Showing posts with label Scottish Conservatives. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Scottish Conservatives. Show all posts

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Holyrood's Justice Committee Chief Bill Aitken who praised former Law Society boss after complaints scandal is forced to resign over rape comments

bill aitkenTory Justice Committee Convener Bill Aitken shamed into resignation over his comments on a rape case. BILL AITKEN, the well known Scottish Conservative & Convener of the Scottish Parliament’s sole Justice Committee for the past four years has been forced to resign his committee position after his comments in a media interview regarding a rape case in Glasgow where he inferred a rape victim may have been a prostitute resulted in a Parliamentary Motion lodged by Green MSP Patrick Harvie, calling for him to quit.

While the focus of most of today's news reports on Mr Aitken’s resignation remains on the actual comments made by the Justice Committee Convener & Tory spokesman on ‘Community Safety’, it should not be forgotten that Mr Aitken, who is no stranger to controversy himself, reportedly denied he had made the controversial comments regarding a rape case to the Sunday Herald newspaper, apparently changing his story to admit what he had said only after ‘reading a transcript of the interview’.

The Sunday Herald interview with Mr Aitken over a Glasgow rape case quoted Mr Aitken as saying : “I really think we need to know a bit more about these. They are not always as they seem to be, put it that way.If this woman was dragged halfway through the town then it just couldn’t possibly happen. So has nobody asked her what she was doing in Renfrew Lane? Somebody should be asking her what she was doing in Renfrew Lane. Did she go there with somebody? ... Now, Renfrew Lane is known as a place where things happen, put it that way.It’s an area where a lot of the hookers take their clients. Now that may not have happened in this case. But you know ... what was happening?”

The Sunday Herald further reported : When challenged on his comments by the Sunday Herald, Aitken denied making them until he read a transcript of the conversation. Asked whether there is a difference between the rape of women who work as prostitutes and those who don’t, he said: “Well, the prostitute has possibly put herself in a position of some vulnerability.”

Mr Aitken’s remarks were widely criticised from all quarters, including the Police, as was reported by Scottish Law Reporter, here : Cops claim Tory Justice Committee boss infers Hookers deserve it : Scottish Conservative’s Bill Aitken asks paper “Was rape victim a prostitute ?"

The Sunday Herald reported at the time the Scottish Conservative’s current boss, Annabel Goldie, refused to condemn her Tory Party colleague for his remarks, and then apparently “turned and walked away.”

The condemnation of Mr Aitken’s comments then reached the stage where a Parliamentary motion was due to be lodged yesterday by the Green MSP, Patrick Harvie, calling for Mr Aitken’s immediate resignation from the Justice Committee.

In the media release from the Scotland’s Green Party, Patrick Harvie said : "Bill Aitken's comments are way beyond the standards any party in Parliament should find acceptable from any MSP, but they make it entirely unacceptable for him to continue in post as Convenor of the Justice Committee. No-one who thinks we should blame rape victims should ever be allowed to hold that role in this country.”

Mr Harvie continued : "If he does not resign, the Tory leadership should force his hand. If they do not, Parliament must act to remove him, and act quickly. The alternative would a serious loss of confidence in Parliament as an institution, and the Justice Committee in particular."

Mr Aitken, who is also retiring from the Scottish Parliament and not standing in this year’s election said: "I am standing down as convener of the justice committee. I do so with a mixture of emotions: frustration at allowing myself to be misrepresented; anger at being misrepresented and remorse to rape victims and their loved ones for any hurt they feel, but also in the hope my true views can now be heard. In all my years as a city councillor, a JP and an MSP, I have spoken out against criminals and spoken up for victims of crime. That will not change in retirement. I will continue to battle for justice for all."

Conservative Party leader Annabel Goldie commenting on Mr Aitken’s resignation, said: “Bill Aitken is a man of principle and honour. He was not prepared to let any issue compromise the work of the Justice Committee and he has shown his respect both for the committee and the party.”

However, in a stark indication of just how honest we can expect our politicians to be, neither Mr Aitken nor his Scottish Conservative Party boss Annabel Goldie chose to explain reports of why Mr Aitken initially denied his comments over the rape case to the newspaper until being shown a transcript of the interview.

A legal insider commenting on Mr Aitken’s resignation said today : “Changing stories to journalists only after being shown evidence of one’s comments is not the expected level of honesty or integrity to be shown by a Convener of the Scottish Parliament’s Justice Committee”.

While Mr Aitken’s political career has ended on a sour note over his comments regarding a rape case, he is well known for a habit of making controversial remarks, where in one instance he sought to praise a former Chief Executive of the Law Society of Scotland Douglas Mill in the Scottish Parliament’s debating chamber during a debate on the Legal Services Bill.

Bill Aitken offers praise for the then Chief Executive of the Law Society, Douglas Mill, claiming “Scottish Lawyers have an excellent reputation (click image to watch video)

The Scottish Parliament’s website, in a slightly differing verbatim account of the above footage reports Mr Aitken as saying : “Scottish lawyers have an excellent reputation. Members of the Law Society, such as Douglas Mill, have contributed to the International Institute of Law Association Chief Executives. That is indicative of the way in which Scots lawyers are regarded elsewhere. Other distinguished members of the Law Society staff have played international roles, which is to be encouraged.”

Just a few weeks later in January 2008 after Mr Aitken’s fawning comments for the Law Society Chief Executive, Douglas Mill himself was forced to resign his position after a video recording of a clash between Mr Mill & the Scottish Government’s Finance Chief, John Swinney was posted to the popular video file sharing website You Tube.

Douglas Mill 4Former Law Society boss Douglas Mill received praise from Bill Aitken during Parliamentary debates, only to be forced into resignation a few weeks later after memo scandal. The video footage from an earlier Scottish Parliament Justice Committee investigation of the Law Society & regulation of the legal profession in 2006, quoted Mr Mill as denying he had become involved in interfering with claims & complaints made by members of the public against crooked lawyers. John Swinney then produced one of Mr Mill’s own secret memos which proved Mr Mill and a number of others within the Law Society, including its then President and insurers had colluded against complaints & damages claims made by clients against Scottish solicitors.

John SwinneyJohn Swinney revealed copies of secret memos which contradicted Douglas Mill’s testimony to an earlier Justice Committee over protection of crooked lawyers. Mr Swinney, then in opposition battled on with Mr Mill in a clash before the Justice Committee lasting several minutes, at the end of which no one was left in any doubt the Law Society of Scotland and Mr Mill had been involved in preventing claims for damages against ‘crooked lawyers’ from going ahead. The incident was reported in the Herald newspaper at the time in an article titled Would granny swear by the law society ?” in a reference to Douglas Mill claiming he had not intervened in claims against ‘crooked lawyers’ by swearing on his granny’s grave.

