Office for Scotland was established by the Scottish Court Service to provide administrative support to the Lord President in the discharge of his non-judicial functions as head of the judiciary in Scotland. Such information as is generated in that context including both matters regarding judicial conduct and matters relating to the type of criminal offences described above and which is in the possession of the Judicial Office for Scotland is generated for and held by the Judicial Office for the purposes of the Lord President and in our opinion falls within section 3(2)(a)(i) of the 2002 Act, i.e. held on behalf of another person. I therefore advise you that this information is not held by the Scottish Court Service. I refer you to section 17 of the 2002 Act. Your request for information regarding disciplinary measures about particular members of the Scottish judiciary is accordingly refused.”

The Judicial Office for Scotland also claimed the cost of locating, retrieving and producing the information sought would exceed the sum prescribed by Scottish Ministers in the Freedom of Information (Fees for Required Disclosure) (Scotland) Regulations 2004 (currently £600) and would therefore not be providing any further information on the judges criminal records.

The Judicial Office for Scotland, who are the representative body for Scotland’s judges and the Lord President himself, Lord Hamilton, were asked for comment on the revelations. No response has been received at time of publication.

The Crown Office was also asked for a statement on whether it would now name & shame the judges who were convicted of criminal offences, including cheating the benefits system. No response has been received. However it has been disclosed by legal insiders that “angry discussions” have taken place over the disclosure of the information relating to the criminal records of Scottish judges.

The Scottish Government were asked for comment, however no statement has been issued.

The Scottish Court Service were asked for comment on the issue, however they refused to be drawn into the scandal, saying : “As matters of judicial conduct are for the Lord President, the Scottish Court Service cannot offer comment.”

The new problems of Scotland’s judges with criminal records come after a series of scandals in the judiciary, dating back many years where in the late 1980’s, Lothian & Borders Police accused senior members of Scotland’s judiciary of being involved in a “Magic Circle” justice for sexual favours scandal, more of which can be read on Scottish Law Reporter, here : Magic Circle returns to haunt Scots Judiciary

Scotland’s judges again found themselves the centre of attention a few years later when a top High Court judge, Sheriff Andrew Lothian resigned after a scandal involving trips to massage parlours. It also transpired the now former Sheriff’s ex wife had made serious allegations to Lothian & Borders Police & the Crown Office over several years, yet prosecutors had failed to act, some now claim on orders from the most senior levels of Scotland’s legal establishment who “were fully aware of Sheriff Lothian’s activities at the time”. More on the antics of Sheriff Lothian can be read via the Sunday Mail newspaper here : HERE & HERE & the story from the Sheriff’s former wife, at the Sun newspaper, HERE

Since then, a series of judges have featured in media reports where in one case, a Sheriff attended a wedding of a fugitive drug runner, while another Sheriff faced difficult questions over his relationships with murder victim Angelika Kluk, who died in 2006 Glasgow at the hands of Peter Tobin, who was convicted of the murder in 2007.

Robert Anthony, a serving Scottish Sheriff reluctantly quit in 2010, after being found charged with drink driving offences, reported by the Daily Record HERE. Sheriff Anthony, 48, was alleged to have been almost three times the limit when he was breath-tested.He was suspended from duty in his Glasgow courtroom pending the outcome of the case but resigned ahead of an expected court appearance which resulted in a two year ban, reported by BBC News HERE.

The Sunday Mail & Daily Record reports on convicted members of Scotland’s judiciary :

Judge convicted of fraud Sunday Mail March 11 2012MYSTERY OF JUDGE CONVICTED OF FRAUD

Crown Office refuse to identify judge convicted of benefit fraud

Mar 11 2012 Exclusive by Russell Findlay

A JUDGE has been convicted of benefit fraud – but his or her name is being kept secret. The Crown Office are even refusing to say if the fraudster is a High Court judge, sheriff or justice of the peace.

