Saturday, December 19, 2015

TOP JUDGE OF PARLIAMENT HOUSE: Lord Carloway appointed as Scotland’s Lord President & Lord Justice General of the Court of Session

Top judicial post of Lord President taken by Lord Carloway. SCOTLAND’S Lord Justice Clerk - Lord Carloway - has been confirmed as the new Lord President & Lord Justice General of the Court of Session.

The post of Lord President – with a salary of £220,655 per year - became vacant after Lord Brian Gill unexpectedly walked out of the top judicial post in May of this year – giving only 30 days notice he intended to quit.

The move, elevating the Lord Justice Clerk to the top job of Lord President comes after a secretive panel constituted by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon under the Judiciary and Courts (Scotland) Act 2008.

The behind-closed-doors panel, comprising Sir Muir Russell & Mrs Deirdre Fulton from the Judicial Appointments Board for Scotland, Lord Reed of the UK Supreme Court and Court of Session judge Lady Dorrian - began a search in July for a new top judge - with orders to recommend a name to the First Minister by 30 October 2015.

The secretive recruitment process for a Lord President is reported in further detail here: To play the President - Hunt begins for Scotland’s next top judge

Lord Carloway – real name Colin Sutherland - is known for his backing for the Scottish Government’s failed plan to remove corroboration from Scots law.

While in the role of Lord Justice Clerk, Lord Carloway authored the Carloway Review Report & Recommendations 2011 – which backed a joint effort by Scottish Ministers and the Crown Office to remove the centuries old safeguard against wrongful convictions requiring evidence in criminal trials to be corroborated from two independent sources.

The Carloway Review and it’s recommendation to abolish corroboration - was opposed by members of the judiciary in their Response by the Senators of the College of Justice to SG consultation : Reforming Scots Criminal Law & Practice.

The campaign to retain corroboration was backed by Lord Gill - the then Lord President - who spoke out at the Scottish Parliament’s Justice Committee - defining the injustice safeguard as one of the "finest features" of Scotland’s justice system. Video footage of Lord Gill’s evidence to MSPs can be found here: Lord President Brian Gill evidence to Justice Committee on retention of corroboration

The same Justice Committee – who voted against plans to remove corroboration from Scots Law - dubbed Lord Carloway “disdainful and dismissive” over his support for scrapping the need for corroboration in criminal cases.

In April of this year, as the Scottish Government retreated on their plans to abolish corroboration - Lord Carloway hit out at elements of the legal profession who campaigned for retention of the injustice safeguard.

During Lord Carloway’s speech to the Commonwealth Association of Law Reform Agencies Biennial Conference - the Lord Justice Clerk accused lawyers & critics of having "transparent self-interest" in retaining the centuries old injustice safeguard.

Lord Carloway said: "Reactionary or excessively defensive forces among the legal profession can, and often do, behave in a manner obstructive to progressive law reform, especially where there is transparent perceived financial self-interest."

The judge’s remarks provoked robust responses from Thomas Ross - the Chair of the Criminal Bar Association, reported in The Herald HERE

Mr Ross argued lawyers opposed to ending the safeguard - under which two pieces of evidence are required to secure a conviction - were acting against their own financial interests.

Recently Lord Carloway was appointed head of the Scottish Sentencing Council – a quango created by Scottish Ministers which was condemned by two previous Lord Presidents – Lord Gill and Lord Hamilton – as a political attempt to interfere with the judiciary and Scotland’s courts system.

The appointment of Lord Carloway to the role of Lord President – made by the Queen upon receiving a nomination from the First Minister - retains the 500 year old tradition of male only top judges.

Lord Carloway will be formally installed as Lord President early in the new year, 2016.

Once appointed as Lord President, Lord Carloway will be asked to give evidence to the Scottish Parliament’s Public Petitions Committee in connection with three year probe on proposals to require judges to register their interests, as called for in Petition PE1458: Register of Interests for members of Scotland's judiciary.

If Lord Carloway’s stated views on ‘transparency and self interest of vested legal interests’ are anything to go by, perhaps the new Lord President will reach a different view from his predecessor Lord Gill – who spent two of his three year term as top judge fighting plans to enhance judicial transparency with a register of judges’ interests.

The petition calls for the creation of a publicly available register of judicial interests containing information on judges backgrounds, their personal wealth, undeclared earnings, business & family connections inside & outside of the legal profession, offshore investments, hospitality, details on recusals and other information routinely lodged in registers of interest across all walks of public life in the UK and around the world.

The proposal to require judges to declare their interests enjoys cross party support, and was widely backed by MSPs during a full debate in the Scottish Parliament’s main chamber on 9 October 2014 - reported in full with video footage of MSPs and Scottish Ministers speaking during the Holyrood debate, here: Debating the Judges.

Previous articles on the lack of transparency within Scotland’s judiciary, investigations on judicial interests including reports from the media, and video footage of debates at the Scottish Parliament’s Public Petitions Committee can be found here : A Register of Interests for Scotland's Judiciary

Lord Carloway’s appointment as Lord President has been welcomed by the Dean of the Faculty of Advocates, who were recently revealed to have taken ownership of Scotland’s top court buildings from Edinburgh City Council.

James Wolffe QC, Dean of the Faculty of Advocates, said: “His appointment as head of Scotland’s judiciary is richly merited – having regard not only to his personal qualities but to his distinguished career of service, as an advocate before his appointment to the bench in 2000, as a judge since that date, and since 2012 as Lord Justice Clerk.

“Lord Carloway becomes Lord President at an important time for our legal system as it responds to technological, social and institutional change. I look forward very much indeed to working with him.”

Christine McLintock, President of the Law Society of Scotland who spent much of the week condemning legal aid cuts, commented: “I warmly congratulate Lord Carloway on his appointment. As one of our most senior and respected judges, and with a wealth of experience across both criminal and civil law, he has already made a substantial contribution to justice and the rule of law here in Scotland. I have every confidence he will make an even greater contribution as our Lord President.

