Wednesday, February 29, 2012

A Thank You to Scottish Information Commissioner Kevin Dunion & staff for shining a light on regulation of the legal profession & the justice system

Kevin DunionScotland’s first Information Commissioner, Kevin Dunion & his team have shone a much needed light on the justice system. WITH Scotland’s first Information Commissioner Kevin Dunion stepping down last week, Diary of Injustice & independent law journalist Peter Cherbi would like to thank Mr Dunion and his hard working, attentive team at the Scottish Information Commissioner’s office for their significant contribution in ensuring for the first time ever, consumers of legal services in Scotland, court users, party litigants, McKenzie Friends, lay assistants, journalists, campaigners, individuals and even solicitors, have finally had access to key information on the secret parts of Scotland’s justice system, such as regulation of the legal profession, which has remained a closed shop secret world for decades until the FOI compliant Scottish Legal Complaints Commission came along in 2008.

Freedom of Information requests to the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission and its many other connected bodies, along with Mr Dunion’s investigations & decisions on  requests where the SLCC refused to disclose material, have without doubt, helped the media report on the many pitfalls of how badly solicitors are regulated in Scotland, and on the inner workings of regulatory bodies which are by most accounts, hostile to consumers who have found themselves placed in the unenviable position of having to complain about their solicitors.

The Scottish Legal Complaints Commission has been caught out so many times in Freedom of Information disclosures & investigations, which revealed anti client hate fuelled rants by drunken board members, to attempts to conceal board members lavish expenses claims running at well over 150,000 a year and so many more reports on failings of the SLCC, with a good helping hand from Freedom of Information, available HERE

Freedom of Information legislation requests & investigations by Diary of Injustice have also contributed to a wider understanding of how the Scottish Legal Aid Board (SLAB) operate, where SLAB & Crown Office officials appeared to be more interested in expenses claims & flying high on intercontinental air carriers than pursuing sleazy solicitors who make off with millions of pounds of taxpayer funded legal aid.

Scotland’s Crown Office have also been caught short, awarding themselves HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS OF POUNDS in staff bonuses from the top of the organisation down, yet by all accounts failing to enforce the law when it came to instances such as the FOURTEEN lawyers accused of multi-million pound legal aid fraud escape justice as Scotland’s Crown Office fail to prosecute all cases in 5 years , and all because the Lord Advocate’s ‘independent’ Crown Counsel kept saying there wasn't enough evidence to prosecute.

The Scottish Government too have come in for exposure, where FOI requests revealed its own Ministers directly intervened with the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission, demanding the SLCC hand back ONE MILLION POUNDS to lawyers who pled poverty over last year’s complaints levy, reported by Diary of Injustice here : Undue Influence : Freedom of Information reveals how Law Society used Scottish Government Ministers to reduce complaints levy for crooked lawyers. Further requests revealed the Justice Secretary himself even signed off on a secret payoff for the allegedly ‘too sick to ever work again’ now former SLCC Chief Executive Eileen Masterman, reported by Diary of Injustice here : HUSH & MONEY : Former SLCC law complaints Chief Executive Eileen Masterman received secret Scottish Government approved payoff in deal with lawyers

Even the judiciary of Scotland have come in for improvement after FOI requests forced the publication of JUDGES EXPENSES, allowing the public to peer into the murky world of Scottish judges earning up to TWO HUNDRED THOUSAND POUNDS a year plus expenses, tips & hospitality so far unrecorded. Diary of Injustice first reported on the issue of judicial expenses, here : The costs of Scotland's 'Victorian' Justice System : Court of Session judges paid £6.1 million as litigants struggle to obtain hearing dates and further reports continued HERE, all brought to you by Freedom of Information legislation & tips from well placed sources.

It’s not all about the justice system though … Freedom of Information investigations by journalists and individuals all over Scotland have contributed to significant news stories, the publicising of injustice, scandals in our hospitals, poor services, scandals or treatment of individuals by local authorities, unfair practices in the financial world, corrupt politicians stealing from the public purse & much more which have or will result in improvements to the quality of life in Scotland throughout a wide variety of fields.

Mr Dunion’s last decision as Scottish Information Commissioner is reprinted below, reminding us of the failings in our health service, uncovered by an NHS employee’s Freedom of Information request. Remember everyone, you too can use Freedom of Information to uncover information which should be in the public domain. Use FOI productively. If your FOI investigations relate to the justice system and if you want your story to be publicised here on Diary of Injustice or in a newspaper, email Peter Cherbi via

Mr Dunion’s last decision : Commissioner criticises "catalogue of failings" at NHS Ayrshire and Arran

The Scottish Information Commissioner Kevin Dunion has issued his last decision, criticising NHS Ayrshire and Arran for some of the most serious failings in records management and information recovery he has seen in his nine years in office.