Bill Aitken’s misplaced idol ? : Douglas Mill & John Swinney come to blows over corruption at the Law Society & its Master Policy insurance, revealed in Mr Mill’s own secret memos (click image to watch video)


A legal reform campaigner speaking this afternoon to Diary of Injustice said he felt Mr Aitken’s praise for the Scottish legal profession was misplaced, particularly in view of the 2006 revelations of the Law Society of Scotland’s conduct towards members of the public in complaints & claims for compensation.

He said : “Mr Aitken’s remarks in the Parliament praising lawyers sound like they come from a lobbyist, not an elected politician."

He continued : "Any msp who openly praises the legal profession when there is such blatant evidence available as Douglas Mill’s memos which clearly show corruption right at the heart of the Law Society should examine whether they are in the right job. Maybe they should go and work for the Law Society instead of pretending to represent the majority of voters who are not lawyers and don't work in or for the legal profession.”

Justice CommitteeThe current Holyrood Justice Committee under Mr Aitken’s term as Convener has not been ‘consumer friendly’ to reforms of regulation the legal profession. Mr Aitken’s term as the Convener of what has been one of the most disappointing Justice Committees since the Scottish Parliament was re-established in 1999, saw members of the public excluded from giving any evidence on their personal experiences with Scotland’s legal services market during the Justice Committee’s investigation of the Legal Services Bill, which instead saw a platoon of appearances from the legal profession & the Law Society of Scotland, who proposed ordered so many amendments to the Legal Services Bill, its initial aims of widening access to justice for Scots have been completely ruined.

I reported on msps final vote on the Legal Services Bill, here : 'Choice' but not as we know it : Legal Services Bill passed, Scots access to justice remains mostly under Law Society's control

You can read my full coverage of the Legal Services Bill and how it passed through the Scottish Parliament, here : Legal Services Bill for Scotland - Scots denied access to justice on the Law Society's orders

To demonstrate the rather one sided approach to the Legal Services Bill taken by Mr Aitken’s Justice Committee, readers can view my report of the Law Society of Scotland’s ‘easy ride’ testimony on the Legal Services Bill here : Little mention of consumer protection for Scots as Law Society give evidence to Holyrood on Legal Services Bill reforms

In comparison to the way members of the Law Society were treated by Mr Aitken and the Justice Committee, my coverage of the OFT & Which? testimony on the Legal Services Bill, in which consumer interests were noticeably ripped apart by msps, is available here : OFT & Which? call for independent regulation of lawyers as Justice Committee hears evidence on Legal Services Bill

In reality, as far as battling for justice goes, Mr Aitken’s term as Holyrood’s Justice Committee Convener appears to have been less along the lines of battling for justice for all, and more along the lines of battling to keep the current status quo as it is where justice in Scotland is far out of reach for most Scots, and questions over the honesty & integrity of the Scots justice system such as the Lockerbie case and the many more cases of injustice or the public’s access to justice remain unanswered.

Battling for justice for the legal establishment, is a world away from battling for justice for the Scots public.

In a curious development this morning, a legal insider claimed the Law Society of Scotland were, prior to the scandal over the rape comments, discussing whether to offer Mr Aitken a role on one of its Committees after he retires from the Scottish Parliament. Whether the Law Society choose to proceed with their alleged offer in the light of Mr Aitken’s resignation, remains to be seen.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Scotland fights political interests for wider access, choice of legal services over protectionism of lawyers monopoly

Some readers were concerned enough over my last article on Bill Aitken's comments in the legal services debate, to raise the issues with Annabel Goldie and the Presiding Officer of the Scottish Parliament. I will report here any developments I learn on such representations.

You can read that previous article here :

Conflict of Interest : Replacement called for Holyrood Justice Convener Aitken, too close to legal business interests for public good

Some readers also asked me if there were other conflicts of interest which may be affecting Mr Aitken in his policy of supporting the lawyers long held monopoly on legal services.

Well, I can tell you that Bill Aitken used to work for Eagle Star Insurance, who were the first insurers to the Master Policy Insurance of the Law Society of Scotland, and as you will probably gather, Mr Aitken's previous work may well be powering ahead his current love & praise of the Law Society and its officials, who wish to retain the lawyers monopoly on access to justice.

Mr Aitken's profile :

Bill Aitken was born on the 15 th April 1947 and educated at Allan Glen's School in Glasgow. From 1965 until 1999 he worked in the Insurance Industry as an insurance undewriter and sales developerfor Eagle Star and AGF Insurance. He was also a District Court Judge from 1985 until 2000. In 1993 he was appointed Deputy Lord Lieutenant of the City of Glasgow. He is single.

Coming from a long background in the insurance industry, Mr Aitken willl know full well & understand, the insurance industry are one of the principle financial beneficiaries of maintaining the Law Society of Scotland's monopoly on legal services in Scotland as anyone who works in legal services must pay into the Master Insurance Policy of the Law Society of Scotland - otherwise they don't work.

Indeed, one of the restrictions placed on applications under the recently implemented Sections 25-29 of the Law Reform Act 1990 into the legal services market, is that applicants have indemnity insurance, which in practice must pay into the Master Insurance Policy of the Law Society of Scotland, now operated by Marsh UK.

A cosy arrangement, considering such applications must be passed by both the Lord President, and the Justice Secretary, who have in their careers, also paid into the Master Insurance Policy of the Law Society of Scotland and benefited financially from the closed shop of legal services maintained by the Law Society and the insurance industry ...

It might have been better if Mr Aitken had declared such an interest along those lines, before making as much parliamentary praise as he gave for Law Society officials who last year threatened legal action against the Parliament over the passage of the LPLA Bill, or making such public protests at the possibility that Scots may be able to choose who they want to represent their legal affairs, not who the legal profession order them to choose.

Anyway, I await a reply from Annabel Goldie as to whether she will see fit to apply the same high standards impartiality she respectfully applied to herself last year when she resigned from the Justice 2 Committee so that J2 could be seen to have a more impartial Convener for the debate on the LPLA Bill. I will cover any reply in a further article.

Scotland differs from England & Wales when it comes to access to justice, because for now at least, the Scottish National Party do not support the full implementation of choice and free competition in the legal services market.

For now anyone who needs to get to court, or use critical legal services, must go through a member of the Law Society of Scotland. You simply have no other choice. There is no one currently allowed other than solicitors or advocates to perform such courtroom representation for you. Similarly, many everyday legal services which you may require at some point in your life also require the use of a solicitor. You simply cannot get away from it ... currently to use legal services in Scotland, the ones you need - you must use a solicitor.

All political parties are aware of this. Indeed all the major political parties in Scotland, have lawyers or ex-lawyers in prominent positions within their parties, many of whom benefited financially from the decades old monopoly on legal services their profession holds over the public's use of law in Scotland.

Kenny MacAskill MSP for instance, now an 'ex-lawyer', only came into politics in 1999, worked as a solicitor and senior partner in an Edinburgh law firm from 1984 until 2000.

Mr MacAskill, as a solicitor for some sixteen years, therefore knows full well the Law Society of Scotland's monopoly on access to legal services which dictates who can & cannot obtain legal representation, and who is allowed, or is denied, access to justice.