“Lord Carloway assumes this role at a critical time for Scotland’s justice system, with major reforms to improve the efficiency of our courts but also pressures from reductions in public spending. We are also seeing a transformation in the legal services market, with new business models, changing expectations from clients and a greater internationalism amongst legal firms. Against this backdrop of change, we look forward to working with Lord Carloway, building on the excellent relationship we have enjoyed with him as Lord Justice Clerk.”

The appointment now creates a vacancy for the office of Lord Justice Clerk.

The First Minister is required by s19 of the Judiciary and Courts (Scotland) Act 2008 to establish a panel to recommend individuals suitable for this appointment.

Lord Carloway’s most recent appearance at the Scottish Parliament came during an evidence session before the Justice Committee on 8 December 2015 during which the Lord Justice Clerk gave evidence to MSPs on the Abusive Behaviour & Sexual Harm (Scotland) Bill.

Lord Carloway Justice Committee Scottish Parliament 8th December 2015


Lord Carloway is a graduate of Edinburgh University (LLB Hons) and was admitted to the Faculty of Advocates in 1977. He served as an Advocate Depute from 1986 to 1989 and was appointed Queen’s Counsel in 1990. From 1994 until his appointment as a Judge he was Treasurer of the Faculty of Advocates.

Lord Carloway was appointed a Judge in February 2000 and was elevated to the Inner House in August 2008. He became Lord Justice Clerk in August 2012.

He was an editor of ‘Green’s Litigation Styles’ and contributed the chapters on ‘Court of Session Practice’ to the Stair Memorial Encyclopedia and ‘Expenses’ in Court of Session Practice.

Lord Carloway was the joint editor of ‘Parliament House Portraits: the Art Collection of the Faculty of Advocates’ and is a former president of the Scottish Arts Club. He is the author of the Carloway Review on key elements of criminal law and practice which was published on 17 November 2011. Many of the recommendations from this review have been taken forward in the Criminal Justice (Scotland) Bill, approved by Parliament earlier this week.

Lord Carloway is also currently leading a steering group overseeing the Scottish Court and Tribunal Service review into Evidence and Procedure, including options for improving how children and other vulnerable witnesses provide evidence in criminal cases.

Friday, December 18, 2015

LEGAL BILLIONS: Law Society hits out at legal aid cuts as Scottish Legal Aid Board reveal lawyers received £138.6m public cash in 2014-15, making £1.2bn since 2008 financial crash

Billions in public cash keep ‘struggling’ lawyers afloat. SCOTLAND’S legal profession took home a staggering £138.6 million in public cash last year – for giving Scots access to justice – according to figures released by the Scottish Legal Aid Board (SLAB) today.

However, the latest round of payments of public subsidies to struggling solicitors, down from last year’s £150.5 million and marked for a further reduction by Finance Secretary John Swinney to £126.1m in 2016 budget - sparked ire at the Law Society of Scotland who yesterday attacked the Finance Secretary’s legal aid reductions as “unrealistic”.

Figures provided by the Scottish Legal Aid Board reveal Scotland’s legal profession have taken home over £1.2 billion in public cash since the great Financial crash of 2008: 2014-2015: £138.6m, 2013-14 £150.5m, 2012-13 £150.2m, 2011-12 £150.7m, 2010-11 £161.4m, 2009-10 £150.5m, 2008-09 £150.2m, 2007-08 £155.1m, TOTAL: £1.207 Billion.

Commenting on the figures, the Scottish Legal Aid Board said “Services funded through the Scottish Legal Aid Board (SLAB) provided help during 2014-15 to tens of thousands of often vulnerable people across Scotland. Legal aid funding allowed people to access the services of private practice solicitors, SLAB’s employed solicitors, law centres, and over 100 grant funded projects.”

Legal Aid Big Spenders: See which law firms, Advocates & Solicitor Advocates took home Legal Aid millions in 2014-2015. Glasgow based law firm Livingstone Browne Solicitors remain the top-earning law firm, taking home legal aid payments of £1.9 million. Brian McConnachie QC is Scotland's top legal aid earning advocate, receiving £303,000, Gordon Jackson QC earned £282,000 and third highest earner is Donald Findlay OQ on £258,600.The top legal aid earning solicitor advocate was Iain Paterson of Paterson Bell solicitors – who received £267,200 of public cash for legal services.

The total cost to the taxpayer of legal assistance in Scotland was £138.6 million in 2014-15, a decrease of 8% compared to the previous year. This £11.9m decrease is partly due to changes in the flow of criminal cases through the justice system in 2014-15. However, 2014-15 also saw falling applications and grants of summary criminal and civil legal assistance, offset partly by a slight increase in solemn criminal legal aid and continued growth in children’s legal assistance.

Colin Lancaster, Chief Executive of SLAB, said: “Over the last year, legal aid has again helped people across the country, many of them on low incomes and with caring responsibilities, defend themselves against criminal charges or deal with their problems on debt, housing, mental health or family breakdown.

“Publicly funded legal assistance helps people to resolve the problems they encounter in day to day life by pursuing or defending their rights and as such it makes a vital contribution to tackling inequalities in Scotland.

“The fall in expenditure in 2014-15 is not a signal that the financial challenges are over or that the legal aid system doesn’t need further reform and streamlining.

“The impact of the UK Spending Review means that significant further changes are needed to meet the Scottish Government’s budget allocation for legal aid. While the legal aid fund is demand led, and no-one who is eligible will be refused legal aid, expenditure savings will need to be found.

“Access to justice can only be maintained in the face of these financial challenges by working collaboratively with those interested in protecting the vulnerable through a legal aid system that is broad in scope and encourages a strategic approach to meeting needs. I look forward to doing so over the coming months.”

Iain A Robertson CBE, Chairman of SLAB, said: “Although we have seen the general demand for legal assistance fall again in 2014-15, the funds available to manage public finances are also falling. The need to reduce expenditure on legal aid has not gone away, and will increase.

“We will work collaboratively with others in the justice sector to deliver improvements that will enable further reductions in legal aid expenditure, including by streamlining the legal aid system where possible.

“It is imperative that discussions on reforms are approached strategically and in the context of the justice system as a whole, to protect the best interests of those in need of support from the legal aid system. Otherwise Scotland risks its proud record on maintaining access to justice.”

