Showing posts with label lay members. Show all posts
Showing posts with label lay members. Show all posts

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

The Scheme : Law Society’s new regulation committee pitches old joke of ‘lay membership’ as more ‘slaps on the wrist’ for crooked lawyers expected

Law Society of ScotlandOld Joke returns : Law Society indulges in spin on lay membership as yet another new beginning for regulation.  THE latest attempt by the Law Society of Scotland to deal with the issue of regulation of Scotland’s notoriously corrupt legal services market as yet another regulation committee was revealed yesterday with the announcement of yet more lay members and another regulatory committee to comply with the laughably lax regulatory requirements of the Scottish Government’s Legal Services (Scotland) Act 2010, the half hearted & much interfered with attempt to comply with recommendations by the Office of Fair Trading to open up Scotland’s closed shop solicitor dominated legal services market.

The ‘duties’ of this new regulatory committee, with yet more lay members, those oh-so-honourable lay members who allow the Law Society to justify its continued stranglehold over the regulation & lack of protection of Scots consumers who are duped, fleeced, ripped-off and ruined by their legal representatives on a daily basis, are contained in Section 133 of the Legal Services (Scotland) Act 2010, which reads like a criminal’s recipe for money complaints laundering & regulation dodging.

However, the Law Society's not-so-shiny-or-new regulatory committee has its roots mired in controversy, double dealing & threats against the legislation which created it, all culminating in a significant climb-down by the Scottish Government on its proposals to specify the number of lay members on the Law Society's ruling Council as I reported  here : Scottish Government back down on lay appointments to Law Society Council as lawyers interests threaten to break pro-consumer legal services bill

Fergus EwingEmbarrassing forced retreat by Scottish Government Minister after Law Society threats over council & committee make-up. Fergus Ewing, the Scottish Government’s now former Minister for Communities & Safety appeared at a Law Society ‘road show’ last year to announce to angry solicitors their beloved ‘Council of the Law Society of Scotland’ would remain a lawyer-only club, making the following announcement :"The power of Scottish Ministers to make regulations specifying the proportion of lay members and the criteria for selection was intended as a fall-back, only to be used in the unlikely event that there would be a need to resolve any disagreements regarding the proportion of lay members.”

Mr Ewing continued : "Following representations from the Law Society of Scotland, in which it re-affirmed its commitment to lay appointments, I no longer consider it necessary for Scottish Ministers to have this fall-back power. Therefore, I intend to bring forward an amendment at Stage 2 of the Legal Services (Scotland) Bill to delete section 92(4), (5) and (6) of the Bill."

A solicitor attending the Law Society road show branded Mr Ewing’s appearance & speech as “comical”, saying the Minister appeared at the show like a schoolboy awaiting corporal punishment. A video of Mr Ewing’s speech briefly published by the Law Society was quickly taken down as some indicated it looked too embarrassing for Mr Ewing, who has since been replaced in his role by Roseanna Cunningham.

The Law Society of Scotland issued a Press Release, promoting its latest committee abortion creation as “a significant step for the Society” yet lay members have populate much of the Law Society of Scotland’s committee structure, and as the records show, have simply acted as a rubber stamp for the Society’s wishes & determined effort to undermine any legal reforms which intend to place consumer protection over the vested interests of the legal profession and self regulation.

The Law Society today claimed : “The new committee will work independently from the Society's Council on regulatory matters, with all of the Society's current regulatory sub-committees now reporting to it. “

Cameron Ritchie, president of the Law Society of Scotland, said: "The calibre of those applying to join the regulatory committee was extremely high and we were struck by the range and depth of talent of applicants and the enthusiasm they displayed for the work of the Society.

Mr Ritchie continued : "The appointment of the committee is a significant step for the Society as we move towards new types of legal services businesses becoming a reality. The Society is continuing to develop a regulatory framework for Licensed Legal Services Providers which will be as rigorous as that for solicitors, and the committee will have an important role to play as we move forwards."

The committee members, who include non-solicitors from a wide range of backgrounds including education, the medical sector, surveying and accountancy, will choose a lay convener from amongst the five non-solicitor members. Solicitors Alison Atack, Frank MacAuley, Jane MacEachran and Alistair Morris will be joined by the five new lay members. A further solicitor appointment will also be made. The lay members of the regulatory committee are: chartered surveyor James Allan, head teacher Carole Ford, Professor Kay Hampton, chartered accountant Alan Plumtree and Elaine Tait, chief executive of Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh.

The Law Society of Scotland refused to release any photographs of its latest lay Committee Members, in keeping with it’s tradition of keeping Scots consumers in the dark over who exactly decides on complaints against ‘crooked lawyers’. Clearly however this is wrong. Consumers, clients of solicitors and the public have a right to know exactly who it is who sits on these Law Society of Scotland committees.

These people, along with those who sit on the board of the anti-client Scottish Legal Complaints Commission are making anonymous, unaccountable decisions which affect the lives of anyone using legal services. Those individuals or groups who make these decisions on the quality of legal services which affect the lives of ordinary people and solicitors alike, should be identifiable by a current photograph if their positions are in any way connected with consumer protection or regulation.

As a journalist and a law reform campaigner, I always wonder about the motives & make up of such people who clamour to join an organisation such as the Law Society of Scotland which is already known to have threatened the Scottish Government & Scottish Parliament with legal action if it did not get its way, has interfered with litigants legal aid applications, undermined consumer protection & client rights, personally targeted critics & litigants pursuing ‘crooked lawyers’ through the courts, has whispered in the ears of judges to influence verdicts in civil cases, has regularly provided false information to newspapers, has been linked to & covered up the deaths of its members clients and has within its ranks, officials who have used connections with Police forces to intimidate clients who dared complain against solicitors.

Indeed, what motives & what kind of person would clamour to join such an organisation and such a scheme aimed at ensuring solicitors sleep soundly at night while clients rot in ruin ?

An official with one of Scotland’s consumer organisations said today : “The latest Law Society attempt to control regulation through yet another committee will not change the circumstances of consumers who face historically prejudiced self regulation by the legal profession”.

A client turned campaigner whose bitter experiences with the Law Society became part of the SLCC’s 2009 report on the Master Policy said  : “The committee lay membership at the Law Society of Scotland has proved time and again it is a sham. It does nothing to enhance consumer protection or give clients a fair hearing against solicitors who have the Legal Defence Union standing by their side while the complainant remains unrepresented.”

The backgrounds of those the Law Society of Scotland consider to be “lay people” :

James Allan (East Lothian - Surveyor) - Chartered Surveyor. Honorary Secretary of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors from 2004 to 2010.  Former Chairman of the Institution's Nominations Committee Independent Adjudicator and Mediator in many construction disputes.

Carole Ford (Glasgow - Education) - Head Teacher, Kilmarnock Academy.  Current Council Member for the General Teaching Council Scotland as well as current Convener of Disciplinary Sub-Committee of the Council Scotland.  Former President of Schools Leaders Scotland.  Board member of Learning and Teaching Scotland.

Professor Kay Hampton (Glasgow - Higher Education) - Emeritus Professor in Community and Race Relations at Glasgow Caledonian University. Commissioner to the Scottish Human Rights Commission.  Member of Children's Panel in Glasgow.  Former Commissioner of the Equalities and Human Rights Commission.  Former Chair, Deputy Chair and Commissioner, Scotland and UK for the Commission for Racial Equality.  Former Chair and UK Board Member for the Community Fund, Lottery Fund.

Alan Plumtree (Dunblane - Accountancy) - Chartered Accountant.  Current Partner in the firm of French Duncan LLP.  Former Senior Audit Partner and member of that firm's Management Committee.  Extensive involvement with the Committees of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Scotland including the Practitioner Certification Committee, Regulation and Compliance Board, Professional Standards Liaison Committee and Examination Board.

