Thursday, March 29, 2007

Scottish Executive drops FOI disclosure battle over restrictive access to Courts while thousands go without representation

The Scottish Executive have decided not to take the Bill Alexander FOI disclosure battle to the House of Lords, so, unless a few documents are going to go missing (which many suspect) .. we should get some good indications soon as to the strength of the legal profession's lobbying and all those political maneuvers which kept those parts of the Law Reform (Misc Provisions) Act 1990 inactive, which would have opened the highly restrictive markets of legal & courtroom representation to the public - and perhaps avoided many of the problems our Scottish legal system faces today.

You can read more on my coverage of the Alexander FOI disclosure battle here :
Scottish Executive fails to block FOI disclosure on records of restricted access to Courts

Scottish Executive thought to be blameworthy for allowing restrictive practices in legal services

Many of the current problems of lack of legal representation in Scotland may not have actually existed, if access to the courts had been opened up years ago, as were intended in the Law Reform Misc Provisions Act 1990 - but for the fact of course, the legal profession saw the writing on the wall for their way of life - where certainly much of their work & income at the time came from legal aid.

Currently, if you want to get into Court, you have to use a lawyer or an advocate, and if you want to use an advocate, you have to use a lawyer - despite claims to the contrary where the Faculty protests that advocates will work direct for clients.

This was to have been broken with sections in the Law Reform Misc Provisions Act 1990, which, if implemented as they should have been at the time - the public would have had a wider choice as to whom they could choose to represent their affairs.

Sadly, this never happened, due to powerful lobbying from the legal profession which kept these much needed reforms off the books - all because of money - just in the same way the legal profession have lobbied to keep the small claims amount at a few hundred pounds in Scotland - so that for anything else, you will of course, need the services of a lawyer. Good for them, but not good for us.

Anyway, watch this space, and watch the newspapers soon for the revelations which may or may not come out in the Freedom of Information disclosure on the Bill Alexander request .. .which will depend on how honest some people at the Scottish Executive are feeling in terms of which documents are actually released ...

Not to be outdone by the imminent release of such documents which may or may not portray the legal profession & the Law Society of Scotland as a bunch of political manipulators, the traditional way out of the media spotlight on such issues, is to come up with a few distractions - and we have had a few of those this week ...

One of these now long running distractions, is the battle over legal aid payments between the so-called 'family law' lawyers, and the Scottish Executive over who gets paid what & how much from the Legal Aid budget.

While the issue is publicly portrayed by the Scottish legal profession as being a dispute solely between those 'family law' lawyers who make their bread & butter from legal aid, and the Executive - in reality, the strings of the major players in this battle are being pulled by those at the Law Society of Scotland's HQ in Drumsheugh Gardens.

Helen Hughes, the Chair of the Family Law Association, is the latest of many from the legal profession to join the fray over who gets what from the legal aid budget - blaming the Executive for the alleged failure of the 'Block Fees" system of legal aid payments and taking the easy way out .... but the reality of the situation is that it's the lawyers who are causing what are now called 'legal aid deserts', as the Herald newspaper reports quoting Helen Hughes :

"Hughes, a partner in Paisley-based law firm McAuley McCarthy & Co, said: "It is, today, impossible for private individuals to find a lawyer prepared to take on interdicts on a Legal Aid basis in the Highlands and Islands, Dumfries and Galloway, the Borders, Edinburgh, Glasgow and East Kilbride. My firm is getting numerous calls each day from would-be clients in these regions pleading for representation."

Yes .. well, of course, the problem with all this is that the legal profession has been used to getting it's way for so long, it got used to charging what it wanted for work, getting the money from the legal aid budget and hence we have this situation today where long overdue limits on the milking of taxpayers money have been turned against the public by the legal profession, in the form of denying legal representation to those who most need it - in order to get more money. Some, would call that blackmail.

I'm sure the legal profession think their tactics are doing them a lot of good in their fight to get more money - after all, everyone at some time or another, needs legal representation - but this battle over legal aid, with all the dirty tricks, sleazy meetings with political allies & spin from the legal profession itself, just makes the argument greater for fully independent regulation of all legal professionals, and the immediate implementation of sections of the Law Reform (Misc Provisions) Act 1990, to open up access to the courts in terms of who can represent clients - currently restricted to lawyers & advocates due to some 17 years worth of lobbying from the legal profession to keep it that way.