It would be true to say, Mr MacAskill, like other currently practicing lawyer or 'ex-lawyer' MSPs in the Scottish Parliament, such as Annabel Goldie, David McLetchie, Nicola Sturgeon, and many more, have all benefited financially from the Law Society of Scotland's closed shop on access to legal services, and the failure of successive Scottish administrations since 1990 to implement the Law Reform (Misc Provisions) Act (Scotland) 1990, specifically Sections 25-29, which were designed to open up legal services in Scotland to wider competition & choice for the consumer.

What did any of those currently practicing lawyers or ex-lawyers who are MSPs say about the failure of successive administrations to implement the 1990 legislation on widening choice of legal services ?

Nothing. Nothing at all. Not a peep from anyone.

It simply was not in Mr MacAskill's, Ms Goldie's, Mr McLetchie's, Ms Sturgeon's, or any of the other lawyer or 'ex-lawyer' politicians financial interests, and more importantly the interests of the Law Society of Scotland & the legal profession for any of them to say anything about it, or do anything about it and that is why it has taken seventeen years to implement Sections 25-29 to allow persons other than those who are members of the Law Society of Scotland to apply for rights of audience.

Of course, we all know now that Sections 25-29 were implemented in March of this year, so naturally, we should be seeing a crop of new entries into the legal services market, able to take up the public's demand for choice, competitive pricing and well regulated standards of wider legal services but that has not happened, due to the restrictive, protectionist policy which surrounds the current Justice Secretarie's view of the implementation of the seventeen year old legal market competition legislation.

An excerpt from Kenny MacAskill's letter to cabinet colleague John Swinney, which was featured in the Herald last week :

Kenny MacAskill to John Swinney 26 July 2007 Sections 25-29 implementationYou [John Swinney] will be interested to know that the commencement of Sections 25-29 of the Law Reform (Miscellaneous Provisions) (Scotland) Act 1990 came into effect on 19 March 2007. The Sections provide for rights of audience and rights to conduct litigation in the Supreme Courts to be granted to members of professional or other bodies, subject to approval in each case of a draft scheme embodying certain safeguards such as training programmes and indemnity insurance. The legislation does not provide for applications from individuals. Guidance has been prepared that covers in some detail the provisions to be contained in draft schemes and the consideration of applications. I hope this reassures you that action has now been taken to increase consumer voice in the supply of legal service providers.

So, that sounds straight forward enough. The impression is given it is fairly easy for someone, albeit a member of a professional or "other body subject to approval in each case of a draft scheme embodying certain safeguards such as training programmes and indemnity insurance" can apply under Sections 25-29 to enter the legal services market, and represent the public in court.

Well, this is not the case at all, and all applications which have been made under Sections 25-29, have so far failed, because, the Law Society of Scotland wants to retain its control and monopoly on the legal services market, who is allowed to enter it, and who is allowed to offer wider choice and competition for the public in their choice of legal representative.

It's natural. The Law Society don't want anyone else to be allowed to enter the legal services market, because if there is wider choice, the Law Society's own member solicitors will lose out.

Wider choice of legal services means not having to pay the likes of £150+VAT for 3 lines of text on an A4 'lawyers letter' or £60+VAT for a single email reply from your lawyer ... because of course, wider choice will bring entrants in to the legal services market who wont be charging those kinds of fees.

How about all those expensive wills, conveyancing, poorly performed court work & case preparation, bad financial advice, and many other poor services clients get from lawyers, who have even gotten away with mortgage mis-selling because the Law Society of Scotland let them off the hook ?

Well, all that would be a thing of the past if the legal services market were opened up properly, to the standard of the recent OFT recommendations for wider access to legal services. Increased competition, the entry to the legal services market of firms willing to offer expert legal services at competitive prices, and crucially, a fully independent legal services regulator (not the Law Society of Scotland) with strong powers to ensure the highest standards of practice in the opened legal services market, would give the Scottish public the rights of access to justice, access to legal services, and unrestricted choice, which we deserve in Scotland.

To be fair, Kenny MacAskill wants to open up the legal services market in Scotland, but he doesn't want to open it up very much, and it is difficult to ascertain Mr MacAskill's current view on wider choice of legal services, because he changes his view so much, from press reports on a 'Scottish solution', to parliamentary debates, to misleading letters to cabinet colleagues

The SNP did not implement Sections 25-29. The previous Scottish Executive did that, albeit a bit too late in the day after some eight years of rule.

If anyone asked me now whether I think the SNP would have implemented Sections 25-29 if they had not been implemented by the previous administration, I would say - No, the SNP would not have implemented Sections 25-29 of the Law Reform (Misc Provisions) (Scotland) Act 1990.

If anyone asked me now whether I think the SNP would have passed the Legal Profession & Legal Aid (Scotland) Act 2007, I would say - No. On the basis of the available evidence and conduct of the SNP in the legal services debate, an SNP administration would not have passed the Legal Profession & Legal Aid (Scotland) Act 2007.

Some members of the Scottish National Party appear not to want the Scottish public to have free choice of quality & well regulated legal services, and those elements of the SNP who do not want to give full choice to the Scottish public, have supporters in their cause - the Scottish Conservatives.

The Scottish Conservatives do not want to break the Law Society of Scotland's monopoly on access to justice. Members of the Scottish Conservative party have openly protested in the media against breaking the lawyers control over legal services, and have made the same protectionist statements in the Scottish Parliament.

Strange, the Conservatives would wish to maintain a business monopoly, when successive Conservative Westminster administrations have broken up long established monopolies & sold them off to the public, promoting wider competition and public choice in those business sectors.

The legal services sector however, is a different matter, and the Conservatives wish to protect the legal profession's monopoly on access to justice, principally, because of the financial and political influence the legal profession hold in public life today.

For an industry such as the legal profession to be allowed to order you, the public, to take what you are offered as a legal representative, and be forced to pay the prices the legal profession itself dictates to you, is anti competitive, monopolistic, and dishonest.

For an industry such as the legal profession, to be allowed to regulate itself, ensuring that there is no proper investigation of complaints, no transparency or independent regulation, no accountability, no compensation, no chance of recovery, no chance of making a claim, no chance of outside help, when you receive substandard legal services, or incur huge financial losses through the negligence of one of its members, that is an industry 'unfit for purpose', regulated by itself in the common practice of utmost prejudice against the public.

Kenny MacAskill and Bill Aitken's support of such a monopoly is not good for Scotland, and not good for the public's right to choice in access to legal services & justice.

Kenny MacAskill once said in the Scotsman in February 2006 : "There are good reasons for having a monopoly-regulated profession; otherwise, how do you regulate those not part of the organisation?"

The Law Society of Scotland, and it's self regulation of solicitors, is no model for regulation, or a nation to follow with any degree of confidence ...

The Law Society of Scotland has done a good job of ensuring that clients receive no proper regulation when making a complaint or a claim for damaging losses at the hands of negligent, crooked or incompetent solicitors.