Elaine Tait (Kinross - Medical) - Chief Executive of Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh (RCPE).  Quality Assurance Partner of the General Medical Council (GMC).  Member of the Royal College's Lay Advisory Committee.  Former Reporter for the Society for the Client Relations Committee as well as a member of the Client Relations Committee as well as a member of a Client Relations Committee.  Also member of the Society's Professional Conduct Committee as well as the Shadow Regulatory Committee.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Justice Secretary forced into new appointments round at Scottish Legal Complaints Commission after lay member ‘steps down’

SLCC squareScottish Legal Complaints Commission delayed publishing minutes to hide lay members resignations. The Scottish Legal Complaints Commission was caught up in another scandal tonight as it was revealed that at least one, so far unidentified lay member wants to stand down, provoking a new round of Ministerial appointments of ‘lay members’ who are supposed to have no links to the legal profession, to the beleaguered law complaints body.

SLCC lay member steps down February 16 2009Minutes from February 09 just published reveal that at least one lay member is to stand down. Revelations from minutes recently released show that one of the SLCC’s lay members, so far unidentified, has asked to stand down, and discussions have already taken place between the SLCC’s Chair, Jane Irvine, the CEO Eileen Masterman and the Scottish Government’s Justice Department over replacements and mysteriously also point to the appointment of an additional lay member. “Paper (08.07.5.1) was noted from the Chair. The Chair also stated that she and the CEO had attended a meeting with the SG to discuss the recruitment of an additional Board Member. It was noted that SG have agreed to the appointment of 2 additional Lay Members; this is due to 1 Lay Member wishing to stand-down in the near future so that there will be 1 additional new appointment. Discussion took place regarding the recruitment process for additional Members and it was agreed that the Chair would update Members as matters progressed.”

Jane IrvineSLCC Chair Jane Irvine. The Chair of the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission, Jane Irvine, refused give an explanation for the sudden departure of a lay member, nor did she wish to identify the individual at the centre of the latest crisis to hit the ‘independent’ SLCC. Ms Irvine delayed any announcement on the matter by making the enquiry a ‘freedom of information request’, which can take anything up to 20 days to receive a reply.

A legal insider said tonight : “This latest problem to hit the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission shows it is unfit for purpose and should be scrapped in its present format. The delay in publishing these minutes simply because there were problems within the organisation the SLCC did not wish to reveal, demonstrates the commission is more focussed on protecting itself than protecting the interests of clients.”

He went on : “If the public and the profession are to be served by a regulator which will give the public confidence in the Scots legal services market, there has to be a totally independent regulator with full powers of prosecution and enforcement of discipline, rather than the idiotic arrangement we currently have where the SLCC will investigate a complaint and the Law Society will ‘punish’ the offending solicitor.”

MacAskill tight lippedJustice Secretary Kenny MacAskill decidedly unhappy over more disarray at SLCC. The Justice Secretary, Kenny MacAskill was asked for his reaction to the resignation and the requirement for a new round of lay person appointments to the SLCC. His spokesman said : “We wouldn’t comment on speculation about the board membership of an independent public body. Any further appointments that might be required would take place according to the statutory framework laid down in the Legal Profession and Legal Aid Act and the procedures laid down by the Office of the Commissioner for Public Appointments in Scotland.”

An official from a Scottish consumer organisation who looked at the latest publications of minutes from the SLCC was staggered that ‘late publication’ had been used to conceal serious problems within the SLCC. He said : “This latest scandal points to an organisation which does not have the consumer’s best interests at heart. Concealing resignations of lay members by failing to publish information timely seems to indicate to me the Commission realises it has no public trust otherwise why fear releasing such information into the public domain ?”

He continued : “These events also raise many questions such as : if new lay members are to be appointed, where are the advertisements for these posts ? who will pay for this new round of appointments ? what are the criteria for these positions ? and why is there to be an extra lay member appointed ?”

If an extra lay member is to be appointed which will leave the SLCC with one more lay member than lawyer members, will the legal profession object to the arrangement or ask for an additional lawyer member to be appointed ? I can see this developing into another big mess at the SLCC.”

Well we have an interesting set of circumstances here, as it looks very much like the Justice Secretary will have to appoint new lay members to the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission, but where will these lay members come from ?

Are the replacement lay members to be more stooges from the legal profession or other self regulatory bodies who know how to protect the guilty from their victims ? I fear that will be the case, as the initial round of appointments to the SLCC by the Justice Secretary, which I reported on here : Call for MacAskill appointments 'sleaze investigation' as revelations show Legal Complaints Commission member was subject of Police inquiry left a lot to be desired in terms of transparency and accountability.

Scottish Legal Complaints CommissionThe SLCC board members : Do you want to join this bunch and be a lay member ? If you feel like contacting the Justice Secretary over the lay member positions at the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission, contacting the Justice Secretary as soon as possible, HERE. You can also contact the SLCC to offer your services as a lay member by email, HERE. Just don’t expect to be taken on if you don't have relatives already in the legal profession .. which does seem to be one of the criteria for sitting on the SLCC and scoffing up to £350 a day in expenses.

Law Society of ScotlandLaw Society of Scotland officials get top line access to SLCC meetings but clients are not invited. Full details of the February meeting of the SLCC, just published late this month, with the entire top brass of the Law Society of Scotland in attendance, can be viewed by clicking on the following images, where readers may also note, the poor dears at the SLCC are also still waiting for their pensions transfer …

SLCC’s February meeting, details just published in June ! :

SLCC 16th February meeting 0001SLCC 16th February meeting 0002SLCC 16th February meeting 0003SLCC 16th February meeting 0004SLCC 16th February meeting 0005

So how about keeping the public informed on these appointments ? or is this another ‘secret squirrel’ operation to parachute in more sympathisers of crooked lawyers into the once claimed ‘independent’ Scottish Legal Complaints Commission .. which is now anything but independent.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Scottish Legal Complaints Commission 'lacks impartiality' despite Ombudsman's appointment as Chairman

The Law Society are certainly happy with the appointments to the new Scottish Legal Complaints Commission going by this week's press purge of any debate on how the Commission was stuffed with ex-Police as lay members and a Judge's husband, a lawyer who is a senior partner in one of the panel solicitors to the Royal Sun Alliance PLC for the Master Insurance Policy of the Law Society of Scotland.

Last week I revealed how the incoming Chairman of the new Scottish Legal Complaints Commission, was kept out of the loop and told nothing of the background of the appointees to the Commission, who were passed by Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill, an ex solicitor himself who is well known to disagree with anyone who may take issue with the fact the legal profession is corruptly regulated by the Law Society of Scotland.

My earlier report on the SLCC appointments 'fiddle' - the public kept well away from any hope of impartiality : Call for MacAskill appointments 'sleaze investigation' as revelations show Legal Complaints Commission member was subject of Police inquiry

As further details emerge of the actual appointments process, which saw an 'appointments panel' put together by Ken Thomson, the new head of the Scottish Government's Justice Department, it transpires that there were even Judges themselves sitting on the appointments panel such as The Hon. Lord Wheatley , among others from the legal profession ...

Nothing wrong with having a few judges on appointments panels for what was supposed to be an 'independent' legal complaints commission ... but in the spirit of 'independence' from the legal establishment .. it might have been better to have an appointments panel composed of more 'ordinary' people, somewhat more detached from the legal establishment than those who serve it ...

What a pity that last week, a journalist told me a 'newspaper' was 'asked' not to mention the fact in their coverage of the SLCC appointments story that Mr David Smith, one of the lawyers appointed to the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission, was the husband of Lady Smith. I see that fact is still not being mentioned, and that Mr Smith has a position which involves handling cases involving the Master Insurance Policy of the Law Society of Scotland, the sole aim of which is to kill off any prospect a client has of getting compensation after being ruined by a crooked lawyer.

It seems that only the Cabinet Secretary for Business, John Swinney MSP, was able to stand up to those who want to silence any public detail or criticism of the Master Policy, with his excellent questioning of Law Society Chief Executive Douglas Mill, and revelations of blatant, rampant corruption involving both the Law Society of Scotland and the insurers of the Master Policy.

John Swinney questions an abrasive & inconsistent Douglas Mill on corruption in claims & complaints against crooked lawyers

So far no response yet to calls for an investigation into the appointments process - no doubt a few documents are being altered and a few minds being given different versions of events to save skins ... but despite glowing testimonials in the press, the public are a bit weary of quangos being stuffed with judges, ex police and others who are not seen as particularly 'impartial' ... especially when it comes to the vexed question of regulating complaints against lawyers - which has now suffered several decades of endemic corruption when it comes to dealing with clients who regularly get ripped off by their solicitors ...

