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 :
and you can read my previous coverage of the Catto fraud case here :

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 :

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 :

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 :

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

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 :

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 :

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."

Friday, September 15, 2006

Scottish Parliament calls for freeze on Commissioners amid fears of excessive accountability

MSPs have lurched from scandal to scandal over at the Scottish Parliament since it was born in 1999. From fiddling expenses, to undeclared wee bits on the side, to lavish offices for their own personal benefit while doing .. not very much, to rampant rises in the building costs of the Parliament itself, there has scarcely been a week gone by, where another new scandal hasn't emerged from the Parliament which we voted for all those years ago.

It stands to reason, then, that those whose activities, corrupt, crooked, or shall we say, less than honest, absolutely hate it when legislation comes along to make them accountable for their failings ... and since the Parliament is full of fiddles & corruption itself, some examples such as .. Raffan's travelling expenses .. Mcletchie's undeclared taxi rides .... and a lot more .. the occasional MSP caught on the Parliament's security cameras indulging in sex acts with staff, all those undeclared meetings with interested parties, businesses & other special interests with regard to particular legislation to be passed ... with all that in mind, MSPs have now decided to attack plans for public sector commissioners to oversee public services, which badly need oversight of an independent nature - which those services & professions have failed to provide since their own existence.

The proposed commissioners are :
Road Works Commissioner
Scottish Commissioner for Human Rights
Scottish Legal Enforcement Commission
Legal Complaints Commissioner
Police Complaints Commissioner

Now, there are those who say, oh, the present gang of Commissioners are spending too much money and are almost unaccountable ... indeed, Linda Costelloe Baker, the former Scottish Legal Services Ombudsman, has stated publicly her office was never audited during her 5 years as SLSO .. but whose fault is that ? not the Commissioners .. it's the fault of the Executive .. and with Scotland having a 1 in 4 public sector workforce, one would have thought the Scottish Executive could have found someone to audit Ms Costelloe Baker's office !

However, the reality of the situation, has at least, been picked up by one of the Finance Committee members - Green MSP Mark Ballard, who said :
"I am concerned that these proposals are part of a backlash from those unhappy with commissioners who have done their job and spoken out on issues and, in the process, made life a little uncomfortable for the powers that be ..."
"...To have robust and effective scrutiny by watchdogs, we must ensure they operate at arm's length from politicians - any moves to direct spending will undermine their ability to act in the public interest."

Mark Ballard is correct. Simply, there are many who are ticked off by what the present Commissioners have done so far in their areas - those being, the :
Scottish Public Services Ombudsman
Scottish Parliamentary Standards Commissioner
Commissioner for Children and Young People
Commissioner for Public Appointments in Scotland
Scottish Information Commissioner

Why are the MSPs at Holyrood so dead against these proposals ?

Well, just look at what has been revealed over the years regarding the Parliament and it's members .. by using, for instance, the Freedom of Information Act .. where several MSPs have been caught with their fingers in the till ... and a lot of what was eventually dragged out of the Parliament's Corporate body, after many refusals, came with the assistance of the Scottish Information Commissioner, Kevin Dunion.

Another interesting point in this debate is the types of Commissioners proposed, which are generating so much fuss. Just look at the public sector services affected ... Law, Lawyers, Police, the Courts, Human Rights, even Road Works ... a list of public sector services which badly need oversight in the form of an independent Commissioner (known to some as Ombudsmen) free from political meddling.

Anyone tried to make a complaint that their Human Rights were breeched by a public sector service recently ? The answer from whoever they complained against would be something like .. drop dead .. after a long paper chase coming to nothing .. but a lot more persecution against the complainant simply because there was no one to oversee & safeguard the Human Rights issue in the first place.

Anyone tried to make complaints against the Police ? and then at the end of a long trek through even the HMIC, have to go through equally crooked Police Boards, whose members are just as good at fighting each other as covering up for the deeds of the Police Force they are there to keep an eye on in yet another self regulatory cartel which should have died long ago ?

With at least 5000 complaints a year against Scotlands internationally renowned crooked legal profession, we certainly need a Legal Complaints Commissioner to oversee that gang of criminals .. and even though there is supposed to be independence in complaints against lawyers when the LPLA Bill finally comes into law .. we all know lawyers will only become more inventive in their crooked schemes ... so oversight will certainly be needed of the new complaints procedures, which will doubtless, suffer from time to time of a lack of transparency or common sense, as everything does.

So, why the fuss ? Well, the MSPs claim it's all about money .. that the Commissioners aren't accountable to anyone .. but as we have seen in the past .. MSPs have spent over half a billion pounds on their own Parliament, then go on to claim as much as they can from the public purse, on top of earning £1000 (nearly $2000 a week) .. so it can't really be about money, can it.

No, it's not about money, it's about accountability, transparency, & honesty .. and when there's too much of it, that's a bad thing for the crooks and those who want to cook the books over at the Scottish Parliament and in those public sector services which badly need oversight - independent oversight which isn't subject to fiddling from Scottish Ministers & politicians.. and there's plenty of those yet to be revealed for their undeclared secret benefits on the side ..

Funny isn't it ... we just had a big arguement from the legal profession & judiciary, which demanded the Executive put in place amendments to the LPLA Bill to create independent posts of office so there wouldn't be fiddling of Judicial positions & interference in the complaints process by Ministers .. and, guess what ? Hugh Henry announced those amendments in last Thursday's Parliamentary debate on the LPLA Bill, giving a role for the Lord President, to keep out any possibility of Ministerial fiddling of appointments in the new Scottish Legal Complaints Commission.

Howevr, we now have the same politicians arguing they don't want independent Commissioners who can't be fiddled by Ministers ... doesn't that seem a bit backward ? .. or more simply .. a bit crooked ?

Just who are these politicians arguing the case against the planned Commissioners for ? the members of those same public sectors & professions which will be made more accountable by the existence of new oversight ? or, themselves, who fear too much openness is a bad thing for the public ...

I think the Scotsman report by Peter MacMahon, sums up the situation in a sentence at the end of their article :

"The Scotsman, along with other newspapers, was prevented by the parliamentary authorities from seeking a response from the commissioners who were criticised in the MSPs' report."

What does that say for those same parliamentary authorities & MSPs then ? in one breath, calling for Commissioners Offices to be put on hold due to excuses of funding unaccoutability .. and the same Parliamentarians then go and restrict the present Commissioners from making any comment to the media on the msps report & critisisms of expenditure ?

So much for transparency over at the Scottish Parliament then .. it looks more like a nest of vipers every passing day ...

Read on for the article, from the Scotsman newpaper, at :

Cross-party call to put creation of public-sector commissioners on ice

MSPS today demanded a cull of the burgeoning number of public-sector "tsars" in Scotland. A hard-hitting report from Holyrood's finance committee recommends that no more parliamentary commissioners should be created.

It also calls for the downgrading of the post of the children and young people's commissioner, saying the role, which is held by Professor Kathleen Marshall, should be made accountable to ministers, not to Holyrood.

And the committee demands that the Executive puts the creation of five new "tsars" - a roadworks commissioner, a civil enforcement commissioner, a Scottish commissioner for human rights, a legal complaints commissioner and a police complaints commissioner - on hold.

The cross-party committee also calls for the proposed human rights commissioner, a post being created under legislation going through Holyrood, to be incorporated within the office of Professor Alice Brown, the Scottish public service ombudsman.

