Showing posts with label Gilbert Anderson. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Gilbert Anderson. Show all posts

Sunday, June 30, 2013

GESTURE MOTION : Law Society face claims ‘banned’ rogue lawyer was hidden by legal colleague to dodge Court of Session interdict hearing

Law Society fails to sniff out rogue lawyerLaw Society ‘knew’ banned rogue lawyer was being hidden by legal colleague. SEVEN MONTHS after the Law Society of Scotland claimed in court they could not serve court papers on a well known rogue solicitor because he had disappeared from public view, it has emerged the lawyers self regulator knew all along where their colleague was hiding out – in the posh house of another solicitor who works for a Glasgow based law firm.

Last October, the Law Society of Scotland told the Court of Session the now former solicitor John G O’Donnell was “nowhere to be seen” and this was making it difficult for the regulator to serve him with a banning order forbidding him from posing as a solicitor.

However, even as the Law Society told the Court of Session they could not find the rogue solicitor, journalists quickly located O’Donnell’s posh hideout in Glasgow, that of a house owned by a currently working solicitor linked to O’Donnell, and known to the Law Society of Scotland.

Speaking to Diary of Injustice last week, a legal insider described last October’s hearing at the Court of Session as “a sham” after it became apparent senior figures at the Law Society of Scotland knew exactly where O’Donnell was even though the judge was told otherwise.

The hurried attempts by the Law Society to act on the negative publicity, culminating in the action at the Court of Session last year only came about after further investigations by the Sunday Mail newspaper revealed O’Donnell had been involved in a scam where people desperately in need of legal assistance were sent to him by ‘would-be solicitors’ who worked for Hamilton Citizens Advice Bureau.

In a particularly shocking case, the Sunday Mail revealed O’Donnell had among over victims, targeted elderly widow Elizabeth Campbell. Papers obtained by the newspaper revealed that Gilbert S Anderson who worked as an ‘In-Court adviser for Hamilton Citizens Advice Bureau had sent Mrs Campbell to O’Donnell, who was posing as deceased solicitor Colin Anderson.

It was also revealed the Hamilton Citizens Advice worker sent the rogue solicitor a handwritten note saying “possibly in my mind a cash for Colin £3000” indicating he hoped O’Donnell would be able to scam plenty of cash from the elderly widow. Diary of Injustice reported on the case involving John O’Donnell & Gilbert Anderson, here : Crooked lawyer impersonates DEAD COLLEAGUE to lure clients in fraud scam as Law Society of Scotland’s self regulation of solicitors fails yet again

Of particular interest to the current case against O’Donnell is that Elaine Motion QC of Balfour & Manson who is currently representing the Law Society of Scotland in the Court of Session against John G O’Donnell, has previously represented the Law Society against O’Donnell at hearings before the Scottish Solicitors Discipline Tribunal.

Legal observers following the O’Donnell saga have drawn attention to the fact that during one earlier attempt to prosecute O’Donnell before the SSDT, legal representatives of the rogue lawyer tried to broker a secret deal with the QC at a Law Society Christmas party in 2009.

A ‘limited account’ of the 2009 Christmas party meeting between QC Elaine Motion & solicitor Steven Gold who acted for O’Donnell, was reported in the Tribunal's hearing into one of the complaints against O’Donnell, which is published online here Council of the Law Society of Scotland v John G O'Donnell and reprinted below as an example of double dealing behind the closed doors of self regulation of Scottish solicitors.

Law Society of ScotlandLaw Society’s 2009 Christmas party was scene of deal to save O’Donnell from disciplinary moves. Page three of the Council of the Law Society of Scotland v John G O'Donnell states : “In December 2009, Elaine Motion and Steven Gold, Solicitor were both at a Law Society’s Christmas Drinks Party. They were involved in a conversation with regard to the health and welfare of the Respondent. Mr Gold made representations on behalf of the Respondent to Elaine Motion to the effect that it would be humane and advantageous to everyone involved if a way could be found to allow the Respondent to hand in his practising certificate without having to undergo the ordeal and expense of an appearance before the Tribunal. Elaine Motion was sympathetic to the representations but indicated that she would require to discuss matters with the Law Society of Scotland who would make the decision. There was no undertaking given at this meeting to Steven Gold that if the Scottish Solicitors’ Discipline Tribunal struck the Respondent’s name from the Roll of Solicitors in Scotland no further Complaints would be brought against the Respondent and no undertaking was given that if the Respondent accepted pleas of guilty to the outstanding Complaint, no further proceedings would be brought against him.”

So far, the Lord Advocate & Scotland’s Crown Office & Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS) have apparently refused to become involved in the case, instead preferring the matter remain a one for lawyers looking after their own.

However, with claims surfacing from individuals that O’Donnell has undertaken new ‘legal work’ since last October’s court hearings, there are serious questions over the resolve of the Law Society to make an example of O’Donnell and many other rogue lawyers who escape any penalty or prosecution for their sharp practices against vulnerable clients in Scotland.

If you are a victim of rogue solicitor John G O’Donnell, tell us more about your case and any dealings with him by contacting us at scottishlawreporters@gmail.com

The Sunday Mail’s report of last October on the O’Donnell case :

Banned lawyer faces new court date - Sunday Mail Oct 28 2012BANNED LAWYER FACES NEW COURT DATE

A rogue lawyer is being hunted by watchdogs so they can tell him he's banned - again.

John O'Donnell, 62, has been accused of breaching a ban on working as a solicitor following a Sunday Mail probe.

The Law Society of Scotland's Elaine Motion is trying to take him to court but does not know where he is.

O'Donnell has been repeatedly rapped for professional misconduct and negligence.

The Law Society won an interim interdict at the Court of Session Edinburgh three years ago, banning him from posing as a solicitor. Six Months ago, we revealed that O'Donnell was allegedly using another lawyer's identity to beat the ban.

That prompted the Law Society to take action against him for flouting the interdict.

One source said : "The problem is that he's nowhere to be seen and does not appear keen to make himself available."

The Law Society said : "John O'Donnell does not hold a current practising certificate and therefore cannot practise as a solicitor in Scotland.

"The Law Society applied to the court to serve notice - by way of an advertisement in the press - of an alleged breach of an interim interdict."

"The Interim Interdict included an order preventing Mr O'Donnell from holding himself out as entitled by law to practise as a solicitor."

"The application to service a notice was granted by the court on October 16"

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

In-Court advice centres in the dock as Scottish Legal Aid Board negotiate deal with Hamilton CAB team who sent clients to crooked lawyers posing as dead lawyers

Gilbert Anderson lawyer gets paid by us refers to O'Donnell Sunday Mail 20 May 2012Hamilton In Court Advice Service suspended after media reports of dodgy dealings funded by taxpayers. MEDIA REPORTS of ‘dodgy dealings’ at a Scottish Government funded In-Court advice service based at Hamilton Sheriff Court, where members of the public in desperate need of legal advice have been passed onto crooked lawyers posing as dead lawyers, have apparently led to the suspension of the Citizens Advice administered service while negotiations for new funding take place with the Scottish Legal Aid Board, according to claims made late last week to Diary of Injustice.