Perhaps the Which? consumer organisation should step in themselves with a new "super complaint" on the subject of regulation, as the rest of the UK now enjoys the existence of the "Legal Services Board" - an independent regulator of solicitors, which sadly stops at the border with England.

My earlier report on the Which? "super complaint" on the lawyers closed shop monopoly of the legal services market in Scotland : Consumers call for OFT Inquiry to investigate restriction of legal services in Scotland

This new independent regulator for the rest of the UK stops at the Border, because Kenny MacAskill protests, rather strangely, and without any good reason, that Scotland does not need an independent regulator of legal services.

My earlier report on Kenny MacAskill's rejection of an independent legal services board and more rights for Scots when it comes to dealings with the law & the legal profession : Justice Secretary MacAskill insists on second class legal system for Scotland as England names & shames crooked lawyers

Of course, to have an independent regulator of the legal services market in Scotland would be too much against the interests of the same legal profession Kenny MacAskill is a member of, and has said he will always support against anyone who seeks to 'misrepresent it' (in other words, tell the truth) ... so it's easy to see why Mr MacAskill insists that us Scots must remain second class citizens next to his legal brethren in the Law Society of Scotland.

Kenny MacAskill - insistent as ever the Scots public will have no rights against lawyers or freedom of choice in what is current a closed monopolistic legal services market : Justice Secretary rejects independent regulation of lawyers and public right of choice in legal services market

Of course, it could be that the new Chairman of the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission might recommend herself that Scotland needs an independent regulator of the legal services market. After all, Jane Irvine, whom I congratulated last week in being appointed to the position, has a long history of experience in areas of consumer affairs and particularly investigation of complaints relating to the law, the Police, and of course, the legal profession itself in her current position as Scottish Legal Services Ombudsman.

Such a gesture by Mrs Irvine, to recommend a Legal Services Board for Scotland, so that Scots enjoy the same rights as the rest of the UK or even better, would be greatly appreciated, considering our Justice Secretary seems to be far too biased for the legal profession itself, at the expense of the wider public interest ...

The Scotsman reports :

Irvine brings stability to new commission

By JENNIFER VEITCH

WE'VE known for more than a year that it was coming and now, at last, we know who is going to be running the new Scottish Legal Complaints Commission.

The appointment of Jane Irvine, the current Scottish Legal Services Ombudsman, as chairwoman of the new commission seems like a sensible move. From the profession's perspective, at least they know who they will be dealing with, and both can build on the existing relationships established since 2006.

Irvine's pragmatic and plain-speaking approach certainly appears to have earned her respect from the Law Society of Scotland and Faculty of Advocates. Along with commissioners – including lawyers Alan Paterson, David Smith, Margaret Scanlan and David Chaplin – Irvine should bring continuity and stability after a period of uncertainty about the new gateway for service complaints.

The focus can now firmly shift to ensuring there is a smooth transition – both for the profession and for the public – from the old to new complaints handling systems.

Certainly there are many logistical issues that need to be addressed before the commission opens for business in October.

For example, when exactly will the window shut on complaints being made under the existing system and open for the new one? What approach will the commission take in looking at historical cases?

Irvine needs to ensure the commission communicates early and effectively with the public and the profession to raise awareness of the new system and all the changes it will bring.

Even bigger challenges remain to be resolved, however, not least of which is how complaints about the legal service will be judged by the commission, when the Law Society of Scotland is still working on a new set of standards for the profession.

Last year, Irvine warned that the profession was being hampered by a "weak" code of conduct for solicitors, with a "patchwork" of rules and guidelines, "sprinkled with confusing exclusions".

The profession may yet risk having standards imposed upon it from the commission's rulings.

Also, will the commission be able to clearly distinguish between service and conduct issues? If this is not always possible, how will this fit with the Law Society of Scotland's own investigations into solicitors?

Many of these issues have already been flagged up by Irvine and Richard Smith, the commission's interim chief executive, who has been speaking to the profession about its role since last summer. Irvine may wish to use less slightly less bullish language than Smith, however, who once commented that the commission was holding out a hand to the profession with "a fist inside the glove".

To start with at least, the commission should enjoy a generous degree of public, and some professional, goodwill. Despite the Law Society of Scotland's repeated protestations about the tiny proportion of complaints arising from transactions, the new complaints gateway is being introduced in response increasing consumer frustration with the existing system.

It is worth remembering that solicitors are not always happy with the current system either, as Caroline Flanagan acknowledged during her presidency, when the Law Society of Scotland gave up trying to retain control of service complaints handling.

Of course, it remains to be seen whether the new system will be better than the old. It won't be a magic bullet, and it seems unlikely that most complaints will reach a different resolution just because the commission looks at the same set of facts.

But, as Irvine herself wrote when she presented her last annual report, there has been a "constant theme of lack of trust" in the Law Society of Scotland. "Clients simply do not believe an institutional members' body can deal with consumer complaints fairly," she said.

If the commission can provide greater transparency and clarity for all concerned, then that seems very much in the public's and the profession's interests.

and finally ...

A small apology to readers ...

As I am moving my image albums just now, the "Flickr" links which contained images of media stories, letters and other revealing information in some of my articles are for now, missing. The move was forced on me after complaints from the legal profession apparently to Flickr, because they don't want the pubic to be able to read what actually goes on when the Law Society interferes with clients cases against crooked lawyers.

Terrible thing censorship of the media, isn't it ... and it seems to happen a lot to anyone who writes about scandals in the legal world where lawyers ruin clients and get away with it ...

The material will be restored for public viewing in due course.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Call for MacAskill appointments 'sleaze investigation' as revelations show Legal Complaints Commission member was subject of Police inquiry

Late tonight, calls were being made to First Minister Alex Salmond for a fully independent investigation into the appointments process of the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission, after it was revealed that former Lothian & Borders Police Chief Superintendent Douglas Watson, who was recently selected & appointed by Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill to the new independent commission which is intended to handle complaints against solicitors in Scotland, was the subject of a serious Police inquiry into appointments and conduct related matters as far back as 2002.

Insiders at the Scottish Government last night insisted they knew nothing about the "internal inquiry" into Mr Watson at Lothian & Borders Police which revolved around an alleged affair with a work colleague and claims of undue promotions.

From the Scotsman :

"Chief Superintendent Douglas Watson is facing an internal inquiry after he walked out on his wife to be with an officer he hand-picked for a specialist squad.

Allison Strachan was personally selected by Watson to be part of a 22-strong team which is carrying out a complete review of the way Lothian and Borders force operates.

Strachan, who had twice failed to win promotion, was plucked from an administration job at police headquarters and promoted to Inspector but senior officers are angry after it was revealed Watson has been having an affair with her."

Last week, Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill who personally appointed Mr Watson, proudly announced that "Douglas Watson has been a police officer for 30 years and is currently an adult protection development officer for Edinburgh, Lothian and Borders Executive Group. Mr Watson has previously been a chairing member of the Child Protection Committee, Scottish Borders Council and Edinburgh Drug and Alcohol Action Team. He is currently a Committee member for the Law Society of Scotland and is a session inspector for the Social Work Inspection Agency."

Amazingly, the Scottish Government received some 93 applications for the lay membership positions on the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission, but had to pick former Policeman Mr Watson, who is already a lay member on Law Society of Scotland Committees, and former Tayside Deputy Chief Constable Ian Gordon, who himself also has a law degree.

It seems Kenny MacAskill had to go out of his way to find currently serving lay members of Law Society Committees to slide them into the new Scottish Legal Complaints Commission ... throwing out any notion there could be a degree of independence from the legal profession in the new 'independent' complaints handling regime for Scottish solicitors.

A Scottish Government spokesman said earlier today :

‘Appointments to all public bodies are made based on how well candidates meet the criteria set’.

Apparently the "criteria set" involved being asked one question - whether they had any conflict of interest or not .... no disclosures of the past, nothing ... and sources at the Justice Department continue to insist the Law Society of Scotland have interfered too much in matters surrounding the formation of the new 'independent' complaints commission.

Mr Watson, who was former head of CID, was handpicked by Sir Paddy Tomkins, the current Chief Inspector of Constabulary, to head up a multi million pound project, which was to change the way Edinburgh is policed and create a single 1,000-officer super-division.