The MSPs want legislation to allow parliament to control the budgets of the four commissioners - for information, parliamentary standards, children and public appointments - as well as the ombudsman.

They also want Holyrood to have more say over where the "tsars" have their offices.

The report says the MSPs are "very concerned" at the decision of Kevin Dunion, the information commissioner, to set up in Kinburn Castle in St Andrews.

Des McNulty, the Labour convener of the committee, said: "If the Executive and the parliament follows the principles we have outlined, in future people who make proposals for new commissioners will have to justify why they want to go to the expense of doing that.

"Some people might say that this is locking the stable door after the horse has bolted, but we are now actually calling for the stable door to be closed, as there is still pressure for new bodies to be created."

But Mark Ballard, a Green MSP and committee member, warned: "There have to be firm limits on their overall expenditure, but the public will not get value for money from commissioners that cannot speak out and act as they see fit because they fear the repercussions."

• The Scotsman, along with other newspapers, was prevented by the parliamentary authorities from seeking a response from the commissioners who were criticised in the MSPs' report.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

OFT want greater protection for public while Scottish Executive & MSPs fiddle LPLA Bill on behalf of the legal profession

While Scottish Executive Ministers & MSPs try to water down the proposed reforms contained in the LPLA Bill on how complaints against lawyers are handled in Scotland, the Office of Fair Trading has demanded greater regulation & scrutiny of the legal profession, far beyond what is currently contained in the much fought over Legal Profession & Legal Aid Bill.

The Herald newspaper is reporting today that :

"The Office of Fair Trading (OFT) wants to see solicitors and advocates who provide bad service "named and shamed" by the new independent Scottish Legal Complaints Commission. This could be achieved by the commission publishing the outcome of its investigations, it suggests.

In England and Wales, moves are already afoot to force law firms to publish their complaints records and produce an annual return detailing how they have dealt with complaints.

The OFT also favours the introduction of a new "kitemark" scheme which would allow Scottish law firms and lawyers with a good ser-vice record to advertise their services on that basis. "

Read the OFT submission to the Scottish Parliament Justice 2 Committee here : OFT Submission to Justice 2

An excellent idea indeed - to name & shame crooked & negligent lawyers - one which we campaigners and anyone else who has been maligned by the legal profession, have been calling for years to be put into place.

The naming & shaming bit against crooked lawyers in Scotland, has so far been done by campaigners such as "Scotland Against Crooked Lawyers" at .. but as lawyers provide a commercial service, they should be forced to display their own records - so we know what we are getting in the first place when we go to a lawyer.

We, the public, need to see the regulatory history of solicitors & their previous performance when dealing with clients & the law .. something which I have said for years, and which was covered recently in a case where a lawyer was found to be at the centre of 12 Negligence claims - and still conducting business on behalf of unsuspecting clients who had no idea of what he had been up to with others : see here : TOP LAWYER AT THE CENTRE OF 12 NEGLIGENCE CLAIMS

At the moment, it appears that none of the OFT's proposed revisions to the bill has so far been accepted by Scottish Executive Ministers, due to intense arm twisting & lobbying from the legal profession. Some of the OFT's recommendations include raising the maximum compensation for inadequate service above the proposed ceiling of £20,000 in which the OFT says "Provision should be included to allow for higher payments in exceptional cases," - something again, which many others who have been affected by the crooked conduct of lawyers & the Law Society of Scotland over the years, have been saying to the Scottish Parliament.

As I have said myself before, many times - why should there be any set limit at all to the level of compensation which should be paid out by a crooked legal profession to the client they have ruined ?

Why should there be a £20,000 limit ? Was that put in by the members of the Law Society of Scotland who were on the Scottish Executive's working group ? One of those members being the infamous client hating Douglas Mill, Chief Executive of the Law Society of Scotland who will stop at NOTHING to ruin client complaints and interfere in cases of financial claims for damages against crooked lawyers ..

The OFT has also vented it's frustration and suspicions over the performance of the "Master Insurance Policy" - the professional indemnity insurance of lawyers in Scotland and how it operates.

Many clients of lawyers who have tried to claim against the Master Insurance Policy have found the hole thing to be a fraud - where lawyer is supposed to sue lawyer .. but both get bonuses when the client's claim is either reduced to a few pennies, or as is mostly the case, completely undermined to the point that any claim for damages against the legal profession fails.

I should know all about that - the Master Insurance Policy and the top officials at the Law Society of Scotland destroyed my own case against crooked Borders lawyer Andrew Penman of Stormonth Darling Solicitors Kelso.

Douglas Mill, the Chief Executive of the Law Society of Scotland and Philip Yelland, the Director of Client relations intervened personally in my case, writing letters demanding my legal aid be refused, and ordering my then lawyers, Morrisons WS, Edinburgh, to cease my case and refuse to take any instructions from me - in articles, along with the evidence, which I have already published on this site, here : & &

Almost all claims against lawyers which involve the Master Insurance Policy go this way .. and the Law Society of Scotland has kept this dirty devious scheme hidden from the public for years, so it could perpetuate itself into one of the biggest businesses in Scotland today.

The current progress of the LPLA Bill in the Scottish Parliament is being interfered with by a vicious campaign of lobbying from the legal profession & judiciary, who are going all out to kill any prospect of reforms to their crooked dictatorship.

Even newspapers & media groups have been cynically turned on members of the public, where the likes of the Scotsman, which once openly supported independent regulation of lawyers after it featured many news articles on my own case, has been twisted into a media outlet of the legal profession against the general public.

At the same time, secret meetings between groups of lawyers and msps have went unreported .. although one such meeting was quoted by the Parliament itself last week, were it transpired David Davidson, the Justice 2 Committee Convener & Mike Rumbles msp, both met a group of lawyers .. want to guess what was on the agenda of that meeting ?

David Davidson, J2 Convener, however refuses to meet with or have any further contact with campaigners & those members of the public who have made submission to the Justice 2 Committee on the LPLA Bill.

Why the imbalance ? Why is Davidson so ready to meet with lawyers but refuses to meet with concerned members of the public who have been ripped off by lawyers ?

Indeed - why has the Justice 2 Committee refused to recall Douglas Mill to account for his obvious lies to the Committee on how he became involved in cases of client claims for damages against crooked lawyers ?

Does the Justice 2 Committee fear the legal profession so much it is unwilling to question it's most senior ranks on why they lied in testimony to the Parliament and contradicted evidence provided by John Swinney msp, showing Mill's involvement in stalling compensation claims, and my own submission and those of many others, clearly showing the same level of involvement of Law Society officials who were out to ruin negligence claims against lawyers.

David Davidson claims the Justice 2 Committee received no "objective evidence" on the Master Insurance Policy .. but that is a lie.

The Justice 2 Committee obtained the best possible evidence - Material evidence from the actual victims of crooked lawyers who had tried to claim from the Master Insurance Policy and had their cases ruined in a policy of destruction of clients claims by the legal profession. Material evidence showing that the most senior officials of the Law Society of Scotland had intervened in clients cases against crooked negligent lawyers and destroyed any chance of progress and wiped out any chance of compensation - while the crooked lawyer went on to rip off more clients.

Has the legal profession scored an ally with Mr Davidson ?

Is there some secret arm twisting & back door deals being proposed behind the scenes of the Parliamentary debate to water down the LPLA Bill and keep the Law Society of Scotland's dictatorship over the elected political process intact ?

