New £313-a-day Chair for Scottish Legal Complaints Commission. THE widely disrespected Scottish Legal Complaints Commission (SLCC), the ‘single gateway’ for all complaints made by clients against Scottish solicitors, has a new Chair with the announcement of the appointment of Bill Brackenridge, who takes over the £313 a day position of what many observers now accept is little more than a “front company” for the Law Society of Scotland.
Mr Brackenridge claims the SLCC, with its annual budget of nearly £3 million pounds, paid for by client fees to solicitors, will be made more effective in dealing with complaints and will encourage improved standards in the legal profession under his leadership. Mr Brackenridge replaces Jane Irvine, the SLCC’s first Chair,and former Scottish Legal Services Ombudsman, who retired from her position on 31 December 2012.
The SLCC announced the appointment of Mr Brackenridge last week in a low key Press Release. The SLCC said Mr Brackenridge will bring “considerable Corporate Governance experience to the SLCC”, on the basis that as a management consultant for 25 years he has extensively advised public and private sector clients. Among his former appointments, Bill Brackenridge has served as a non-Executive Director on Highlands and Islands Airports Ltd and on NHS Highland, chairing the Argyll & Bute CHP for five years. For six years he chaired the Board of the Scottish Ambulance Service. He comes to the SLCC aiming to build on its formative years and intent upon developing positive relationships with its stakeholders.
Mr Brackenridge said : "I'm pleased to be joining the SLCC at such an important time in its development. We're now established as the gateway for all legal complaints in Scotland but there's much more for us to do to build trust and confidence in legal services. I'm looking forward to working with the team to make us even more effective and influential in dealing with complaints and in encouraging improved standards through our powers of guidance and oversight. The legal market is changing. Our hard-won experience will contribute to maintaining and strengthening public trust and confidence in buying and using legal services."
Omitted from the SLCC’s Press Statement, it is also known Mr Brackenridge was appointed by Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon to the Vale of Leven Monitoring Group which was set up to advise NHS Greater Glasgow & Clyde on the future of the Vale of Leven Hospital in West Dunbartonshire and modernisation of health services at the hospital.
However, during Mr Brackenridge’s tenure at the Vale of Leven Monitoring Group, it is worth noting and perhaps of considerable concern, that eleven lay members from the Vale of Leven Monitoring Group resigned their positions in a mass resignation, claiming their views were being ignored by the health board after a number of decisions were apparently taken by the Health Board contrary to input from the group’s lay members.
At the time of the mass resignation by the lay members, Mr Brackenridge in his capacity as Chair, told a meeting of the Vale of Leven Monitoring Group he was "disappointed" by the resignation of 11 lay members. However, the incident was widely reported in the media, with opposition politicians calling for Mr Brackenridge’s group’s disbandment, on the basis it had “no credibility”.
It may well be worth noting that Mr Brackenridge now finds himself heading a legal complaints regulator also well known for its lack of credibility.
The Scottish Government’s similarly low key announcement of Mr Brackenridge’s appointment, made by Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill, without a personal comment, claimed “The SLCC also promotes and advises on good complaint handling and makes recommendations to promote good legal practice in Scotland. The SLCC aims to resolve complaints quickly and effectively.”
However, some cases brought to the attention of Diary of Injustice appear to show the SLCC has told some clients it may be up to EIGHT MONTHS before their complaint is assigned to an investigator, while other cases have shown the SLCC is refusing to consider any evidence submitted by clients to challenge spurious claims made by solicitors who have the backing of organisations such as the Legal Defence Union to ‘persuade’ the SLCC to drop cases “on demand” as one insider put it.