Key points of the Scottish Legal Aid Board 2014-15 annual report:

    Total expenditure on the Legal Aid Fund in 2014-15 fell by 8% to £138.6 million compared to the previous year. The 2013-14 figure was £150.5 million.
    SLAB assessed 212,000 applications for legal aid and paid 241,000 accounts of solicitors and counsel.
    SLAB managed three grant funding programmes, which enabled support for 108 projects around Scotland. The projects helped nearly 27,000 new clients. SLAB grant funding also contributed to a new Scottish Women’s Rights Centre which helps women experiencing gender based violence.
    SLAB processed all application and account types within its headline performance indicators.
    SLAB reduced the average number of working days it takes to process civil legal aid applications by six working days. It also reduced the average number of working days to making a payment on an account by six working days.
    Expenditure on criminal legal assistance fell by 10% compared to the previous year, from £94.0 million to £85.0 million.
    Net expenditure on civil legal assistance was £43.9 million, a fall of 8% compared to the previous year from £47.7m. There has been a fall in the take-up of advice and representation in civil matters.
    Children’s legal assistance (legal aid and ABWOR) cost £5.2 million, an increase of 7% compared to the previous year, from £4.9 million.
    Gross expenditure on grant funded projects was £6.3 million which increased from £5.5 million as a result of the Scottish Government and Money Advice Service providing extra funding for an extended programme.
    Payments to solicitors totalled £107.7 million, advocates £11.9 million and solicitor advocates £3.0 million.
    Payments on outlays (e.g. expert witnesses and court reports) fell by 8% compared to the previous year, from £19.5 million to £17.9 million.
    Grants of all types of criminal legal assistance have fallen compared to the previous year, apart from a small rise of 1.2% in grants of solemn criminal legal aid. This reflects a longer term trend of declining summary court business.
    Grants of civil legal assistance have fallen by 9.5% compared to the previous year. Demand has fallen due to the easing of pressures stemming from the economic situation. The largest volume year-on-year falls were in cases with subject matters of contact, separation and divorce. All these areas have been steadily declining for the past few years.
    Legal aid grants in relation to intervention orders and guardianship orders under Part 6 of the Adults with Incapacity (Scotland) Act 2000 now represent the largest category of legal aid certificates issued at 28% of all grants. Grants of this nature rose 19% in 2014-15 compared to the previous year.
    Grants of children's legal assistance continue to be affected by the changes that came into force on 24 June 2013 that extended the scope and availability of legal assistance for children's hearings. It is still too early to establish a proper comparison in volumes between years.

Responding to cuts in Legal Aid, and the Scottish Government’s Draft Budget for 2016-17, announced yesterday, Christine McLintock, President of the Law Society of Scotland, made the following statement to legal aid practitioners: “The 2016-17 budget allocation for the legal aid fund has been set at £126.1 million, the lowest it has been for well over a decade. This is a reduction from the 2015-16 budget of over 7% (from £136.1 million to £126.1 million).

“Legal aid spending is demand led and not limited by the budget and so we would expect the Scottish Government to continue to meet all its obligations in terms of demand for legal aid over the coming year. However, as you are aware, through its savings initiatives, the Government tries to reduce expenditure to meet the budget allocation.

“The Scottish Government has set the financial target for 2016-17 at a level that:

Is lower, in cash terms, than levels of legal aid expenditure from over 20 years ago (in 1994/95 the total expenditure on legal assistance was £132.1 million).

Is clearly unrealistic if you are trying to maintain an effective and sustainable legal aid system. Given existing figures, in order to reach its target, the Government would need to cut expenditure by at least £10 million by 2016-17. We do not see how this can possibly be achieved without seriously damaging both access to justice and the justice system.”

Investigation on Legal Aid in Scotland: SCOTTISH JUSTICE IN THE DOCK : Scotland's lawyers earn more from Legal Aid than whole of Italy, shock report reveals

The Euro study showed that Scotland disciplined a tiny number of lawyers compared to countries of similar size. Just three were struck off and 13 reprimanded in Scotland in 2010. Denmark, with a similar population, took action against 309 lawyers, with six struck off and 145 fined. And in Finland, also close in size, 99 rogue solicitors were sanctioned. Critics blame the Law Society of Scotland’s dual role of representing lawyers while also acting as regulator.

A large proportion of alleged criminals reported to prosecutors in Scotland are not being put in the dock. Of 265,830 cases sent to the Crown Office, only 41.7 per cent were brought to court. In England and Wales, 90.6 per cent of all cases resulted in court action.

The difference is thought to be partly due to Scotland’s recent introduction of spot fines and fiscal fines for what the authorities insist are more minor offences. Critics claim such fines lead to a secret justice system.

The report reveals that Scotland’s sheriffs top the European pay league.

Our sheriffs, with an average salary of 150,106 euros (£120,000), were number one, ahead of the Irish and Swiss. Next were sheriffs’ counterparts in England and Wales, who were paid 120,998 euros (£95,000). Not only were sheriffs the highest-paid, they also topped the table comparing their earnings to the national average. They earned 5.2 times the average Scot’s wage.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

NO NAME, NO SHAME: Scottish Legal Complaints Commission will protect identifies of rogue solicitors & dishonest law firms - as legal quango confirms limited publication of complaint cases

Scots legal regulator refuses to name corrupt lawyers. DECISIONS relating to investigations by the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission (SLCC) on complaints about corrupt solicitors - are to be published for the first time in Scotland later this month.

However, lawyers who regularly swindle their clients and taxpayers can breathe a sigh of relief - as the SLCC confirmed it will not publish the names of corrupt lawyers or their law firms in any ‘anonymised’ decisions to be published every few months on the legal regulator’s website.

The move by the pro-lawyer SLCC to publish censored details of legal complaints in Scotland - comes several years after the Legal Ombudsman equivalent in England & Wales began to publish  Public interest cases & case summaries and Ombudsman decision data identifying the number of decisions against named law firms in the rest of the UK.

This imbalance leaves consumers of legal services in Scotland at a disadvantage - as Scots are not able to find out complaints histories of their solicitors or law firms, while consumers in England & Wales are able to make a more informed decision on which solicitor to use.