Legal campaigner and blogger Peter Cherbi discovered he or she was one of six judges convicted of crimes since 2005. Five were found guilty of road traffic offences but one admitted fiddling benefits while he or she passed judgment on other criminals. Officials also refuse to reveal how much was stolen or where the fraud took place. The mystery judge was convicted under section 111A(1)(a) of the Social Security Administration Act 1992.

While this identity is protected, the Crown Office have issued two press releases in the past four months naming others convicted under exactly the same section. One of them, who asked not to be identified, said: “My name, date of birth and where I’m from are online. “It was wrong but it is even more important for the public to know about a judge convicted of the same fraud.”

Labour justice spokesman Lewis Macdonald MSP said: “I would have thought the same rules should apply for members of the public and judges.”

The Crown Office keep a “hard copy file” of the six but say keeping the details secret is in the “public interest”.

Cherbi said: “People in front of a judge should know if they have a criminal record – that’s in the public interest.” He also asked the Judicial Office of Scotland to reveal the name under freedom of information law, without success.

Pressure over Cheating Judge - Daily Record 12 March 2012PRESSURE OVER CHEATING JUDGE ;

MSP calls on Crown Office to reveal name of benefits cheat judge

Mar 12 2012 By Magnus Gardham

THE Crown Office came under fresh pressure yesterday to name a judge who has been convicted of benefit fraud. SNP MSP John Finnie, a member of Holyrood’s justice committee, added his weight to the demands for the cheating judge to be publicly identified.

It emerged at the weekend that six judges have been convicted of offences since 2005. Five were found guilty of road traffic offences but one of them admitted fiddling benefits. It is not known whether the person was a high court judge, a sheriff or a justice of the peace. Nor is it known how much cash was defrauded.

The Crown Office, who will not even confirm if the judge was male or female, insisted secrecy was “in the public interest”. But Finnie said yesterday: “The law should treat everyone equally, regardless of who they are and what they do, and this is something that should be looked into.”

The Crown Office often name and shame benefit fraudsters by issuing press releases about them. Campaigner Peter Cherbi, who uncovered the secrecy, said: “People in front of a judge should know if they have a criminal record.”

As there is no Judicial Register of Interests in Scotland at this time, there are little if no requirements for judges to disclose their criminal records or dodgy financial interests. However, a public petition has been filed with the Scottish Parliament on this matter, more of which can be read here : judicial register of interests. It is clearly time for Scotland to follow other jurisdictions around the world such as New Zealand who are moving ahead with a Register of Pecuniary Interests of Judges Bill.

Friday, March 09, 2012

SCANDAL : Legal Defence Union intervene in SLCC investigation over £670K Legal Aid lawyer who made Pensioner HOMELESS, STARVED to pay legal bills

SLCC Lockhart montageLegal Defence Union intervened in Complaints investigation of dodgy claims lawyer. A series of CONFIDENTIAL DOCUMENTS obtained by Diary of Injustice journalists investigating the closed world of regulation of Scottish solicitors have revealed the notorious LEGAL DEFENCE UNION (LDU) have intervened in an investigation being carried out by the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission (SLCC)) in response to complaints made by clients against Niels S Lockhart, the sole practising solicitor from Kilmarnock who was accused by the Scottish Legal Aid Board (SLAB) of making EXCESSIVE claims for taxpayer funded legal aid. A SLAB report revealed Lockhart walked away with a staggering SIX HUNDRED & SEVENTY TWO THOUSAND POUNDS of legal aid funds between April 2002 to March 2005 yet SLAB Chiefs said “..the the ranges of actions taken by Niels S. Lockhart towards achieving those payments are not those appropriate to a competent and reputable solicitor.”

