It’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were thrown out by the SLCC as being ineligible for investigation, while the report lists that 128 more complaints were withdrawn or resolved before an eligibility decision was made.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).
Complaints 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."
A CLIENTS LOT IS NOT A HAPPY ONE :
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