Monday, December 24, 2012

Season’s Greetings from Scotland’s Justice system : Still “Victorian”, still fails society, still costly, greedy, prejudiced & about to get a lot more dictatorial …

Scottish justice in the Dock - Sunday Mail 30 September 2012Scotland’s Justice system, the most expensive, greedy & unproductive in the entire European Union. SEASON’S GREETINGS to all our readers from all of us at Diary of Injustice. Suffice to say, that Scotland’s justice system continues to be, as the current Lord President Lord Gill once said, “Victorian”, failing society, and as costly & frustrate today as it was twenty, or even thirty years ago, despite the claims of some that changes in Scottish Governments and politics would change our lives beyond all recognition.

If anything, it has got worse, and the consumer organisations which survive among the ruins of London sponsored cuts, and Holyrood laziness, have effectively been muzzled to the point of uselessness, leaving only the country’s media to hold vested interests to account, and expose or report on justice & injustice in Scotland’s disrespected justice system.

Do yourselves a favour, readers, if you have a problem with the justice system, those within it, those politicians who allow it to remain as ridiculous as it is, or those public bodies who fail to regulate it, don't keep it to yourself, go out and publicise it. and support those newspapers & journalists who take the time and make the effort for you. You might just do some good for yourself, and fellow Scots.


Lord Gill Lord Justice ClerkThe Lord President, Lord Gill, author of the Civil Courts Review. Scotland’s current Lord President, Lord Gill, said in his speech to the Law Society of Scotland’s 60 year anniversary conference in 2009, reproduced in full here  : “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."

Not to put too fine a point on it, Lord President … Coming up on four years on since this was said … It is time. The time is now. Scots are waiting for a justice system which will serve the country, not the needs of politicians and vested interests.

The Sunday Mail’s editorial on Scotland’s Justice system :

Sunday MailJustice must be for everybody.. or nobody

Mail Opinion
By Mail Opinion
23 Dec 2012 08:50

THE recent demand for longer sentences and heavier clampdowns by ministers chasing headlines could alter our faith in the criminal justice system.

Most of the time, he appears to be one of the more straightforward, committed and decent ministers in Alex Salmond’s cabinet.

And then, on a regular basis, he gets his big tackety boots on and blooters some fairly fundamental human rights all over the park.

There are some very serious and potentially alarming issues coming together in our criminal justice system at the moment.

We have Lord Advocate Frank Mulholland, now attending Cabinet meetings, who, rather worryingly, on Friday, claimed the independence of Scotland’s chief prosecutor from politicians was “a state of mind”.

Meanwhile, we have a new, single police force arriving next year with a new, single chief constable, Stephen House. He is a strong and stringent police officer who is unafraid to speak his mind and keen to champion changes to the law to increase conviction rates.

Now, none of these things are necessarily worrying. Taken together, however, the danger of an increasingly politicised prosecution service encouraged by a powerful police chief and backed by ministers eager to appear tough on crime raises very real fears for the checks and balances needed to protect ordinary people from the might and majesty of the law.

We are talking about things like the police’s increasing enthusiasm for scrutinising our mobile phones and emails without the approval of a sheriff or judge.

Things like the need to corroborate evidence before conviction. Things like the abolition of double jeopardy, meaning people can now be tried twice on the same charge.

Now, there are cases to be made for these changes but – and it’s a big but – where opinion is divided, our law-makers must come down on the side of those accused of crime.

These accused men, and they’re nearly all men, are often beneath contempt.

Many are vile and violent without decency or humanity. They contribute nothing and, when found guilty, deserve less.

Every single of them, however, has a right to a fair trial in a justice system where the most basic function is to protect that right. Because if they do not have it, then none of us have it.

The lines are blurring between our police, prosecutors and politicians in Scotland where a fear of crime has been exaggerated and our ministers chase headlines by demanding ever longer sentences and heavier clampdowns.

That makes for bad laws and we need to be wary because the constant chipping away at the pillars of fairness and decency shoring up our justice system will, at some point, chip away at our faith in that system.

Messrs MacAskill, Mulholland and House should be careful what they wish for.

Meanwhile, as the Beastie Boys reminded us so forcefully, there is at least one other right worth fighting for.