In a statement released to the media, the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission claimed it cannot identify corrupt or crooked lawyers - due to sections of the Legal Profession and Legal Aid (Scotland) Act 2007 - inserted at the behest of the legal profession – which prohibit anyone from the SLCC identifying a rogue solicitor or law firm.

David Buchanan-Cook, head of oversight at the SLCC, explained: "While we hope that this will also demonstrate better accountability and the transparency of our complaint handling process, we also needed to balance that transparency with our duty to protect the confidentiality of complainers and practitioners. Unlike our counterparts south of the border, our legislation prevents us from 'naming and shaming' individual solicitors or firms without their express permission unless the complaint is unusual and it is in the public interest to publish. Very few, if any, inadequate service complaints meet those criteria.

"For these reasons, we have chosen to publish anonymous complaint information in the form of very short case studies and have, as far as possible, removed any identifying features. As such, the complaint information is only a brief summary of the information made available to the Determination Committee. In making decisions, consideration will have been given to specific facts and circumstances which, again for reasons of confidentiality, cannot be provided publicly.

"We hope, however, that the published information is sufficient to provide general guidance to the profession and that it will help promote best practice in the provision of legal services."

Coinciding with the new service, the SLCC is launching a quarterly ‘Law Society’ style newsletter specifically aimed at providing practical and topical support for client relations managers.

The newsletter – seen as a move to bring the SLCC back into self regulation fold after years of claiming ‘independence’ - will contain regular best practice features, guest articles, prior notice of future CPD events and will provide comment on some of the trends and features emerging from the previous quarter’s published decisions.

It is worth noting the latest window dressing developments at the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission come after coverage in the mass media of several high profile cases involving corrupt lawyers dodging criminal prosecution for fraud and provision of dishonest legal services which often result in substantial and unrecoverable financial losses to clients.

A BBC Scotland investigation Lawyers Behaving Badly – exposed serious flaws in the world of solicitors self regulation where lawyers investigate their own.

And, a recent investigation of the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission revealed the Law Society controlled quango is staffed mainly by families, friends & associates of solicitors, reported here: 'Independent' Scots legal watchdog consists of solicitors’ husbands, wives, sons, daughters, cousins, friends, & employers.

Previous media investigations, reports and coverage of issues relating to the SLCC can be found here: Scottish Legal Complaints Commission - A history of pro-lawyer regulation.


An investigation by BBC’s Lawyers Behaving Badly featured among others, the case of John O’Donnell – a serial rogue solicitor who has featured in numerous media reports.

The programme - aired in January 2014 to much consternation of the Law Society, certain parts of the legal profession and elderly aggrieved legal hacks – revealed staggering differences in how dishonesty is tolerated in the Scottish legal profession in comparison to cases in England & Wales – where dishonesty is automatically a striking off offence.

Alistair Cockburn, Chair, Scottish Solicitors Discipline Tribunal. Featured in the investigation was the Scottish Solicitors Discipline Tribunal (SSDT) Chairman’s attitude towards solicitors accused of dishonesty in their representation of clients legal affairs. During the programme, it became clear that dishonesty among lawyers in Scotland is treated less severely, compared to how English regulators treat dishonesty.

Sam Poling asks: The Scottish Solicitors’ Discipline Tribunal hears all serious conduct cases against solicitors. Last year they struck off nine of them. But is this robust enough?

Alistair Cockburn Chairman, Scottish solicitors discipline tribunal replies: It is robust in the sense that it doesn’t just give convictions on the basis that somebody’s brought before us charged by the Law Society.  We are mindful, particularly when reminded of the lay members, of a duty to the public.

One is always concerned when there is deception but you can have a situation where solicitors simply lose their place. They make false representations in order to improve their client’s position, not necessarily their own. And you would take that into account in deciding what the penalty was but there’s no suggestion that such conduct wasn’t deemed to be professional as conduct. 

Sam Poling: So there are levels of dishonesty which sit comfortably with you, satisfactorily with you?

Alistair Cockburn: No it’s not a question of saying sitting comfortably with me.  I’ve told you…

Sam Poling: OK that you would accept?

Alistair Cockburn: No I’d be concerned on any occasion that a solicitor was guilty of any form of dishonesty.  One has to assess the extent to which anyone suffered in consequence of that dishonesty.  You have to take into consideration the likelihood of re-offending and then take a decision.  But you make it sound as if it’s commonplace.  It isn’t.  Normally dishonesty will result in striking-off.

English QC’s agree ‘dishonesty’ is a striking off offence. The SSDT Chairman’s comments on dishonesty compared starkly with the comments of the English QC’s who said dishonesty was undoubtedly a striking off offence.

Andrew Hopper QC: “I cant get my head round borrowing in this context. Somebody explain to me how you can borrow something without anyone knowing about it. That’s just taking.”

Andrew Boon Professor of Law, City University, London: “They actually say in the judgement they would have struck him off but the client hadn't complained.”

Andrew Hopper QC “We’re dealing with a case of dishonesty and that affects the reputation of the profession. I would have expected this to result in striking off.”

Andrew Boon, Professor of Law: “The critical thing is the risk factor. If somebody has been dishonest once the likelihood is that they are going to be dishonest again unless they’re stopped.”

As Sam Poling went on to report: “but he [O’Donnell] wasn't stopped. The tribunal simply restricted his license so that he had to work under the supervision of another solicitor.”

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

FRATERNITY FRIENDS: ‘Independent’ Scottish Legal Complaints Commission seek new legal & non-legal board members - with an interest in lawyers

Related to a lawyer? Board positions on offer at legal quango. SCOTLAND’S pro-lawyer regulator of solicitors – the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission (SLCC) has announced a new recruitment round for legal and ‘non-legal’ board members.

The five year term for two ‘non-legal’ and one legal board member, scooping up a fee of £212 per day including expenses claims for just about anything candidates can imagine are up for grabs at the ‘independent’ legal complaints quango - now run by a former director of the Law Society of Scotland.

For the daily sum and expenses – funded by hikes in legal fees to clients, SLCC board members will be expected to attend or participate in board meetings held in Edinburgh on the last Tuesday of every second month (January, March etc.).