Read on for the Herald's report on the issue - link at :

Watchdog targets bad lawyers
PAUL ROGERSON September 13 2006

BRITAIN'S foremost consumer watchdog has proposed a series of measures to protect the public from incompetent Scottish lawyers that go well beyond those contained in Holyrood legislation.

The Office of Fair Trading (OFT) wants to see solicitors and advocates who provide bad service "named and shamed" by the new independent Scottish Legal Complaints Commission. This could be achieved by the commission publishing the outcome of its investigations, it suggests.

In England and Wales, moves are already afoot to force law firms to publish their complaints records and produce an annual return detailing how they have dealt with complaints.

The OFT also favours the introduction of a new "kitemark" scheme which would allow Scottish law firms and lawyers with a good ser-vice record to advertise their services on that basis.

The agency's proposals are contained in its written response to the bitterly controversial Legal Profession and Legal Aid (Scotland) Bill, which went through its first stage debate at the Scottish Parliament last week.

Rather than toughen up the bill, ministers appear to be watering it down following a ferocious lobbying campaign by senior lawyers and professional bodies.

Of particular importance among about 300 proposed executive amendments is provision for a role for Scotland's top judge, the Lord President, in the removal of commission members.

None of the OFT's proposed revisions to the bill has so far been accepted by ministers. The proposals include raising the maximum compensation for inadequate service above the proposed ceiling of £20,000. "Provision should be included to allow for higher payments in exceptional cases," the OFT argues.

The commission's remit will handle only service complaints, leaving cases of alleged misconduct in the hands of professional bodies the Law Society of Scotland and Faculty of Advocates.

The OFT believes that giving the new commission limited powers of oversight over the handling of misconduct cases does not go far enough. "In our view the (commission) might also benefit from a capacity to prosecute conduct and discipline complaints before the professional bodies, where important public interest issues are at stake," it argues.

The OFT is also unimpressed with the limited role of the commission in monitoring the society's controversial master insurance policy, which covers compensation claims against Scottish solicitors arising from negligence, fraud or dishonesty.

For years critics such as the Scottish Consumer Council have complained that the policy lacks transparency and gives complainers the impression that the insurers are in league with solicitors and the law society.

The OFT alleged: "The current proposal, which proposes a power to monitor effectiveness (of master policy arrangements), rather than a duty to do so, appears unlikely to afford consumers sufficient guarantee of the effectiveness of these arrangements."

Asked if ministers would consider amending the bill further to address the OFT's concerns, a Scottish Executive spokesman said: "We announced a number of the key amendments during the Stage 1 debate last week. Details of further amendments will be published on the Scottish Parliament website in advance of the relevant Stage 2 committee meeting.

"The OFT submission was one of many received by the Justice 2 Committee and has been considered along with all the others as we work towards Stage 2 of the bill."

Commenting, the society emphasised that the master policy is a "commercial contract" between insurers and individual solicitors for negligence claims that has survived the scrutiny of various bodies, including the OFT itself and EU authorities in Brussels.

"The society has repeatedly stated that it is not clear why there is a proposal for the commission to have oversight," it added.

"A commercial insurance contract falls outwith the commission's jurisdiction. It is of course the insurers who negotiate and settle claims."

On the scale of available compensation, both the society and the Justice 2 Committee have asked the executive for the reasoning behind raising the compensation level from £5000 to £20,000.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Small claims limits in Scotland restricted to £750 for the last 18 years by the legal profession for their own interests.

The question of a raise in the limits in small claims actions from the £750 it has been for the past 18 years, to a proposed £1500 has long been on the cards .. but why the big delay ?

What could be holding up the issue of a rise in the limit of damanges you could claim in a small claims action against the likes of a crooked builder, or even a crooked lawyer ?

Just why, should the limit for small claims in Scottish Law, be restricted to £750, which it has been for 18 years, when in England & Wales, the limit is £5000 and has been since 1999 ?

It's all about the control freakery of the Scottish legal profession - wishing to protect it's business and restrict who gets into court on what types of cases.

It's not about honesty, it's about the corrupt power politics of the legal profession. and a few of it's allies in high places, which is holding up the progress of the rise in limits of small claims actions ... and those prominent in the obstruction of this issue progressing further, in the public interest, is Digby Brown Solicitors, and Thompsons.

Digby Brown are well known for their political affiliations, particularly to the Labour Party, where former partners such as Douglas Alexander sit in Government .. and many other former partners have attained promotion to Sheriff under in some instances, what could be called, questionable circumstances ...

A more little known issue relating to some of the partners of Digby Brown .. is the partners complaints records .. where it seems some of those at the firm, have had very serious client complaints made against them .. which of course, have been whitewashed by the Law Society of Scotland ... strange it may seem, that some partners who have been accused of various actions against clients, including things which would see ordinary people locked away for a spell in jail, would go on to be Sheriffs ... judging others who have been up to the same thing .. but who haven't had the advantage of their own regulatory body to wipe their records clean and bury evidence & client complaints against them ...

Some of the other opponents of higher limits to small claims, include trade unions, who have been invagled into the debate against giving the consumer more power in this area, alleging that more radical redress would deny legal redress to thousands of Scots by taking them out of the legal aid net.

What legal aid net is that ? Try and make any kind of a claim against the likes of a crooked accountant, a crooked lawyer or another crooked professional, and ask for legal aid, invariably, the claimaint will have their chances of legal aid ruined by that professional's governing body. The Law Society of Scotland are pretty famous in this regard .. and many other regulatory bodies ensure that most damages claims made against their members which require legal aid .. are killed off.

The lawyers may argue that it will take people out of the legal aid net - that's rubbish. Anyone who has a controversial claim and needs legal aid - gets their application for legal aid challenged by the lawyers & their allies - and the case never makes it to the court ... plenty examples of that - and remember, even the Scottish Legal Aid Board is staffed by solicitors who are members of the Law Society of Scotland - and some of those lawyers over at SLAB are pretty crooked themselves ... having on-the-side meetings with crooked lawyers & legal firms whose names appear in negligence actions of clients making applications for legal aid funding.

I think we all need to campaign on this issue, and ensure the limit for small claims in Scotland matches the rest of the UK.

Don't listen to those parrots of the legal profession & their allies, telling us it's better for Scotland to have a small limit on the small claims process. That's nonsense. All this does is restrict who can get into court on such cases, and keep most of the business for the lawyers.

Scottish law is certainly not better than English law.

We have to get this idiocy out of our system here in Scotland.

Simply being told that Scots law is better than English law by a bunch of crooked lawyers and their allies, doesn't make it so, and time & again, we have seen that anyone who tries to take on big business or crooked professions who have their own powerful self regulatory bodies in Scotland, get nowhere. So, where is the great Scots law then ? - nowhere.

Read on for the bitter struggle ofconsumer organisations & campaigners seeking increases in the limits of small claims in line with the rest of the UK, while the selfish, corrupt, Scottish legal profession put the brakes on yet more reforms designed to help the consumer, keeping limits of small claims in line with it's own interests, protecting it's own business empire and ensuring only those get to court who don't pose a threat to it.

Link from The Herald, at :

Higher threshold for small claims is still a long way off
PAUL ROGERSON September 11 2006

The prospect of a long-promised increase in Scotland's low threshold for small claims before next year's Holyrood elections appears remote. Deputy justice minister Hugh Henry last week declined the opportunity to pledge he will produce proposals to raise the current £750 limit before the polls in May.