In the shady deal done between the Law Society of Scotland, the Scottish Legal Aid Board and the Legal Defence Union over Legal Aid Chief’s demands Lockhart be investigated by the Law Society, it was revealed by Diary of Injustice and the Sunday Mail newspaper that solicitor James McCann of the Legal Defence Union had stepped in to prevent any further investigations or prosecutions of ‘their client’ Mr Lockhart. Diary of Injustice reported on the secret deal by the three legal organisations in an earlier article, here : One law for lawyers : Secret Report reveals Legal Aid Board, Law Society & Legal Defence Union ‘cosy relationship’ in Lockhart case

Diary of Injustice revealed in January of this year, the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission had been called in to investigate Mr Lockhart in an earlier article, here : TO BE OR NOT TO BE ? Lawyer who raked in £600K of Legal Aid & left clients ruined, now being investigated by Scottish Legal Complaints Commission.

However, news of the secret intervention by the Legal Defence Union on behalf of the shamed legal aid claims solicitor Niels Lockhart who is still working as a lawyer in Kilmarnock, has been roundly condemned by senior members of the legal profession and even insiders at the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission, who are aghast the LDU has again been flexing its muscle to protect solicitors many inside & outside the profession now feel are not fit to represent the legal interests of their clients.

This time around, Mr Lockhart is facing complaints made by clients such as pensioner Esther Francis, who was MADE HOMLESS by solicitor Niels Lockhart’s dodgy legal services. Lockhart’s demands for ever more money to pay for fanciful legal work also forced the poor pensioner TO STARVE HERSELF to pay legal fees after being threatened by the Kilmarnock solicitor over a missed £100 payment of legal bills which were originally being paid by Legal Aid. Diary of Injustice and the Sunday Mail newspaper covered the story here :

Lawyer 600K legal aid hassles pensioner over 100 billLegal Aid officials hid details of dodgy claims scandal as ‘Pay-Up threats’ from £600K legal aid rogue lawyer leaves pensioner, 70, starving, homeless SLAB’s secret deal with Law Society of Scotland & LDU kept info on legal aid accusations against solicitor from clients. A VULNERABLE PENSIONER was left HOMELESS & HAD TO STARVE HERSELF to pay legal fees after being threatened by Kilmarnock solicitor Niels S Lockhart over a missed £100 payment of legal bills which were originally being paid by Legal Aid. Esther Francis, 70, had gone to Niels Lockhart for help in a dispute with her housing association and was originally put on legal aid by the lawyer who has already claimed around SIX HUNDRED THOUSAND POUNDS of legal aid money in previous years for other clients, however she was not told by the Scottish Legal Aid Board (SLAB) her solicitor, Mr Lockhart had ‘voluntarily’ withdrew himself from being able to provide legal aid, AFTER he was accused by SLAB of making excessive legal aid claims.

Diary of Injustice can today reveal the documents obtained in the latest scandal involving the Kilmarnock based solicitor, which cannot  be published at this stage for fear of prejudicing the SLCC’s investigation into the dodgy solicitor, CONFIRM the Legal Defence Union have made strong representations on behalf of Mr Lockhart to the SLCC, in writing and, apparently during meetings & other conversations with staff and senior figures at the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission.

More worryingly for those clients who are making complaints against Mr Lockhart, the documents also reveal the same clients who found their lives & legal affairs ruined by Mr Lockhart’s actions are now BEING DENIED access to the LDU’s representations to the SLCC by members of staff at the SLCC. Clients who have asked for access to the Legal Defence Union’s submissions supporting their client Mr Lockhart, have been given a short sharp shrift by SLCC officials who have refused to part with the secret LDU begging letters.

In one letter seen by Diary of Injustice, an SLCC investigator claimed the Legal Defence Union had not seen any correspondence or complaints made by clients of Mr Lockhart, yet further enquiries carried out by Diary of Injustice have now established the LDU “is fully aware of the terms of the complaints made against their client”. It has since been established by Diary of Injustice the LDU also appears to have copies of submissions made in the complaints against Mr Lockhart, despite written assurances given by SLCC investigators to clients this was not the case.

The Scottish Legal Complaints Commission was asked for comment on these developments, however no response has been received prior to publication.