NHS employee Mr Rab Wilson had asked for copies of Critical Incident Reviews, Serious Adverse Event Reports and associated action plans, which are used in the primary care field as a structured way of investigating incidents and ensuring lessons are learned.  NHS Ayrshire and Arran advised Mr Wilson that they held only one action plan.

However given the potentially serious nature of the incidents which give rise to Critical Incident Reviews, and the Board's stated policy on these reviews, the Commissioner challenged this position when the case was appealed to him, and over the coming months more than 56 action plans were found.  The Commissioner has ordered the Board to disclose anonymised versions of the reports and plans to Mr Wilson.

Mr Dunion, who demits office tomorrow, said: "This case has involved a catalogue of failings by NHS Ayrshire and Arran to search for and find information falling within the scope of Mr Wilson's request – perhaps the most serious such case by an authority in my time as Commissioner.  Claims made to Mr Wilson turned out to be wrong and prior assurances given to me and my staff turned out to be unjustified.  At the very least, this constitutes a significant failure of records management, but, given the nature of the information which was the subject of the request, the failings may point to wider governance issues which have to be addressed.

"Mr Wilson's persistence was characterised by the Board as being vexatious, but perhaps instead should have raised concerns that records concerning critical incidents which should have been held were missing, policies regarding action plans were not being adhered to and public confidence that plans had been drawn up and acted upon could be affected.  Certainly I found it so difficult to believe that such documents could be unaccounted for in terms of whether they had been created, acted upon or destroyed that it caused me to continue with my investigation despite the Board's protestations.

"As this is my last decision, I will recommend to the new Commissioner, who takes up post on 1 May 2012, that consideration is given to carrying out an assessment of NHS Ayrshire and Arran's freedom of information practices."

The Commissioner has taken the unusual step of writing to Dr Martin Cheyne, Chairman of Ayrshire and Arran NHS Board, to bring these serious breaches directly to his attention, as well as to Mr John Burns, the Chief Executive. The case will also be brought to the attention of Scottish Ministers and other relevant bodies.

Friday, February 24, 2012

The £80K job no-one wants : Lawyers lobby seek FIFTH time unlucky Chief Executive for Scottish Legal Complaints Commission role

Fifth Chief Executive sought for lawyer complaints quango mess. CONTINUITY appears to be a bad word at the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission (SLCC), who are now faced with conducting a recruitment process to find a FIFTH replacement for the role of SLCC Chief Executive, after losing its FOURTH CEO, Rosemary Agnew to the post of Scottish Information Commissioner. The job of SLCC Chief Executive, which no one seems to want, or can stand for more than a year, attracts a salary of around EIGHTY THOUSAND POUNDS A YEAR plus expenses, hospitality, and other perks from the law complaints quango which has so far cost clients of solicitors and taxpayers a stunning FOURTEEN MILLION POUNDS plus since 2008 yet has apparently not seen one single crooked lawyer prosecuted or struck off as a result of SLCC investigations into consumer complaints against the legal profession.

Continuing the lack of continuation in the role of SLCC Chief Executive, Mrs Agnew has occupied the SLCC’s Chief Executive job for a little more than a year after taking on the ill fated position from the SLCC’s first Chief Executive, Eileen Masterman, who resigned on ill health grounds, coincidentally also after being able to stand little more than a year in the job based at the Stamp Office in Edinburgh.

Reports of difficulties during Ms Masterman’s time as Chief Executive of the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission saw a string of controversial decisions involving the Law Society of Scotland’s Master Insurance Policy, secret meetings with insurers Royal Sun Alliance & Marsh, who were convicted of illegal activities in the United States.

John SwinneyCabinet Finance Chief John Swinney revealed he felt Ms Masterman had mislead him over accounts of meetings. It later emerged the Scottish Government’s Finance Chief, John Swinney personally intervened on behalf of a constituent over the murky goings on at the SLCC and accused Ms Masterman of being less than honest in correspondence. It is thought this spat between Masterman and Mr Swinney eventually led to the first Chief Executive’s demise over ‘ill health’. Diary of Injustice reported more on Ms Masterman’s resignation in an earlier article here : SLCC’s Eileen Masterman resigns, questions remain on attempt to mislead Cabinet Finance Chief John Swinney over secret meetings with insurers Marsh