By then it will be two years since Henry promised to act "sooner rather than later" and eight years since the justice minister recommended that the limit be lifted to £1500.

Scottish consumer groups continue to despair that for people wanting compensation from a supplier of shoddy goods or services without the expense of hiring a lawyer the effective maximum is £750 – less than the cost of a plasma TV.

That limit has been frozen for 18 years, whereas in England and Wales the small claims ceiling is £5000 and has been since 1999.

Consumer body Which? describes the current system as a "charter for cowboys" and has come across examples of Scots pursuing their cases in the English courts.

So why the inertia? Is this yet another example of the daunting power of the lawyers' lobby?

Perhaps not. Opponents of higher limits, which include trade unions, allege that more radical redress would deny legal redress to thousands of Scots by taking them out of the legal aid net.

"The issue is not about whether there should be an increase but what the levels should increase to," Henry told The Herald. "I accept that progress has not been speedy but we want to get this right. We also want to ensure that any changes have the clear support of Parliament. We have to look for a balance between the level of claim and the number of people able to access justice. Quite simply, the higher the small claims limit is set, fewer litigants will qualify for legal aid – because legal aid is not payable in small claims. This is not an easy balance to strike."

Among those in frequent contact with the Justice Department on the issue have been the personal injury firms Digby Brown and Thompsons, both of which have had close links with the Labour Party and trade unions and are or have been party donors.

Personal injury claims are to be excluded from increases in the small claims threshold if and when the executive acts. This is good news for firms specialising in this area, which will in consequence be able to continue reclaiming their expenses, a state of affairs which makes 'no-win, no fee' cases a paying proposition.

In the small claims court, expenses are capped at £75.

Henry said: "Exclusion of PI actions from small claims has been executive policy for some considerable time.

This was the stated policy when the subject was debated in the Parliament in 2001, when Jim Wallace MSP was Justice Minister."

He added: "PI actions are often complex to pursue and to prove, both legally and because there is often a need to obtain and rely on medical evidence to establish a case. Small claims procedure is designed to be quick and efficient, encouraging resolution of disputes without the involvement of lawyers and without legal aid being available. For that reason expenses are capped at £75.

"Small claims can often be a useful means of pursuing relatively straightforward disputes over, say, defective consumer goods. PI actions are very different and are not always appropriate for the more informal procedures which are suitable for small claims. For those reasons we accept that an exception should be made for PI actions."

Digby Brown and Thompsons have continued to lobby the executive on the issue of small claims, even though it is understood that the exclusion of PI cases has long been a done deal.

Thompsons' Patrick McGuire said: "We totally accept the logic of increasing small claims limits for consumer cases like a row over a plasma screen TV. But personal injury claims must be excluded from any increase or the right to justice of millions of trade union and other injury victims will be destroyed.

"Personal injury legislation is a hugely complex area of the law which must be heard in the Court of Session to ensure consistency and justice. Unless personal injury claims are excluded they would end up being heard in the lower courts and that would lead to inconsistency and massively undermine the protection health and safety legislation provides for trade union members and other workers.

"It is simply nonsense to suggest that there is any correlation between the level of damages and the complexity or importance of the legal issues involved in personal injury claims."

"If small claims limits are raised, Scotland must follow England's example where the limit is £5000 but personal injury cases are excluded."

Digby Brown could not be reached for comment.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Scottish media opinion being manipulated by legal profession against Parliamentary reforms of LPLA Bill ?

I wondered if Scotland on Sunday might be doing a piece on this week's battle at the Scottish Parliament over the Legal Profession & Legal Aid (Scotland) Bill .. so I emailed Murdo McLeod of Scotland on Sunday on Friday afternoon posing the question.

I got a response back from another SOS reporter, on Saturday, telling me they were, but after a lot of arm twisting that week, their article would be in support of the legal profession which made the reporter who contacted me, in their own words "sick" .. and who then went on to apologise for the conduct of his newspaper ...

Sad isn't it ... Scotland on Sunday was quick enough to seek me out for a comment on the Leslie Cumming attack story, after they had been briefed by Law Society officials that websites critisising the legal profession should be 'taken out' .. along with their authors .. goodness knows, there are a few in the legal profession who have even offered money to 'take me out' .. as one person who-should-know... put it recently but SOS was warned against printing anything else from me critisising the state of the legal profession with regard to regulatory matters ... so even though there are those who are consciencious enough to keep me informed of events on their staff .. the paper just can't let me have my say .. oh well .. bit sad for democracy there I suppose .. let the lawyers have their say but don't interview their victims...

Magnus Linklater as you can see from his "Wikipedia" entry (for all that's worth, as Wikipedia has been mostly in the news for fiddled entries by either special interests, politicians secretaries, companies, or lawyers with sex offence convictions) .. has had a long career in journalism, even being the editor of the Scotsman from 1988 - 1994.

So, it's a good thing, the frauds of the well known crooked Borders solicitor Andrew Penman of Crooked legal firm of Stormonth Darling Solicitors Kelso came after 1994 ... otherwise, in the light of Linklater's opinion in today's Scotland on Sunday .. my problems with the legal profession would never have been so extensively reported as they were.

Maybe Linklater's opinion would be different if he had been ruined by some crooked lawyers .. after all, one writes best, from experience .. so maybe he should write about the turmoil of house fires, as I read from his wikipedia entry .. pity ... wonder if he has a lawyer helping him with the Linklater House Fire damages fear for being underinsured

Linklater's wife is a libdem peer, according to the Wikipedia entry on Mr Linklater. We all know the LibDems support the legal profession & particularly, the Law Society of Scotland, as a party. They have stated so, as a party, many times in the past.

The Liberal Democrats have a collective party policy of denying assistance to constituents who report difficulties with the Law Society of Scotland & legal profession.. so judging by Linklater's article today, his isn't a friendly house to any proposed reforms intended to bring transparency, honesty and independence to complaints against crooked lawyers.

In fact, reading the article, and taking it's contents along with everything else we have read from the legal profession lately .. one could be forgiven for thinking Linklater is yet another one, dragged out on behalf of Scotland's desperate legal profession, who are out at any costs to thward the progress of the LPLA Bill.

After all, he does go on to mention the Law Society of Scotland dusting off Lord Lester of Herne Hill to give an opinion that "it infringed Article 6 of the convention because the complaints commission would not be "an independent and impartial tribunal".

Lord Lester of Herne Hill is a LibDem peer ... anyone made a connection yet ? .. What was that I was saying earlier about the LibDems supporting the legal profession AGAINST the public in these reforms ?

How many times have I read 'f*ck off' letters from LibDem politicians to constituents who have been ripped off and ruined by their lawyers, and the Law Society hasn't done anything about it ? .. some of those letters from very senior members of the LibDem party ..

To futher justify Linklater's article, he adds insult to injury of the people of Zimbabwe .. in referring to Sternford Moyo, former president of the Law Society of Zimbabwe's words of support for the Law Society of Scotland earlier this week .. where he claimed Scotland could be heading for a Zimbabwe style dictatorship if complaints against lawyers were made independent.

My my .. that's more than a little bit over the top, Mr Linklater .. it's a BIG bit over the top ... comparing the Law Society of Scotland's loss of control of complaints to the suffering of Zimbabwe and it's people under Robert Mugabe.

Indicentally .. I see there are people being deported back to Zimbabwe from the UK ... even though Moyo claims it's a dangerous dictatorship ..