So, in that party spirit, from all of us to all of you, have a merry Christmas.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

From Bad to Worse : Complaints against lawyers up 16%, few cases upheld, Board members on £20K expenses, reports anti-client Scottish Legal Complaints Commission in 2012 annual report

Jane Irvine SLCC ChairIt’s goodbye from her – Jane Irvine’s final term as SLCC Chair since 2008 did little for Scots clients caught in rogue lawyer trap. COMPLAINTS AGAINST SOLICITORS have shot up 16% in 2012, according to the latest 2012 ANNUAL REPORT issued by the ‘independent’ lawyer controlled Scottish Legal Complaints Commission (SLCC) which spent £2.7 million pounds up to 30 June on ‘investigating’ crooked lawyers. The fourth & final report under the Chair of Jane Irvine, whose term expires on 31st December 2012 also reveals the SLCC, which has not yet claimed one single solicitor being struck off as a result of its work over the past four years, was conveniently able to throw out a third of the complaints made to it by members of the public whose lives have invariably been ruined by the actions of rogue lawyers still working in the legal profession.

The report states that of the 1,264 complaints received by the SLCC during 2012 and 566 in hand at the start of the year, a suspiciously high number of complaints (486) were thrown out by the SLCC as being ineligible for investigation, while the report lists that 128 more complaints were withdrawn or resolved before an eligibility decision was made.

Included in the totals were 144 conduct complaints against members of the legal profession, which were then referred to the appropriate professional body (such as the Law Society of Scotland), and 289 eligible complaints were dealt with and closed by the SLCC, leaving 783 still in hand at the end of the year. The most common reasons for the SLCC branding complaints under the heading of “ineligibility” were "totally without merit" (200 cases), time bar (174) and prematurity (115).

Complaint Statistics SLCC annual Report 2012Complaints trends show House sales, Litigation, Wills & Executries remain big factors in clients ripped off by lawyers. The SLCC revealed that cases going all the way to a full determination totalled 146, of which 44 were upheld in whole or in part and 92 not upheld. A total of £37,042 was awarded in compensation across 33 cases, averaging out £1,122 per case yet clients face further hurdles in receiving compensation after the SLCC revealed solicitors had not complied with its rulings, forcing the SLCC to engage Sheriff Officers on particular occasions. The report stated : "We have seen an increase in cases of non-compliance where practitioners fail to pay awards which have been made against them by the SLCC. We take a firm line on this and use sheriff’s officers and the small claims court processes to enforce the outstanding sums."

The SLCC said it was in talks with the Law Society of Scotland about its solicitors refusing to comply with compensation orders, stating : ”We are in discussion with the relevant professional organisations to ensure their support in tackling non-compliance. In addition, we have found that complainers sometimes have to wait a considerable length of time to receive compensation or fee rebates where a judicial factor or trustees have been appointed. Since this does little to build public confidence, we have started to work with the relevant professional organisations to assess options to address this issue.”

Worryingly, the annual report also reveals the SLCC refused to use its powers to abate or zero fees charged by lawyers who had given poor service to their clients, where only in 17 cases, fees were abated and fees totalling a paltry £3,851 were abated, an average award of only £227 per client.

The 2012 audited accounts of the SLCC also reveals that despite throwing out a third of complaints made to it, and the poor use of powers over fees, the SLCC’s board members continued to be paid what can only be described as lavish remuneration, listed as up to £20,000 each during 2011-2012, quite a contrast to the financial losses suffered by Scots clients of rogue solicitors.

A number of case examples are, for the first time, included in the SLCC’s latest annual report, although no identities of solicitors or law firms who have failed their clients have been revealed, marking the SLCC’s continued policy of refusing to name & shame rogue Scottish solicitors & law firms who consumers would be better to avoid.

The SLCC’s 2012 Annual report can be viewed online HERE or downloaded from the SLCC’s website HERE while the 2012 Annual accounts revealing the SLCC’s financial position, expenditure & remuneration of its staff, board members etc can be viewed online HERE or downloaded from the SLCC HERE.

The SLCC issued a Press Release on its 2012 Annual Report HERE

The Scottish Legal Complaints Commission ("SLCC") laid its fourth Annual Report before the Scottish Parliament on 7 December 2012. The report covers the period from 1 July 2011 to 30 June 2012 and highlights the number and types of complaint coming to the SLCC; the SLCC's achievements both as a gateway for legal complaints and a supporter to high standards in the legal profession.