On the last Tuesday of the other months, members can pick up a fee for attending the “Performance Board” - lasting no more than an hour.

Determination Committees – which rubber stamp ‘recommendations’ from the Law Society of Scotland - are usually held on Wednesdays in Edinburgh.

If appointed you will be expected to take up your position as either Legal or Non-legal Member on 1st April 2016.  Each appointee will be expected to attend a two day induction, which is currently scheduled for 11th and 12th April 2016.

Full details of the ‘skills’, ‘knowledge’ and ‘experience’ required for these appointments are contained in the Applicant Information Pack.

Closing date for applications is Monday 4th January 2016.  Interviews will be held on the 27th and / or 28th January 2016 in Edinburgh.

Interested applicants can contact former Law Society Director Neil Stevenson on 0131 201 2189 or by email at

The recruitment notice put out by the SLCC states Mr Stevenson “can also arrange a chat with one of the current Members” and that “Discussions are confidential, and separate to the recruitment process.”

Neil Stevenson was appointed  to the post of SLCC Chief Executive earlier this year after the resignation of previous Chief Executive Matthew Vickers, and increasing frustration at the Law Society over the direction the SLCC was taking under an ‘independent’ CEO.

Stevenson’s appointment came after a bad year for the Law Society in the wake of the BBC Scotland investigation Lawyers Behaving Badly -  which blew the mask off lawyers investigating their own and legal aid fraud.

With the announcement of the latest round of board positions to the seven year old solicitors complaints quango, it is worth looking back on the register of interests of the current complement of the SLCC’s board – which has managed to steer the legal complaints quango in every direction the Law Society of Scotland insisted.

The changes, and growth of current board members interests in the latest 2015 SLCC board members register can be compared with the 2013 version, reported here: Solicitors regulator SLCC’s Board Members Interests reveals connections, influence & how quango positions, consultancy empires are built behind closed doors

SLCC Board Members Register of Interests 2015:

Bill Brackenridge: Non-Executive Director of the State Hospital Board. Chairman, Argyll & Bute Adult Protection Committee.

George Clark: Formerly Director of Scottish Building Society and SBS Mortgages Limited (retired 30/5/13). Formerly Consultant/Partner with Morton Fraser LLP from 1979 until 2012.

Chair of the Private Rented Housing Panel in Scotland. Previously, Chairman of Edinburgh Solicitors Property Centre from 1988 until 2001. Chairman of Homeowner Housing Panel and Private Rented Housing Panel.

Ian Gibson: Member of consultant's panel for the Charities Aid Foundation. Volunteer business mentor Scottish Chamber of Commerce. Cousin is a partner in Kirklands Solicitors Perth. Nephew is a solicitor advocate with Simpson Marwick; his partner is an advocate in Axiom stables. Trustee CLIC Sargent. Secretary of Newtonmore Camanachd Club.

Dr Samantha Jones: Director of Islandscape Photography (self-employed). Freelance consultant. Formerly, an Associate Consultant with Valuta Ltd during (2010). Previously, Clerk to the Standards Committee and HR Change Programme Manager for Scottish Parliament (2000-2010). During time with Scottish Parliament had regular professional contact with staff of the Government Legal Service for Scotland (GLSS) (2000-2010). A Licentiate of the Royal Photographic Society - voluntary unpaid role. ALB Navigator at Tobermory RNLI and the station's Lifeboat Press Officer - voluntary unpaid role. Local Development Officer, Ulva Ferry (Part time 2.5days per week) funded by Highlands and Islands Enterprise (from 1 April 2014). Freelance Development Agent, Argyll and the Isles Tourism Co-Operative (up to eight days per month from 1 October 2014).

Ian Leitch: Member of the Law Society of Scotland. Member of Audit Scotland Board and Chair of Remuneration and HR Committee (from 1 April 2014). Chair of Audit Scotland Board (from 1 October 2015).

Iain McGrory: Commissioned the services of Simpson and Marwick Solicitors, Aberdeen and Edinburgh Branches, on behalf of Grampian Police between 2002 and 2010. Independent consultant trading as IJM Professional Services providing a range of services including complaint handling and developing performance and disciplinary procedures. In 2013 chaired a Working Group on behalf of the Scottish Government - Police Reform Team, tasked with producing updated Conduct Regulations for the new Police Service of Scotland. On 8 July 2014 appointed as a Disciplinary Pool Lay Member of the Institute and Faculty of Actuaries On 1 July 2015 appointed as a member of the Cabinet Office Security Vetting Appeals Panel. Provides ad hoc consultancy services to the Police Investigations and Review Commissioner (PIRC).

Maurice O'Carroll: Practising Member of the Faculty of Advocates 1995 - date. Ad hoc Advocate Depute for Crown Office 2002 - date.  Brother of Sheriff Derek O'Carroll, resident Sheriff at Airdrie [who was a practising Member of the Faculty of Advocates (2000-2010).] Legal Chairman for the Homeowner Housing Panel and Private Rented Housing Panel 2012 to date.

Fiona Smith: Formerly HR Director for NHS Orkney from 2004 to 2011. Professional dealings with the NHS Central Legal Office between November 2004 and February 2011. Partner in Sorton Partners, a business advice and consultancy partnership. Owner of Niteo, a training and coaching business. Associate of VA Consultants, a training and development provider. Associate of Taylor Clarke, an Organisational Development consultancy business. Director of the Orkney Hyperbaric Trust, an unpaid voluntary role. Committee member of the Orkney West Mainland Industrial and Horticultural Society, an unpaid voluntary role.

Kevin Dunion: Formerly Scottish Information Commissioner from 2003 to 2012. Director, Dunion Associates Ltd, providing research, consultancy and training. Honorary Professor and Executive Director, Centre for Freedom of Information, School of Law, University of Dundee. Visiting Professor, Northumbria University. Board Member, World Bank Access to Information Appeals Board. Retained services of Brodies LLP and Anderson Strathern whilst Scottish Information Commissioner. Member, Standards Commission for Scotland (from September 2015).