The Scottish Legal Aid Board (SLAB) who are in charge of the funding, acknowledged there are on-going negotiations with Hamilton Citizens Advice Bureau over the service. However, a spokesperson for SLAB refused to comment on the status of the current In-Court advice team based at Hamilton, claiming instead that “No public funds are released to projects before they agree to the terms and conditions set by the Board.”

Exclusive  Dodgy Lawyer back at it - Sunday Mail 22 April 2012Investigation revealed Citizens Advice scheme sends consumers to a crooked lawyer posing as dead lawyer. The Sunday Mail newspaper earlier reported on shady goings on at Hamilton In Court advice service, where its employee, Gilbert S Anderson, had been reported to CAB Managers for recommending clients to notorious solicitor John G O’Donnell, who is known to have been rebuked many times by the Law Society of Scotland and even placed on suspension. More on the Sunday Mail investigation can be found here : Crooked lawyer impersonates DEAD COLLEAGUE to lure clients in fraud scam as Law Society of Scotland’s self regulation of solicitors fails yet again

Although Hamilton CAB sought to deny all allegations of impropriety on Mr Anderson’s behalf, the explanations offered by Citizens Advice chiefs did not stand up to scrutiny, and ran counter to evidence provided by victims whose legal interests now appear to have been severely harmed by persons working for the In Court advice service, a matter reported by Diary of Injustice here : Taxpayer funded Court adviser who sent widow to crooked lawyer ‘off the hook’ as Hamilton Citizens Advice Chiefs close ranks with Law Society.

Speaking to Diary of Injustice, a spokesperson for the Scottish Legal Aid Board denied funding had been withdrawn from Hamilton In Court advice service over the media reports relating to Anderson & O’Donnell, instead citing a new application made by Hamilton CAB for fresh public funding.

A spokesperson for the Scottish Legal Aid Board said : “The Board has not withdrawn funding for Hamilton Citizens Advice Bureau’s In-Court Advice Project based at Hamilton Sheriff Court. Funding for all projects taking part in the Board’s first programme of grant funding ended on 30 September.

“Hamilton CAB has made an application for funding through the new grant funding programme. We are currently in discussions about what we will fund and how our funding will be managed to deliver appropriate services at Hamilton Sheriff Court. The Board recognises the need for an advice service at Hamilton Sheriff Court and is committed to ensuring suitable provision is in place.”

“The Board monitors the performance of every project taking part in the grant funding programme, including checks that the project work follows established procedures and focuses on the remit agreed as part of the project agreement. Any failure to properly manage a project could be a breach of the Board’s funding.”

Letterhead of dodgy law firm revealed Gilbert Anderson’s name as an associate yet Hamilton CAB claimed otherwise. Mrs Campbell wrote in her complaint how Anderson hoped John O’Donnell (posing as Colin Davidson) would be able to lift a large fee from the vulnerable widow : “On the Client Record Sheet produced by Mr Anderson (which I found in Davidson Fraser’s file) it clearly states on two separate occasions that he would endeavour to recommend a Legal Aid Solicitor to me. Also, on the back of this Client Record Sheet is a handwritten note “possibly in my mind a cash for Colin £3000”. I have enclosed a copy of this Record – the original is with Elaine Motion who is acting the the Law Society.” The continuing saga of how Hamilton Citizens Advice tried to cover up serious failings in its In-Court advice service can be read here : HERE

Diary of Injustice pressed the Scottish Legal Aid Board for further information, given the seriousness of the allegations made against the In Court advisers at Hamilton, only to be told : “As we are still in discussions regarding what we will fund and how our funding will be managed to deliver appropriate services at Hamilton Sheriff Court it is not possible to comment on an undefined project. No public funds are released to projects before they agree to the terms and conditions set by the Board.”

Hamilton Citizens Advice and Citizens Advice Scotland were both contacted over the matter, however neither chose to respond to queries as to why the In Court advice service had been shutdown or whether the present In-Court advisers would continue in their roles.

However, a legal insider told Diary of Injustice the matter had been handled “stupidly” by Citizens Advice officials who he claimed “are not keen to talk about the Anderson-O’Donnell connection”.

The insider also criticised the lack of vetting undertaken by the Scottish Legal Aid Board of persons who are acting as In-Court advisers, a service which has been branded by some as “a publicly funded rehab for crooked lawyers”

The latest annual report of the Scottish Legal Aid Board reveals the Scottish Government handed over some THREE MILLION POUNDS of taxpayers money to fund the In-Court advice service across Scotland,

SLAB’s 2011 annual report states : In 2009, the Scottish Government made an additional £3 million available  to the Board, up to the end of 2010-2011, to help people  who need advice as a result of the economic downturn. Since then, the  Board has used this funding to :

-  provide grant funding of 16 projects to provide advice and representation services across Scotland
-  employ solicitors in Highland and Islands, Argyll and Bute, Edinburgh and Aberdeen to provide legal services
to people in need, particularly those facing repossession and other problems such as debt; and provide second tier advice to In-Court Advice projects and others
-  fund the 8 In-Court Advice projects across Scotland.
The success of these initiatives enabled us to  develop proposals  that generated support from the  Scottish Government for the continued funding of activities in 2011-2012.

However there is little by way of independent surveys of the service, or any believable reports of substantive successes of the publicly funded In-Court advisory scheme, leading to questions of whether the money is being wisely spent, or has become as some now see it, just another publicly funded subsidy for Scotland’s profit hungry legal profession and their colleagues.

Questions therefore remain as to why a publicly funded project involving millions of pounds of taxpayers money which is regularly referred to by the Scottish Government as a tool to provide ‘access to justice’,  is allowing its staff to recommend dodgy lawyers posing as dead lawyers to members of the public who are often desperately in need of legal advice & assistance.

If you have experiences of dealings with In-Court advisers at Hamilton Sheriff Court, or any other Sheriff Court across Scotland, Diary of Injustice would like to hear from you. Email us more details via scottishlawreporters@gmail.com

Monday, August 13, 2012

Taxpayer funded Court adviser who sent widow to crooked lawyer ‘off the hook’ as Hamilton Citizens Advice Chiefs close ranks with Law Society

Gilbert Anderson lawyer gets paid by us refers to O'Donnell Sunday Mail 20 May 2012Investigation of Hamilton Citizens Advice Bureau in-court adviser Gilbert Anderson branded a whitewash. AN INVESTIGATION into a taxpayer funded in-court adviser working at Hamilton Citizens Advice Bureau has been branded a whitewash after a trustee of Hamilton CAB claimed there was no evidence to link ex-Marine turned legal helper Gilbert S Anderson to complaints that he was sending people with desperate legal problems to a now notorious struck off solicitor John G O'Donnell, who was posing as a colleague at now defunct Glasgow law firm Davidson Fraser.