Commenting on the SLCC's challenges and achievements, Chair Jane Irvine said: "It stands as a huge tribute to the skills and hard-work of all our Staff and Board Members that we have achieved all we have this year. Our commitment remains unfailing despite the increasing demands placed on us and our resources, growing case loads and increasing financial pressures, along with the added complications deriving from transitional arrangements and backlog of earlier cases."

Commenting on the work of the organisation during the year, Chief Executive, Matthew Vickers said: "My colleagues and our Board Members are committed to making the SLCC even more effective and efficient in handling complaints and more influential and impactful in improving legal services.

Mr Vickers, the fifth Chief Executive of the SLCC also went onto claim, laughably that “The SLCC exists to strengthen public trust and confidence in our legal services."

In reality however, the SLCC, commonly regarded by most in the know as a joke, has demonstrated itself to be as anti-client as the Law Society of Scotland.

The Law Society of Scotland issued its own Press Release praising the SLCC for its work in protecting solicitors from client complaints.

Commenting on the publication of the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission annual report, Lorna Jack, chief executive of the Law Society of Scotland, said: "We will look at the report in detail to see where we can assist the commission on working with the profession to improve complaints handling. The new use of case studies in this year's annual report are a great way of showing solicitors examples of good practice in complaint handling at an early stage, and further down the line.”

Ms Jack was also grateful for the SLCC’s whitewash of the Law Society’s “Guarantee Fund”, long known as a corrupt compensation scheme which fails to pay out to ruined clients of crooked lawyers.

Ms Jack went onto congratulate the SLCC over their ‘review’ of the Guarantee Fund, saying : "Following a thorough audit of the Guarantee Fund by the Commission as part of its oversight role, we are pleased to see recognition that claims on the fund are being handled properly and impartially by the Society. We have always made it clear that all claims on the fund are considered on a case by case basis and on their own merit, regardless of the funds held and the audit has confirmed this.”

Ms Jack ended by saying : "It is reassuring that the commission is driving efficiencies as our members are tightening their belts during these straightened times.The Society will continue to work with the Commission to seek to reform the legislation to make complaints a better experience for all involved."


In reality, clients of Scottish solicitors who are put in a position of having to make a complaint to the SLCC about their solicitor’s conduct or service, are in a no better position in 2012 than they were in two decades ago.

Little compensation on offer for solicitors stealing from clients, or negligent service, regulators poor use of powers to completely negate fees, hardly any complaints being fully upheld, few solicitors struck off, a claims system via the Master Policy that is just as corrupt as it was twenty years ago, a Guarantee Fund compensation scheme which puts tax dodging in the Cayman Islands to shame, regulators who are so anti-client, anti-public & anti consumer they cant see past their expenses claims , and amidst it all, lazy politicians at the Scottish Parliament & Scottish Government who value legal freebies, and paid-for social occasions with lawyers & regulators too much to help constituents in dire need of assistance … the same old story from 1990 to 2012 repeats itself once again …

Previous coverage of the SLCC’s annual reports, which tell a similar story can be found HERE

Monday, December 10, 2012

Petition calling for a Register of Interests for Scotland’s Judiciary now lodged at Scottish Parliament, petition will be considered by msps in 2013

Courts Judges Scotland montage

Like others in public life, Scotland’s judges, sheriffs & others in the courts should be required to declare their interests. Petition PE01458, published on the Scottish Parliament’s website in late October which calls for a publicly available register of interests for Scotland’s judges & sheriffs has now closed for signatures from the public, and has now been lodged with the Scottish Parliament’s Petitions Committee who will go on to consider the petition at a later meeting.

The petition calls for the Scottish Parliament to urge the Scottish Government to create a Register of Pecuniary Interests of Judges Bill (as is currently being considered in New Zealand's Parliament) or amend present legislation to require all members of the Judiciary in Scotland to submit their interests & hospitality received to a publicly available Register of Interests.