The cost of the project was put at over £1 million, including wages, computers, travel and cars and Watson was expected to be appointed commander of the new division at the time ...

No excuse for the Justice Department not knowing anything about Mr Watson's past then ... or that may imply they aren't doing their job ...

Jane Irvine, the current Scottish Legal Services Ombudsman and the incoming Chairman of the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission, said last night she knew nothing of this Police inquiry into Mr Watson, insisting the appointments process was down to the minister concerned - that being Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill.

Jane Irvine said earlier today : "I know nothing about this. The appointment process was carried out by Ministers."

Last night Mrs Irvine was asked if she may look into this matter when she takes over the position of Chairman of the new Scottish Legal Complaints Commission.

It should be pointed out that Jane Irvine was a past HM Lay Inspector of Constabulary for Scotland, and in her capacity, Mrs Irvine reviewed the manner of responses by Scottish Police forces to complaints by members of the public for three years between 2001 and 2004.

Given Mrs Irvine's lack of knowledge of this matter, the details of 'internal' inquiries by the Police into Former Chief Superintendent Watson may have been concealed from Mrs Irvine in her capacity as Lay Inspector of Constabulary.

The Scotsman reports :

Inquiry into police chief who promoted his lover

By Stephen Rafferty

A POLICE chief has been accused of jeopardising a £1 million-plus project by having an affair with a female officer he promoted.

Chief Superintendent Douglas Watson is facing an internal inquiry after he walked out on his wife to be with an officer he hand-picked for a specialist squad.

Allison Strachan was personally selected by Watson to be part of a 22-strong team which is carrying out a complete review of the way Lothian and Borders force operates.

Strachan, who had twice failed to win promotion, was plucked from an administration job at police headquarters and promoted to Inspector but senior officers are angry after it was revealed Watson has been having an affair with her.

The affair has been the talk of the force since Watson left his second wife Anne and Strachan left her police constable partner, John Donoghue.

Watson, the former head of CID, was picked by Chief Constable Paddy Tomkins to head up the Capital Project, which will completely change the way Edinburgh is policed and create a single 1,000-officer super-division.

The cost of the project is put at over £1 million, including wages, computers, travel and cars and Watson was expected to be appointed commander of the new division but senior sources say an inquiry into his behaviour is now inevitable.

Chief Supt Watson left his first wife 11 years ago when he began an affair with his current wife Anne, who was then a 19-year-old secretary at police headquarters.

A Lothian and Borders police spokesman refused to comment.

Amazingly, Mr Watson is also a Lay Member for Committees at the Law Society of Scotland ... and one wonders whether they were paying attention to reports of inquiries into Mr Watson's conduct at the time either ...

Well, it didn't take long for the legal profession to co-opted the appointments process of the new Scottish Legal Complaints Commission now, did it ...

This is such a sad start for what was hoped to be a break from the past problems of regulation of Scotland's beleaguered legal profession.

Earlier today, campaigners & critics of the legal profession condemned the scandal surrounding the appointments process involving the lawyers and lay members to the SLCC.

One client who has been waiting years for a resolution to his complaint against a well known legal firm said "There has been too much fiddling from the Law Society in what is supposed to be an independent body to take over complaints against lawyers. We are just getting another talking shop to save crooked lawyers again. Its a disgrace I didn't think the SNP could give us"

Mr MacAskill, who is being blamed from all quarters for the appointments furore which has brought discredit to the new Commission, even before it begins its work, seems to have allowed the legal profession too long a hand in controlling the entire formation process of the 'independent' complaints commission which was designed to address significant levels of corruption by the Law Society of Scotland in its role as self regulator of the legal profession.

Late today, calls were being made to First Minister Alex Salmond for a fully independent investigation into the appointments & formation process of the SLCC and for the sacking of Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill over this highly public let-down to Scotland's legal system.

For further reading : The Scottish Government's Press Release on Kenny MacAskill's appointments to the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission ... more interesting in what it leaves out than what it leaves in ...

Scottish Legal Complaints Commission

10/01/2008

Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill today announced the appointment of Jane Irvine to chair the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission (SLCC), the new independent legal complaints handling body. Jane Irvine is currently the Scottish Legal Services Ombudsman. Mr MacAskill also announced Alan Paterson, David Smith, Margaret Scanlan and David Chaplin as lawyer members and Douglas Watson, Linda Pollock, George Irving and Ian Gordon as non-lawyer members of the Commission. The SLCC will be a new, independent, complaints handling body which will receive and deal with complaints which could not be resolved at source. The Commission will be located in Edinburgh and is expected to be operational in October 2008.

Kenny MacAskill said:

"This Government is committed to modernising the legal complaints handling system to ensure that any complaints against the legal profession are resolved quickly and effectively. That is why we supported the setting up of this Commission.

"Jane Irvine and her fellow commissioners will have a strong remit to deal with complaints and I am confident that their independent scrutiny will safeguard the rights of both the profession and the users of legal services throughout Scotland.

"Complaints handling is not just about dealing with things that go wrong, but ensuring that things go right. The commissioners will help to build a culture of learning from complaints through their oversight and promotion of standards. This focus on the quality of service will undoubtedly benefit both consumers and the profession alike."

Jane Irvine said:

"This new Scottish Commission is an important body. It will provide a modern system for resolving complaints about legal services that both the profession and public can have confidence in. I am delighted to have been appointed with such a strong group of commissioners who bring with them a diverse and exceptional range of skills and experience."

Chairing member

Jane Irvine has been the Scottish Legal Services Ombudsman since April 2006. She is a specialist in consumer complaints having held a number of positions as a mediator, arbitrator and adjudicator of consumer complaints. Between 2001-05 she was HM Lay Inspector of Constabulary considering handling of complaints against the police in Scotland. She later prepared a report on modernising police complaint and conduct systems for the Justice Minister. She has sat on a range of disciplinary tribunals and currently sits on the Discipline Board of the Institute of Actuaries.

Non-lawyer members

Douglas Watson has been a police officer for 30 years and is currently an adult protection development officer for Edinburgh, Lothian and Borders Executive Group. Mr Watson has previously been a chairing member of the Child Protection Committee, Scottish Borders Council and Edinburgh Drug and Alcohol Action Team. He is currently a Committee member for the Law Society of Scotland and is a sessional inspector for the Social Work Inspection Agency.

Linda Pollock has had a broad based career in the NHS with clinical, teaching, research and management experience. She has been in leadership roles since 1989, an Executive Nursing Director until 2006, and interim Board Nurse Director (2002-2003). Her last role, before leaving the NHS, was a full time secondment as the Chief Nursing Officer's Advisor for Nurse Prescribing. Dr Pollock was a part time nurse member of the Mental Welfare Commission (1997-2005) and is currently a registrant member of the Nursing and Midwifery Council Appointments Board

George L Irving CBE was Director of Social Work North Ayrshire Council and during the period 1999-2000 he served as President of the Association of Directors of Social Work (Scotland ). From 2001-2006 he was Chair of NHS Ayrshire and Arran. He led the National Support Team, Management of Offenders 2005-2007 and is currently a Visiting Professor to Glasgow Caledonian University School of Health and Social Care.

Ian Gordon OBE, QPM, LL.B (Hons) is a retired Deputy Chief Constable of Tayside Police. He is currently an associate professor in policing for Charles Sturt University (Australia). He was Chair of the Association of Chief Police Officers in Scotland (ACPOS) Professional Standards Business Area and Vice-Chair of ACPOS General Policing Business Area.

Lawyer members

Alan Paterson is Professor of Law and Director of the Centre for Professional Legal Studies at Strathclyde University, an independent "Think Tank" on the Scottish Legal System. He has researched in, and published on, the regulation of lawyers and the provision of public legal services for over twenty years. Although he is qualified as a solicitor in Scotland, Professor Paterson has never practised. He is currently a research adviser to the Scottish Legal Aid Board, a lay member of the Judicial Appointments Board and a co-opted member of the Council of the Law Society.