Lawyer pocketed 600K Legal Aid in Two Years Sunday Mail March 27 2011The long story of Mr Lockhart’s legal aid claims began in the first half of the last decade, although it took the Scottish Legal Aid Board years to catch up with him, when on 5 June 2005 the Scottish Legal Aid Board sent a report to the Law Society of Scotland in terms of S32 of the Legal Aid (Scotland) Act 1986 against the sole practitioner firm of Niels S Lockhart, 71 King Street, Kilmarnock. The secret report on Niels S Lockhart, obtained in 2011 by Diary of Injustice under Freedom of Information laws, can be downloaded here : SCOTTISH LEGAL AID BOARD S31 COMPLAINT REPORT TO THE LAW SOCIETY OF SCOTLAND : NIELS S LOCKHART (pdf) The Scottish Legal Aid Board’s report outlined a number of issues that had been identified during the review of case files & accounts which raised concern about Mr Lockhart’s conduct and which fell to be considered as a breach of either Regulation 31 (3) (a) & (b), relating to his conduct when acting or selected to act for persons to whom legal aid or advice and assistance is made available, and his professional conduct generally. These issues illustrated the repetitious nature of Mr Lockhart’s failure to charge fees “actually, necessarily and reasonable incurred, due regard being bad to economy”

The heads of complaint submitted by the Scottish Legal Aid Board to the Law Society of Scotland were :

(1) Excessive attendances, (2) Lack of Progress, (3) Splitting/Repeating Subject Matters, (4) Inappropriate Requests for Increases in Authorised Expenditure, (5) Matters resubmitted under a different guise, (6) Standard Attendance Times, (7) Attendances for Matters Not Related to the Subject Matter of the Case, (8) Unreasonable Charges, (9) Double Charging for Correspondence, (10) Account entries not supported by Client Files, (11) Attempt to Circumvent Statutory Payment Procedure for Property Recovered or Preserved, (12) Continued Failure to act with Due Regard to Economy.

The Scottish Legal Aid Board report also revealed : “From April 2002—March 2005, Niels S Lockhart was paid £672,585 from the Legal Aid Fund. Of this, £596,734 (89%) was in relation to Advice and Assistance cases, with £570,528 (85%) solely in relation to Civil Advice and Assistance. In the Board’s view, the ranges of actions taken by Niels S. Lockhart towards achieving those payments are not those appropriate to a competent and reputable solicitor.”

“Based on the supporting evidence he arranges for, or permits, his clients to attend his office on numerous occasions for excessive, unnecessary and often irrelevant meetings. In the main, these do not appear to have advantages for their further welfare or advance their case, but merely act as a mechanism for the firm to exploit the Legal Aid Fund by charging for these unnecessary and unproductive meetings. The nature of subject matters is often repeated, resulting in numerous duplicate/multiple/consecutive grants submitted under various guises, thus avoiding the Board’s computerised checks on subject matter. This pattern of conduct is deliberate,recurring and persistent, serving—in the Board’s view—as a device to generate considerable additional income for the firm to the detriment of the Scottish Legal Aid Fund.”

Outline of Correspondence SLAB-LSS re NS LockhartSLAB’s report was heavy on accusations yet achieved little, as did their complaint to the Law Society. The Scottish Legal Aid Board presented its report & complaint to the Law Society of Scotland on the 5th June 2006 but had to wait until a stunning FOUR YEARS until August 2010 before the Law Society even got round to sending SLAB a copy of the Law Society investigator’s report, which recommended that 11 out of 12 of SLAB’s complaints were “made out” and also recommended that the Law Society exercise its powers to exclude Niels Lockhart from giving advice & assistance to or from acting for a person to whom legal aid is made available.