That is no good excuse or reason to maintain such a monopoly, based upon such a poor regulatory model, Mr MacAskill, and is surely not a safe basis for the position of Justice Secretary to support maintaining such a monopoly ...

Wider choice of legal services means a break from the past, a break from high fees for poor legal services, a chance for better, independent regulation, a chance to break political influence in politics which has purposely delayed public interest legislation for decades, a chance of transparency, a chance of honesty & accountability, a chance of better standards, and a chance for anyone to obtain access to justice and legal services outwith the dictates of the legal profession itself.

Give Scotland its right - Give Scotland wider choice, better independent regulation and higher standards of legal services the public can trust, use, and rely upon.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Law Society of Scotland lobbies Scottish Parliament to pass anti consumer amendments on LPLA Bill threatening Court action if demands not met

Just imagine you were a politician for a minute, and someone you knew committed a murder or another serious crime, but got away with it.

This criminal, then came to you, asking you to amend the Law so they could murder someone else and get away with it, and just to keep themselves happy, they want you to also write amendments to the Law so they could abuse, murder & steal to their hearts content - and get away with it.

Would you do it ? Would you help a murderer or a fraudster or a child abuser, amend the law so they could carry on murdering, stealing, or abusing and get away with it ?

That is precisely what the Scottish legal profession is asking MSPs to do today in the Scottish Parliament in the debate on the Legal Profession & Legal Aid (Scotland) Bill , which aims to bring independent regulation to the legal profession, and take away the current crooked self regulation system operated by the Law Society of Scotland - which has seen thousands of complaints fiddled against crooked lawyers so clients get little or no compensation while the crooked lawyer gets off the hook from many client complaints & keeps on practising & keeps on robbing other clients who cant get anywhere trying to recover their lost money

Such cases as TOP LAWYER AT THE CENTRE OF 12 NEGLIGENCE CLAIMS are all too common, and from my own experience, just look how crooked lawyer Drew Penman was - and got away with it, to carry on being a crooked lawyer, so much I nominated him for Scotland's Most Famous Crooked Lawyer in Tueday's article Scottish Legal Awards - Lawyer Lawyer on the wall, who is the most crooked of us all ?

The Law Society of Scotland are today, promoting Jim Wallace MSP, former Deputy First Minister and Justice Minister, and Jackie Baillie, former Social Justice Minister and current member of the Justice 2 Committee as allies in their battle to prevent the public from getting a fair hearing when it comes to complaints against crooked lawyers.

Bit strange, isn't it ? that a Former Justice Minister would support a gang of criminals ? would support a profession which has ruined peoples lives, embezzled all their money, even caused the death of people - to save a lawyer from prosecution over fraud, corruption, embezzlement, rape, abuse, drugs dealing .... what kind of politician would support such a group of people ?

It's not just Jim Wallace though - as you can see from the amendments listed for the Parliamentary Debate - there are several other MSPs who have come forth to support Scotland's twisted & corrupt legal profession - hellbent on killing any chance of independent scrutiny of their corrupt behaviour towards clients.

Link to the Amendments: Marshalled List of Amendments selected for Stage 3

Please note Bill Aitken - Conservative MSP for Glasgow - he seems to be one of the Chief mouthpieces for crooked lawyers in this war against consumer reforms it seems - and he is so in love with the idea that crooked lawyers should be allowed to embezzle your money & get away with it - he demanded the proposed maximum fine of £20,000 for crooked lawyers be reduced to a mere £5000 in his Amendment No.179.

How do you like that idea then ? An MSP - a politician you elected, but now a mouthpiece for the Law Society of Scotland, wants a crooked lawyer to only have to pay £5000 at the very most - if for instance - they ruin your business, ruin your life, take your home, embezzle all your money. What kind of punishment or deterrent is that ?

Jackie Ballie MSP - former Social Justice Minister & Justice 2 Committee member isn't far behind Bill Aitken with anti-consumer amendments either - she also proposed the lowering of the £20,000 for crooked lawyers be reduced to £15,000 ... what a rip off ! - and why should there even be a limit of fine ?

How about when a lawyer ruins your business and you lose £100,000 or more ? You won't get much back from the £5,000 or £15,000 fine limit these MSPs are proposing ... and it's no use saying get a lawyer to sue the lawyer - that doesn't work as we all know - and which is why we are here today with the LPLA Bill.

In fact, it seems, out of 129 MSPs at the Scottish Parliament, only a few have stepped forward with any motivation at all on the part of the public - John Swinney MSP (SNP) and Colin Fox (SSP), to mention the most daring. Everyone else has kept a brutal silence on this issue - despite the fact every single MSP knows full well the corruption in the Scottish legal profession and how endemically corrupt the Law Society of Scotland's self regulatory complaints regime has been for decades.

Other MSPs who posted a variety of amendments to the LPLA Bill are : Jeremy Purvis (LibDem) , David Davidson (Conservative), Johann Lamont (Labour), Stewart Maxwell (SNP) & Hugh Henry (Labour)

The Law Society of Scotland has done its utmost to kill off the LPLA Bill, even having groups of lawyers meet with MSPs - even members of the Justice Committees themselves, where lawyers have privately warned some MSPs the LPLA Bill is not to become law unless it writes the amendments itself - and with the amendments proposed by Glasgow's Bill Aitken MSP - it looks like the Law Society of Scotland have done just that.

It's almost as if the Law Society of Scotland wants to censor the Scottish Parliament - just as it has done with the Scottish media - which I wrote about here :
Law Society of Scotland actively censors the Scottish Press to kill articles on crooked lawyers and here :
Scottish Legal Profession censors the Press to kill off bad publicity - Part II

The Law Society of Scotland is running so scared of the LPLA Bill, the legal profession have now threatened to boycott legal work - all because of the fact that lawyers won't be able to fiddle complaints against themselves with the advent of independent regulation of complaints in the LPLA Bill .. and an article today in the Herald Newspaper quotes those threats - so the crooked lawyers aren't going to take on all those cases such as executry, conveyancing or court work, for which the law requires they are registered as practicing solicitors.

Good ... that means they wont be able to rip you off for vast fees for selling your house or buying a house, or ripping off dead clients wills - like crooked lawyer Andrew Penman did with my dad's will, and they can't prolong Civil Court work you asked them to do for you - so they can fatten up the account at the end of the work done ... It might just bring a new more honest breed of person into the legal arena who is able to undertake the work for you without all those fat inflated bills to feather the high living lifestyles of all those crooked lawyers.

Not content with threatening to boycott legal work, the Law Society of Scotland has also issued a Press Release with a threat of a Court Challenge to the Parliament against the LPLA Bill if the legal profession's demands of amendments are not met. How's that for dictatorship then ! .... has Douglas Mill now become the new Saddam Hussein ? We get rid of one Dictator and another one springs up - but this time, it's at home - and Mr Mill & the gang of political control-freak lawyers in the Scottish legal profession are far more dangerous to the public & the judicial system than any politician - as has been proved time & again.