Even though documents proved Gilbert S Anderson, of Hamilton Citizens Advice Bureau had an association with the same law firm in which serial crooked lawyer John G O’Donnell was secretly working as a lawyer, and Anderson had handwritten messages bragging about cash fees which could be made from people he sent to O’Donnell at the Glasgow law firm, CAB chiefs told elderly widow Elizabeth Campbell nothing would be done about Anderson, even though his actions have ruined Mrs Campbell’s legal interests and now forced her to sell her home.

Diary of Injustice earlier reported how elderly widow Elizabeth Campbell, who went to Hamilton CAB for help and was sent to John O’Donnell by Gilbert Anderson, was ensnared by Gilbert Anderson, documented evidence showing the two were in cahoots to rip off vulnerable people needing the services of Scotland’s Citizens Advice centres.

Letterhead of crooked law firm showed Anderson’s name as an associate yet Hamilton CAB claim otherwise. Mrs Campbell wrote in her complaint how Anderson hoped John O’Donnell (posing as Colin Davidson) would be able to lift a large fee from the vulnerable widow : “On the Client Record Sheet produced by Mr Anderson (which I found in Davidson Fraser’s file) it clearly states on two separate occasions that he would endeavour to recommend a Legal Aid Solicitor to me. Also, on the back of this Client Record Sheet is a handwritten note “possibly in my mind a cash for Colin £3000”. I have enclosed a copy of this Record – the original is with Elaine Motion who is acting the the Law Society.”

After it became clear there were problems with O’Donnell’s dual identity, Mrs Campbell told Hamilton CAB their Mr Anderson refused to tell her what was going on.

Mrs Campbell told Hamilton CAB Chiefs : “I asked Gilbert Anderson about why people kept calling Colin Davidson “John” and voiced my other concerns about his identity and he said there was a reason for this which he was not prepared to divulge to me. I have now discovered that the Solicitor to whom Gilbert Anderson sent me, was not in fact Colin Davidson, but a struck-off solicitor, John O’Donnell, who between them conspired to deceive clients – John O’Donnell lost his licence because he had over 20 cases of negligence proved against him and the insurance had to pay out hundreds of thousands of pounds. The real Colin Davidson (whom I never met) has since died, and John O’Donnell has disappeared.”

The in-house investigation into Anderson’s activities was carried out by a trustee of Hamilton CAB, a Mr Neil Kennedy, who found against Mrs Campbell’s complaint on every point. Mr Kennedy even claimed that “Mr Anderson was in no way involved with Mr Davidson or Davidson Fraser” a fact already proved by letter heads and Anderson’s claim of £3,000 fees to go to Davidson Fraser for legal work to be provided to Mrs Campbell. Mr Kennedy also claimed the Law Society of Scotland said they had no record of an association between Anderson & the law firm Davidson Fraser.

Report into Gilbert Anderson branded ‘a whitewash’. Mr Kennedy said in his letter to Mrs Campbell, which can be viewed online HERE : Although our caseworker may have given you our standard list of local solicitors, regarding your case there was no reference to this as you point out in your letter, simply as a result of the fact that you did not expect to obtain Legal Aid for this, and that Davidson Fraser was, so far as we understand, not part of the Legal Aid scheme at that time. You will understand that Hamilton CAB as part of the CAB movement cannot and does not endorse or recommend one firm of solicitors in preference to another, however that does not prevent our professional staff assisting you with an intelligent choice as to a solicitor who has the experience to deal with the particular aspects of your case. This is what we believe that Mr Anderson was seeking to do in his dealings with you and the referral to Davidson Fraser was made on that basis, particularly as he had already referred another case to them and that was progressed and concluded successfully to the client's satisfaction.

From our interview you exhibited a very clear and able understanding of the process which Mr Anderson undertook to find a solicitor who would be able to deal with your problems. Whilst you have explained in detail your experience of dealing with Davidson Fraser after the referral took place, we have no responsibility for the conduct of independent professional solicitors and therefore cannot comment on these aspects, however the Law Society of Scotland may be able to assist further in this regard as this aspect of regulation falls within their remit.

We have therefore on grounds of remit not duplicated that investigation into your dealings with Davidson Fraser; however we have considered whether some of the statement which you have made in that regard were known by Mr Anderson or Hamilton CAB at the time that the referral was made. In this category are the aspects of mistaken identity, Mr Davidson's alleged alcoholism, etc, which may have been relevant in making the judgment to recommend Davidson Fraser to you. Our conclusion is that we had no knowledge of the alleged impersonation, and Mr Anderson was aware of a medical problem which Mr Davidson had experienced in the past which may be exacerbated by alcohol but which did not impair his abilities or judgment. We have no evidence to contradict that view.

Whilst not commenting on, and therefore not for those purposes doubting your narration of your interaction with Davidson Fraser, we have concluded that there is no evidence to suggest that the procedure leading to your referral to that firm was not properly conducted and concluded. We therefore are unable to uphold your complaint.

On a general note our review of referral procedures indicated that in some instances our documentation of the process was not as complete as we would expect, mainly due to the pressure of case load on our in-Court Advice personnel. We have therefore introduced a regular formal review of this by the Bureau manager to address this issue.

Gilbert Anderson conflict of interest re Davidson Fraser :

Our investigations regarding this point are seriously impaired by the untimely death of Mr Colin Davidson, and you will understand that Mr Anderson vigorously disputes any allegation of "involvement" in the widest sense and consequential conflict of interest in dealings with Davidson Fraser.

Mr Anderson and Mr Davidson had known each other for a number of years and we believe that an informal discussion had taken place regarding Mr Anderson working for Davidson Fraser at some point in the future, however this had led nowhere. On learning that his name was on the Davidson Fraser notepaper Mr Anderson had taken action to remove this, and this was rectified immediately.

We obtained evidence of other correspondence issued by Davidson Fraser within a few days of the letterhead which you provided showing Mr Anderson as an Associate. This correspondence contained no reference to Mr Anderson being connected with the firm.

The Law Society of Scotland has confirmed to us that they have no record of Mr Anderson being associated with Davidson Fraser or Mr Davidson.

Accordingly, in the absence of evidence, we can only conclude that Mr Anderson was in no way involved with Mr Davidson or Davidson Fraser, other than they had know each other professionally from time to time over a number of years. The allegation of conflict of interest is therefore not upheld.

Mr Kennedy ended his letter to Anderson’s victim, Mrs Campbell, by saying : “I know that this decision may disappoint you however we believe that our investigation has been thorough with regard to circumstance and procedure.”