David Smith has been a partner in Shepherd and Wedderburn for 33 years. He has spent over 20 years as part of the firm's management board and was Chairman between 1999-2005. Mr Smith is a senior commercial property lawyer. Since 2004 he has been the Client Relations Partner within Shepherd and Wedderburn and since 1998 he has chaired the firm's Compliance Committee which monitors professional indemnity claims, client complaints and risk management issues.

Margaret Scanlan is an accredited specialist in family law at Russells Gibson McCaffrey. She has also tutored in family law at Glasgow Caledonian University. Mrs Scanlan was a member and latterly Deputy Chair of the Scottish Legal Aid Board between 1997-2007. She has also been Director of the Legal Defence Union between 1998-2002. Mrs Scanlan was a founder member of both Strathkelvin Women's Aid and the Family Law Association. She held the post of Chair of the latter between 1992-93.

David Chaplin has been a senior partner in Anderson Fyfe for the last 15 years and is a specialist in insolvency law. He has been the Client Relations partner for his firm for ten years. Mr Chaplin advises in pre litigation resolution of commercial disputes for clients. He was a member of the Education Committee of the Royal Faculty of Procurators in Glasgow during 2004-05.

The SLCC is established by virtue of the Legal Profession and Legal Aid (Scotland) Act 2007. Its main functions are to resolve complaints alleging inadequate professional service or negligence by legal practitioners, to refer complaints which allege professional misconduct or unsatisfactory professional conduct to the relevant professional body and to promote good practice in complaints handling.

The chairing member has been appointed for a five year term from 1 January 2008 to 31 December 2012. The lawyer and non-lawyer members' appointments will be for four years, from 1 January 2008 - 31 December 2011.

The posts are part-time and attract daily fees of £302 for the chairing member for a time commitment of four-six days per month and £205 for the lawyer and non-lawyer members with a time commitment of four days per month. Jane Irvine holds one other public appointment, that of the Scottish Legal Services Ombudsman, with remuneration of £56,746 for 37 hours a week. All the other members do not hold any other Ministerial appointments.

These Ministerial public appointments were made in accordance with the Commissioner for Public Appointments in Scotland's Code of Practice.

All appointments are made on merit and political activity plays no part in the selection process. However, in accordance with the original Nolan recommendations, there is a requirement for appointees' political activity (if there is any to be declared) to be made public. Within the last five years members have not been involved in any political activity.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Levels of Lay Membership on new Scottish Legal Complaints Commission questioned as lawyers begin attempt to plant allies in positions

Even during this formation stage of the new Scottish Legal Complaints Commission, the likes of the Law Society of Scotland and the rest of the Scottish legal profession are certainly up to the mark on their dirty tricks campaign, this time, by 'putting the word out' to get friendly appointments to the "Lay Member" positions of the new independent SLCC, which will take the place of the Law Society of Scotland to independently manage, investigate & oversee the complaints process against crooked lawyers as mandated in the new Legal Profession & Legal Aid (Scotland) Act 2007

Allegations are circulating that ex-Committee members of the Law Society of Scotland have been 'encouraged' to put in applications to join the new SLCC as "Lay Members" .. and with the Law Society not obliged to disclose any records of individuals who have served in such a capacity .. or even be related to those who have .. it will be a tricky procedure to weed out the 'planted' friends of the legal profession who make it to the "Lay Member" positions on the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission.

There are further 'anomalies' which have crept into the "Lay Member" appointments process ... just take a look at this rather strange development ...

Compare the following, which comes from the report of the Justice 2 Committee itself at the Scottish Parliament, proposing a "majority of SLCC will be lay persons appointed by Scottish Ministers unlike the comparator professions examined where professionals are in the majority "

http://www.scottish.parliament.uk/business/committees/justice2/reports-06/j2r06-11-Vol01-03.htm

It is proposed that a majority of SLCC will be lay persons appointed by Scottish Ministers, unlike the comparator professions examined where professionals are in the majority."

with this, which comes from the recruitment advertisement from the Scottish Executive itself :

http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Topics/Government/public-bodies/SLCC-Members-06Jun07

Scottish Ministers require to appoint a Chairing Member and eight other Members, four of whom must be lawyers, to the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission (SLCC) in consultation with the Lord President of the Court of Session.

Something very strange going on here then ... because a Committee stuffed by four lawyers, doesn't really meet up to the spirit of "a majority of lay persons", as mentioned in the Justice 2 Committee report ... where proposals seem to have been for two lawyer members rather than the now four ... where did the other two lawyer members come from ? .. lobbying from the legal profession ?

In fact, this ratio of lay members to lawyers, albeit as proposed in the new SLCC Committee, having a Chairing member who is not a lawyer, but paradoxically whose appointment is agreed to by the oh-so-impartial Lord President ... is getting near to the set up of the Complaints Committee framework of the Law Society of Scotland .. which itself has allowed swathes of crooked lawyers to go unpunished, ripping off everyone in sight and yet being allowed to continue in practice, giving some publicised examples from 5000 complaints a year against crooked lawyers in Scotland such as the following :

EXCLUSIVE : LAWYER SUED FOR £1MILLION & REVEALED: TOP LAWYER AT THE CENTRE OF 12 NEGLIGENCE CLAIMS &
Law Society of Scotland rejects complaint over estate ruined by huge legal fees & Scottish Legal Awards - Lawyer Lawyer on the wall, who is the most crooked of us all ? & Lawyer caught in media sting bribing clients to defraud Legal Aid Board - the tip of an iceberg .. to name but a few ...

There is of course, a problem with the Lay Member circuit - with many people on this cirtuit making it an industry for themselves to get placed on as many Committees as possible, and I covered these very dangerous revelations here :

Restrictions required on the interests of lay members in the world of self regulation Restrictions required on the interests of lay members in the world of self regulation

and as luck would have it, a demonstration of just how many of the various profession's corrupt self regulators are linked, the Herald newspaper revealed that ICAS, the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Scotland, were stuffing their own Committees with lawyers on the somewhat unbelievable argument of 'ensuring public interest'

I covered the revelations on the Committee placement tactics of the accountancy profession here : Fears over corrupt self regulation as accountants regulator draft in ex Law Society President and solicitor as Public Interest members.

Another excerpt from the Justice 2 Committee report tells us :

"While one can trust OCPAS to ensure that due process is observed, there is a prior issue as to how lay members emerge in the first place, newspaper advertisements seeming to be the usual method. The task is one of encouraging a wide and diverse range of people who do not have particular axes to grind. "

What & who exactly is that 'wide and diverse range of people who do not have particular axes to grind" ?

I hope we aren't going to get friends or relatives of those who serve on other Committees as so called "Lay Members" .. .or indeed, ex lay members of other regulatory Committees or those who have served the legal profession placed as lay members on the new SLCC .. .because if so, what justice will that bring ? .. none.

I think it's time the new Scottish Executive looked at the framework for these Committees and particularly the appointments of lay members, who you can see, certainly seem to proliferate themselves onto as many positions as possible - amazingly without the issues of conflict of interest ever cropping up - where in any other walk of life, it certainly would.

How about having actual victims of injustice on these Committees as lay members - or at least as oversight members, to ensure the voice of the public and the very victims themselves is heard over those of people who would rather appease their friends in the professions and pick up a few awards & decorations for doing so over the years.

I say - reduce the lawyer membership to two .. we don't need four bullying lawyers lobbying for their colleagues in the legal profession on the Committee of the new independent Scottish Legal Complaints Commission, just as they have done so for all those years at the Law Society of Scotland ...

Here is the recruiting advertisement for the lay member positions of the new Scottish Legal Complaints Commission.

If you have had bad experience at the hands of the Law Society of Scotland and crooked lawyers, maybe you should put in an application to join ! ... or at least write to the new Scottish Executive asking that the process be a lot more transparent than it seems to be at the moment.

http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Topics/Government/public-bodies/SLCC-Members-06Jun07

SCOTTISH LEGAL COMPLAINTS COMMISSION (SLCC) - APPOINTMENT OF CHAIRING MEMBER AND MEMBERS

Scottish Ministers require to appoint a Chairing Member and eight other Members, four of whom must be lawyers, to the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission (SLCC) in consultation with the Lord President of the Court of Session.

The SLCC will be established by the Legal Profession and Legal Aid (Scotland) Act 2007. The main functions of the Commission are to resolve complaints alleging inadequate professional service or negligence, to refer complaints which allege professional misconduct or unsatisfactory professional conduct to the relevant professional body and to promote good practice in complaints handling.