Douglas Mill's threat of a Court challenge to the LPLA Bill is well known, because he called the newspapers to publish his threat in early November- I covered it here : Law Society of Scotland threatens Court challenge against Scottish Executive over LPLA legal reform Bill,. but it just goes to show how far the Law Society is willing to go to keep complaints handling to themselves - all this to keep crooked lawyers in jobs - who would otherwise be in jail if they tried their wholesale client rip offs, embezzlements & other activities anywhere else.

Peter Cherbi's message to the Scottish Parliament today :

Resist the threats & intimidation of the Law Society of Scotland & the legal mafia. Pass the Legal Profession & Legal Aid (Scotland) Bill without all those so obviously anti consumer amendments and give the public a chance to be heard for once. You all know we are right in what we say - and how long all of us victims - the seen & unseen have suffered - do something about it, and bring honesty to the Scottish legal profession. Give the public a reason to trust the people who must represent us in the Courts & legal system - because at the moment, we have no one to trust with our legal affairs. No one.

Herald article here : http://www.theherald.co.uk/politics/76711.html

Law change ‘may harm clients of solicitors’
DOUGLAS FRASER December 14 2006

Solicitors may walk away from mainstream legal work if there is too much regulatory burden placed on them by legislation which is entering its final stage at Holyrood, the Law Society of Scotland has warned.

A spokeswoman said yesterday that if the costs of remaining as a solicitor are increased by the charges for sustaining a new complaints system, including fines of up to £20,000, that may encourage solicitors to redefine themselves as lawyers or legal advisers instead.

If they do not carry out executry, conveyancing or court work, for which the law requires they are registered as practising solicitors, they would be free to carry on without that badge – on commercial work, for instance.

The spokeswoman said solicitors would prefer to remain as a unified profession, but added that costs and regulation could change that. The outcome would only harm customers' interests, it was claimed, taking many lawyers outside the remit of the new complaints system. It may also make lawyers more selective in the cases they are willing to take on.

The Law Society of Scotland has made repeated warnings about the Legal Profession and Legal Aid (Scotland) Bill, on which MSPs will take their final decisions today.

With key amendments facing them, one of those warnings is that the bill as it stands this morning could become the first piece of Holyrood legislation to be struck down for being incompatible with human rights legislation.

Press Release (or declaration of War against the Scottish public & Parliament) by the Law Society of Scotland here :

Former Ministers Back Society's Calls for Change to Legal Reform Bill

TWO influential MSPs have backed the Law Society of Scotland's concerns and will bring forward vital amendments to the legal Profession and Legal Aid (Scotland) Bill tomorrow (Thursday 14 December).

Jim Wallace MSP, former Deputy First Minister and Justice Minister, and Jackie Baillie, former Social Justice Minister and current member of the Justice 2 Committee, are among those who have put forward amendments to the Legal Profession and Legal Aid (Scotland) Bill.

The Society has warned consistently that the Bill, which includes setting up a Scottish Legal Complaints Commission to handle service complaints against lawyers, could breach the European Convention on Human Rights. Unless its flaws are addressed it could become the first Act of the Scottish Parliament to be struck down as incompetent.

The former ministers' amendments, as well as a series of amendments by the Scottish Executive and David Davidson MSP, seek to correct flaws highlighted by the Society. They include the need to provide a right of appeal to the courts against SLCC decisions and involvement of the Lord President in the appointment of Commission members.

Douglas Mill, the Chief Executive of the Society, stressed that the Stage 3 debate tomorrow (Thursday December 14) was the final chance for MSPs to ensure that the new process for making complaints against solicitors is better than the current system.

He said: "The Society backs the principle of establishing an independent body to handle service complaints against solicitors in Scotland but that must be an improvement on the existing system for the public and legal profession alike.

"We have made our concerns known on a number of occasions and a large number of amendments have already been tabled during the parliamentary process which have led to some improvements but the question of ECHR compliance and the independence of the SLCC from government are fundamental and must be addressed tomorrow.

"The Society hopes the amendments brought forward at the Stage 3 debate will correct the flaws in this Bill and ensure it does not face a court challenge at a later stage."

Other changes that the Society hopes will be agreed during the debate include lowering the maximum compensation levels for individual findings of poor service by lawyers from £20,000 and ensuring greater accountability of the work and costs of the SLCC.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Crooked ex lawyer & Conservative Politician gets off lightly with 27 month sentence for fraud against disabled client

A case I was very interested in, of course, because Iain Catto did the same to his client, Francis Fleming, systematically robbing his vulnerable client of his funds, as a crooked sick Borders Accountant Norman Howitt of Welchs Accountants Hawick & Galashiels did to my mother, even taking her pension book & bank books.

You can read about what crooked Borders accountant Norman Howitt did to my mother, along with plenty evidence, here :
http://petercherbi.blogspot.com/2006/03/norman-howitt-crooked-borders.html
and you can read my previous coverage of the Catto fraud case here :
http://petercherbi.blogspot.com/2006/08/dont-trust-your-lawyer-or-accountant.html

Ian Catto only got 27 months for his crimes though - a pitiful sentence, which many are wondering was influenced by his political & legal connections. I certainly wonder about that .. because here we have Catto - a self-professed big wig with the Scottish Tories, with many connections within the Scottish Tory party, and with connections to the legal profession & it's allies, getting a very light sentence, for an obviously pre meditated and well thought out robbery of his client's funds.

Lets make no mistake about this here, this was robbery. Catto knew exactly what he was doing, and to show just how depraved, sick & evil he was, he preyed on a vunerable disabled client, stealing all he could from Mr Flemming.

Why then should Catto just get 27 months ? when all he will serve will be half that at the most ? let's say .. maybe 12 months at most ? for stealing over £70,000 from a disabled person who depended on him as a friend ? I think that's a disgrace. Catto should have got 5 years for what he did.

Where are the cries from politicians asking for an increased sentence ? I don't hear any ... but certainly Catto deserves a LOT more than 27 months if there is to be any deterent aspect to the sentence ...

Why is the Crown Office not announcing an appeal to the sentence to get it increased ? Shouldn't it be in the public interest that the likes of Catto get a LOT more than 27 months ? or is it because, of course, Catto comes from the legal profession and has his political pals to pull strings for him ...

If you want to email the Crown Office to urge them to appeal for an increase in Catto's sentence, the Crown Office email is : COPFS@scotland.gsi.gov.uk

If you want to write to the Crown Office on this case, their address is :
The Crown Office, 25 Chamber Street, Edinburgh EH1 1LA

If you want to email the Scottish Parliament Justice 2 Committee (who are currently handling the LPLA Bill on lawyers regulation) and ask why they aren't paying attention to lenient sentences of crooked lawyers, the Justice 2 Committee's email is : justice.committee@scottish.parliament.uk

What's Catto going to do when he comes out ? Stand again as an MP for the Tories ? With the likes of Lord Archer and a few others within their ranks .. that would be just grand for the Tories to have another like Catto in their midst .. and he will probably have every assistance he wants to get there .. because the likes of Catto don't care a damn about people like poor Mr Flemming .. or for that, any client .. because in the psychology of many lawyers - the client is just a nuisance - and deserves to be ripped off as much as possible.