Hamilton CAB was asked to issue a statement on the case. Manager Maureen Chalmers told Diary of Injustice : “Hamilton CAB has concluded its investigation into the complaint raised by Mrs Campbell, and have written to her informing her of the outcome. Hamilton CAB takes all complaints very seriously and has investigated this matter thoroughly in accordance with the procedures laid down by the national CAB movement. We regard it as imperative that local people have complete confidence in the quality and the impartiality of our advice. We have been in communication with Mrs Campbell throughout the process, and would like to thank her for the constructive way in which she co-operated with our investigation. “

However, after the statement was issued to Diary of Injustice, Mr Kennedy, the trustee who wrote the letter to Mrs Campbell detailing the results of the investigation into Mr Anderson sent a hurried email to Hamilton CAB’s Mrs Chalmers stating : “I do not think that it is appropriate to bring the confidential letter between HCAB and Mrs Campbell into the public domain.” Mrs Chalmers then contacted Diary of Injustice and advised us to “note the sensitivity of some of the content.” prior to publication.

A legal insider who read the Hamilton CAB letter on the investigation into Mr Anderson said “The report on Anderson reads more like a self serving Law Society of Scotland investigation into a dodgy lawyer, with an end result of a pat on the back for their colleague.”

Speaking last week to Diary of Injustice, Mrs Campbell says she may now appeal the findings of the Hamilton CAB investigation into Gilbert Anderson.

Clearly, the results of Hamilton CAB’s own investigation into one of its own merits a need for independent complaints procedures to be put in place where taxpayer funded positions such as the one occupied by Mr Anderson can be properly regulated.

Diary of Injustice stands by Mrs Campbell and the terms of her complaint, and will report further updates on the case.

Readers should also note Mrs Campbell gave full permission to Diary of Injustice to publish the letter from Mr Kennedy to Mrs Campbell regarding her complaint against Gilbert Anderson.

Meanwhile, if YOU have had dealings with Hamilton Citizens Advice Bureau, in particular Mr Gilbert Anderson or others and you have encountered difficulties, please contact us via scottishlawreporters@gmail.com

The Sunday Mail also covered the story as follows :

OAP'S ANGER OVER BUREAU 'WHITEWASH' Sunday Mail August 5 2012OAP'S ANGER OVER BUREAU 'WHITEWASH'.

By: Russell Findlay Aug 5, 2012

An elderly client sent to a rogue law firm by the Citizens Advice Bureau has hit out at a "whitewash" probe.

CAB employee Gilbert Anderson sent Elizabeth Campbell, 70, to now-defunct firm Davidson Fraser, where banned brief John O'Donnell advised clients.

But taxpayer-funded lawyer Anderson has been cleared by CAB bosses.

Elizabeth, from East Kilbride, said: "The CAB investigation has been an absolute whitewash.

"I would like to say they're not going to get away with this - but they are, because there's no point in wasting more time on an appeal."

Former Royal Marine Anderson's name appeared on the letter-headed paper of Davidson Fraser which was fronted by Colin Davidson, who has since died. Anderson said that was a mistake and denied any wrong-doing.

Elizabeth, who suffered from depression after her husband's death four years ago, has suffered a catalogue of problems with the legal profession.

She was stunned to discover that another controversial lawyer is an adviser for the CAB at Hamilton Sheriff Court.

Paul McConville, 45, failed to pass on tens of thousands of pounds in compensation to the families of dead miners.

In June, he was barred from working for a decade - except under supervision.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Delaying Motion : Hamilton Citizens Advice ‘to complete’ investigation on taxpayer funded ‘in-court adviser’ who referred clients to rogue lawyer

Gilbert Anderson lawyer gets paid by us refers to O'Donnell Sunday Mail 20 May 2012Citizens Advice Bureau in Hamilton investigated allegations over their in-court adviser Gilbert Anderson. AN INVESTIGATION into Gilbert Anderson (53), a publicly funded ‘in-court’ adviser based at Hamilton Citizens Advice Bureau who’s salary is paid for by the Scottish Legal Aid Board (SLAB) is due to be completed today, Friday 13 July, several weeks on after allegations were made he had referred clients with legal difficulties to a solicitor who was already struck off and was using the identities of colleagues in the legal profession to fool his victims.

Diary of Injustice reported on the allegations in an earlier article made against Gilbert Anderson (53), here : Crooked lawyer impersonates DEAD COLLEAGUE to lure clients in fraud scam as Law Society of Scotland’s self regulation of solicitors fails yet again detailing a letter of complaint submitted to Hamilton Citizens Advice by client Elizabeth Campbell, who challenged discrepancies in claims from Citizens Advice and the Scottish Legal Aid Board that there was no case to answer regarding Anderson’s actions.

In the letter to Hamilton CAB’s Chairman, Mushtaq Ahmed, Mrs Campbell said in reference to earlier reports in the media, that “Mr Anderson is quoted as saying he did not refer me to Colin Davidson, but merely gave me a list of Solicitors. It seems Hamilton CAB Manager has investigated the matter (incidentally, without referring to me) and has given assurances to CAB’s Tony Hutson, and to SLAB, that Gilbert Anderson has done nothing wrong in this matter.”

Mrs Campbell further wrote : “On the Client Record Sheet produced by Mr Anderson (which I found in Davidson Fraser’s file) it clearly states on two separate occasions that he would endeavour to recommend a Legal Aid Solicitor to me. Also, on the back of this Client Record Sheet is a handwritten note “possibly in my mind a cash for Colin £3000”. I have enclosed a copy of this Record – the original is with Elaine Motion who is acting the the Law Society.”

The letter went on to inform Hamilton CAB that Mrs Campbell “could not have have got Davidson Fraser’s name from a list of Legal Aid Solicitors as they didn’t do Legal Aid. Mrs Campbell goes on to detail a number of points regarding Mr Anderson’s referrals to the already struck off O’Donnell, who was posing as Colin Davidson, who has since died.

It later became worrying to Mrs Campbell that the “Colin Davidson” she had been referred to by Gilbert Anderson was none other than struck off solicitor John G O’Donnell. Mrs Campbell told the Citizens Advice Chairman in her letter : “I asked Gilbert Anderson about why people kept calling Colin Davidson “John” and voiced my other concerns about his identity and he said there was a reason for this which he was not prepared to divulge to me. I have now discovered that the Solicitor to whom Gilbert Anderson sent me, was not in fact Colin Davidson, but a struck-off solicitor, John O’Donnell, who between them conspired to deceive clients – John O’Donnell lost his licence because he had over 20 cases of negligence proved against him and the insurance had to pay out hundreds of thousands of pounds. The real Colin Davidson (whom I never met) has since died, and John O’Donnell has disappeared.”