While Ms Masterman may have resigned on ill health grounds, she was quick to engage lawyers to negotiate a large figure payoff from the SLCC, a payoff which was personally signed off by Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill and has never been disclosed to either the public or legal profession who fund the SLCC. The saga was reported by Scottish Law Reporter in an earlier article HUSH & MONEY : Former SLCC law complaints Chief Executive Eileen Masterman received secret Scottish Government approved payoff in deal with lawyers

Prior to Eileen Masterman’s appointment as CEO in 2008, Richard Smith, who was appointed by the Scottish Government as the interim’ Chief Executive in the formation year of the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission, resigned in early 2008 after only a few months in the job. Mr Smith, a a consultant in the Scottish government's justice directorate, was officially reported to have stood down to focus on other projects. However legal insiders have since informed Diary of Injustice the resignation was as a result of views expressed that the SLCC was not going to live up to expectations promised by the Scottish Parliament.

Mr Smith was the replaced by John Murphy, another Scottish Government consultant who took over the role until Eileen Masterman was eventually appointed as Chief Executive later in 2008. As reported by Diary of Injustice, Ms Masterman resigned over ill health grounds, even though questions remain over her actions while in the role, and Mrs Agnew, the latest Chief Executive has ditched her post to be the new Scottish Information Commissioner

Jane Irvine, the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission’s Chair issued the following statement seeking a new recruit for the post of Chief Executive : On behalf of The Scottish Legal Complaints Commission (SLCC) I want to thank you for your interest in becoming our new Chief Executive. As an organisation we have been operational since 1 October 2008 with our main functions as follows:

  • Handling all complaints about members of the Law Society of Scotland and the Faculty of Advocates
  • Overseeing the Law Society of Scotland and Faculty of Advocates conduct and insurance arrangements
  • Dealing with complaints about cases that have been through conduct systems
The establishment of the SLCC represented a change in the way complaints against the legal profession were handled by introducing a novel form of funding for a public body in Scotland. We focus on the early resolution of disputes and encourage improvement whilst remaining independent, accessible and impartial.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank our departing Chief Executive, Rosemary Agnew, who has established a core team which is working well with established governance and financial polices, allowing operational matters to run smoothly. From this sound platform we are searching for a CEO who will lead us into the next phase of evolution for SLCC.

We are looking for a leader who can inspire the operational team as well as influence change. Naturally, our new CEO should continue to drive operational efficiency upwards internally as well as influencing externally to help improve service standards within the legal profession. We are looking for someone with the appropriate level of gravitas to work in partnership with key stakeholders and develop the way the SLCC evolves over the next 5 years.

The Chief Executive will be responsible for enhancing operational efficiency by reducing the time we take to deal with cases and the costs, ensuring that we are 100% user focussed. We already have a LEAN review underway and this will form a bridge into this new phase. A new CEO will also have to start to use the evidence we hold about practise trends and complaint handling to encourage higher service standards within the Scottish legal professions.

As well as the typical leadership qualities, the SLCC requires a CEO who is familiar with using evidence gathered to ensure policy within the professional bodies matches the best in regulatory practice. The successful candidate will need to be capable of negotiating with a very broad range of stakeholders from small interest groups to the Scottish Parliament. Naturally, you will have the credibility to influence and persuade as well as the capability to resolve complicated arguments, often formulated by emotive parties and / or historic practices. In return the CEO will work with an excellent small team and enjoy the support of an active Board while fronting an intellectually stimulating role meeting the demands of both the public and private sectors.

Those interested in filling the shoes of Eileen Masterman, or Rosemary Agnew can find send their up to date CV and covering letter/supporting statement to Munro Consulting who are handing the recruitment : Amy Dalgleish by e-mail to or by post to Munro Consulting Ltd, Monteith House, 11 George Square, Glasgow, G2 1DY quoting reference G640.

  • Job Description
  • Person Specification
  • Application's Close - Monday 12th March 2012
  • Longlist interviews – Thursday 5th April 2012
  • Meeting to select shortlist candidates – Wednesday 11th April 2012
  • Shortlist interviews – Monday 16th April 2012
It should be noted that while the SLCC, Law Society of Scotland & Faculty of Advocates are keen to stress it is their member solicitors & advocates who stump up the £2.8 MILLION a year to pay for the SLCC’s budget, expenses claims & operating costs, the cold fact is that clients & consumers are being made to pay the complaints levies, via large hikes in legal fees or spurious additions of large sums to client’s legal bills for non existent or “forgotten work”. Taxpayers have also had a significant input into the SLCC, which has received around TWO MILLION POUNDS of taxpayers money since 2008 in the guise of “start up costs” despite the huge public sector cuts being forced through by Governments in London & Edinburgh. More on this year’s SLCC budget & complaints levy can be read here : Lawyers told to pay £338 for continuing ‘old pals act regulation’ as Scottish Legal Complaints Commission calls for 60% complaints levy rise