Diary of Injustice would like to thank the forty one people who signed the petition, journalists from the Sunday Mail newspaper who reported on the petition, those of you who also posted comments on the Scottish Parliament’s website about the aims of the petition, and of course the members of the New Zealand legislature, particularly Dr Kennedy Graham MP, the author of the bill in the New Zealand Parliament which gave Peter Cherbi the inspiration to author a petition along similar lines in Scotland.

If any of you feel you have further comments or experiences relating to judges, the interests, and how their undeclared interests or known interests have impacted on cases in the courts or justice system, or feel you have other pertinent information which you would like the Petitions Committee to consider when they call for oral evidence, please send them in to the Petitions Committee via their email at and also copy us in at

Also, if any of you feel you would like to appear at the Scottish Parliament and give oral evidence relating to the aims of the petition, please email Diary of Injustice.

A reminder of our previous coverage of the petition : ANYTHING TO DECLARE, M’LORD ? Holyrood Petition calls for a Register of Judicial Interests for Scotland’s Judges & Sheriffs

Courts Judges Scotland montage

Judges wealth, links to big business, banks, law firms etc should be declared in register of interests. SCOTTISH JUDGES should be required to declare their financial wealth along with money making ventures, business & professional relationships & any other relevant links including those impacting on criminal trials, in a published REGISTER OF JUDICIAL INTERESTS, according to A PETITION filed at the Scottish Parliament by legal blogger & contributor to Diary of Injustice, Peter Cherbi

Petition PE01458: Register of Interests for members of Scotland's judiciary which is now open for signatures from the public, calls for the Scottish Parliament to urge the Scottish Government to create a Register of Pecuniary Interests of Judges Bill (as is currently being considered in New Zealand's Parliament) or amend present legislation to require all members of the Judiciary in Scotland to submit their interests & hospitality received to a publicly available Register of Interests.

Diary of Injustice has featured coverage of the petition in earlier reports, Register of Interests for Judges.

The petition goes on to report how the Parliament of New Zealand is debating legislation to create a register of interests for the judiciary. Mr Cherbi says he believes it is time for Scotland to move in the same direction and create a similar register of interests for the judiciary of Scotland and all its members, increasing the transparency of the judiciary and ensuring public confidence in their actions & decisions.

The full details of the New Zealand Register of Pecuniary Interests of Judges Bill, should be looked at for a model of similar legislation in Scotland, can be viewed online here  Register of Pecuniary Interests of Judges Bill.

New Zealand MP, Dr Kennedy Graham’s bill on judicial interests states : It is a time-honoured principle of Western democracy that public servants of every kind must be beyond reproach, and suspicion thereof. Public confidence in the standard of behaviour and conduct observed by leading servants of the people is a cornerstone of social harmony and political stability. A threshold of confidence to that end should ideally be enshrined in constitutional and legislative form. Little scope should be available for individual discretion or subjective perception.

The principle of transparency in this respect pertains in particular to issues of financial (pecuniary) interest. Nothing undermines public confidence in a nation’s institutions and procedures more than suspicion that a public servant may have, and especially proof that one has, suffered a conflict of interest arising from a pecuniary interest in a particular dealing in which he or she was professionally involved.

The correct balance in this respect appears to have been achieved over the years–the public interest in such annual statements is significant without appearing prurient, and few complaints have been voiced by those on whom the obligations are placed. There seems to be a general acceptance that such exercises are in the public interest and are neither unduly onerous nor revealing.

No such practice, however, has been observed in the case of the judiciary. Recent developments within New Zealand’s judicial conduct processes suggest that application of the same practice observed by the other two branches of government might assist in the protection of the judiciary in future.

Being obliged under law to declare pecuniary interests that might be relevant to the conduct of a future case in which one is involved would relieve a judge from a repetitive weight of responsibility to make discretionary judgements about his or her personal affairs as each case arises. Having declared one’s pecuniary interests once, in a generic manner independent of any particular trial, a judge may freely proceed in the knowledge that, if he or she is appointed to adjudicate, public confidence for participation has already been met. Yet care is to be exercised to ensure that the final decision is left to the individual judge whether to accept a case. There should be no intention of external interference into the self-regulation of the judiciary by the judiciary.

This is the reasoning behind this draft legislation–the Register of Pecuniary Interests of Judges Bill. The purpose of the Bill, as stated, is to promote the due administration of justice by requiring judges to make returns of pecuniary interests to provide greater transparency within the judicial system, and to avoid any conflict of interest in the judicial role.”