Scottish Ministers expect the Commission to be operational in late 2008 and the appointment of the Commission members will be made in Autumn 2007.

Remuneration: £298 per day for the Chairing Member.

£202 per day for the position of Member.

Travel and subsistence costs and reasonable receipted childcare and dependent carer expenses directly related to the Commission's work will be reimbursed. Any pension provision will be a matter for the Commission itself to determine with the approval of the Scottish Ministers.

Time commitment: Initially 4-6 days a month for the Chairing Member while the Commission is being established. This may reduce when the Commission is in full operation. Other Members are likely to serve up to 4 days a month.

Location of meetings: Normally at the Commission, the location of which will be decided by Scottish Ministers.

Chairing Member

The Chairing Member will be appointed for 5 years and can not be a lawyer. Under statute, appointments are not renewable on expiry. The Scottish Ministers seek to appoint a Chairing Member who has a successful track record in leading the strategic development of an organisation (in the pubic, private or voluntary sectors), and would particularly welcome applicants with skills and knowledge of setting up and leading a new organisation or leading an established organisation through a substantial change programme. Applicants for Chairing Member should also meet the criteria set out below for non-lawyer Members and the general criteria.

Lawyer Members

Two Lawyer Members will be appointed for 4 years and two for 6 years in order to ensure that new appointments are staggered. Under statute, appointments are not renewable on expiry.

The Lawyer Members must be either a solicitor, advocate or conveyancing or executry practitioner or have acquired rights to conduct litigation or a right of audience by virtue of section 27 of the Law Reform (Miscellaneous Provisions) (Scotland) Act 1990. Three Lawyer Members must have practised in one of these categories, or any combination of them. One Lawyer Member must fall into the specified categories but need not have actively practised. In selecting Members, particularly but not exclusively Lawyer Members, the Scottish Ministers are to have regard to the desirability of including:

* Persons who have experience of, and have shown capacity in, the practice and provision of legal education and training;
* Persons who have experience of, and have shown capacity in
* (a) civil or criminal proceedings;
* (b) court procedures and practice generally;
* (c) the practice and provision of other legal services;
* (d) the monitoring of legal services.

Non-lawyer Members

Two non-lawyer Members will be appointed for 4 years and two for 6 years in order to ensure that new appointments are staggered. Under statute, appointments are not renewable on expiry.

There are no specific qualifications for appointment of non-lawyer Members. In appointing Members, the Scottish Ministers are to have regard to the desirability of including:

* Persons who have experience of and have shown capacity in
* (a) consumer affairs or complaints handling;
* (b) the provision of advice to members of the public on or in relation to such matters.

General criteria

In addition, the Scottish Ministers will have regard to the desirability of including Members, whether lawyers or not, who together have sufficient knowledge at senior level of corporate governance. The Scottish Ministers will seek to select a balanced Commission, offering collectively, skills and knowledge in human resources, finance and information technology, change management, diversity issues, and customer service.

For an information pack and application form please see the contact details below. Application packs are available in alternative formats on request. You should provide your name, address and the vacancy that you are interested in.

Public Appointments, PO Box 26867, Glasgow G4 7BG

Telephone: 0870 240 1818

Fax: 0870 600 4111

E-mail: publicappointments@response-handling.com

SMS text message: 0796 013 3181

Closing date for applications is 6th July 2007.

Appointments to the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission are regulated by the Office of the Commissioner for Public Appointments in Scotland. All applicants must complete and submit the application form contained in the application pack in order for it to be considered for appointment. Please note that application forms sent electronically will be in Word format and, if returning electronically, will only be accepted in that format.

The Scottish Executive is committed to equality of opportunity and encouraging a diverse range of applicants for public appointments, reflecting the best of contemporary Scotland and to the principle of public appointments on merit with independent assessment, openness and transparency of process. For more information about public appointments and other vacancies visit the Scottish Executive's website at http://www.scotland.gov.uk/government/publicbodies.

oh .. and if to emphasise the Law Society of Scotland and Scottish Solicitors Discipline Tribunal are still letting crooked lawyers off the hook and able to continue making money from unsuspecting clients .. here's another recent article from the Sunday Mail :

LAWYER GUILTY : Watchdogs say he sold homes for drug accused But he escapes with £5k fine and dodges ban
By Russell Findlay

A LAWYER has been rapped for helping an alleged drug-dealer sell three homes before they could be seized by Customs in a dirty money probe.

Legal watchdogs found Robert Thomas guilty of professional misconduct for disposing of property owned by Michael Beacom.

But the dodgy brief escaped with a £5000 fine and still works as a solicitor.

A damning finding by the Scottish Solicitors' Discipline Tribunal states: "The tribunal considered that a solicitor in these circumstances must have thought that what he was being asked to do was attempting to assist someone in the commission of a crime.

"The tribunal considered that this was a grave offence in that the respondent proceeded either with the knowledge of what he was doing or with recklessness.

"For a solicitor to attempt to assist a client to commit a criminal offence is extremely reprehensible conduct."

Beacom was jailed for six years over a cannabis haul seized by Customs, though the conviction was later quashed.

Before his trial, Customs investigators visited Thomas, 58, with a court order demanding access to his client's files.

The order was designed to prevent solicitors disposing of a criminal's assets which could be seized.

But when Customs returned to Thomas' old firm, Robert Thomas &Caplan, they found a flat in Argyle Street, Glasgow, had been sold.

And a cottage near Helensburgh and a share of a flat in Glasgow's west end had been transferred to Beacom's brother.

The lawyer's actions led to him facing trial on money laundering charges four years ago.

During the trial, Bruce Ritchie, director of professional practice for the Law Society, said: "He should not have acted in the details of any property disposition for this client.

"My professional opinion would have been not to have touched this case. He should have known better."

Sheriff Rita Rae ruled there was not enough evidence and threw the case out.

Law Society chiefs launched their own probe but despite finding Thomas guilty of helping dispose of criminal assets, the tribunal did not have him struck off.

Instead he was fined £5000 and ordered to have his worked supervised by his employers until 2011.

Thomas, now working for Campbell Sievewright & Co in Glasgow, last night refused to comment.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Restrictions required on the interests of lay members in the world of self regulation

From responses to my last article reporting on the appointment of a former Law Society President to the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Scotland Complaints Committee in a 'public interest' role it seems those people whom the professions and public services select in a "lay membership role" go on to make a living out of it, appearing on many other Committees of other professions in similar positions.

Generally this has been known about for some time .. the same faces appearing on different 'regulatory panels' or public bodies, or quangos .. but surely, now with a new Executive led by a party which has been shouting about this kind of cronyism for so long, these issues must be looked at ? I think so.

I was quite interested last week to learn of the various positions of Barbara Duffner, who is one of the "Public Interest Members" of ICAS, there to ensure, allegedly, that complaints are handled properly and without bias towards the public.

My own experiences with ICAS of course, differ greatly from the way the Scottish accountants regulatory claim they handle complaints ... and I have commented before on my experiences with ICAS regarding one of Scotland's most famous crooked accountants - Norman Howitt, CA of Welch & Co, Chartered Accountants Hawick & Galashiels.

My experiences with ICAS predate Mrs Duffner's appointment to their Committee framework, but if I were asked if her input into my complaint against Norman Howitt may make a difference, I would say no, because no matter what anyone may say about Norman Howitt, despite how he stole my mothers bank & pension books, tried to con her out of all her savings for himself, ICAS would overrule them and make sure Mr Howitt kept his job.

Not casting any aspersions of course, on how Mrs Duffner goes about her businesses, but was the position of a "Lay Member" ever intended to give rise to one person repeating their position in so many other instances ?

Here is a copy of a comment made in response to my article of Tuesday, listing Barbara Duffner's positions :

http://www.icas.org.uk/profiles/duffner_barbara.asp

Barbara Duffner was elected as a Lay Member to Council in 2004 with the principal role of ensuring that the public interest is properly safeguarded.

Barbara qualified with an honours degree in Psychology from London University in 1967. She was awarded an OBE for services to young people in 2002

Barbara worked with Royal Mail from 1969 until her retirement in 2004, latterly as Head of Personnel.