Some cases recently brought to the attention of Diary of Injustice where clients have been or are being pursued for unexplained or non existent legal work, have seen figures of tens of thousands of pounds demanded from clients for fees which law firms had supposedly “forgot to charge for”. Any consumer in a fee dispute with their solicitor where such a situation has arisen would be well advised to publicise their plight by contacting Diary of Injustice via

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Lawyers told to pay £338 for continuing ‘old pals act regulation’ as Scottish Legal Complaints Commission calls for 60% complaints levy rise

Jane Irvine SLCC ChairRegulating lawyers on the cheap : Jane Irvine’s SLCC sets the ‘Staying out of jail’ fee for Scottish lawyers at £338 a year. IF CRIMINALS could pay the Police £338 a year to rig an investigation, avoid criminal charges or a prosecution before the courts, there would be many takers (actually, come to think of it, there are). In what may therefore be a perfect comparison to a bribe to keep out of the arms of the law, the stage is set for another perfect ‘keep out of jail’ exercise in the legal world, where the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission (SLCC) has this week, announced its 2012-2013 budget of nearly THREE MILLION POUNDS, where solicitors with three or more years of experience will be required to pay a complaints levy of £338, thus ensuring the legal profession can continue to cover up the actions of Scotland’s swelling ranks of corrupt lawyers.

There is little doubt that a meagre £338 a year to ensure lawyers continue to regulate lawyers is certainly a bargain, if one considers the amounts of money being taken from clients on an annual basis, and the vast sums of taxpayers money being lost to solicitors fraudulently claiming legal aid, resulting in figures which are well into the tens of millions of pounds. Yet the Law Society of Scotland does not appear to feel the £338 is much of a bargain, even though their member solicitors appear to be recouping the complaints levy many times over from huge hikes in client fees, and other creative ways lawyers have used to swell their wallets.

Last year, the SLCC’s stay-out-of-jail levy for Scottish solicitors was an artificially low £209 after the Law Society of Scotland lobbied then Scottish Government’s Communities Minister Fergus Ewing to intervene on the legal profession’s behalf to force the SLCC to hand back ONE MILLION POUNDS to lawyers, reported by Diary of Injustice at the time, here : Emails reveal Law Society Chief Executive ‘called the shots’ over Fergus Ewing’s Ministerial threat to Scottish Legal Complaints Commission & HERE

This year, we are going to be treated to much the same spectacle, after the Law Society criticised the SLCC’s latest budget plan, and urged savings. You can be certain a letter from the Law Society to Roseanna Cunningham, who replaced Fergus Ewing, will certainly be in the post, or already on her desk demanding Ministerial coercion or simply just another up front intervention to lower the cost of the complaints levy to lawyers.

The proposed levy for the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission for the financial year 2012-2013 is: Solicitors with three plus years experience, £338 (£209 for 2011-12); Conveyancing & executry practitioners admitted three plus years £338 (£209); Solicitors in first three years of practice £169 (£105); Conveyancing & executry practitioners in first three years of practice £169 (£105); Practising outwith Scotland £113 (£69); In-house conveyancing & executry practitioners £113 (£69); In-house solicitors £113 (£69)

Lorna JackLaw Society’s Chief Executive Lorna Jack. Lorna Jack, the current Chief Executive of the Law Society of Scotland who replaced the much more fun Douglas Mill, was quick to plead poverty on behalf of her fellow solicitors in a Press Release issued by the Law Society, commenting : "Many of our members are facing difficult times economically.  Whilst we accept that the commission does not have the kind of reserves to offset the levy as it did last year, we believe that all efforts should be made to find further savings within the proposed budget thereby lessening the impact of the proposed levy increase."

The pleas of poverty on the part of lawyers do not appear to match the reality of large scale legal aid frauds running into millions of pounds a year, hikes in client fees where even the simplest cases taken on by Scottish solicitors are now costing several thousands of pounds a year to resolve and being stretched out for years to ensure further income.

Ms Jack continued : "The Commission has indicated that its expenditure will be down by half of one percent on last year. However, we are urging them to find further savings - without compromising the core and important role they perform - so that the annual levy solicitors pay to fund the organisation can be as low as possible in the coming year.

"Many of our members are facing difficult times economically.  Whilst we accept that the commission does not have the kind of reserves to offset the levy as it did last year, we believe that all efforts should be made to find further savings within the proposed budget thereby lessening the impact of the proposed levy increase."