What's up with these poor people's lawyers then ? aren't they doing their job well enough to prevent them being deported back to face possible torture & death, because they dissented from Mugabe's party line ?

Why isn't the Law Society fighting for these people's rights to stay in the UK if it is conveniently using the suffering of one of it's colleagues from the same country, earmarked as a dangerous dictatorship ? ... bit one sided, yes ?

Perhaps though.. Human Rights don't matter to those in the legal profession, unless of course, the situation can be twisted to support the power players of the Law Society's own ends.

Linklater goes on to bring out a host of others to defend the Law Society of Scotland quoting every major figure who has appeared in defence of the legal profession in the past few weeks .. even, ludicrously, dragging Sir Walter Scott into the debate .. but nowhere does there appear, the opinion of the public in his article .. and certainly nowhere, does there appear any opinions from the actual victims of the legal profession.

Linklater saves the last words of his opinion, to continue the attack of the legal profession on the alleged competency of the Scottish Parliament - for taking up the complaints of clients & the public against the Law Society .. with his reference to those in the legal profession who "... argued forcibly that the way the Scottish Parliament was handling the matter was inadequate, incompetent and possibly even unconstitutional. Those are harsh charges, but they deserve a serious response. At the heart of this debate lies not just the good name of the Scottish legal system, but the nature of Scottish democracy."

Indeed, Magnus, at the heart of this debate, lies not just the crooked name of the Scottish legal system - from McKie's faked fingerprint reports, to the 100 year secrets of a child murdering Politician friendly freemason, to a possibly faked up Lockerbie Trial verdict to suit political ends at the time, to many members of the legal fraternity whose names appeared in Operation Ore, but whose prosecutions were obstructed or dropped, to the conduct in both public & private life by members of the judificary & legal profession, who have used & abused their position for decades.

At the heart of this debate, Magnus, lies the effectiveness of the Scottish Executive and the Scottish Parliament, our Scottish Democracy, to stand up to the dirty tricks and intimidation tactics of the legal profession & the judiciary, who are, a law unto themselves, and who use the law against anyone who would challenge their dictatorship.

That is why the Legal Profession & Legal Aid (Scotland) Bill, must come into law, and there must be a completely independent system of regulating ALL complaints against Scotlands legal profession.

Whenever we see reforms of other laws called for by the media or politicians, or cases where a criminal doesn't get a deserving sentence, we see opinions from the family of a murdered victim, a grieving spouse over the death of a partner in medical care, or a victims support group or charity or even known victims of the same thing, give their thoughts & opinion printed ..

Not when it comes to the question of dealing with lawyers though .. oh no, ... only the opinion of the legal profession & those who have the most to lose from the new LPLA Bill, and reforms to the handling of complaints against lawyers, finds it's way into the press .

Magnus - Just ask any of those clients & members of the public whom the legal profession have tried to wipe out, just because they have filed complaints against a crooked lawyer - these victims, will tell you a very different opinion from that which you force upon others as 'fact'.

Link from Scotland on Sunday, at :

Sun 10 Sep 2006
Law reforms threaten to shake foundations of our democracy

THERE seems no good reason for the Scottish Parliament to be at loggerheads with the legal profession in Scotland. The parliament is pledged to uphold the integrity, independence, customs and traditions of Scots law. The Scotland Act of 1998 enshrined the separate status of the legal system. Strengthening that independence is meant to be at the heart of legislation currently being considered by the parliament, which debated it last week. Yet it all seems to be going horribly wrong.

Far from shoring up the system, the new reforms will, in the view of a majority of lawyers, fatally undermine it. From the appointment of judges to the setting up of a complaints procedure which will ultimately be controlled by politicians, there is a mounting impression that English reforms are being incorporated into the Scottish system, eroding the very values on which it is founded.

The anger of the lawyers boiled over at a remarkable conference convened last week by the Law Society of Scotland. It heard from some of Scotland's top legal minds. They did not mince their words.

Sir David Edward, one of the country's most respected lawyers, and formerly the sole British judge at the European Court of Justice, spoke of his "profound depression" at the provisions of the new Legal Profession and Legal Aid (Scotland) Bill, which will set up a new complaints commission, giving power to Scottish ministers for the first time to pass judgment on the performance of the legal profession.

Far from strengthening independence, he said, "it has every intention of doing exactly the opposite". He said it represented "a slavish imitation of English innovations" and he quoted Sir Walter Scott, who had campaigned passionately against the Whig reforms of 1806, and had warned: "Little by little, whatever your wishes may be, you will destroy and undermine, until nothing of what makes Scotland Scotland shall remain."

Lord McCluskey, now retired as a judge, but as forthright as ever, said the appointment of a civil servant as solicitor-general, and the complicity of the Lord Advocate in allowing the steady erosion of judicial independence, was leading to "a lazy tendency to adopt English solutions", that the parliament's consultancy process was "a mockery", and that the reforms being introduced threatened "an unprecedented degree of government control".

To rub in the message, the society heard from Sternford Moyo, former president of the Law Society of Zimbabwe, who had served time in prison for attempting to defend judicial independence under Robert Mugabe, and who warned Scotland might be heading the same way.

Most outsiders might conclude that all this was a trifle over the top, and that lawyers are not necessarily the most objective critics when it comes to defending their own profession. But as the discussion became more detailed, some worrying aspects of the debate began to emerge. Perhaps the most disturbing concerns the competence of the Scottish Parliament's committee system to absorb, consider and refine complex legal reforms without a revising chamber. Both the Justice 1 Committee and the Justice 2 Committee have been involved, over the past few years, in considering reforms, and have heard evidence about serious concerns from lawyers. But thus far the central provisions of the Bill are unchanged.

The law society argues that the new commission, which will have the power to hear complaints against the legal profession, is not independent of government; that it will be a quango controlled by the Executive; that ministers will have the power to appoint and remove its members, and that it poses a direct threat to the rule of law. Those arguments have been ignored.

More damningly, when the society called in one of the UK's top experts on the European Convention of Human Rights to examine whether the Bill was fully compatible, he concluded it was not. Lord Lester of Herne Hill said it infringed Article 6 of the convention because the complaints commission would not be "an independent and impartial tribunal", and there was no external appeal process. This suggests that civil servants who drafted the Bill had simply not taken on board its wider implications.

Most of those speaking at the conference, representing both sides of the profession - solicitors and advocates - conceded that parliament had every right to consider legal reforms. They accepted, too, that there were legitimate concerns about the rights of the public when it came to challenging the competence or performance of lawyers.

But they argued forcibly that the way the Scottish Parliament was handling the matter was inadequate, incompetent and possibly even unconstitutional. Those are harsh charges, but they deserve a serious response. At the heart of this debate lies not just the good name of the Scottish legal system, but the nature of Scottish democracy.

Related topics Magnus Linklater
Legal Issues

Friday, September 08, 2006

Scottish Executive & Parliament bow to threats from legal profession and water down LPLA Bill on complaints against lawyers

Well, it seems, as we all know anyway, an elected Parliament & Government, is no match for the legal profession.

We found this out yesterday when the Scottish Executive announced concessions & watered down plans for the Legal Profession & Legal Aid (Scotland) Bill, this coming after weeks of intense pressure from the legal profession in the form of lobbying, meetings, warnings, an assault of paid experts diatribes against the public, even briefings directly against campaigners, individual clients & cases of complaints, and even a few words of warning in the ears of several msps on their future .... a wee bit of arm twisting then, wouldn't you say ?