Maureen Chalmers, manager of Hamilton Citizens Advice Bureau has since issued a statement to Diary of Injustice on complaints made against Mr Anderson, saying : “Given the level of detail included in Mrs. Campbell’s letter of complaint it is taking some time to work through all the issues. We shall not therefore complete our investigations by Friday 29th June. For clarification, the 20 day period referred to in our Complaints Policy is working days and this did not include the two Public Holiday days in early June. We are dependent on responses from external bodies over which we have little control but we anticipate our investigations shall be completed by Friday 13th July. We have informed the complainant in writing of the above.”

Mrs Chalmers continued : “Please be assured that any complaint about our service is treated very seriously indeed and we are keen to conclude this matter as quickly as possible. We shall not be making any further comment until our investigations have been completed.”

slabScottish Legal Aid Board ‘continue to monitor the situation’ on Gilbert Anderson. A spokesperson for the Scottish Legal Aid Board said in response to enquiries : “We cannot comment on a specific complaint which is the subject of an investigation by an external organisation. However, we have been informed by Hamilton Citizens’ Advice Bureau that a complaint has been received in relation to the Hamilton In-Court Advice Project based at Hamilton Sheriff Court.

“We have had assurances from Hamilton CAB that it is investigating the allegations in line with its procedures and the requirements of the project agreement. We have also received assurances that we will be informed as soon as any outcome is reached. In the meantime, we will continue to monitor the situation to ensure that all the necessary steps are taken to satisfy the requirements of a Board-funded project.”

Diary of Injustice will report on the results of Hamilton CAB’s ‘investigation’ of Mr Anderson when developments are available, meanwhile readers can refer to the Sunday Mail’s investigation of Mr Anderson’s referrals of clients to John G O’Donnell, and the Law Society of Scotland’s lack of ability to take the matter in hand, here :

Exclusive  Dodgy Lawyer back at it - Sunday Mail 22 April 2012EXCLUSIVE : DODGY LAWYER BACK AT IT

COLIN YOU A LIAR

Client's fury at identity fraud

By Russell Findlay, Sunday Mail 22 April 2012

A banned solicitor has been accused of conning a client by impersonating another lawyer in an elaborate fraud. The client also claims that John O'Donnell, 61 cost her 50,000 by botching a land deal and that he failed to turn up to defend two small claims for her.

Widow Elizabeth Campbell, 69, believed that the solicitor working for her was called Colin Davidson. But she discovered "Colin" was actually O'Donnell - who is serving two five year bans from working as a solicitor and is bankrupt - when she saw his photo in the Sunday Mail.

Elizabeth, from East Kilbride, said : "I met "Colin" in his office many times between March and September last year. I was stunned when I came across a Sunday Mail story about O'Donnell which carried his photo. I recognised him as the man I knew as Colin. I was shattered."

Elizabeth claimed that O'Donnell botched a land deal dispute by allowing it to be sold for less than its true value, costing her 50,000. And she also accused him of lying by saying that he defended two small claims cases at Hamilton & Glasgow Sheriff Courts.

Elizabeth, who suffered from depression after her husband's death four years ago, said she had trusted "Colin" when they first met.

She said : "He said that he understood as he had also suffered. I thought to myself, I've got a soul mate here" Then I discovered that he had failed to represent me at Hamilton and Glasgow Sheriff Courts for small claims and two decrees were awarded against me. Debt collectors began chasing me yet he continued to lie and say that he had been in court. I've been able to recall the Glasgow case but the Hamilton case is still against me."

O'Donnell was given a five year ban in 2009 and another five-year ban in 2010 due to his appalling track record of professional misconduct. His bankruptcy also disqualifies him from practising.

In March last year, the Sunday Mail warned the Law Society of Scotland that O'Donnell was allegedly working for the real Colin Davidson’s firm Davidson Fraser. Former Bankrupt Davidson - who has since died - told us then : "He's not employed here."

Elizabeth believes she was targeted because she was vulnerable. She said : "He only took around 210 from me. I think the long- term aim was to get my house." She added that staff at the law firm's office in Clarkston Road, Glasgow seemed aware of the deception, making excuses when she asked why people called him John.

She said : "I was so angry that I was going to attend Davidson's funeral. I wish I had done just for O'Donnell's reaction. I find it incredible that he has been able to get away with this, especially given that the Law Society was warned what was going on."

Law Society chiefs have refused to say if other clients were also duped and declined to comment on the case. A senior legal insider said that O'Donnell could now face criminal prosecution for working as a solicitor without a practising certificate.

BID TO BEAT BAN AT LEGAL BODY'S CHRISTMAS PARTY

Another lawyer tried to strike a deal for O'Donnell at a Law Society Christmas party in 2009. A Scottish Solicitors' Discipline Tribunal report said Steven Gold asked Law Society prosecutor Elaine Motion to consider dropping complaints against O'Donnell if he agreed to surrender his practising certificate.

Motion met O'Donnell as the Society considered five more complaints. But because he was not struck off by the SSDT, Motion decided that O'Donnell "may be hearing from her again".

LINKS TO SOLICITOR PAID BY OUR TAXES

Elizabeth was referred to Davidson Fraser by taxpayer funded lawyer Gilbert Anderson.

Anderson is a Citizens Advice Bureau adviser at Hamilton Sheriff Court whose wages are paid by the Scottish Legal Aid Board. He said yesterday : "I gave her a list of firms and she asked if I knew of any particular firm. Davidson Fraser were not specified."

However, Anderson's name appeared as an employee on the firm's letter headed paper in July 2011.

He said : "The moment Mrs Campbell brought that to my notice I was down to Davidson Fraser to find out exactly what they were doing. Mr Davidson said he was under the impression I was going to work for them. But I said no, I said I would consider. It was agreed that he was to remove my name."

Davidson also used a room to meet clients at the volunteer-run South Side Advice Centre in Glasgow. But he was kicked out in October due to a number of complaints.

Friday, June 08, 2012

BREACH OF TRUST : Citizens Advice forced to investigate taxpayer funded Hamilton CAB lawyer who sent clients to suspended crooked solicitor

O'Donnell MontageCitizens Advice investigate their own lawyer who sent clients to a serial crooked solicitor. INFORMATION contained in complaints made by consumers to Hamilton Citizens Advice Bureau regarding Gilbert Anderson, now suggest in the clearest possible terms the lawyer who works for Hamilton CAB as a taxpayer funded in-court adviser referred vulnerable clients to a crooked law firm & serially crooked solicitor John G O’Donnell, who ended up posing as a dead colleague to clients. The terms of the complaints as seen by Diary of Injustice raise serious questions over initial denials of impropriety by Citizens Advice, who have now been forced to investigate Anderson after receiving complaints from people whose legal affairs and lives have been devastated by referrals to rogue solicitors, now suspected of planning to fleece clients of their property & assets.