I've still to hear whether Mr Flemming actually did get the money returned to him ... the Scotsman stories on the case report that Catto makes great hay of selling a flat to pay back the money .. but there is no definite mention of whether Mr Flemming actually received it yet ... and even so, giving back the money doesn't undo the sick twisted crime which Catto committed against his client - and that is why Catto should get much more than 27 months.

However, while at least Catto is going to jail, crooked Norman Howitt escaped any punishment whatsoever - because of course, he is a crooked accountant, and could rely on the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Scotland to get him off the hook - which they did, with the most senior staff at ICAS, such as Director of Legal Services Tom McMorrow, and the ICAS President & plenty other goons from ICAS spinning a web of lies & deception to get their crooked colleague Howitt off the hook from his theft of my mothers pension book, bank books, and even his fiddling of a secret trust to keep all the money under his own control.

I wonder what's up with the Crown Office, and why they are so protective of those in the legal profession who are either charged with criminal offences, or get found guilty in criminal cases ...

The Crown Office were recently asked under Freedom of Information laws to disclose how many criminal cases & successful prosecutions there had been against members of the legal profession.

The first reaction from the Lord Advocate's office was a demand to know why the information was requied and for what purpose it would be used .. The Crown Office, then came out & said it held no such statistics on criminal cases & successful prosecutions against members of the legal profession.

Why exactly is that ? Why do the Crown Office come out with a big fanfare when it suits them with barrels of statistics on other types of criminal cases, to prove they are doing a good job of sweeping up the crooks, but when it comes to criminal cases against members of the legal profession - they keep silent .. even refusing, well, actually, lying, that they don't know how many prosecutions or criminal cases there have been against members of the legal profession in Scotland.

Even the Law Society of Scotland, of course, won't disclose how many lawyers it has within it's ranks who have criminal convictions .. and since there is around 10,000 solicitors in Scotland these days - it's anyone's guess how many of them are criminals .... certainly there have been a few cases in the papers recently, where lawyers were convicted of criminal offences ... some of them were even Procurator Fiscals .. but no statistics to be released ... what a sinister silence we have here then ... and to think the Police were forced to admit only a few weeks ago, the numbers of officers in Scotland who have criminal convictions ... but the same rule of disclosure isn't to be applied to lawyers ... how unfair .. how ... sinister ...

It could be the case that if Catto ever came back as a lawyer no one would know about this conviction if they weren't aware of it and since the Crown Office refuses to disclose statistics on numbers of criminal cases or convictions against the legal profession, even Catto's conviction might not come to light if he doesn't tell anyone about it - which he obviously wont.

I think it's time for it to be made mandatory that lawyers disclose their regulatory & criminal history to clients .. and the Lord Advocate Colin Boyd should get his underlings to appeal Catto's sentence for something much more substantial than a mere 27 months, of which he wont serve much.

Read on for the article, from The Scotsman, at :
http://thescotsman.scotsman.com/scotland.cfm?id=1427092006

27 months for lawyer who robbed 'friend' of £70,000
VALERIE MACGREGOR

HE was once a successful and well- connected lawyer, a city councillor and a man tipped to be a future Westminster MP.

But yesterday, the political aspirations of Iain Catto were ended forever when he was jailed for 27 months for stealing £70,000 from a disabled client, who depended upon him as a close friend.

Catto took the money over two years from December 2002 to maintain his lifestyle of foreign travel and exclusive restaurants after losing his job as a solicitor. He now faces a hearing before the independent Scottish Solicitors' Discipline Tribunal, where he could be struck off.

Edinburgh Sheriff Court heard yesterday how the 41-year-old - a leading member and secretary of the right-wing Scottish dining club the Tuesday Club - befriended Francis Fleming, 59, who had been partially paralysed in an assault, and offered to look after his finances.

But Catto, a Conservative member of Lothian Regional Council from 1990 to 1994, was regularly withdrawing sums of up to £11,000 from the large criminal injuries payout his client had received. He also sold some of his victim's shares to get more cash.

To cover up his scam, he had all Mr Fleming's bank statements sent to his own home address. Mr Fleming, who was left partially paralysed and impaired following an attempt on his life in 1968, trusted the solicitor so completely that he even gave him a key to his home in Craigentinny Road, Edinburgh.

Meanwhile, Catto was buying himself airline and train tickets for the UK and abroad, hotel rooms, restaurant meals, software, goods from Oddbins and expensive haircuts.

Mr Fleming, who separated from his wife and lost touch with his son, had gone to the legal firm where Catto was a trainee to get financial help. The former councillor befriended him and took over power of attorney in 1996.

Alison Innes, fiscal depute, told Edinburgh Sheriff Court that Catto lost his job as a solicitor in 2002 and turned to stealing from Mr Fleming for his own use between December 2002 and December, 2004. She said: "He became very close to Mr Fleming and used to come and go as he pleased. Mr Fleming, being the trusting soul that he was, did not have any problems with that."

Catto carried on with the scam until Mr Fleming was reunited with his son, Frank MacLennan, who first became suspicious about Catto when he tried to help them buy a home in Spain during a holiday.

"Had it not been for the son arriving, we can only speculate if the accused would have stopped at all," Mrs Innes told Sheriff Kathrine Mackie.

Mr MacLennan realised £4,000 had gone missing and arranged to take over the power of attorney from Catto.

In November 2005, Catto, of Edinburgh,pleaded guilty to the theft and has sold a flat to repay the stolen cash.

Fiona MacDonald, the defence agent, said Catto had forged a promising career but when he was sacked could not admit the shame of it to family and friends.

The sheriff told him: "You callously took funds from Mr Fleming to support yourself when you knew that he depended on that money and you. It was a gross breach of trust."

Mr MacLennan, 42, criticised the sentence as too short. He said:
"He bled my father dry. We had been planning to move to Spain, but now that idea is gone. He lied to my dad and me from the start."

The Law Society of Scotland confirmed it would be looking into Catto's case.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Amendments to Scottish Executive LPLA Bill reveal possibility of contempt charges against Law Society officials.

The Amendments to the Legal Profession & Legal Aid (Scotland) Bill have finally been put forward to the Scottish Parliament, awaiting discussion by the Justice 2 Committee later this week.

However, not to be outdone by myselt & other campaigners, the Law Society of Scotland have put around 40 amendments forward to the LPLA Bill via Bill Aitken MSP , the Conservative MSP and former District Court Judge who was also a Glasgow City Councillor & has long ties to the Insurance Industry .. so he must have been a tame msp for the Law Society to try and get their point over.

Funny thing is, Bill Aitken was quoted on the Lord Mike Watson fireraising conviction saying .. "Nobody should make a profit as a result of a criminal act." .. I wonder how that fits in with how the Scottish legal profession makes profits over ripping off the Scottish public & companies who have to use legal services ?