The Press Release also reminded us that “…last year, the Society successfully lobbied the SLCC to use £1 million of its reserves, which meant that the levy was lower than in previous years.”

One of the most significant changes in the budget this year is the proposal to abolish the fee for resolving a complaint on the recommendation of a complaints investigator. Instead, the SLCC has the discretion to charge a case fee of up to £5,000 if a complaint is upheld at the determination stage.

The Law Society is required to collect the levy payments from solicitors on behalf of the SLCC. The levy funds the SLCC's annual budget, which this financial year (July 1, 2012 to June 30, 2013) is forecast to be £2,813,381, largely funded by the levy. The Law Society has called on its members to respond directly to the SLCC during the budget consultation (or participate in a fabricated consultation organised by the Law Society)

The Scottish Legal Complaints Commission issued a Press Release  on the budget, lacking any statement from its Chief Executive. The SLCC is funded by a levy paid by legal professionals operating in Scotland. Under the terms of the Legal Profession and Legal Aid (Scotland) Act 2007, we are required to consult with the professional bodies about our proposed budget for the next financial year. Following the consultation, the budget will be agreed and then laid before the Scottish Parliament. The SLCC's financial year runs from 1 July to 30 June.

The proposal is to: (i) set the complaints levy at mediation and investigation stages at zero for all complaints resolved. (ii) set the complaint levy at zero for complaints not upheld at determination (iii) set a single capped figure of £5,000 for complaints upheld in full or part at determination.  The SLCC's policy will be to apply discretion to charge up to that figure taking into account the circumstances of the case and providing reasons for the levy charged.

The full SLCC Proposed Budget (PDF, 95k) reports the most significant areas of spend continues to be on staff and members, both of which have increased in the current budget.  The budget for 2011/12 was based on a head count of 38.  The budget for 2012/13 is based on a headcount of 40.6 (The 0.6 being Jane Irvine’s dog, probably the only trustworthy yet unofficial member of staff at the Stamp Office who wont tell a client to drop dead just because they filed a complaint about their lawyer).

The SLCC claims the new staffing headcount reflects the changes since the SLCC reviewed its staffing levels as part of the restructuring during 2010/11 and the increase in the volume of work related to complaints and oversight. No mention was made of staff leaving the SLCC either on health grounds, grievances or other issues such as departing to higher up the chain appointments.

The most significant variances between years not related to staffing are: (i) Direct case costs : The increase is based on actual expenditure in the previous year on case-related legal costs.  The majority of this is in relation to appeals. ii)  Corporate legal costs : The increase is based on actual expenditure on advice in relation to interpretation of the 2007 Act, Freedom of Information requests/ reviews, employment and governance.  The majority being in relation to interpretation of legislation. The SLCC said this is likely to continue into the 2012/13 financial year.

Last year the SLCC blew hundreds of thousands of pounds on legal fees, associated with legal advice on just about every FOI request the SLCC received, along with advice & representation on a string of solicitors court challenges to its authority.

The SLCC’s somewhat fanciful, highboy fictional Operational Plan (PDF, 159k) claims they will focus resources and activities on developing and refining the policies and process that support their core business in relation to ;

(i) Acting as the gateway for legal complaints in Scotland, (ii) Resolving complaints about inadequate professional service provided by legal practitioners, (iii) Oversight of the professional bodies investigation of complaints about the conduct of legal practitioners, (iv) Advice and information giving to complainers, the legal profession, consumers and other stakeholders, (v) Implementing the provisions of the Legal Services Act 2010

The SLCC’s plan also claims that “underpinning these activities is our aim to contribute to improvements and excellence in the  provision of legal services in Scotland. Operationally we will continue to operate an efficient organisation that makes effective use of resources.”

If Jane Irvine’s pet dog doesn't believe the SLCC’s operational plan without a biscuit inducement, neither therefore should consumers who are forced to complain about their solicitors to the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission. We are after all talking about an organisation which has so far, told most consumers to ‘get lost’ about their complaints, upheld only a handful of cases against members of the legal profession, and appears not to have prosecuted any crooked lawyer or taken part in a striking off case after all the millions spent on the quango since 2008.

Rosemary AgnewSLCC Chief Executive Rosemary Agnew, soon to be Scotland’s new Freedom of Information Commissioner. Rosemary Agnew, the SLCC’s soon to exit Chief Executive who was recently appointed to replace Kevin Dunion as Scotland’s Information Commissioner, apparently at the insistence of a closed group of senior msps has written to the regulators who must ensure the complaints levy is paid. Ms Agnew’s letters can be found here : SLCC letters to the professional bodies (PDF, 6Mb). Ms Agnew in her role as Chief Executive has chosen not to issue any comment on the budget unlike last year where the Chief Executive issued a long statement.