As for the remaining staff at the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission a recent media investigation uncovered the quango is staffed mainly by families, friends & associates of solicitors, reported here: 'Independent' Scots legal watchdog consists of solicitors’ husbands, wives, sons, daughters, cousins, friends, & employers.

Previous media investigations, reports and coverage of issues relating to the SLCC can be found here: Scottish Legal Complaints Commission - A history of pro-lawyer regulation.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

CRIME SOCIETY: Law Society of Scotland 'unfit for purpose' as calls grow for Scots solicitors to be stripped of self regulation powers used by lawyers to investigate themselves

Scots solicitors should be stripped of powers to police themselves. FROM SCANDAL to scandal, the all too powerful Law Society of Scotland has managed to dodge calls for the legal profession to be stripped of their self regulation powers which ensure lawyers investigate themselves, and ultimately look after their own.

No matter the amount of damage to personal lives, families & businesses of clients, tens of millions a year in clients cash and property lost to cheating solicitors with a practising certificate backed up by their trade union body – the Law Society of Scotland - the legal profession has sailed through each scandal to blag another day.

Even after two Scottish Parliamentary inquiries, the same faces sit proud at their Law Society desks, revelling in their defence of their colleagues. Grim.Almost, horrific.

Those Parliamentary inquiries? The first - in 2003 was compromised by its pro self-regulation approach right from the start.

After taking tea with the legal eagles, the Justice Committee went onto conclude there should be no change to lawyers patting themselves on the back after another successful burglary well done.

And the second Justice 2 Committee inquiry in 2006 which promised so much - ended in the brutally watered down Legal Profession and Legal Aid (Scotland) Act 2007 courtesy once more of vested legal interests, hysterical threats from legal chiefs and Law Society arm twisting.

Today as much as yesterday, rogue lawyers still pat themselves on the back for every fraud dodged, every ruined client and complaint put to sleep. Why not? They have ultimate protection from clients, delivered by their very own colleagues at the Law Society of Scotland.

And of course, let’s not forget the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission (SLCC) - trumpeted by the Scots legal establishment as the ‘independent’ face of legal regulation in Scotland since 2008.

Independent? Not.

The Scottish Legal Complaints Commission is run by the same people who looked after lawyers at the Law Society of Scotland - 'Independent' Scots legal watchdog consists of solicitors’ husbands, wives, sons, daughters, cousins, friends, & employers.

The Law Society also appointed Neil Stevenson -  one of their own former Directors - to the top CEO post at their friendly ‘indy’ £3m a year SLCC quango earlier this year.

What stunning successes for clients has the SLCC produced since it was created in 2008? Not one: Scottish Legal Complaints Commission - A history of pro-lawyer regulation.

With the accumulating scandals of Scottish lawyers up to no good – from Christopher Hales to John O’Donnell to the usual suspects and more - where the Law Society of Scotland investigates its own, over and over, and pats itself on the back for a job well done protecting colleagues, calls are again now being made to strip lawyers of their powers to police themselves.

The Scottish Sun reports:

The Big Read: Law and disorder

By RUSSELL FINDLAY Scottish Sun, 6 December 2015

CRITICS are calling for an end to the secretive “old boys’ club” which sees Scots lawyers police themselves.

It took the Law Society of Scotland four years to give police details of its probe into an alleged mortgage fraud linked to solicitor Christopher Hales and MP Michelle Thomson.

But legal experts insist this would not have happened if we had the same system of outside supervision that operates down south.

Last night a former Cabinet minister said it is “astonishing” that a trade body remains in charge of disciplining lawyers here.

Ex-Labour MP Brian Wilson said: “It’s clearly an old boys’ club and a closed shop which very much looks after its own.

“The Law Society seems to be under no obligation to report serious wrongdoing to the police until it suits them.

“It’s fundamentally wrong for lawyers to have special status. Scotland needs an independent system of regulation to protect the public.”

In July 2011 the Law Society uncovered a “potential fraud” involving 13 property deals linked to the SNP’s Ms Thomson and others.

It had an agreement at the time to share information with the then-Scottish Crime and Drug Enforcement Agency.

But its “suspicious activity report” on Mr Hales was sent to the London-based Serious Organised Crime Agency, which focused on money laundering and terrorist financing.

The lawyer was suspended in September 2011 but was not struck off until May 2014.

And it took the Law Society another 14 months before it handed over its papers on the case to the Crown Office.

Police were then instructed to probe Ms Thomson — now MP for Edinburgh West.

But today we can reveal cops down south would have been alerted four years ago.

Since 2007 all lawyers in England and Wales have had to answer to the independent Solicitors Regulation Authority.

And an SRA spokesman said: “It is standard practice to disclose information to police should we uncover evidence of suspected criminality.”

Scots Labour shadow justice secretary Graeme Pearson, above right, blasted the Thomson delay, saying: “An early report of suspected criminality is easier to investigate.”

Lawyer and ex-Scotland Yard detective Rowan Bosworth- Davies added: “This should have been reported to local cops as soon as possible.”

In other cases the Law Society has unearthed evidence of suspected criminal behaviour by lawyers — but did not inform police.

So instead of facing trial, briefs had their knuckles rapped by legal colleagues.

And victims of crooked lawyers say the complaints system is stacked against them.

A Law Society of Scotland spokeswoman said: “We work alongside an independent complaints-handling body and independent discipline tribunal.

“Much evidence suggests the system of regulation in England and Wales is more complicated and expensive.

“We are legally obliged to report to the authorities where we have concerns about possible criminality, and we do.”


An investigator who was knifed more than ten times suspected a lawyer of ordering the hit.

Ex-Law Society boss Leslie Cumming, 71, believed an Edinburgh solicitor, who we cannot name, paid thug Robert Graham to carry out the 2006 attack in the city’s Murrayfield.

Mr Cumming, told us 19 days before he died of cancer in February: “There were two solicitors who were well connected with criminals – he was one looked at”


A SHAMED lawyer dodged being struck off despite breaking money laundering rules.

Glasgow solicitor John O’Donnell, 65, struck a secret deal with the Law Society in 2009 in which he agreed to stop working. He had been found guilty of six counts of misconduct and once “borrowed” £60,000 from an unwitting client.