Details of further allegations made against Gilbert Anderson featured in a recent report in the Sunday Mail newspaper, in a follow up to their earlier report which Diary of Injustice featured here : Crooked lawyer impersonates DEAD COLLEAGUE to lure clients in fraud scam as Law Society of Scotland’s self regulation of solicitors fails yet again

The latest from the Sunday Mail :

Gilbert Anderson lawyer gets paid by us refers to O'Donnell Sunday Mail 20 May 2012Citizens Advice Bureau bosses launch probe into one of their lawyers

May 20 2012 By Russell Findlay

A LAWYER who works for the Citizens Advice Bureau is being probed after it’s claimed he targeted vulnerable clients for a crooked legal firm.

Margaret Sneddon, 48, was involved in a rent dispute when she turned to CAB lawyer Gilbert Anderson, who is based at Hamilton Sheriff Court and whose salary is paid by taxpayers.

But the ex-Royal Marine sent her and a friend into the clutches of John O’Donnell, who didn’t have a practising certificate. O’Donnell broke the law by acting as lawyer for the firm Davidson Fraser.

Margaret, from Lanark, said: “Anderson told us that he was a silent partner in Davidson Fraser and he phoned them from his office to make an appointment for us. O’Donnell came to meet us and took on our cases. We had no idea that he was banned from practising.”

Last month, we told how Elizabeth Campbell was also referred to Davidson Fraser by 53-year-old Anderson. He was listed as an associate on a Davidson Fraser letter but he claimed that he merely provided Elizabeth with a list of lawyers.

She said: “That is untrue, there was no list. I’m furious that the CAB seem to have taken the view that Anderson has done nothing wrong.”

Elizabeth and another client, Joan Hoblyn, have been interviewed by Elaine Motion who is probing Davidson Fraser on behalf of the Law Society of Scotland. Margaret and her friend also plan to complain to the CAB.

Anderson declined to comment.

A CAB spokesman said: “It’s vital that the public have full confidence in the impartiality of the CAB service and we take allegations of this nature very seriously.”

Since the Sunday Mail story, letters to Mushtaq Ahmed, Chairman, Hamilton CAB have been passed to Diary of Injustice which detail a catalogue of complaints against Mr Anderson and also allege there has been a cover up at Citizens Advice over the affair, which legal insiders say has potential to rock the costly in-court adviser scheme funded by the Scottish Legal Aid Board.

One letter of complaint which has now been submitted to Hamilton Citizens Advice by client Elizabeth Cambpell, an elderly widow, whose legal affairs have been entirely ruined by the actions of Gilbert Anderson and John G O’Donnell reveal discrepancies in claims from Citizens Advice and the Scottish Legal Aid Board that there was no case to answer regarding Anderson’s actions.

In the letter to Mushtaq Ahmed, Mrs Campbell said in reference to earlier reports in the media, that “Mr Anderson is quoted as saying he did not refer me to Colin Davidson, but merely gave me a list of Solicitors. It seems Hamilton CAB Manager has investigated the matter (incidentally, without referring to me) and has given assurances to CAB’s Tony Hutson, and to SLAB, that Gilbert Anderson has done nothing wrong in this matter.”

The letter goes on to inform Hamilton CAB that Mrs Cambpell “could not have have got Davidson Fraser’s name from a list of Legal Aid Solicitors as they didn’t do Legal Aid.

Mrs Campbell goes on to detail a number of points regarding Mr Anderson’s referrals to the already struck off O’Donnell, who was posing as Colin Davidson, who has since died.

Mrs Campbell wrote : “On the Client Record Sheet produced by Mr Anderson (which I found in Davidson Fraser’s file) it clearly states on two separate occasions that he would endeavour to recommend a Legal Aid Solicitor to me. Also, on the back of this Client Record Sheet is a handwritten note “possibly in my mind a cash for Colin £3000”. I have enclosed a copy of this Record – the original is with Elaine Motion who is acting the the Law Society.”

“At the first meeting with GA he said it would be difficult to find a Solicitor who was experienced in “construction cases”. He did know a Solicitor who was currently working on such a case, Colin Davidson, who had a very sharp mind and “could think out of the box”, but unfortunately he was unable to do Legal Aid at present, but may in the future.l The other problem with Mr Davidson was he was an alcoholic, however his partner, John Fraser, also a very clever Solicitor, could back him up, should Mr Davidson fall off the wagon, so to speak. I was not very keen as I thought I had enough problems and it was left that GA would try to find me someone more suitable. “

“After several weeks, Gilbert Anderson told me he had exhausted the list of Legal Aid Solicitors and eventually, after the case had been put back several times and the Sheriff had spoken about expenses against me, and also two Small Claims cases, which had to be defended, were looming, I agreed to go to Colin Davidson of Davidson for a “consultation”. It was to cost no more than £500 as that was all I could afford. Gilbert Anderson duly made an appointment with Colin Davidson on 29 March 2011 and told me it would cost £200.00. He gave me directions and told me not to be put off by the office being so small.”

“I was devastated to discover, when two lots of Sheriff Officers arrived at my door, that Colin Davidson failed to defend them. He said it was a mistake – he had defended them and he would personally go to both courts to Recall the Decrees – two weeks later another two lots of Sheriff Officers arrive – Colin Davidson had lied again. “

“Tried contacting Law Society and SLCC – got nowhere - phoned Gilbert Anderson – going to visit Colin Davidson’s office – find out what was happening – if he couldn’t get satisfaction he was going to draft letter to Law Society for me – gave me private mobile number. I called at Colin Davidson’s office- secretary Janice said Gilbert Anderson was coming to office to go through my files and together they would sort Colin out – gave me her home telephone number. I remember wondering what GA’s involvement was with this firm. I phoned GA next day – he said nothing could be done – too late – and I would have lost both cases anyway.”

“At this time I was also attending CAB and I told them of my concerns about Colin Davidson and Gilbert Anderson they said it was very worrying, but if complained to Law Society I would have to sack Colin Davidson and then where would I be? I was also told that CAB Manager was aware of situation, and access to my financial information had been withheld from Gilbert Anderson.”

“I was becoming increasingly concerned about Colin Davidson’s identity – on numerous occasions Clients and staff were calling him “John” – he was signing letters “John” – another person was answering the phone and insisting he was Colin Davidson, but he obviously wasn’t – on one occasion, this “other person” asked me “are you the person Gilbert Anderson sent to us?”. I was given ridiculous excuses by Colin Davidson and Janice and told that there was only one Partner in the firm – Colin Davidson – I must be mistaken that Gilbert Anderson had told me about John Fraser.”

“I asked Gilbert Anderson about why people kept calling Colin Davidson “John” and voiced my other concerns about his identity and he said there was a reason for this which he was not prepared to divulge to me.”