Maybe the family lawyers should choose a new representative in their quest to gain more legal aid. How about Donald Findlay QC ? After all, he is Scotland's top legal aid earner - and who better for the Law Society of Scotland to head such a campaign to get even more money out of the taxpayer for lawyers pockets ...

Some may speculate, the apparent problems of the Law Society and the publicity drive to portray lawyers as overworked and poor .. may well be linked in the battle over legal aid ....

Here is the article from the Herald, and a couple of others I failed to mention recently - one amazingly reporting that the Law Society of Scotland is virtually broke - probably an indication of the price of keeping all those crooked lawyers away from clients they ruined - and perhaps even the rather costly battle over the LPLA Bill .. with all those favours & bungs flowing like a river I hear ...

Jamieson urged to turn clock back and abolish ‘block fees’
IAN FRASER March 25 2007

Family law in Scotland is under threat, says Helen Hughes, chair of the Family Law Association.

She lays the cause of the crisis firmly at the door of the Scottish Executive's "block fee" payment system for civil legal aid work.

Since the itemised fee system was scrapped in 2003, solicitors have been earning less for civil legal aid work than they did before 1992, and families at the lower end of the social scale are finding it nearly impossible to find legal representation across a range of major family issues from child custody to divorce settlements.

Hughes has written a highly- critical letter to Justice Minister Cathy Jamieson urging her to turn the clock back and scrap the "block fee" regime.

In her letter, Hughes said: "Many ordinary Scottish people are finding that they are unable to instruct a solicitor to deal with their separation/ divorce or child care issue on a legal aid basis.

"To enable the people of Scotland to access the rights available to them by law we need a Legal Aid system which provides sufficient remuneration for solicitors. The block fee system does not provide such remuneration."

According to Hughes, the block payment system, introduced in October 2003, has made law firms increasingly reluctant to take on civil family law cases and interdicts on a Legal Aid basis. As a result, victims of domestic violence are finding it virtually impossible to persuade a solicitor to represent them. And in recent months large tracts of Scotland have become virtual legal deserts.

Hughes, a partner in Paisley-based law firm McAuley McCarthy & Co, said: "It is, today, impossible for private individuals to find a lawyer prepared to take on interdicts on a Legal Aid basis in the Highlands and Islands, Dumfries and Galloway, the Borders, Edinburgh, Glasgow and East Kilbride. My firm is getting numerous calls each day from would-be clients in these regions pleading for representation.

The situation has become so acute that SLAB - the Scottish Legal Aid Board - is to finance its own directly employed network of solicitors in Legal Aid offices in the worst-hit areas. The first of these is expected to open in Inverness this autumn. A SLAB spokesman said it is being introduced as a "safety net."

According to Hughes, "block fees" take no account of the fact that many family law cases are what she describes as "high maintenance". She said: "Most such cases are complicated factually and often involve complex legal argument. In addition, we're often dealing with people who are highly stressed, who require not only legal advice but additional guidance when their marriage or relationship ends. When such cases also involve domestic abuse and child-related issues, the time spent on a particular file rises immensely. The issue is one of access to justice."

Hughes said, if the current regime is allowed to persist, "not only will the people of Scotland find it increasingly difficult to obtain a solicitor on a legal aid basis but those that do will increasingly find that their cases are dealt with by less experienced solicitors, which will undoubtedly have an impact in the way cases are presented to the court and in the long term adversely effect the development of family law in Scotland. Not to mention the impact on the lives of clients.

"The Executive deserves to be congratulated on their efforts in developing family law through legislation such as the Protection from Abuse act and the Family Law act.

"But if the people of Scotland are unable to find a solicitor to undertake their case on a legal aid basis one has to ask the question, "What was the point of introducing such legislation?"

A motion was unanimously carried at the Law Society of Scotland's annual meeting in early March urging the Executive to review the rates of Legal Aid.

A spokesman for the Executive said: "We have been aware of concerns expressed by the Family Law Association in respect of fees for civil legal aid Following a recent report into civil cases by SLAB, ministers have announced that civil legal aid fees and eligibility levels will be reviewed."