Monday, February 13, 2012

NO JUSTICE for clients as Crown Office & Law Society ‘cosy deal’ allowed FRAUD accused lawyer to slip criminal prosecution & move to Lucca, Italy

Luccan for meCrown Office & Law Society 'deal' allowed a ‘crooked lawyer’ to escape justice over client fraud charges. SIGNIFICANT FAILURES on the part of prosecutors at the Crown Office & Procurator Fiscal Service and the lawyer’s regulator the Law Society of Scotland to prosecute solicitor THOMAS HUGH MURRAY over a string of fraud allegations made by his former clients have allowed the one time Stirling based lawyer who has been the subject of several investigations to slip away to the Northern Italian town of Lucca in Tuscany after the Law Society and prosecutors suspiciously failed to pursue charges the struck off solicitor embezzled £18,000 from client Neil McKechnie.

It has now emerged via the Sunday Mail newspaper that Murray, the solicitor involved in the client scam has been ARRESTED TWICE by Scottish Police, once over fraud charges and again after an attempt to flee the UK to avoid being prosecuted. However, the charges were dropped after a cosy deal was reached between the Crown Office & the Law Society of Scotland who then failed to act to protect clients.

The now Italian based Tom Murray, who as a solicitor was sequestrated in 2001 in Scotland, continues to avoid any moves to recover compensation for ruining his clients lives even though he has appeared before the Scottish Solicitors Discipline Tribunal (SSDT) on no less than three occasions, (i) Law Society-v-Thomas Hugh Murray 01/03/2005 (ii) Law Society-v-Thomas Hugh Murray 25/11/2005 and (iii) Law Society-v-Thomas Hugh Murray 10/12/2009. Murray was found guilty of professional misconduct in respect of misrepresentation, deception and misleading clients including his failure to tell his clients he had been barred from practising as a lawyer.

However, the Law Society of Scotland and SSDT’s attempts to prosecute Murray over the complaints have been called into question after it was alleged the solicitor appointed by the Law Society of Scotland to prosecute Murray before the Discipline Tribunal may have had a professional relationship with the very same solicitor he was supposed to be prosecuting. The details of what can only be described as a serious conflict of interest between the Law Society’s prosecution of Murray and the accused solicitor only came to light after a secret internal investigation at the Law Society, which is rumoured to have been given contradicting accounts by those involved in prosecuting Murray at the SSDT..

yellandPhilip Yelland, Director of Regulation at the Law Society of Scotland & in charge of Client Relations for the past 20 years. The Law Society of Scotland’s Philip Yelland who has been in charge of regulating solicitors for the past TWENTY YEARS, a now notorious two decades which have seem some of the worst scandals involving crooked lawyers in Scotland, wrote to Mr McKechnie, admitting : “Whilst you are quite correct in indicating that the Scottish Solicitors Discipline Tribunal considered specifically the failure of the part of Mr Murray to implement the decision made by the Law Society about the inadequate professional service you had received the written decision which would have allowed the Society to take steps to deal with the matter was not issued in December 2009 but was in fact issued by the Tribunal some months later. I should clarify that is normal practice in terms of the Tribunal and that following on from the issuing of the written findings there is a short period of appeal available.”

“What the Tribunal issues under Section 53C of the 1980 Act is the equivalent of a decree and there is therefore no reason to require service of that document on Mr Murray before consideration can be given to enforcement proceedings. As you are aware the prosecution of Mr Murray for alleged professional misconduct was continuing at that point and it is fair to say that immediate action was not taken to enforce the Section 53C order. The Society’s Fiscal however did at that point in time make some general enquiries about the enforcement of the Tribunals’ decision.”

“The challenge around the question of enforcement arises because of the fact that Mr Murray is now resident in Italy. So far as the Law Society of Scotland is aware Mr Murray is not resident in Scotland. Neither does Mr Murray have any assets in Scotland so far as the Law Society is aware.”

“That means that any enforcement proceedings would need to take place in Italy and from previous experience of other solicitors resident abroad the Society has had to look very carefully about the approach to take because of the difficulties arising both in terms of process and procedure and potential cost. That said on Thursday 19 January at the Court of Session in Edinburgh, the Society successfully served a charge on Mr Murray which opens up the possibility of other proceedings. However those will not instantly resolve outstanding matters. Accordingly I have prepared a paper to go to the Society’s Client Care Sub Committee in relation to the enforcement of this order. The reason that I am doing this is that the practicalities of endeavouring to enforce the order are extremely difficult. They are also costly.”