She was involved with the Children’s Hospice Association of Scotland from the early 1990s until 2006. She is also currently a Board Member of the Judicial Appointments Board, Scottish Enterprise, the Student Loan Company and she is a Member of the Fitness to Practice Panel of the General Dental Council, the Welfare to Work Task Force and Employment Tribunals. Barbara was appointed as a Lay member to the Court of the University of Glasgow in 2006.

Previous appointments have included work with the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority and Chairmanship of the review of the Careers Service in Scotland.

Barbara lives in Lanarkshire and her interests include developing 6 acres of land which she recently acquired and adjusting with enthusiasm to a portfolio career.

http://www.gdc-uk.org/About+us/Who+we+are/Fitness+to+Practise+Panel/Barbara+Duffner.htm

Barbara Duffner took early retirement from Royal Mail at the end of March 2004.

She had been with Royal Mail since leaving university in 1969. Although she worked primarily within Human Resources, she also had experience of line management, strategic planning and management of very large projects. In 2001 she chaired a review of the Careers Service in Scotland, this led to substantial changes and the creation of 'Careers Scotland'.

Barbara is Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts; a Board Member of Scottish Enterprise; a member of the Judicial Appointments Board in Scotland; and a lay member of the Council of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Scotland. She is also a non-executive director of the Student Loans Company and an Employment tribunal member. In 2006 she was appointed to the Court of the University of Glasgow as a lay member.

http://www.scottish-enterprise.com/sedotcom_home/about_se/structure/structure-the-board.htm

Barbara Duffner OBE, FRSA
Barbara Duffner was Head of Personnel North for Royal Mail until she took early retirement at the end of March 2004. She is a Board Member of the Student Loan Company, a member of the Judicial Appointments Board Scotland and sits on the Fitness to Practice Panel of the General Dental Council. She is a public interest member of the Council of the Institute of Chartered Accountants Scotland and has joined the Court of the University of Glasgow.

Barbara is also an Employment Tribunal member. She was a member of the Welfare to Work task Force and chaired the review of the Careers Service in Scotland which led to the creation of Careers Scotland and the transfer of responsibility for ensuring the provision of all age guidance to Scottish Enterprise and Highland and Island Enterprise.

Barbara was awarded the OBE in the 2002 New Years Honours list.

The above seems to be quite common for many of these lay members of regulatory committees, public body positions, and quangos ... but why on earth is it allowed in such a cramped world, when inevitably complaints, personalities and issues will cross over from profession to profession, invoking serious conflicts of interest, which I have observed definitely at ICAS and the Law Society of Scotland.

Regardless of the capabilities of a person, it is surely time to call for restrictions on the amount of Committee positions someone can carry as a "Lay Member" or "Public Interest Member", as it is simply not in the public interest to allow this to go on any longer.

So how do the lay members perform on Committees you may ask ?

Well, from my own experience - not very well.

The lay members of the Law Society of Scotland's Complaints Committees, are to put it mildly, very weak.

Taking my own direct experience of the lay members on the complaints I made to the Law Society of Scotland over the years, I would call them a bunch of quislings, who are too enamored with their lawyer friends who sit at the end of the table to be of any value to the public at all.

Indeed, the lay membership of the Law Society Complaints Committees have shown themselves to be so ineffective, so useless, so willing to go along with fiddling complaints against crooked lawyers, that the Scottish Parliament had to pass the Legal Profession & Legal Aid (Scotland) Act 2007 to reform regulation of the legal profession in Scotland because it is so corrupt.

Some of my own experiences with the Law Society's Complaints Committees is contained in this article :

When it came to the lay members of ICAS looking into my complaint against crooked accountant Norman Howitt, I found the lay members generally had no grasp of the situation and how Mr Howitt had went about covering up his actions. Worse, was that both lay members, one a former Captain of HMS Ark Royal, had completely missed Norman Howitt's attempt to cover his tracks of embezzling money in his firm's account by filing false information with Lothian & Borders Police. I wonder why lay members would miss such a thing ? unless they were told to perhaps ?

Now of course, we have the addition of two lawyers to the ICAS Complaints Committee framework - and from the past performance of the Law Society of Scotland, I don't think we can expect any great change to how the accountants fiddle complaints against their members ... possibly with more lawyers on board, the situation will get worse ?

Some would argue, of course, that having the same people as lay members on different regulatory committees in different professions, brings an air of experience in dealing with complaints and would ensure a greater respect by those committees for fairness & transparency.

Is that actually the case ? Does anyone believe that at all, when we have people up and down the land making complaints against professionals to their self regulatory bodies and those complaints getting thrown out time and again, even on the most serious charges which could possibly be made ? I think the answer to that one is a big "NO" - as we have found with the way the lay member system works in the world of regulating complaints against lawyers, doctors, Police, Judiciary & Court staff, the Fiscals service, local authorities and many other public services ...

Time then for restrictions on how many Committees lay members can serve on .. because time and again, many of them prove they don't live up to public expectation or perception, and with quite a few of them on several committees of professions not performing their regulatory function as transparently as they should - it's time to spread the workload and bring in a much more transparent form of selection of lay members, more akin to how jury duty is handled, rather than seeking out those already on other professions committees ...

Monday, May 21, 2007

Fears over corrupt self regulation as accountants regulator draft in ex Law Society President and solicitor as Public Interest members

It has been revealed that ICAS, the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Scotland, the self regulatory body for accountants, which handles complaints against it's own members in true traditional old fashioned corrupt 'cover up for the boys old pals act style', has appointed two lawyers, one an ex Law Society President, to "ensure that the institute continues to operate with integrity and transparency".

Ruthven Gemmell one of the new "Public Interest members" of ICAS, has been the President of the Law Society of Scotland for the past year - a turbulent period in the history of the Scottish legal profession, which saw the Justice 2 Committee hearings on the Legal Profession & Legal Aid (Scotland) Act 2007, where members of the public who had fallen victim to many crooked members of the legal profession, and the corrupt regulatory practices of the Law Society of Scotland, finally got the chance to testify in public to their appalling experiences.

The Law Society of Scotland's answer to the Justice 2 Committee hearings into the LPLA Bill, were a mixture of lies, blatant propaganda, secret meetings, and a badly organised attempt to get it's member legal firms to submit a range of different experiences (which fell apart because most of the legal firms forgot to alter the circulated template significantly enough to make it unrecognisable as a copy ).

The duels between Law Society officials and MSPs also saw the now infamous argument between Law Society Chief Executive Douglas Mill and John Swinney MSP, where Mr Swinney challenged Mr Mill over the content of secret memos authored by Douglas Mill himself .. who then went on to "swear on his granny's grave" before the Justice 2 Committee & all present, he was trying to help a complainer who has unresolved cases going back 20 years, the 'help' turned out to be more of an obstruction and attempt to destroy claims of negligence raised by the complainer against several legal firms, matters which the Law Society maintains it does not get involved in but clearly does, contrary to the testimony of it's own Chief Executive before the Justice 2 Committee, as the Herald newspaper reported in June 2006

The Herald 5 June 2006 - Would granny swear by the law society

When it became apparent to the legal profession their tactics to thwart the progress of the LPLA Bill were simply not working, Douglas Mill himself threatened the Scottish Executive & Parliament over the passage of the LPLA Bill - stating the Law Society of Scotland would take legal action against both the Executive and Parliament if the LPLA Bill was passed without amendments it preferred, and as I understand matters, this 'threat of court action' had been discussed as a policy statement by the Law Society - which of course, must have been supported by the the Law Society President, Ruthven Gemmel.

I covered the Law Society of Scotland's threat of Court Action against the Parliament & Executive here : Law Society of Scotland threatens Court challenge against Scottish Executive over LPLA legal reform Bill

You may also remember the legal aid case boycott, restriction of the public's access to legal representation & access to a lawyer, and the many other scandals scandals involving the Scottish legal profession we've had in the past year of Ruthven Gemmel's tenure as Law Society President, which didn't see him or anyone else in the Law Society do anything to resolve many instances of injustice caused by themselves.

You may ask, how effective is the Institute of Chartered Accountants in dealing with complaints against it's members in Scotland ?