"The Executive needs to ensure public funds are used to their full potential and although it can encourage, it cannot compel private sector firms to provide legally aided services.

"A number of steps are being taken to ensure that there is a nationwide supply of legal aid services to provide access to justice for individuals."

.. and now, the rather embarrasing story that the Law Society of Scotland is short of money ... or, is it ?

Wage bill pushes Law Society into the red
PAUL ROGERSON, City Editor March 13 2007

The Law Society of Scotland slipped more than £500,000 into the red last year and has revised its budgetary plans in a bid to restore depleted cash reserves.

A steep hike in the Edinburgh-based body's wage bill was largely to blame for the loss.

In its annual report, the governing body for Scotland's 10,000 solicitors reported a deficit of £537,000 for the year to October 31. Income climbed £365,000 to just over £6m, mainly as a consequence of increased subscriptions. However, spending soared by £762,000 to £6.6m, after salary costs rose by £495,000 to more than £3.7m.

This increase came despite a slight fall in total full-time equivalents from 121 to 116. It includes some £88,000 in severance payments. Accounting rule changes also triggered a sharp rise in the costs of servicing staff pension plans.

Society treasurer Jamie Millar stressed in the report that although the balance sheet shows a cash surplus of £581,000, this is only because higher subs relating to the next financial year were banked early. He added: "If the advance income had been received (after the year end) there would have been a cash deficit of £851,000 at October 31. This deficit is hidden in the accounts due to the cash deficit worsens the bank overdraft is being utilised earlier and for longer each year."

Millar told The Herald: "The Society has stringent budgetary policies and procedures in place to manage our overheads and expenditures and is presently reviewing our strategic direction. We are planning further changes to improve our effectiveness."

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Dean of Faculty attacks legal aid & regulatory reforms as a threat to lawyers independence as prospect of political meddling by legal profession looms

Politics is alive & well in the legal profession it seems, with Roy Martin QC, the Dean of Faculty, using a recent admissions ceremony for new solicitors entering the Scottish legal profession, to attack the reforms of independent regulation brought forward in the Legal Profession & Legal Aid (Scotland) Bill, as well as having a rant at the drying up of the legal aid river of money flowing into his colleagues pockets.

Mr Martin, QC, is, of course,quite upset that the traditional practice of lawyer covering up for lawyer, has been thrown on it's head by the recently passed but long over due LPLA Bill, given that around 5000 plus complaints a year are made against solicitors in Scotland by clients on everything from embezzlement to fraud to theft of property, negligence, inflated accounts, falsified work, and just about every other crooked practice one could think of.

Unlike Mr Martin and his colleagues, those who don't have the convenience of professional self regulation' would normally be facing criminal charges and jail sentences on many of those complaints made by clients to the Law Society & Faculty of Advocates, but the convenience of self regulation by the Faculty & Law Society has certainly been successful over the years in protecting the many crooked lawyers in the profession from justice, while also making sure the client who has lost out at the hands of their legal representatives, gets little or no compensation .

The right to sit in judgement on one's colleagues & friends, to make sure they only get a slap on the wrist when caught with their hands in the till, is of course, why Mr Martin & his colleagues in the legal profession have for so long, fought tooth & nail to protect their self given right of self regulation - which the legal profession sought & gained from governments long ago.

We all saw, in the following examples of previous articles, how the legal profession & it's 'leading lights' attacked the proposed LPLA Bill, to make dealing with legal agents much fairer for the consumer, and we also saw how the Chief Executive of the Law Society, Douglas Mill, went one step further & threatened our Scottish Parliament with a Court challenge should the LPLA Bill not be amended to it's liking (although Mill actually preferred the legislation be killed off completely).

Law Society of Scotland threatens Court challenge against Scottish Executive over LPLA legal reform Bill

Law Society of Scotland & Lord Lester QC challenge new legislation to protect Scottish public against crooked lawyers

Scotsman responds to Peter Cherbi and the Herald with a living eulogy of Douglas Mill

Law Society of Scotland claims success in gagging the press over Herald newspaper revelations of secret case memos

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

Who is a greater threat to the Parliament in that one then ? the public, or the legal profession ? ... seems the lawyers can even get away with threatening court action against our elected representatives, while any such attempt by a member of the public is laughed off ...because of course, the public would never be able to secure legal representation to actually take on such a case against the Parliament & win ...