Independent handling of complaints ? well ... that has now become "consumers' allegations that the level of service they received fell short, but not to look at allegations of wrongdoing in lawyers' work, which will remain for the Law Society and the courts to handle." - reports the Herald, today.

How can the Law Society of Scotland & the courts be expected to look at allegations of wrongdoing in lawyers work when they have failed to do that since it came into being with the Legal Aid & Solicitors (Scotland) Act 1949 ?

If 57 years isn't enough time to demonstrate they can't maintain standards of professional discipline & regulate complaints against members with any degree of transparency, honesty, or independence, then what chance is there the legal profession will change it's ways now ?

When the Justice 2 Committee finished their stage 1 consideration, they were recommending the SLCC handle service complaints, but the Law Society handle 'conduct' complaints in what was obviously a fierce fight from the Law Society, even including somewhat 'contradictory testimony' to retain jurisdiction over conduct matters.

However, one J2 Committee member abstained from the recommendations, apparently, as he believed (rightly) that conduct issues should also go to the SLCC, after hearing & reading the submissions of complainants no doubt.

The main danger of allowing the Law Society of Scotland to handle any complaints at all, in the wake of it's 57 year reign of terror against clients, is that inevitably, complaints which the legal profession want 'put to bed', will be classed as 'conduct' issues, just to get them into the jurisdiction of the Law Society of Scotland - so that nothing would happen of course.

I have said this many times before publicly, and in my submission to the Justice 2 Committee which you can read at :

And what's all this about the courts being able to look at allegations of wrongdoing in lawyers work ?

One of the main reasons we are here today, after years of campaigning and media coverate, talking about how crooked lawyers are, and how the Law Society of Scotland fiddle complaints .. is that no one ever gets to court to have their claims against crooked & negligent lawyers put to the test ... so there won't be much in the way of court scrutiny of clients complaints, Mr Deputy Justice Minister .. that is simply, rubbish - and you know it - just as anyone else who has had their lives & finances ruined by crooked lawyers knows.

It's been interesting to see who has come out in public support of the Law Society of Scotland in the past few weeks ... and reminds me of something a retired Chief Superintendent of Lothian & Borders Police once told me about 'testimony'.

Whenever a witness comes forward in a case to give evidence, or even, volunteer such testimony, the Police, while taking the statement of course, have to look into the motives of the person for giving that information - whether that information be in support of, or against, the suspect. That's obviously because a person could either be a friend, supporter, accessory to, or grudge bearer against a person who either charged with an offence, or is the subject of an investigation.

Similarly, we have to examine the motives of those who have come forward in the past few weeks & months to support the legal profession, even launching vitriolic attacks against a piece of legislation which aims to give the public more rights in their dealings with the legal profession, and a bit more transparency, honesty, and independence, when it comes to regulating complaints against lawyers.

Well, obviously, the first motive of those supporters of the legal profession, would be - because they are members of the legal profession. That's obvious.

There isn't an army of plumbers or builders or newsagents, or teachers, or priests coming out to speak in favour of the Law Society of Scotland retaining jurisdiction over complaints against lawyers.

You could say - oh yes, well, he's a lawyer, so he would support retaining self regulation - so he and his colleagues will get off the hook when they loot their clients funds, overcharge them for poor services .. etc ... and, you would be, correct.

Of course, not all lawyers are crooked, and some lawyers, would welcome an independent regulator, as we have heard over the past few days. Good luck to them. They should raise their voices a bit more then .. why don't they ?

If lawyers who would welcome independent regulation say it in one forum, why not have a press conference and say - oh well, I'm a lawyer, and I'm jolly well am proud of it, and I just want to say I support independent regulation of our profession, in a proper & correct way, and let's get these poor clients of the past's cases resolved and admit wer were wrong to do what we did to them.

Why don't we hear any of that ? Why the silence ?

Someone afraid of sticking their neck out perhaps? afraid of what the Law Society of Scotland will do to them if they speak ? someone maybe .. nothing but a lot of talk and a wig ? ...

It's the time to speak now, so speak out. Go on, I challenge you to stand by your words ... speak out publicly. If you do, you have my support.

Well, it transpires, I found out another, more sinister motive than that ...this being .. the best person to speak out in defence of an obviously corrupt system, is a person with information you have on them, which they are terrified of being made public .. but I have advice for those so affected, who know who they are ... don't think it won't be used anyway .... because it's already been leaked.

You could call that blackmail I suppose, just for the sake of being clear .. and as we all know, those who appear in the highest positions, have the most to loose ... so there must have been some smug grins over at the Law Society when certain people were reminded of matters which would not arise, if they were to speak in favour of the legal profession ... remember now, I haven't named anyone, YET ..

The debate itself in the Parliament yesterday, seemed a bit stiff, don't you think ?

Given the fact every single msp has had volumous amounts of correspondence from constituents on problems with lawyers, problems with the Law Society of Scotland, Faculty of Advocates, Legal Aid Board ..etc .. and many of them have written representations for their constituents, which they have went on to repeat for other constituents .. I would have expected more ... but the whole thing felt very meek, very similar to the J2 stage 1 Committee hearings, where some 'seemed' unusually ignorant on matters they knew full well be when it came to asking questions of witnesses, or even understanding what was put to them.

Members of the Scottish Parliament -

Putting on a blank face, when one has witnessed or been told of an injustice, or a crime, isn't a very honest thing to do I think.. but it seems some of you in Holyrood think that wearing the blinkers on such issues suits your conscience & pockets good enough .. that isn't what you were elected to do.

To sit by and watch someone being abused, while doing nothing about it, makes you just as guilty as the abuser - and make no mistake about it - the Law Society of Scotland have been abusing the public for decades - while politicians up and down the length of the UK have stood by and done .. not very much .. in fact .. nothing really.

There is much work to do and much campaigning ahead of us, if the LPLA Bill is to remain a safeguard to consumers as it was designed to be in the first place.

I call on everyone to do there best on this matter to make our politicians understand there needs to be fully independent regulation of lawyers in Scotland - and that the sins of the legal profession from past cases, must be put right.

Read on for the links to today's articles, from The Herald and The Scotsman, links to follow :

Ministers give way to warnings over legal complaints watchdog
DOUGLAS FRASER, Scottish Political Editor September 08 2006

The Scottish Executive yesterday gave way to warnings its new legal complaints system would undermine the independence of the profession, after facing vociferous attacks from leading lawyers.

Plans for ministers to have wide powers over the proposed independent commission for legal complaints are to be watered down, as the bill makes its way through the committee stage at Holyrood.

Ministers also announced there will be more publicly employed solicitors to provide support to people in rural areas who find it hard to find legal advice and representation in the civil courts.

Hugh Henry, Deputy Justice Minister, hinted strongly yesterday that the growing crisis in access to criminal law advice may require an expansion of the Public Defenders Office, in which salaried government lawyers act on behalf of individuals being charged with criminal offences, instead of private solicitors.

SNP justice spokesman Kenny MacAskill said by not addressing the problem there was a risk of "sleepwalking to disaster" and waking up to find many Scots had lost access to justice.

Leading lawyers have attacked the proposed complaints commission for the planned ministerial powers to appoint and dismiss its members and to direct it, saying it represented a major threat to the independence of the profession and the rule of law.

Lord McCluskey, a former Labour solicitor-general, this week described the proposals as "ill-considered, badly evidenced, misconceived, cavalier and arrogant".