However, two months later in October 2010, Mr Lockhart’s legal representative James McCann of the Legal Defence Union approached SLAB with a prospective offer that Mr Lockhart would withdraw fully from providing legal aid if SLAB’s S31 complaint was withdrawn. A Minute of Agreement was drafter and agreed with Niels Lockhart & the Legal Defence Union outlining the voluntary and irrevocable withdrawal by Mr Lockhart and the firm from the provision of all firms of legal assistance (funded by legal aid). The Minute of Agreement also outlined the Board’s intention to make a press release detailing that following SLAB’s investigation into the firm and their subsequent complaint to the Law Society of Scotland, SLAB had accepted this permanent withdrawal by Mr Lockhart and the firm from providing all forms of legal assistance.

Letter to LSS, 11-10 redactedLegal Aid Board asked Law Society to withdraw complaint after secret deal was reached with Legal Defence Union. “In November 2010 SLAB advised the Law Society of Scotland that they had negotiated with Mr Lockhart his voluntary removal from the provision of legal assistance with effect from 1 November 2010 and acknowledged that the Society had separately received information from Mr Lockhart signalling his intention to withdraw from provision of all types of legal assistance. In the light of this, we sought to know from them whether they accepted SLAB’s withdrawal of the S31 complaint against Mr Lockhart.”

“In December 2010 the Law Society wrote to SLAB advising that they had accepted SLAB’s withdrawal of the complaint and that they were closing their file and taking no further action.”

Diary of Injustice continued to report on allegations surrounding Mr Lockhart and the Law Society of Scotland’s efforts to avoid a prosecution. All previous reports can be viewed HERE.

In July of 2011, Diary of Injustice followed up the investigation into the LDU-SLCC relationship with the following report, revealing senior figures from the LDU had SECRET no-notes-taken meetings with the SLCC’s Chair, Jane Irvine :

slccInvestigation reveals Scottish Legal Complaints Commission's links, secret 'off the record' dealings with lawyers lobby group Legal Defence Union REVEALED : Law regulator’s dealings with organisation linked to client suicides & blocked prosecutions of legal aid fraudsters. AN INVESTIGATION by Diary of Injustice into dealings between the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission (SLCC), the ‘independent’ quango which regulates complaints against Scottish lawyers and the Legal Defence Union, an organisation which represents the best interests of lawyers, recently linked to blocked criminal prosecutions of legal aid fraudster lawyers & also the suicide of a married Oban family man in the SLCC’s 2009 report into the Master Policy, has revealed a series of cosy meetings between the regulator & pro-lawyer lobby group at expensive Edinburgh hotels which the heads of both organisations agreed to keep off the record and away from public gaze.

According to claims from SLCC insiders who were fed up with the non-achieving law complaints regulator, the scandal hit Scottish Legal Complaints Commission and the Legal Defence Union have now become so close, SLCC staff privately joke it is now “routine” for the Legal Defence Union to intervene in complaints investigations on behalf of solicitors interests while consumers who make complaints about their solicitors to the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission, are not represented in any way and have no organisation to turn to for help with their complaints.

SLCC to LDU no records of meetings keptSLCC Chair Jane Irvine agreed no records of discussion between regulator & lawyer’s lobby group at Balmoral Hotel. A limited amount of papers reluctantly disclosed by the SLCC under Freedom of Information legislation show a series of discussions between the two pro-lawyer bodies bosses, Jane Irvine for the SLCC and LDU Solicitor Director William Macreath, also a partner at law firm Levy McRae, who, according to the text of one of the letters disclosed to Diary of Injustice under FOI laws, both agreed “there would be no formal records of any element of the discussion.”. The letter from Jane Irvine to the LDU Director which disclosed the secret no-records-of-meetings policy went on to detail several technical issues about complaints regulation and how the SLCC should deal with solicitors & consumers, the former apparently having much greater priority over the latter. The limited Freedom of Information disclosure of documents disclosed by the SLCC documenting only a fraction of its dealings with the Legal Defence Union can be viewed online or downloaded here : FOI Disclosure : Involvement & meetings between Scottish Legal Complaints Commission & Legal Defence Union