But the brief used another lawyer’s name to continue duping punters.

Tuesday, December 08, 2015

EVIDENCE, M’LORD: Scotland’s next top judge to be asked to give evidence in Scottish Parliament’s probe on secretive world of undeclared judicial wealth, interests & judges' links to big business

Former Justice Secretary calls for top judge to appear at Holyrood. SCOTLAND’S as yet unnamed new top judge who will take on the role of Lord President & Lord Justice General – is to be called to give evidence to the Scottish Parliament’s three year probe on creating a register of interests for judges as called for in Petition PE1458: Register of Interests for members of Scotland's judiciary.

The call to hear from the new top judge was made by former Justice Secretary and Petitions Committee member Kenny MacAskill MSP during a brief discussion of  Petition PE1458 at last week’s meeting of the Public Petitions Committee on 1 December 2015.

Calling on whoever is named to be Scotland’s new top judge, Kenny MacAskill said: “We have heard from the previous Lord President and I think that we should hear from the new Lord President, whoever he is likely to be—I do not think that there is a “she” on the shortlist. That appointment is likely to be made in the next week or so, so there is still time for him to appear before us.”

The petition calls for the creation of a publicly available register of judicial interests containing information on judges backgrounds, their personal wealth, undeclared earnings, business & family connections inside & outside of the legal profession, offshore investments, hospitality, details on recusals and other information routinely lodged in registers of interest across all walks of public life in the UK and around the world.

The proposal to require judges to declare their interests enjoys cross party support, and was widely backed by MSPs during a full debate in the Scottish Parliament’s main chamber on 9 October 2014 - reported in full with video footage of MSPs and Scottish Ministers speaking during the Holyrood debate, here: Debating the Judges.

Petition PE1458 Register of Interests for Judges Public Petitions Committee 1 December 2015

Judiciary (Register of Interests) (PE1458)

The Convener: Our next petition is PE1458, by Peter Cherbi, on the creation of a register of interests for members of Scotland’s judiciary. Members have a note on the committee’s previous consideration of the petition and the submissions from the petitioner.

Do members have any comments?

Kenny MacAskill: We have heard from the previous Lord President and I think that we should hear from the new Lord President, whoever he is likely to be—I do not think that there is a “she” on the shortlist. That appointment is likely to be made in the next week or so, so there is still time for him to appear before us.

The Convener: In that case, we will write to the new Lord President, as we said that we would.

Decision: The Committee agreed to write to the new Lord President once appointed.

During an earlier evidence session held on 10 November 2015, MSPs on the Public Petitions Committee heard from former Lord President, Lord Brian Gill (73) – who suddenly retired in May 2015 - after serving three years as Lord President & Lord Justice General - one of the shortest terms of a Lord President in recent history.

Lord Gill vehemently opposes any call for judicial transparency and calls to require judges to disclose their interests, and twice refused invitations to appear before MSPs to give evidence on the probe into judicial interests.

Gill spent two of his three years as Lord President writing a series of eight angry letters to the Public Petitions Committee, calling on MSPs to exit the petition and any discussion of judicial transparency – reported in detail here: Top judge branded media & public aggressive in attempt to avoid interests register & judicial transparency

The stormy evidence session with Lord Gill, reported here: Sparks fly as top judge demands MSPs close investigation on judges’ secret wealth & interests saw ex top judge Brian Gill hound MSPs on three occasions with demands to close the petition.

Video footage of Lord Gill’s terse 50 minutes evidence to MSPs is available here: Evidence of Lord Gill before the Scottish Parliament 10 November 2015.

Highlights of the former top judge’s vested interests must remain secret approach include:

In an angry exchange with MSP Jackson Carlaw, Lord Gill demanded to control the kinds of questions he was being asked. Replying to Lord Gill,  Mr Carlaw said he would ask his own questions instead of ones suggested to him by the judge.

And, in responses to independent MSP John Wilson, Lord Gill dismissed media reports on scandals within the judiciary and brushed aside evidence from Scotland’s independent Judicial Complaints Reviewers – Moi Ali & Gillian Thompson OBE – both of whom previously gave evidence to MSPs in support of a register of judges’ interests.

Facing further questions from John WIlson MSP on the appearance of Lord Gill’s former Private Secretary Roddy Flinn, the top judge angrily denied Mr Flinn was present as a witness – even though papers prepared by the Petitions Committee and published in advance said so. The top judge barked: “The agenda is wrong”.

And, in a key moment during further questions from committee member Mr Wilson on the integrity of the judiciary, Lord Gill angrily claimed he had never suspended any judicial office holders.

The top judge was then forced to admit he had suspended judicial office holders after being reminded of the suspension of Sheriff Peter Watson.

Several times during the hearing, the retired top judge demanded MSPs show a sign of trust in the judiciary by closing down the petition.

Questioned on the matter of judicial recusals, Gill told MSPs he preferred court clerks should handle information on judicial interests rather than the details appearing in a publicly available register of interests.

Lord Gill also slammed the transparency of judicial appointments in the USA - after it was drawn to his attention judges in the United States are required to register their interests.

In angry exchanges, Lord Gill accused American judges of being elected by corporate and vested interests and said he did not want to see that here. However, the situation is almost identical in Scotland where Scottish judges who refuse to disclose their interests, are elected by legal vested interests with hidden links to corporations.

Scotland’s first ever Judicial Complaints Reviewer (JCR) - Moi Ali gave backing to the the judicial transparency proposal during a must watch evidence session held at Holyrood in September 2013.

Scotland’s current Judicial Complaints Reviewer Gillian Thompson OBE also backed the petition and the creation of a register of judicial interests during an evidence session at Holyrood in June 2015.

Previous articles on the lack of transparency within Scotland’s judiciary, investigations on judicial interests including reports from the media, and video footage of debates at the Scottish Parliament’s Public Petitions Committee can be found here : A Register of Interests for Scotland's Judiciary

Friday, December 04, 2015

ROGUES PAY: 1009 cases of rogue lawyers reported to ‘independent’ legal regulator as SLCC claim mediation success up, £401K awarded to clients of dodgy solicitors

Mediation hearings hijacked, compensation only a fraction – say clients. THE LATEST annual report of the ‘independent’ Scottish Legal Complaints Commission (SLCC) - reveals increasing numbers of solicitors are evading full investigations and formal determinations on poor quality or dodgy legal services provided to Scottish consumers in the year 2014-2015.