There has been a spate of lawyers in the media recently, convicted of criminal acts .. and plenty more to come ... bu the Law Society of Scotland have let them keep their jobs as solicitors ... even some at the Law Society have been asking journalists to "go easy" on stories relating to crooked lawyers and criminal cases ...

I wonder how Bill Aitken feels about that then ? All those crooked lawyers keeping their loot from poor clients or even from tax & benefit frauds against the Country ?

Bill Aitken must feel just fine, as he has put forward some 40 amendments to the LPLA Bill .. .on behalf of the very same people who have fiddled client complaints against crooked lawyers for decades .. to the point where some have even killed themselves through stress. Bill Aitken then, must be fine with that too, as I can't think of anyone who could defend such an organisation, other than someone from within it. Remember, he's a Conservative ... not a party which would ever be likely to give us independent regulation of the legal profession then ... as we have seen from the antics of some of the Conservative party members at Holyrood recently, with regard to issues concerning the legal profession.

John Swinney MSP & Colin Fox MSP have come forward with amendments reflecting the public's concern of crooked lawyers and lax regulation .. good for them, I congratulate their understanding of this important issue.

The Scottish Executive have also submitted some 300 amendments to the LPLA Bill, and one of the most powerful amendments they have put forward, reported by today's Herald newspaper, is that the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission should have the power to bring the Law Society or Faculty of Advocates before the Court of Session on a contempt charge if they failed to implement the watchdog's recommendations. Sanctions include fines and imprisonment.

Quite an amendment, that one .. makes me think the Executive have finally read all the correspondence people have been sending to them over the years about how crooked & corrupt the Law Society of Scotland really is when it comes to dealing with complaints against Scottish solicitors.

You can read these amendments, in Acrobat file format on the Parliament's website here : 1st Marshalled List of Amendments for Stage 2 & 1st Groupings of Amendments for Stage 2

Progress of the LPLA Bill can also be viewed at :
http://www.scottish.parliament.uk/business/bills/56-legalProfession/index.htm

However, while the LPLA Bill sails through the Parliamentary process, the agents of darkness - aka - members of the legal mafia opposed to pro consumer reforms, are warning in other newspapers the LPLA Bill will probably be challenged under ECHR laws - because it will be against the Human Rights of the legal profession to have itself subject to outside scrutiny which would reveal just how crooked, corrupt & evil it is.

Brian Fitzpatrick, an Advocate & former Labour MSP claims in today's Scotsman newspaper, the creation of an independent legal complaints commission will be successfully challenged in court because it does not fit with human rights laws. Sounds like he will be leading the charge then, against the consumer. Better watch out for Mr Fitzpatrick and the rest of the gang then.

Just think about that for a second ... lawyers arguing it is against their Human Rights to limit their power to overcharge clients, embezzle client's money, sweet talk elderly & vulnerable clients out of their properties & prized posessions, fake up papers in complaints investigations & fiddle evidence, ... even, that it would be against lawyers Human Rights to not be able to fiddle complaints against themselves so no one gets compensation. Some arguement, isn't it ? No wonder we desperately need independent regulation of the legal profession in Scotland.

Another thing of course that we need in this situation, is a review commission to look at the legal profession's sins of the past.

Potentially, tens of thousands of complaints have been fiddled against crooked lawyers over the years, by the Law Society of Scotland and it's crooked Client Relations Office - which many would rather refer to as the Client Destruction Office .. which sports a vast array of dirty tricks to use against those who dare complain against their obviously crooked lawyer.

Over the years, the likes of Philip Yelland, the Director of the Client Relations Office, and even his boss, Douglas Mill, Chief Executive of the Law Society itself, have directly intervened in many cases, fiddling their outcome, so a crooked lawyer or legal firm can go on practising, while a poor client gets nothing ... and the most evil & twisted of dirty tricks have been authorised by the Law Society to be used against those very same clients, who have lost every penny, and many years of their lives fighting the corruption & deviousness of Scotland's legal mafia.

Yes, there are many sins to answer for, Mr Mill, Mr Yelland, and all your colleagues .. who have fiddled complaints to the nth degree over the years ..

.. and these sins, just like in the Shirley McKie case, require intervention by the Scottish Executive & Parliament so that cases can be cleared up, finally addressing the wrongs against clients which were buried by the legal profession, so that those victims of crooked lawyers, whose lives & livelihoods were ruined, even, laid asunder so that crooked lawyers could go on practising, can finally get some justice & deserving compensation payouts for all the harm & hurt which has been caused to them for decades ... akin to a lingering abuse, sanctioned by those who stood by for years & did nothing to stop it.

Read on for the article, from the Herald, at : http://www.theherald.co.uk/politics/70806.html

Lawyers plan to give watchdog bite
PAUL ROGERSON September 26 2006

The leaders of Scotland's 10,000 lawyers could be called before the courts for contempt if they snub the recommendations of the new independent watchdog being established to oversee the profession.

Deputy justice minister Hugh Henry has opened a new round in the Scottish Executive's battle to remove control of complaints- handling from governing bodies, the Law Society of Scotland and the Faculty of Advocates.

Mr Henry has proposed a legislative amendment which would give the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission the power to bring the society or faculty before the Court of Session on a contempt charge if they failed to implement the watchdog's recommendations. Sanctions include fines and imprisonment, although it is unclear whether individual executives and office-bearers would be in the line of fire.

The proposed commission will comprise a majority of non-lawyers and end centuries of self-regulation by the two governing bodies. Under the bill, Scots who receive poor service from their lawyers will be able to claim up to £20,000 in compensation, which is four times the present maximum.

Mr Henry's amendment to the Legal Profession and Legal Aid (Scotland) Bill is one of 300 being brought forward by the executive and will be discussed this week by Parliament's Justice 2 committee.

The minister was spurred to act by criticism of the legislation from Linda Costelloe Baker, who held the soon-to-be-defunct post of Scottish Legal Services Ombudsman for six years before she stepped down earlier this year.

She condemned the bill as a recipe for confusion and conflict, partly because the commission's powers are limited to complaints of poor service by a lawyer. Complaints alleging outright misconduct remain to be dealt with by the society and faculty. Since many complaints concern service and conduct, Ms Costelloe Baker argued, the commission and society would end up probing the same complaint and ending up at loggerheads over their conclusions.

Now the commission will be able to impose its will on the handling of conduct complaints too – in sharp contrast with the ombudsman's position.

Since 2001 complaints to the ombudsman have risen five-fold, but at present she has no powers to impose her findings on the professional bodies and they can and do sometimes ignore them. As the predecessor Justice 1 Committee pointed out some years ago, the lack of such powers undermines consumer confidence.

An executive spokesman said: "When the executive consulted last summer on reform of complaints handling, an overwhelming majority [88%] of those who commented on the powers of the ombudsman believed these powers should be increased. The bill enables the commission to direct a professional body to comply with its recommendations on the handling of conduct complaints and [the amendment] provides a sanction in the event of non-compliance."