“I have now discovered that the Solicitor to whom Gilbert Anderson sent me, was not in fact Colin Davidson, but a struck-off solicitor, John O’Donnell, who between them conspired to deceive clients – John O’Donnell lost his licence because he had over 20 cases of negligence proved against him and the insurance had to pay out hundreds of thousands of pounds. The real Colin Davidson (whom I never met) has since died, and John O’Donnell has disappeared.

Prior to letters of complaint being sent to Hamilton CAB, Citizens Advice Scotland & the Scottish Legal Aid Board were asked for comment on the case.

Initially, both organisations denied there were any known problems with Gilbert Anderson.

Citizens Advice ScotlandCitizens Advice Scotland initially claimed Anderson made no recommendation to O’Donnell. An initial statement from a spokesperson for Citizens Advice Scotland claimed : “Gilbert Anderson did not refer any CAB clients to the individual you mention. What happened was that a CAB client asked for a list of practicing solicitors in the area, and he gave her such a list – which he obtained from the Law Society of Scotland website. The list included the company Davidson Fraser, among others. In supplying the client with this list, Mr Anderson did not specifically recommend she speak to any individuals working in any of those companies. He merely supplied her with the list. It was then entirely a matter for the client to decide which company to contact, if any. “

After the Sunday Mail published further allegations against Mr Anderson supplied by clients he referred to John O’Donnell, Citizens Advice Scotland released a statement to the paper claiming : “It is vital that the public have full confidence in the impartiality of the CAB service, and we take allegations of this nature very seriously. Given the seriousness of these allegations, Hamilton CAB is currently conducting a full investigation of this matter. Like all bureaux, they have robust mechanisms for investigating any reports of wrongdoing by any of their staff. However, it would obviously be helpful to that investigation if Hamilton CAB could have the full details of the allegations that have been made. As of today, no such complaint has been received by Hamilton CAB from any client.”

“If people have a complaint against an employee of a CAB, the proper procedure is to report that to the CAB manager. Hamilton CAB would ask that anyone who has any evidence to support these allegations would bring it forward to them, so their investigation can be as thorough as possible.”

slabScottish Legal Aid Board claimed they had been assured no breach of procedures at CAB. The Scottish Legal Aid Board (SLAB) initial statement in reaction to the first report of Mr Anderson referring clients to O’Donnell, claimed : “The Scottish Legal Aid Board provides funding to Hamilton Citizens Advice Bureau to deliver the Hamilton In-Court Advice Project based at Hamilton Sheriff Court. Mr Gilbert Anderson is employed as an In-Court Advice Service Manager by Hamilton CAB. The Board monitors the performance of the project, including checks that the project work focuses on the remit agreed by the Board. This includes onward referral or signposting of clients with problems that fall outwith the project remit. The Board expects project managers to ensure that individuals working within Board funded projects follow established procedures. Failure to properly manage could be a breach of the Board’s funding agreement.”Hamilton Citizens Advice Bureau has assured us that there has been no such breach in relation to the procedures employed by Mr Anderson in this case.”

An updated release from SLAB, in response to further allegations against Mr Anderson, stated : “A spokesperson for the Scottish Legal Aid Board said: “The Board has contacted Hamilton Citizens Advice Bureau, which has assured us that it takes this type of allegation very seriously and will investigate any complaints it receives.”

A new statement received from the Scottish Legal Aid Board in late May stated : “The Scottish Legal Aid Board provides funding to Hamilton Citizens Advice Bureau to deliver the Hamilton In-Court Advice Project based at Hamilton Sheriff Court. We monitor the performance of the project and will continue to do so. Further to our earlier enquiries to the CAB regarding the initial allegations made about the project we have again followed up with the CAB management and sought assurance as to the steps that would be taken to deal with any complaints. At the time of our most recent enquiries there had been no complaints received by the CAB, but we have assurance from the CAB that should any complaint be received they will investigate it fully. Hamilton Citizens Advice Bureau has assured us it takes this type of allegation very seriously and will inform us of any complaints it receives, the actions it would take and the outcome of any such investigation.”

Now that complaints have been received by Hamilton CAB & copied to SLAB, Diary of Injustice will follow this case and report ongoing events including any further disciplinary moves undertaken by the Law Society of Scotland & Scottish Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal.

Anyone who has been a client of law firm Davidson Fraser, or John G O’Donnell, or those of you who may have been referred to law firms by Gilbert Anderson or any other in-court adviser working for Citizens Advice and now have problems with your legal affairs can contact Diary of Injustice via scottishlawreporters@gmail.com.

ONE OF OUR LAWYERS IS FIDDLING : LEGAL AID FUNDED IN-COURT ADVISER at CITIZEN’S ADVICE IS NOT A LAWYER CLAIM SLAB ?

SLAB CASWho to trust ? SLAB FOI response claimed no in-court advisers are NOT solicitors or paralegals. A Freedom of Information request to the Scottish Legal Aid Board by Diary of Injustice reveals the in-court adviser scheme, under which Gilbert Anderson is employed, costs taxpayers well over a quarter of a million pounds each year. SLAB stated in their FOI response : “There are 16 full or part-time staff either funded or employed by SLAB in courts across Scotland at a basic annual salary cost of £292.6k. None of these positions are filled by solicitors or paralegals. Potential employees of the Board are subject to a satisfactory recruitment vetting procedure including previous employers’ references and basic disclosure under Disclosure Scotland. If a solicitor were to be employed by the Board we conduct checks with the Law Society of Scotland, in relation to the status of the practising certificate, the Scottish Solicitors Discipline Tribunal and depending on the nature of the role require standard or enhance disclosure from Disclosure Scotland.”

However claims from SLAB that none of the positions are filled by solicitors or paralegals appear to fly in the face of Gilbert Anderson’s role at Hamilton CAB.

Friday, January 08, 2010

Legal Services Bill : Consumer Focus & UNITE union differ over access to justice proposals as ‘Tesco Law’ comes under the Holyrood microscope

Consumer Focus ScotlandConsumer Focus Scotland gave evidence on proposed legal reforms. Continuing my reporting of the Legal Services Bill (dubbed by some as ‘Tesco Law’) which aims to widen Scots access to justice and yet again tackle the thorny question of regulating Scotland’s legal services marketplace, currently under the grip of the Law Society of Scotland, officials from Consumer Focus Scotland and the trade union, UNITE, attended the Scottish Parliament’s Justice Committee hearings earlier this week to be questioned on the Scottish Government’s proposals to tinker with the flawed, monopolised legal services market we have all been forced to use in Scotland for far too long.

Attending this evidence session was Sarah O'Neill, head of policy for Consumer Focus Scotland, and Fiona Farmer, a regional industrial officer for the Unite trade union, Scottish region.