Yesterday saw the first stage debate at Holyrood for the Legal Profession and Legal Aid (Scotland) Bill, at which Mr Henry told MSPs of the new concessions on the complaints machinery.

This is only to affect consumers' allegations that the level of service they received fell short, but not to look at allegations of wrongdoing in lawyers' work, which will remain for the Law Society and the courts to handle.

Mr Henry said that 300 amendments are to be brought forward, and they will include changes to remove ministers' power to instruct the new commission on what it does.

The law is also to create a role for the Lord President, Scotland's top judge, in the removal of members of the commission.

However, it is not yet clear what the role will be. It was stressed that the public appointments commissioner will be involved in the appointing process as a protection against political interference.

Ministers are also to provide security of tenure for members of the commission,with fixed terms of at least four years. A provision is to be withdrawn which would have let let the commission delegate its decision-making to others.

Another change affects the planned levy on lawyers, charged for each complaint that is made. It was planned that the charge would be forfeited, whatever the result. It will now be repaid if the complaint is not upheld.

There is cross-party backing for the principles of the bill, with MSPs saying the legal profession's control of their own complaints system was not appropriate to modern consumer expectations and public perception.

The Law Society of Scotland welcomed the amendments. Ruthven Gemmell, its president, said there was support for an independent complaints body, though it has concerns about the workability of the bill.

"The number of amendments means that the executive has realised there is work to be done on the bill to get it right," he said.

and the Scotsman version - where you can leave comments, of course ...

Ministers act to preserve legal complaints system from interference

MINISTERS have announced a series of concessions over a shake-up of the way complaints against lawyers are handled.

It comes amid fears that the independence of the legal system could be under threat.

The Law Society of Scotland and the Faculty of Advocates had both voiced concerns that the proposed Scottish Legal Complaints Commission will, in effect, be controlled by ministers.

But the deputy justice minister, Hugh Henry, announced in parliament yesterday that the Executive will bring forward a series of amendments to underline the new body's independence from ministers.

These will see the removal of ministers' power of general direction in relation to the commission, as well creating a role for the Lord President in removal of members of the commission.

Formal determinations of complaints will only be made by commission board members and members will serve a fixed term of four to six years, giving them security of tenure.

Mr Henry said: "With a non-lawyer majority on its board, consumer interests will be well represented.

"The appointments will be made by Scottish ministers and the appointments process will be subject to oversight by the Scottish Commissioner for Public Appointments. This will ensure appointment on merit."

The new commission will take over the role of the Scottish Legal Services Ombudsman in overseeing the way professional bodies conduct complaints and will have enforcement powers.

Professional bodies will retain responsibility for discipline and will handle complaints.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Scottish legal profession campaigns against open debate in Scottish Parliament on independent regulation of complaints against lawyers.

Just what is it, the Scottish legal profession fears so much about losing control of complaints against their members ?

Has the level of control freakery reached such a fever pitch over at the Law Society of Scotland, they must even talk of 'opening their wrists & lying in a warm bath' (as Law Society Chief Executive Douglas Mill laughably said in the Scotsman on 15 August) rather than letting control of complaints against colleagues go to a new independent body proposed in the forthcoming LPLA Bill ?

Is it such a bad thing to give the public such rights & expectations as transparency, honesty, and accountability in their dealings with lawyers ?

The latest twist in the legal profession's spin machine tactics against the prospect of independent regulation appears in today's Scotsman, with now, the appearance of Lord McCluskey, being reported by the Scotsman newspaper in the following terms: "Lord McCluskey said there had been a lack of serious consultation over the plans and politicians had yet to "grasp the essence of what it is all about".

Well, Lord McCluskey, it's nice to see your comments on this issue, but do you remember when I, Peter Cherbi, from Jedburgh, wrote to you at the Court of Session in October 1994, over what Borders Solicitor Andrew Penman of Stormonth Darling Solciitors, Kelso, did to my family, plundering my dead father's assets for his own benefit.. and that the Law Society was sitting around doing nothing ?

I remember, because I have the letter - and I have your short, if to the point, response - which, was, admittedly, all you could have said at the time.

I would argue, your Lordship, with respect, that it is not the Executive or the Parliament who have yet to grasp the essence of what it is all about ... it is the legal profession - your colleagues, who have yet to grasp the basic concepts of honesty, transparency, and accountability to us, their clients.

What is it that your colleagues over at the Law Society of Scotland, the Faculty of Advocates, or even, the serving members of the Judiciary, fear, about independent regulation ?

I don't think it is anything to do with so called fears of political interference ... it is all to do with losing control over one of the most important aspects of how one conducts business.

If that business has become reliant on ripping off clients for unjustified fees, keeping client complaints down, embezzling clients funds, taking posession of clients properties for personal gain, ruining lives, livelihoods, and businesses of clients, making sure that compensation payments are never made, or delayed for decades .. then, it is certainly time to lose control of it.

Lord McCluskey, could you condone a complaints system which sees thousands of complaints made a year against solicitors, with many not even being cagegorised as complaints, just to keep the statistics down ? or cases against crooked solicitors and financial claims for damages running for up to 22 years in one case quoted to the Scottish Parliament's Justice 2 Committee .., just because the Law Society of Scotland has a policy of undermining client complaints from the very start ? Is that good, or bad ? I think bad .. but you are welcome to differ ...

How do you feel, your Lordship, about a firm of lawyers filing false reports with the Benefits Agency, Inland Revenue, and Police, against a client & their family in order to intimidate them into withdrawing their complaints to the Law Society ? Maybe even that same firm intervening to find out a client's medical history & records, to use against them, again to intimidate them into withdrawing complaints against quite obviously crooked lawyers ?

If this happened to you, Lord McCluskey, I'm sure you would have something to say about it ... well, it happened to me, and it happened to many others .. so, if you want to gain more experience of the effects of your colleagues actions against their clients, clients whose lives, livelihoods, businesses, personal health & wealth, and even their families, have been totally ruined, then I would suggest, respectively, you make visits to these people. Want some names ?

Reading the Scotsman article further, I am honestly amazed at the former Zimbabwe Law Society President Mr Sternford Moyo's pro-Law Society of Scotland comments, given the experiences of people I know who have suffered at the hands of lawyers and the Law Society of Scotland.

Is the Law Society of Scotland so desperate to maintain control over it's crooked membership, it is willing to compare the loss of regulating the complaints process to the suffering of the people of Zimbabwe under Robert Mugabe ?

Surely, that is an affront to the suffering of a nation's peoples under it's present 'Government', an affront to the very fundamentals of Human Rights itself... or does such a comparison promoted by the Law Society of Scotland and it's allies really show the extent of the Scottish legal profession's attempt at dictatorship itself - in trying to thwart a debate in an elected Parliament on the subject of it's workings ?

Mr Moyo, with all respect to your position, I have news for you - the legal profession in Scotland is run just as badly by it's leaders, as Zimbabwe is run by Robert Mugabe - and there are plenty within the ranks of the Law Society of Scotland, who feel just as intimidated by Douglas Mill & his colleagues, as you were in your position as President of the Law Society of Zinbabwe by Robert Mugabe.

It's odd, but I've had this same conversation with some lawyers here in Scotland, at one of the regional Bar Associations, who have compared the Law Society's bosses with Mr Mugabe himself .. you know .. giving Ministers expensive cars to keep their support, intimidating the opposition (and clients) to maintain power ... printing money to dig their way out of hyperinflation (sort of like the Law Society dishing out accreditation awards to those who might threaten it).