The figures, based on complaints reported to the client-funded legal regulator from 1 July 2014 to 30 June 2015, reveal 1009 complaints about solicitors were ‘reported’ to the SLCC in the past year, and the number of complaints  accepted for service and conduct rose from 319 to 424, with three cases relating to unnamed members of the Faculty of Advocates.

Nearly 200 cases were resolved or withdrawn before an eligibility decision was taken. The Complaints Commission claim 56 cases were resolved at mediation, a success rate of 76%.

However, the experience of clients reveal mediation is not an even handed or impartial approach.

Clients involved in mediation cases who contacted the media revealed  that when they turned up for mediation hearings, the solicitors they had complained against brought additional representatives who were not supposed to be in attendance.

Clients revealed mediation hearings had been effectively hijacked mediation hearings  by law firms with what one client described as “bully tactics”.

In another mediation hearing involving a client and a solicitor from a well known law firm, it was alleged the mediator desperately put forward the solicitor’s view there should be no settlement – even before the mediation hearing began.

2014-2015 SLCC Annual report complaints down, up & pennies to clients. The SLCC’s annual report also reveals that at investigation stage 60 cases were resolved by report, and 21 cases by conciliation, with 30 cases withdrawn. A total of 132 cases - down from 210 the previous year – went to determination, of which 109 were wholly or partly upheld.

The Scottish Legal Complaints Commission claim that a total of £401,340 (up from £365K in 2013-2014) was agreed or awarded in compensation, fee refunds and reductions to Scottish consumers for inadequate professional service by Scottish lawyers during the year. 

However, as the SLCC has refused to quantify the scale of financial losses alleged in complaints made about solicitors, it is difficult to estimate what percentage of compensation is actually being handed back to clients wronged by their solicitors.

In one instance reported to the media, it has been revealed a single solicitor is being investigated over complaints relating to a trust fund valued at over £500,000. The complainants have not received any compensation to-date, and the case has been on-going for over a year, with pressure being exerted on the complainants to enter mediation.

Residential property transactions remain the most common sources of client complaints, at 29%, followed by litigation (20%), family law (16%) and executries, wills and trusts (15%).

The most frequent types of complaints concern failures to communicate; failures to advise; delays; failures to provide information; failures to follow instruction and failures to prepare adequately.

Chair Bill Brackenridge commented: “It has been a year of performance in handling complaints and ensuring consumers get redress from their lawyers if they’ve received an inadequate service. The annual report also shows that we’re using complaints data to improve professional standards across the wider regulatory system.”

“A personal highlight was our successful lobbying for the power to convene a statutory consumer panel, which is now informing our plans for the future and the quality of our day to day work."We were also delighted to recruit Neil Stevenson as our new chief executive, charged with leading a longer term plan for the organisation to ensure we deliver value to consumers and to the sector.”

Former Law Society Director of Professional Support - Mr Stevenson  - said: “We’re in a great position and now we’re looking ahead to the next four years to make sure that the SLCC continues to make a difference for consumers and the profession. We are looking forward to going out to public consultation in January on an exciting new four year plan. Our plan will consider how consumers select and experience legal services and their needs when things go wrong with a service, rather than just looking at the system from a perspective of regulations and institutions.”

The latest figures announced today, bear little difference from previous years reporting of complaints handling at the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission.

This year, the SLCC also dropped claims it was partly funded by the public after a statement which appeared in last year’s annual report angered the Law Society of Scotland.

Last year’s annual report under former Chief Executive Matthew Vickers, stated: “We are funded by a levy on the legal profession and hence, indirectly, from fees charged to the public.”

Under the new Chief Executive – Neil Stevenson - former Law Society Director of Representation and Professional Support – the annual report now states: “The SLCC receives no public money. We are funded by a levy on the legal profession, collected from individual practitioners by the relevant professional organisations."

However, Diary of Injustice revealed in 2008 - the SLCC had received around £2 million pounds of taxpayers money from the Scottish Government, which has never been repaid.

Funding for the SLCC is gathered from an annual levy on the legal profession – who in turn recover the levy with hikes in already sky high legal fees and charges to clients.

Neil Stevenson was appointed to the role of Chief Executive after the resignation of Matthew Vickers earlier this year, reported here: GONE MEDIATIN’: Pro-lawyer legal regulator loses another CEO as Matthew Vickers leaves Scottish Legal Complaints Commission for Ombudsman Services role

The Law Society’s decision to retake control of the ‘independent’ SLCC by placing one of their own in the CEO slot came after after the Scots legal profession was left reeling from the effects of the damaging BBC Scotland investigation “Lawyers Behaving Badly” -  which blew the mask off lawyers investigating their own colleagues and how the legal profession covers up legal aid fraud.

Since the BBC programme aired in January 2014,  the Law Society demanded significant changes to the SLCC after concluding the hapless complaints quango – staffed mostly by former Law Society insiders – failed to stand up for lawyers during the BBC Scotland investigation.

Another attempt by the Law Society to spin out a client satisfaction poll backed up with dodgy statistics came apart when DOI revealed the full extent of how the poll had been rigged -  featuring in a media investigation here: OWNED POLL: Law Society ‘scripted’ survey criticised by Scottish Legal Complaints Commission - new data reveals few clients of dodgy lawyers ask legal regulators for help

The pro-lawyer Scottish Legal Complaints Commission was created in 2008 as a result of the Legal Profession and Legal Aid (Scotland) Act 2007

The legal quango – staffed mainly by former Law Society employees, solicitors and Ministerial appointed board members claiming up to £150K a year in expenses, has racked up staggering costs of well over £20 million to Scottish clients in the past seven years, with little to show for it.

Previous media investigations, reports and coverage of issues relating to the SLCC can be found here: Scottish Legal Complaints Commission - A history of pro-lawyer regulation.