COPFS murrayProsecutors wrote to the solicitor’s victim admitting serious crimes had occurred yet they dropped the charges. The Crown Office & Procurator Fiscal Service have also come in for stinging criticism in their failure to prosecute the solicitor over the fraud allegations after he was reported to Police by clients who had their money taken by Murray, and although Police did arrest the solicitor over the allegations, twice, the Crown Office came to a cosy arrangement with the Law Society of Scotland who were supposed to act but instead allowed the one time lawyer to slip away to Italy. The Procurator Fiscal’s Office in Stirling wrote to Mr McKechnie, stating : “A decision was taken by the Crown Office to take no further proceedings in this case: this decision was not taken lightly as we realise the seriousness of this crime.” Further attempts to gain further information relating to the refusal to prosecute the lawyer have failed, after the Crown Office refused to release any of the papers it held on Murray, raising suspicions of yet another cover up where the Lord Advocate’s team have taken decisions not to prosecute a colleague from the legal profession.

However, investigations now being carried out by independent law journalists into the Thomas Murray crooked lawyer scandal have now revealed the involvement of a prominent Scottish Sheriff in Murray’s sequestration which dates back as far as 2001, and allegations surrounding the fraudulent use of cheque books belonging to a building company and other activity which may warrant a criminal investigation. More details on these new revelations will follow in further articles.

A friend of Mr McKechnie, one of the solicitor’s victims who lost tens of thousands of pounds due to Murray’s actions, spoke to Diary of Injustice today. The friend said it was clear the Law Society and the legal establishment have gone out of their way to avoid taking any substantive action against Murray, branding their “feeble efforts to prosecute the solicitor” as little more than “an attempt to pervert the course of justice.”

He said : “The Law Society has ignored the SSDT's Legal Order for enforcement to demand payment of erroneously taken money as fees plus the maximum compensation allowable under law, despite the Society having around a dozen opportunities to do so face to face with Mr Murray. He [Tom Murray] should be arrested on 23rd February, when he appears at the Court of Session”

Mr McKechnie’s health has suffered significantly as a result of dealings with Mr Murray and the situation has been made much worse by the Law Society’s failure to resolve the matter. However, Mr McKechnie is now being assisted by his local msp, Keith Brown (SNP) who is also the Scottish Government’s Transport Minister.

The Sunday Mail reports :

Sunday Mail scan tm 120212 2LAWYER's ITALIAN JOB : LUCCAN FOR ME ? Victim's fury after £18k fraud probe solicitor jets off to new life

Feb 12 2012 Exclusive by Russell Findlay, Sunday Mail

A LAWYER accused of stealing a client’s cash dodged paying compensation by quitting Scotland for Italy. Tom Murray is holed up in the town of Lucca in Tuscany after watchdogs did not pursue allegations that he embezzled £18,000 from a client.

Murray, 49, has three times been found guilty of professional misconduct by the Scottish Solicitors Discipline Tribunal but never struck off. One victim, Neil McKechnie, 43, has accused the legal establishment of protecting Murray.

Murray was arrested by fraud squad detectives in 2007 over claims he stole more than £18,000 from Neil. Weeks later, he was arrested again for allegedly trying to flee the country. But charges were dropped after the Crown Office agreed that the Law Society should take action.

Following the decision, Helen Bruce, of the Crown’s victim unit, wrote to Neil, stating: “This decision was not taken lightly as we realise the seriousness of this crime.” Neil, from Dunblane, said: “Anyone with the misfortune of being the victim of a lawyer should realise that self-regulation is self-protection.” In 1999 Murray was accused of ripping off Stuart Usher, who later founded pressure group Scotland Against Crooked Lawyers.

It took six years for the SSDT to rule Murray “acted dishonestly” and “deceived” Stuart by charging £3500 for work which was not done. Murray was ordered to work under supervision for three years. He was back before the SSDT later in 2005 for concealing his 2001 bankruptcy from a German client. The SSDT found him guilty of “misrepresentation, deception and misleading the client” and suspended him for five years.

Murray faced a third SSDT hearing in 2009 in relation to Neil’s complaints. He was found guilty of ignoring an earlier order to repay Neil £3049 fees and £1000 compensation. But the more serious accusation of the £18,000 embezzlement was abandoned. Last month the Law Society’s Philip Yelland wrote to Neil, stating: “The challenge around the question of enforcement arises because Mr Murray is now resident in Italy.”