The answer to that question is that ICAS are possibly even more corrupt in regulating complaints against accountants, than the Law Society of Scotland is at covering up complaints against solicitors.

Here is a good example of what ICAS do with complaints against accountants :

A picture is worth a thousand words - Images of fraud reveal corruption & deceit by lawyers & accountants in the Scottish Borders

So how does the conduct of the Law Society of Scotland over the past year square up then ? Horrible, corrupt, anti consumer, hateful, hostile are but some of the words which come to mind.

So, taking the above, and not forgetting the Law Society's, Court Action threat to our elected Scottish Parliament and Executive against passing long awaited reforms to the way complaints against lawyers are handled, would it not be right to question why lawyers, rather than someone more devolved from the professions, are now drafted in by the Institute of Chartered Accountants - to give an impression that all is well with complaints against accountants ?

Surely, when a Law Society President obviously supported his profession's policy to threaten our elected Government & Parliament on an issue of solicitors losing the right to continue fiddling complaints against their own colleagues .. this couldn't be classified as anything approaching "integrity and transparency", could it ?

The Herald newspaper's report on the Law Society of Scotland's threat of Court Action against the Executive & Scottish Parliament :

Holyrood in Solicitor's Sights October 30 2006 The Herald

The LPLA Bill (now thankfully passed, with many of the legal profession's preferred amendments voted down) brought a measure of independent regulation to Scotland's 10,000 lawyers - taking away part of the aspect of the widely abused practice of self regulation by the Law Society of Scotland where lawyer invariably covers up for lawyer.

Perhaps however, this Public Relations incident gone wrong, where ICAS protests it's alleged commitment to 'transparency & integrity' in the newspapers, shows the infamous Scottish accountants regulator in it's true light, which is that of yet another self regulator of it's own profession, which widely abuses that self given right to consider & fiddle complaints against their own member accountants displaying many of the same problems which the legal profession in Scotland has been famed for over the decades, and which for their corruption, brought about the passing of the LPLA Bill to try and remedy endemic prejudice in the area of complaints against solicitors.

I take it that Niall Scott another lawyer, and also the former chairman of UK law firms McGrigors and KLegal, will fully declare his legal firm's regulatory history (in full) in a show of 'integrity & transparency' too ? Perhaps not .... although perhaps Mr Scott and Mr Gemmell may ask ICAS to reopen some of their cases of complaint they fiddled against crooked accountants so that people can get some justice & recompense at last ? Perhaps not ....

Since self regulation of accountants is a Westminster issue for now, London should look at ending self regulation by accountants over accountants .. there isn't a good transparent example of self regulation in existence .. and ICAS, from what I know, and have personally experienced, cannot hold itself up to be anything other than a closed shop cover up club for its members ..

However, as we have a new SNP Executive, who are set on looking into as many issues as possible which affect Scotland I hope, perhaps they would like to take on the might of the accountants self regulatory body, and end what is a very corrupt & crooked system of complaints cover up, mirroring what we've all seen in the legal profession for years.

We certainly need an LPLA Act style equivalent for the accountancy profession in Scotland ... and an end to self regulation in the other professions which still enjoy judging their own colleagues at the expense of clients - something which is definitely NOT in the public interest.

Article from the Herald newspaper reporting the appointment of the 'public interest members' follows ...

http://www.theherald.co.uk/business/law/display.var.1412274.0.0.php

Public interest members at ICAS
DAVID BLACK May 21 2007

Niall Scott and Ruthven Gemmell have been appointed to serve as public interest members at the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Scotland. Public interest members are appointed to ensure that the institute continues to operate with integrity and transparency. Both solicitors, Scott is the former chairman of UK law firms McGrigors and KLegal. Gemmell will step down as president of the Law Society of Scotland on May 25. They will join the institute's other public interest member, Barbara Duffner, who was re-appointed for a period of three years at the recent annual meeting.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

The disguises of the 'lay members' of the Edinburgh Committee circuit revealed ...

The Committee Circuit of Edinburgh - one of the great "Gangs of Crooks" running Scotland these days ....

A few of you who have contacted me have raised the issue of Committee Membership around the various 'professions' .. such as solicitors, medical services, financial services, etc ..... and, like me, most of you have experienced problems when complaints or issues have been dealt with a particular "Complaints Committee" or similarly named body which has looked at what happened to your case ....

The thing is, as many of you are realising now, is that most of the Committee Members around the various Edinburgh cliques ... sit on each others Committees ... and this is one of the reasons why complaints have got nowhere in many important cases over the decades of the existence of this structure ....

Lay Members - those who are supposed to be 'independent' 'lay people' - having nothing to do, supposedly, with the profession's Committee they sit on, are, more usually, relatives of either politicians, political party workers, local government officials, or members of other professions who have been brought on to a Committee in the guise of an ordinary person, to fiddle the complaint ....

Over the years, I have discovered some great examples of this kind of Committee Member 'placement' by the professions & the Executive - to make sure no one gets anywhere with complaints .... we have had examples such as the Scottish Legal Services Ombudsman sitting on other regulatory Committees such as the Instutite of Chartered Accountants of Scotland ... and senior members of the medical services sitting on the likes of the Scottish Legal Aid Board ... and 'lay members' of the Law Society Complaints Committees sitting on political quangos, Police Boards, and a raft of other favoured places - all to make sure that when you are ripped off or mistreated by the 'so-called' professional you have used as a paid service ... .nothing happens to them .... not very surprising then that complaints against the likes of crooked lawyers, bent accountants, and negligent doctors, haven't got anywhere ....

In one stark case, I came across a Priest, who sat on a Law Society Complaints Committee as a 'Lay Member'. He was so enthralled by the 'wine & steak' dinner circuit which he had involved himself in at the Law Society, that he just couldn't keep his mouth shut, and had to write a letter to "The Scotsman" Letters to the Editor section ... condemning all those who challenged the authenticity & impartiality of the self-regulatory complaints system of lawyers in Scotland - you know .. the crooked set up run by the Law Society of Scotland which the Executive is now having to change ....

Well, while this Priest was protesting the greatness of his new masters at the Law Society and demanding that we, the public, should all shut up and let those at the Client Relations Department of the Law Society continue to fiddle complaints & protect crooked lawyers ... he had totally forgotten about his 'vocation to God' - something which, I assume, gave him the calling to be a Priest in the first place ... and nowhere in his letter at all, did he ever raise the fact that he was a Priest, other than when it came to giving his address at the end of the letter ....

After reading such a letter, of course, I had to investigate further .. and found out quite a bit about what was going on and how this Priest had ruled mainly in favour of crooked lawyers in his Committee dealings .... so I wrote a letter to his Archbishop asking why this Priest seemed to have placed his helping crooked lawyers rip off & destroy people above, his vocation to God ..... and not long after that of course, he 'retired' from his position on the Complaints Committee ... but the staggering concept remained .. a Priest ... sitting on Complaints Committees of a professional organisation ... which had tormented so many and even caused the deaths & suicides of people ?? ... how many mortal sins have gone unrepented here I wonder ..
Another example came to light, where a senior member of the Mental Welfare Commission was also on the Scottish Legal Aid Board .... want to know what happend to cases where the two organisations interests collided ? .... well, you guess right ... not a lot !

The Police Boards throughout Scotland are one of the worst offenders of this type of Committee Member placement .. but you all know that anyway, so that's ok - just don't expect any complaints about the cops to go anywhere - because of course, they don't ! - and with Mr X sitting on Mr Y's regulatory Committee, but also being his cousin, or banker, or doctor, or whatever - you can expect your complaint against Mr Y to be swept under the carpet ....

If you are wondering about the Scottish Parliament's part in all this ... well, a few of those connected to msps mps, and other long time politicians, also sit on such regulatory Committees in the cosy gang which has sprung up in Edinburgh over the past few decades .... and of course, the Scottish Parliament's own way of dealing with complaints against msps and staff is now legendary in terms of its corruptness .... and exemption from the likes of the Freedom of Information Act, which the Law Society also made themselves exempt from too ...

You know ... most journalists in the Edinburgh newspapers know all this anyway ... so, why isn't there a wee bit more attention to this ? because it's a hell of a big conflict of interest .... which has proliferated all over the place without anyone doing a damn thing about it ....