Consumer Focus Scotland & UNITE officials attend Holyrood on Legal Services Bill :

Consumer Focus Scotland & UNITE evidence on Legal Services Bill Pt 2 Pt 2 Consumer Focus Scotland & UNITE evidence on Legal Services Bill Pt 3 Pt 3

Consumer Focus Scotland & UNITE  evidence on Legal Services Bill Pt 4 Pt 4 Consumer Focus Scotland & UNITE evidence on Legal Services Bill Pt 5 Pt 5

Fiona Farmer of Unite , in response to opening questions from the Justice Committee on what evidence is there that the Legal Services (Scotland) Bill is necessary and that the establishment of alternative business structures will benefit users of legal services in Scotland, said : “We have concerns about the marketisation of legal services under the bill, which we have outlined in our written evidence. We are not opposed to change, but we are concerned that opening up the market will result in inequality in the justice that is available to the public and to our members in Scotland. When the national health service in England was opened up to privatisation, we saw evidence of the most lucrative parts of the service being creamed off and the less attractive parts being left, which has caused problems in the sections concerned. There could also be conflicts of interest should the bill go ahead in its present form.”

After a question from Bill Aitken, the Justice Committee Convener on what could go wrong with the proposals contained in the Legal Services Bill, Fiona Farmer replied : “If we consider the privatisation of the NHS in England, the lucrative and attractive sections have been hived off, including children's services, acute services and surgery. Other services, such as care for the elderly and mental health services, are being left and are suffering financially as a result. The same detriments could apply in legal services here if the bill were to proceed. Certain sorts of claims and areas of justice would be snapped up, whereas services in other areas would become very costly. It would become much more expensive for our members to access justice, and we do not believe that access”

Sarah O'Neill, Head of Policy for Consumer Focus Scotland then entered the debate, giving the Justice Committee little doubt that CFS’s opinion was that the consumer interest was best served by opening up Scotland’s monopolistic legal services marketplace to competition.

Sarah O’Neill said : “Consumer Focus Scotland and our predecessor body, the Scottish Consumer Council, have long argued that there is a need to open up competition in the market for legal services in Scotland, and that we should consider new ways to deliver those services—subject to adequate consumer protections being put in place. We believe that lifting the existing restrictions through implementing the bill will bring consumers a number of advantages, including an increased choice of services, reduced prices, greater convenience and more consumer-focused services. Most important, we see potential in the bill to increase access to justice for consumers.”

“We have been concerned that much of the debate on the bill so far has focused on the benefits to big legal firms, external ownership by businesses and issues to do with legal markets where there is already healthy competition, such as conveyancing. We view the bill, together with other proposed reforms such as those in Lord Gill's recent civil courts review, as important for achieving modern, consumer-focused legal services in Scotland.”

Ms O’Neill continued : “The bill has the potential to lead to the development of entirely new structures in the voluntary, charity and advice sectors, not just in private practice and in services provided by solicitors and accountants, which we have been hearing about. Charitable and advice organisations should have flexibility in how they address unmet legal need, both in geographical areas and in areas of legal work where there is insufficient provision of legal services. In 2006, the legal markets research working group found that there are clear gaps in provision in areas of social welfare law such as debt, housing, employment and immigration. We would like to see the market opened up so that citizens advice bureaux, which we know want to have these powers, and other charities, can employ solicitors to work directly in those areas.”

As the debate rolled on, it became clear that while Consumer Focus Scotland supports opening up Scotland’s legal services market, there are gaps in the Scottish Government’s proposals to effectively regulate what might very well end up as the same regulatory mess caused by the inadequate powers created in the Legal Profession & Legal Aid (Scotland) Act 2007, which has seen over a year of complaints disgrace at the beleaguered Scottish Legal Complaints Commission, simply due to the sole fact that fully independent regulation over the legal profession was never enacted in the 2007 LPLA Act. Now, in 2010 with the Legal Services Bill, we are faced with the legal establishment, and other self regulators basically spinning the same tune, demanding to keep the powers of regulation for themselves, effectively shutting out the consumer once again, and unsurprisingly the Scottish Government are apparently happy to pander to those wishes of the professions once more.

The Trade Union UNITE on the other hand, have severe reservations about the Legal Services Bill, and take the opposite view to Consumer Focus Scotland saying that "The provisions of the Legal Services Bill will create an open-door for third parties with only profit on their agenda to influence, shape and dominate our justice system” and they do have a point, considering the many flaws of the Legal Services Bill as it currently stands, flaws which reflect back on the Scottish Government who produced the legislation, formerly called the “Legal Profession Bill” but renamed when the Law Society turned against it.

A spokeswoman for Consumer Focus Scotland replied to queries saying : “As we made clear in our response to the Scottish Government consultation ‘Wider Choice and Better Protection: a consultation paper on the regulation of legal services in Scotland’, we support the liberalisation of the legal services market in Scotland, subject to the necessary consumer protections being put in place. We believe that this will result in more consumer-friendly, high quality legal services in Scotland.”

Gilbert M Anderson, a solicitor with Glasgow law firm AndersonsLLP, rounded up the evidence session, claiming : "The public interest demands legal services should only be provided by a strong and genuinely independent legal profession which is thoroughly trained and disciplined in the practice of law."

Mr Anderson’s written submission to the Parliament on the Legal Services Bill can be read here : Gilbert M Anderson written submission (pdf)

Well, Mr Anderson, with respect, it is the Law Society of Scotland’s lack of enforcement of discipline, standards, and regulation which is constantly causing all these, admittedly half hearted attempts by Government to reform legal services in Scotland.

Perhaps if you clean up the Law Society, and hand over regulation and representing client’s interests to a fully independent authority, your claims might have more substance than the evidence of a distinct lack of access to justice in Scotland at present demonstrates fairly well. If it is so important to you the legal profession should be independent (as it is as important to me), then it should also be as important to you that protecting the public interest should also be independent, as the Law Society has never been willing, or able to do both as we both well know.

You can read the submissions from Consumer Focus Scotland here : Consumer Focus Scotland on Legal Services Bill (pdf) and the submission from UNITE trade union, here : UNITE Trade Union on Legal Services Bill (pdf)

The full report of the latest evidence session on the Legal Services Bill, including the contributions from Consumer Focus Scotland and UNITE can be viewed here : meeting is here : Justice Committee Tuesday 5 January 2010 Legal Services Bill Stage 1

All written submissions on the Legal Services Bill can be found here : Legal Services Bill written submissions

You can read my own submission on the Legal Services Bill, which deals mainly with regulation HERE (pdf)

All things considered, I do not feel the public interest and indeed consumer protection is being put first in the current set of proposals in the Legal Services Bill. What we are looking at is yet another regulatory mess created to appease the professions and industry, instead of prioritising those (us) who will have to pay to use these services.

Surely a little consumer protection would go a long way to giving us better standards and wider choice of legal services in Scotland, Mr MacAskill ? why the hold up on something so simple ?