However, Roy Martin's blast at the LPLA Bill may be more than just the rant of an upset lawyer because he didn't get his way ...

I understand several on-the-side meetings have been held between some members of the legal profession and some of Scotland's Political parties, with ideas being raised regarding limitation of the implementation of the LPLA Bill and scaling back of some of it's provisions - in exchange for possible donations & political support .. and no doubt some favours down the road .. such as those sticky secret mortgages on the side which quite a few ministers of the current Scottish Executive enjoy, paid for by us, the taxpayer, through their Parliamentary expenses allowances.

Two Scottish Executive Ministers revealed to be charging mortgage interest payments to the public

Scottish Labour Politician rents his own son's flat for £7000 a year, charging it up to taxpayers

I wonder if the major political parties involved in the Holyrood elections may wish to comment on that one ?

Could this be a fundamental shifting of the power base perhaps in Scottish politics, where the legal establishment might just be setting out to make sure it's favored candidates get in after the elections, and that indeed ... all those promises contained in the LPLA Bill of independent regulation for lawyers & higher compensation payments to ruined clients, might just go the way of those provisions in the Law Reform (Misc Provisions) Bill 1990, which were to open up the rights of Courtroom representation to the client and break the monopoly of solicitors & advocates - who are still the only authorised representatives of the public in our courts.

Scottish Executive thought to be blameworthy for allowing restrictive practices in legal services

Scottish Executive fails to block FOI disclosure on records of restricted access to Courts

We therefore have an example of that already in the above case ... so, no one can say it hasn't happened before ...

In an interesting development though, Roy Martin's tenure as Dean of Faculty proves yet again that nothing changes ... with only just last week, a complaints hearing against one of Scotland's most famous Advocates rigged so that the client wouldn't be able to attend ... certainly a sad indictment of regulatory practices as they stand .. and yet again more evidence, if required these people need to be left to educate their colleagues in the ways of honesty, transparency & competency, while someone else, outside the legal profession, handles the regulatory side of things.

A reminder to you all ... If you have experienced poor treatment from the Law Society of Scotland in a complaint or lost money to a crooked lawyer and nothing was done about it, Please sign Petition PE1033 and begin the campaign for redress and resolution to the way clients have been discriminated against by crooked lawyers & the Law Society of Scotland under their decades old prejudiced self regulatory complaints system.

Related article from the Herald newspaper with link :

Lawyers’ independence 'undermined by politicians'
DAVID LEASK March 19 2007

Scotland's top advocate has accused politicians of undermining the independence of his profession.

Roy Martin, QC, the dean of the Faculty of Advocates, warned of a creeping threat to lawyer's freedoms - just as they are needed most.

Mr Martin, in a hard-hitting message to Scotland's latest crop of young lawyers, fired a broadside against new regulation and legal aid funding problems eroding their time-honoured and cherished independence from the state.

He told an admission ceremony for newly-qualified solicitors at Edinburgh's Parliament House: "There is a danger that interests which do not properly recognise the importance in a civilised society of an independent legal profession are taking steps which have already undermined, and will continue to undermine, that independence. In a society where the individual citizen is increasingly subject to regulation and control by the state, what the lawyer does is unique because it is he or she who has the responsibility of standing between the citizen and the state in all its guises - and it is essential that the lawyer can do so, and be seen to do so, independently."

Mr Martin's speech, said to be the most controversial delivered at the event in a generation, summed up simmering discontent on what some lawyers see as interference from Holyrood, Westminster, and even Brussels.

The dean has already joined with other senior law figures in warning of what they see as a threat to the independence of the justiciary and attacking the executive's Scottish Legal Complaints Commission which, widely welcomed by lay people, will effectively end centuries of self-regulation.

However, a spokesman for the Scottish Executive last night dismissed any suggestion recent reforms would do anything to take away lawyers' freedoms.

He said: "The last four years have been a time of unprecedented reform in the justice system.

"New laws and procedures have laid the platform for a more efficient, more effective justice system that treats victims, witnesses and consumers with increasing care and respect."