A good comparison, don't you think ?

Getting back to the debate later today at the Scottish Parliament, I hope the party whips and Parliamentary staff haven't been doing too much in the way of interference with msps in what they are going to say in the debate.

After all - remember, people, I have seen the levels of correspondence which msps receive from their constituents each year on problems with lawyers, the Law Society of Scotland, Faculty of Advocates, the Crown Office, etc ... and even copies of all the representations msps have written on behalf of their constituents to, the Law Society of Scotland, the Faculty of Advocates, the Scottish Executivce, the Crown Office, etc ... so, not one msp can deny they haven't been involved in this matter previously.

I often wondered though, as I perused the volumes of correspondence between MSPs & MPs to the Scottish Executive (and it's various earlier forms) on the subject of constituents difficulties with complaints against lawyers and how the Law Society of Scotland had treated clients ... just why all those representations for all those different constituents, seemed to be .. well .. similar .. none of them really mentioning something like .. "What on earth is going on with the Law Society as I have 53 constituents now writing to me on the same thing and I hear my colleagues have similar or higher levels of cases" ..

A bit strange really ... but you know .. to me, well, I'm just a lay person you know, just an ordinary guy really .. but if people wrote to me as their elected representative, on an issue .. and well, there were many more letters from people on the same type of issue, I would put 2 & 2 together, to make 4, write a stinker of a letter and say - "I have 43 people writing to me on the same matter .. get something done about this, while I offer all of them the chance to contact ach other to compare their cases while I draw up a proposal for legislation" .. but as we know .. no one wants that, do they ... people talking to each other comparing similar problems with lawyers so something could be done about it .. that's why it's taken 16 years plus for some people to get something done ...

Peter Cherbi's message to the Scottish Parliament :

Please do something today for the people of Scotland - your constituents, and don't be intimidated by the selfish Scottish legal profession, no matter what dirty tricks they pull out of their hats against the LPLA Bill.

Give the public the right to expect transparency, honesty, and accountability in their dealings with the legal profession, and vote for progress in the LPLA Bill - but be careful of attempts at crooked amendments such as those proposed by ICAS - which are definitely against the spirit of independent regulation in the LPLA Bill as it stands.

Read on for the article from today's Scotsman, link at :

Former judges join call to reject legal reforms


SENIOR figures from Scotland's legal profession yesterday mounted an unprecedented attack on ministerial plans to overhaul the way complaints against lawyers are handled, branding them a threat to the independence of the law and an attack on democracy itself.

Former judges joined the leaders of the Law Society of Scotland and the Faculty of Advocates in an effort to persuade MSPs to reject some of the proposals.

The Scottish Parliament will today debate the Legal Profession and Legal Aid Bill, which proposes to strip the Law Society of the authority to deal with "service" complaints against solicitors, creating a new Scottish Legal Complaints Commission whose members would be appointed by ministers.

The idea of ministerial appointment was savaged by a series of high-profile legal figures at the Balancing the Scales of Justice debate in Edinburgh yesterday.

Among those who spoke out were the former High Court judge Lord McCluskey; Sir David Edward, ex-European Court of Justice judge; advocate and former MSP Duncan Hamilton; and Roy Martin, QC, dean of the faculty of advocates.

They were joined by Sternford Moyo, a former president of the Law Society of Zimbabwe, who was arrested by Robert Mugabe's regime and accused of "subversive" activities. He said a new legal complaints quango controlled by ministers threatened to undermine the democratic principle of legal and judicial independence, providing legitimacy to dictators who sought to control the rule of law.

Mr Moyo said the legal profession ensured "good governance, accountability, observance of human rights and prevention of abuse of power", which demanded it "be free from any control by the Executive". He added that undemocratic regimes would look to learn lessons from legal reforms in Scotland and elsewhere.
Lord McCluskey said there had been a lack of serious consultation over the plans and politicians had yet to "grasp the essence of what it is all about". Duncan Hamilton added: "The legal profession is driven by the public interest but the Executive does not accept that."

But Hugh Henry, the deputy justice minister, insisted the body would safeguard the interests of clients. He added: "We are absolutely committed to the principle of a fully independent legal profession. We also want to see a legal profession which is properly regulated. Consumers need to be assured their complaints will be handled impartially and efficiently."

and the Herald version - probably better, since it exposes the fact that the event which Lord McCluskey was speaking at, was actually timed to put pressure on the msps in the debate on the LPLA legislation in the Parliament today, link from the Herald at :

Lawyers condemn reform
DOUGLAS FRASER, Scottish Political Editor September 07 2006

The legal profession yesterday stepped up its onslaught against Scottish Executive plans to impose a complaints system on solicitors and reform the judiciary.

Some of the most respected figures in the legal establishment lined up to attack executive policy as a threat to the independence of Scots lawyers and judges.

A Law Society of Scotland event, timed yesterday to put pressure on MSPs ahead of a crucial vote on the issue today at Holyrood, featured a warning from one of Zimbabwe's top lawyers about the risks of letting the state interfere in the profession.

Sternford Moyo, former president of the country's law society who was arrested and intimidated by Robert Mugabe's regime and had his firm's offices raided, said the legislation would set an example on undermining lawyers' independence that would be welcomed by dictators in developing nations such as Mugabe's.

The theme was picked up by Lord McCluskey, a former Labour solicitor-general, who attacked the executive for "rushing into ill-considered, badly-evidenced, misconceived legislation…bringing the judiciary and the legal profession under an unprecedented degree of government control". He added: "The rule of law should not be treated in this cavalier and arrogant fashion."

Growing tensions between the profession and the executive were also stepped up with the release of figures yesterday that showed the large gap between legal aid payments for individuals and the amount the executive is willing to pay lawyers to do its own work.

The highest hourly rate for legal aid, paid to the best qualified solicitor, is £76, exactly the same as the lowest rate paid to a para-legal or trainee for carrying out work for ministers. The top rate for executive work is £180 per hour, and the bottom rate for legal aid goes as low as £21.

The profession complains that the legal aid system, also being reformed, has fallen so far behind that it is leaving "advice deserts" for individuals in need of legal help, where law firms refuse to take on work, particularly on civil cases.

Kenny MacAskill, the SNP's justice spokesman, secured the figures in a question to ministers, and said they showed there was "a two-tier justice system" for ministers and for poorer individuals.

The main thrust of the profession's complaints against current executive policy is that the new complaints commission will be controlled by ministers. They can appoint and dismiss members, while the bill would allow them to instruct the commission and set its funding.

A separate proposal is to unify the judicial system, putting the Lord President in charge of all High Court judges, sheriffs, and justices. A civil service department is to help him, but lawyers believe that will link the system too closely to government.

Yesterday's debate turned into more of a rally as lawyers expressed their exasperation that they had not been listened to. All MSPs and law officers were invited, but only two opposition MSPs turned up.

There were calls for an upper house at Holyrood to balance the parliament when committees fail to scrutinise issues adequately, and there was a clash with the head of the Scottish Consumer Council, who said claims of threatening legal in-dependence were exaggerated.

Professor Sir John Edward, a former judge in the European Court of Justice, said there was extreme concern and dismay about the judicial reform plans, and accused ministers of inappropriate and "slavish imitation" of English reform.

Lord McCluskey warned that the Lord Advocate, Lord Boyd, has lost his independence by sitting in the Scottish cabinet.