Mr Cherbi said in his petition : “I believe the same aims of the New Zealand legislation as quoted above, are compatible with the public interest in Scotland and to promote the due administration of justice by providing the public with greater transparency within the judicial system.”

The Register of Pecuniary Interests of Judges Bill is an example of similar legislation for a register of judicial interests in New Zealand, bought to the New Zealand Parliament by Dr Kennedy Graham.When asked whether a register of interests existed for Scottish judges, the Judicial Office for Scotland said “The Judicial Office for Scotland does not hold a register of hospitality for members of the judiciary and there are no plans to do so. The Lord President has set out formal guidelines to the judiciary in the STATEMENT OF PRINCIPLES OF JUDICIAL ETHICS Para 4.9 and 7.2 address this particular point.”

However in an age of transparency where the decisions of Scottish judges affect all our lives, whether the case be criminal or civil, there must be a requirement for all public servants particularly those in positions of such importance as the judiciary to submit their interests to a publicly available register of interests.

Towards a New Courts Act - A Register of Judges Pecuniary InterestsNew Zealand’s Law Commission issued paper supporting a register for judges interests. In New Zealand, the New Zealand Law Commission has argued for a wider remit to include all officials whose positions given them potential to influence a case to be included in such a register of interests.

The Law Commission stated : “If there is to be legislation, should it apply to all judges, or only to judges of some levels, or to all judicial employees and officials such as prosecutors and registrars? An argument can be made that if there is to be financial disclosure it should be required of all officials whose positions give them sufficient potential to influence the outcome of a case, whether as a result of a bribe or other improper influence.”

The New Zealand Law Commission’s discussion paper on a register of judicial interests can be downloaded
here :  NZLC IP21 - Towards a New Courts Act: A Register of Judges pecuniary interests? (pdf)

In comparison to New Zealand’s effort to ensure transparency in the judiciary, Scotland’s judges and the Scotish Government have, unsurprisingly backed away from any similar measures, even concealing criminal charges and convictions of Scottish judges, where in one case a Scottish judge was charged with fiddling benefits claims, exposed in a Diary of Injustice investigation into Judge’s financial fiddles, here : CAREER CROOKED : Investigation reveals Scottish judges are CONVICTED CRIMINALS, Drunk Drivers,Tax Dodgers & alleged BENEFITS CHEATS

In response to an earlier Freedom of Information Request from Diary of Injustice, the Head of Strategy & Governance for the Judicial Office for Scotland pointedly REFUSED to provide any details of information disclosing whether any members of the judiciary in Scotland have declared or informed the Scottish Court Service in the past three years of :

Any offshore investments, Unrecorded cash transactions, Payments for outside work, Any application of “tax efficient” schemes to avoid paying taxes, Associations or meetings with convicted criminals, Vehicle accidents,  criminal charges, or being interviewed by Police.

The reasons given by the Judicial Office for refusing to disclose key details on what Scots judges are getting up to, are that much of the information requested is held by an ‘arms length body’ created by the Scottish Court Service which holds such information on behalf of the Lord President, rather than passing it directly to him.

The on-going 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 Sunday Mail newspaper has reported on the petition for a register of Judicial Interests, here :

Petition to hold judges to account Sunday Mail November 04 2012Petition to hold judges to account

by Russell Findlay
Sunday Mail November 04 2012

A legal campaigner has urged MSPs to create a register of interests for Scotland’s judges.

Peter Cherbi has secured a Scottish Parliament petition calling for all sheriffs and judges to declare financial interests and hospitality.

The legal blogger from Edinburgh, said: “Like those in other areas of public life, members of the judiciary should be required to disclose their interests, financial or otherwise.

“This would increase transparency and help to ensure public confidence in their actions and decisions.

“It has been suggested to me some judges have offshore investments for the purpose of tax avoidance while others may have shares or other connections to businesses.”

Cherbi was inspired by a similar proposed law which is being debated in New Zealand.

The closing date for the online petition is December 7.

Judges were issued with ethical guidelines which were drawn up by senior judges headed by Lord Osborne two years ago.

The Judicial Office for Scotland: “We do not hold a register of hospitality for members of the judiciary and there are no plans to do so.”