A spokesperson for the Law Society said: "This amendment looks unnecessary as courts have always had oversight of professional bodies such as the society. What is unusual is this power is proposed for the commission without any prior consultation and any opportunity for the Justice 2 Committee to scrutinise."

A faculty spokesman said: "In the case of the proposed sanction for failure to comply with a recommendation of the commission, it would be unusual to regard failure to comply with the requirements of an administrative body as being the equivalent of a contempt of court."

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Don't trust your lawyer or accountant when they say they have your best interests at heart ...

Iain Catto .. who was a lawyer as well as a Conservative Councillor for Prestonfield & Mayfield, apparently gave up his job as a solicitor in 2002 .. and turned to stealing from a disabled client, until the victim's family found out what was going on.

The Evening News reports that "The court heard that Catto, of Atholl Crescent, Edinburgh, offered to pay his bills for him. He would also ask Mr Fleming to sign blank cheques saying he would fill in the details later"

Signing blank cheques for a lawyer or an accountant is always a dangerous thing .... something I would never advise anyone to do.

Just because the person is a lawyer, or an accountant, doesn't mean they should be trusted - in fact, it's quite the reverse, as the victim of Mr Catto's fraud found out - in what is an all too common scam by Scottish lawyers and accountants against their client.

In some cases, lawyers and accountants have softened their clients up with tales of honesty and 'concern' for their wellbeing .. even despicably putting family members against family members, in plots to gain control of their clients money to fund their own lavish lifestyle ... robbing from their client at-will.

Just as Mr Catto robbed his disabled client of money, and stole from his accounts, my late father's accountant - Mr Norman James Howitt, of Welch's Accountants, Hawick & Galashiels, Scottish Borders - http://www.welchca.co.uk took my mother's pension book and bank books for himself, on a pretence of 'keeping the money safe from other family members' - but not safe from himself it turned out.

However, I discovered the accounts were being systematically looted by other relatives who had become associated with Mr Howitt - on sanction of Mr Howitt, and in cooperation with my mother's own lawyer, Nigel Hall of Hawick firm Haddon & Turnbull Solicitors, who had become involved in the fraud against my mother.

My mother trusted Norman Howitt and Nigel Hall, who had wormed their wicked sinister way into my mother's life, on the pretence of having the same concern for her wellbeing which Catto said he had for his client .. but their motives were purely personal, to gain control of her own assets, and see them looted - as was the case.

After I uncovered the complicated fraud, which was revealed when my mother became so anxious and afraid of what Mr Howitt was doing with her money, demanding her to sign secret trust documents in his own favour and even being bullied into it by her own lawyer, who also wanted everything kept secret, I put a stop to it ..., just like what happened when Mr Catto's family found out about Catto stealing the money and put a stop to his criminal acts.

You can read about the seedy case of well known Borders Accountant Norman Howitt, now of the JRW Group, and what he did to my family at : http://petercherbi.blogspot.com/2006/03/norman-howitt-crooked-borders.html

The incident of Howitt was reported to the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Scotland, but the complaint and the incident was covered up by the ICAS Director of Legal Services - Dr Tom McMorrow, and Howitt remains an accountant - as well as now, a Director of Eildon Housing in the Scottish Borders, a Board Member of the Borders College at Galashiels, and sits on ICAS Committees, as well as being the secretary of the South of Scotland Builders Federation.

This was Norman Howitt's reward for being a common thief - in fact, he even filed a false report with Lothian & Borders Police at Hawick, to try and cover up the fact he sold my late father's car, a vintage 1953 Sunbeam Talbot to his close friend and business partner, Felix Sears, of Melrose, Scottish Borders .. but the cops discovered his deceit after investigating further ... so, this demonstrates that making a complaint against such criminal activity - does no good, until the Police and the media become involved - and you publicise your case as much as possible

Read on for the article, from the Evening News, at :http://edinburghnews.scotsman.com/index.cfm?id=1240232006

Crook solicitor stole £70,000 from helpless disabled client
VALERIE MACGREGOR AND MICHAEL BLACKLEY (mblackley@edinburghnews.com)

A MAN once seen as a potential future Tory leader in the Lothians has admitted stealing £70,000 from a disabled man.

Former Conservative councillor for Prestonfield and Mayfield, Iain Catto, 41, who is also a former solicitor, pretended to care for Francis Fleming after he became partially paralysed.

Catto, a member of Lothian Regional Council from 1990 to 1994, had pretended to be a close friend of Mr Fleming, 59, and volunteered to pay his bills and organise his life.

But he was regularly withdrawing sums up to £15,000 a time from his client's accounts to fund his own lavish lifestyle. He even sold some of his victim's shares.

To cover up his scam, he had all bank statements sent to his home address. Mr Fleming trusted Catto and even gave him a key to his Craigentinny Road home.


Among Catto's purchases were airline tickets, hotel rooms, meals in restaurants, computer software, £300 worth of goods from Oddbins and haircuts costing up to £30.

Earlier this year, Catto contributed to a book of essays edited by Scottish Tory deputy leader Murdo Fraser. Catto's essay called for more personal freedom and the decriminalising of drugs.

Fiscal Depute Alison Innes told Edinburgh Sheriff Court Catto had given up his job as a solicitor in 2002. She said: "The accused had given up a well-paid job and no longer had an income to pay for his comfortable way of life so he just stole regularly from Mr Fleming, who was none the wiser."

The court heard that Catto, of Atholl Crescent, Edinburgh, offered to pay his bills for him. He would also ask Mr Fleming to sign blank cheques saying he would fill in the details later.

Mrs Innes said that Mr Fleming had been the victim of an attempted murder in 1968 and received a large criminal injuries payment. He was partially paralysed, had memory problems and could not work.

Following the death of his father, Mr Fleming turned to a firm of Edinburgh solicitors - where Catto was a trainee - to help handle his financial affairs.

Catto befriended him and, in 1997, took over the power of attorney from colleagues. He told Mr Fleming that he did not want to accept any payment for the work but would do it as a friend.

"Had it not been for Mr Fleming's son coming home and growing suspicious we can only speculate if the accused would have stopped at all," Mrs Innes told Sheriff Kathrine Mackie.

After Mr Fleming's estranged wife died, he contacted his son in 2003. The son and his family returned to be with Mr Fleming in July 2004.

After the reunion, the group decided to use Mr Fleming's money to move to Spain.

Still trusting the solicitor, they asked Catto to help with the financial affairs wanting to know how much money was available to buy property.


However, Mr Fleming's son started to become suspicious in August 2004, especially after learning that his father signed blank cheques for the solicitor.

He became aware of debit balances on his father's credit card statements.


Mr Fleming's son then arranged for the power of attorney to be transferred to himself to help his father.


He got access to bank statements and realised Catto had been stealing from them.

In court, the former solicitor pleaded guilty to stealing the money between December 2002 and December, 2004.


The Court heard that Catto, now of Atholl Crescent, Edinburgh had sold a flat in the city's Broughton Street to repay the stolen cash.

Sheriff Mackie deferred sentence for background reports.