Anyone who has made a complaint about their solicitor or law firm to the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission is HIGHLY ADVISED by Diary of Injustice journalists to ask the SLCC for copies of correspondence or representations made by the Legal Defence Union on behalf of the solicitor or law firm who is the subject of the complaint. If readers want to publicise any material, please send it to Diary of Injustice at

Saturday, March 03, 2012

Law Society’s database on solicitors “Too Toxic” to publish, public access to complaints info, horrific treatment of clients ‘may bankrupt’ law firms

LSWould consumers still trust lawyers if they were able to access full information on solicitors & law firms ? CALLS for the Law Society of England & Wales to share its database on solicitors with comparison websites have been resoundingly rejected by the legal profession, almost certainly on the basis of fears that clients & consumers will quickly desert law firms & solicitors across the country if consumers were to have access to the true scale of complaints against the legal profession. The claims made by campaigners & information access reformers come after it was reported last month Des Hudson, the £400K-A-YEAR Chief Executive of the Law Society of England & Wales swiftly rejected calls from the Legal Services Consumer Panel for regulators to opening up their professional registers so that the websites can provide basic information to consumers about the different services offered by law firms.

A report carried out by the Legal Services Consumer Panel looked at the barriers facing the emergence of comparison websites based on interviews with the industry. One practical barrier identified was a lack of access to professional registers held by approved regulators, meaning that comparison websites cannot obtain, in a usable form, even the basic information about lawyers, such as their contact details and areas of specialism. The report, which can be downloaded here : Legal Services Consumer Panel's report on comparison websites in legal services (pdf) recommended that approved regulators open up their professional registers for this and other purposes.

Elisabeth Davies, Chair of the Legal Services Consumer Panel, said: “Comparison websites are a welcome new feature in legal services as they could make it easier for consumers to choose lawyers and boost competition. But experience in other sectors has shown there are also risks – we are calling on website operators to demonstrate their commitment to consumer protection by signing up to some common sense good practice standards.”

She continued : “It’s staggering that so many lawyers are refusing leads generated through comparison websites. Consumers are unlikely to use these services again if they get turned away – it’s a massive own goal by the profession. There are a series of hurdles that comparison websites need to overcome before they are a major influence on consumer choice. Approved regulators could help break down these barriers by opening up their professional registers so that the websites can provide basic information to consumers about the different services offered by law firms.”

Predictably, the Law Society of England & Wales refused to share its own data on solicitors, its Chief Executive, Des Hudson who recently ended the right of clients to post their reviews & comments on experiences with solicitors on the well known website Solicitors From Hell, said the Law Society would not be sharing its data with the Legal Services Consumer Panel, or any other website not under the control of the legal profession.

One access to information campaigner from Brighton who has been involved in a long running campaign to free up solicitor’s complaints records in England & Wales told Diary of Injustice : “Clearly the Law Society of England & Wales do not want its own data on its solicitors, data which contains the appalling regulatory history of tens of thousands of solicitors & law firms across the country from falling into consumer hands, simply because if clients were to find out what their supposedly trustworthy solicitor has done to other clients, they will run a mile”

While the Law Society of England & Wales have refused to share data on their solicitors, consumers can still visit websites such as Solicitors from Hell 2 & Cowboy Solicitors from Hell to find out more about their solicitor, or perhaps post a review of their experiences at the hands of a lawyer.

Readers will of course be well aware the same problems exist in Scotland, where clients & consumers are not able to find out anything about their solicitors complaints records or how they have handled other legal work for clients. However, unlike in England & Wales, Scots consumers of legal services have no organisation such as the Legal Services Consumer Panel to call for a complete disclosure on all solicitors records to be made to the public.

The Law Society of Scotland’s own ‘too toxic to publish’ database on the Penmans, O’Donnells, Lockharts, McCabes, Danskins and more would probably shock so many Scottish clients, they too may do a runner from their lawyer’s office, and deservedly so.