Murray, who has worked in Dundee, Glasgow and Stirling, and his partner Linda Kilgour rent a £750-a-week apartment near Lucca. The lawyer has hit back against his former client with allegations of harassment. He served a writ demanding £15,000 damages from Neil. But Neil claimed he was medically unfit to defend himself so Murray won by default.

Neil said: “I have suffered serious illness as a result of my dealings with this man. I am now a 22st recluse with depression and diabetes.”

Friday, February 03, 2012

CAREER CROOKED : Investigation reveals Scottish judges are CONVICTED CRIMINALS, Drunk Drivers,Tax Dodgers & alleged BENEFITS CHEATS

Mulholland & judgeJudges appointed by Scottish Ministers on the say so of other judges have become convicted criminals & alleged Benefits cheats yet Lord Advocate wont name them. AN ONGOING INVESTIGATION by Diary of Injustice into cover ups within the Scottish Judiciary and a lack of a judicial register of interests has revealed a number of Scottish Judges who can earn up to £200K a year have been investigated & charged with, or have PLED GUILTY to a string of CRIMINAL CHARGES while at least one other judge has been charged with BENEFITS FRAUD. However, prosecutors are so worried for the positions of some of the judges who have handed down guilty verdicts on criminal cases brought before them in court, the Crown Office & Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS) HAS REFUSED to disclose the identities of any of the judges involved, for fear of sparking investigations into their conduct while in office and calls for a wider investigation into Scotland’s judiciary.

The information came to light after Diary of Injustice was handed details of cases where judges have either been interviewed, charged, or cautioned by Police with regards to their conduct outside of the courtroom. As part of the still ongoing investigations, Diary of Injustice approached the Crown Office using Freedom of Information laws to seek details of members of the judiciary who had been prosecuted for criminal offences in the past few years.

The Crown Office, who issued two lengthy responses to FOI requests but refused to name any of the judges involved, even the benefits cheat, admitted several judges had been charged with, & had pled guilty to criminal offences. In comparison, if a member of the public is charged or convicted of Benefits offences by a Scottish judge, the Crown Office are more than eager to share the information with the media, pictures of the accused or those found guilty and issue lengthy comments about how the system catches those who deserve. Apparently not though when it comes to catching a crooked judge.

Mr Anthony McGeechan, the Deputy Director of Serious Casework for the Crown Office & Procurator Fiscal Service said in his letter : “I can advise that the database operated by COPFS does not contain data that would allow COPFS to identify cases where the accused was a member of the judiciary. COPFS uses a live,operational case management system which is specifically designed to receive criminal and death reports from the police and other specialist reporting agencies and to manage these cases for prosecution purposes.The information held on the system is structured for these operational needs, rather than for statistical reporting or research purposes.”

However, as I have identified, Procurators Fiscals report cases where an allegation is made against a member of the judiciary to Crown Office. A hard copy file dating from 2007 is held at Crown Office. The information held in that file is that that 7 members of the judiciary have been reported to COPFS for criminal offences between 2007 and the present day.

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.

The released information disclosed the following criminal cases involving Scottish judges came in a further reply from the Director of Serious Casework for the Crown Office, David Harvie :

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.

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 admitted : “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.”

While the information disclosed by the Crown Office, which can be viewed online here : Crown Office : Criminal Charges against Scottish Judges does not contain any names of members of the judiciary, Diary of Injustice has been made aware of other cases of a criminal nature involving Scottish judges, now being looked into by journalists.

A solicitor speaking to Diary of Injustice yesterday said it was a very serious matter that members of the judiciary who have been convicted of or are charged with criminal offences, appear to be hiding behind exemptions to Freedom of Information legislation so the public don't get to find out their identities.

He said : “Clearly it is the public interest the identities of those serving on the bench who have criminal records be released. It is also of fundamental importance to the proper administration of justice that it be established what kinds of cases have been heard by these sheriffs or judges and how the cases concluded. There could well be some miscarriages of justice in all of this.”

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

It has not yet been confirmed by the Lord President what sanctions or disciplinary action, if any has been taken against any of the judges who now hold criminal records like many brought before them in court.

All sheriffs appointed in Scotland by Scottish Ministers are recommended to the position by the Lord President, after being considered by the Judicial Appointments Board for Scotland, a Scottish Government quango stuffed full of High Court judges, sheriffs, lawyers & quangocrats who earn £290 per day for choosing judges to fill vacant seats on the bench.

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, now being addressed by other jurisdictions around the world such as New Zealand who are moving ahead with a Register of Pecuniary Interests of Judges Bill.