Friday, March 16, 2007

Scotland's lawyers face being held to account under Freedom of Information Act after decades of secrecy & corruption

One of the key weapons employed by the Law Society of Scotland - and crooked lawyers, for that .. against, clients who complain when they find out their lawyer has gone bad .. is the management of information relating to that complaint, and the offences committed by the accused lawyer.

That might just be coming to an end though, with the results of a review on FOI now made public .. which will see "a host of organisations, including independent schools, charities and even the Faculty of Advocates " brought under the auspices of the Freedom of Information Act - reports the Scotsman.

I'm quite happy about this, of course .. and although the report in today's Scotsman only mentions the Faculty of Advocates, I had written to the Justice Minister in December 2006, asking for the FOI exemption of the Law Society of Scotland to be removed. I covered this here : Law Society of Scotland & Freedom Of Information - End the Exemption Now.

Here is the response I received from the Justice Department :

Scottish Executive response to Peter Cherbi on Law Society FOI Exemption removal Page 1 Scottish Executive response to Peter Cherbi on Law Society FOI Exemption removal Page 2

To quote the letter from the Justice Department on the issue of bringing the Law Society of Scotland under the compliance of Freedom of Information legislation :

"Under sections 4 and 5 of the Act, however, Ministers can bring other bodies within the scope of the legislation. Section 4 provides for a body which is part of the Scottish Administration, or a Scottish public authority, to be added to Schedule 1. Section 5 provides for bodies which are not part of the Scottish Administration or a Scottish public authority, to be designated as a Scottish public authority on the basis that they either exercise functions of a public nature or are providing a service under contract to a public authority. Any considerations about bringing the Law Society within the scope of the Act would require to fall within the terms of section 5, as described above. "

Quite clearly, in the public interest, and given the scope of the recently passed Legal Profession & Legal Aid (Scotland) Bill, it would be wise to bring the Law Society of Scotland within the scope of Freedom of Information - as a further precaution against the legal profession being able to conduct the extensive fiddles of client complaints which lawyers, notoriously, have done for decades, to save their corrupt colleagues from punishment, hinder investigations into complaints, or stall proper compensation to ruined clients.

You can help on this issue of course, by emailing the Scottish Executive Justice Department to ensure the legal profession are brought into line with Freedom of Information.

Email the Justice Minister on removing the Law Society of Scotland's exemption from Freedom of Information. .

Forcing the legal profession to comply with FOI, would certainly assist clients of solicitors - whether they have occasion to complain against their lawyer or not .. as Freedom of Information would help clients keep a better track of what their lawyer is actually doing for them .. and how the lawyer's professional body is regulating them ... rather than the lawyer & the Law Society writing the rules or getting round them, when things go wrong ...

For an example of how the legal profession have used the weapon of information denial against the public, have a look at these two earlier articles I did on how the legal profession lobbied Government to withhold certain parts of legislation which would have opened up the rights of legal representation market to Court users, revealed in an FOI disclosure request from Bill Alexander :

Scottish Executive thought to be blameworthy for allowing restrictive practices in legal services & also see Scottish Executive fails to block FOI disclosure on records of restricted access to Courts

Information .. and the withholding of it, has been one of the prime tactics, and advantages of the legal profession in maintaining the silence and lack of general understanding of just how corrupt the legal profession has been in Scotland .. and who could expect anything else, when there are rules in the Law Society handbook which allow them to vary the rules when they so choose ... what kind of regulation is that ? Prejudiced & corrupt regulation .. that's what that is ... as many of us have experienced.

You can see an example from the Scotsman newspaper, of how information was manipulated in my complaint against Scotland's most famous crooked lawyer - Andrew Penman here :

Scotsman 2 March 1998 Jury still out on law in the dock - Revelations on Andrew Penman & James Ness

Mr Penman's representative at the Committee, Mr James Ness, really went to town on me - just as he and his colleagues do on all those clients who dare complain against their solicitor - telling as many lies as possible, faking up the evidence, and making sure, as Ness did - that Penman and all those other crooked lawyers who go before Complaints Committees get off the hook with their frauds & scams, embezzlements, theft of clients properties, and raiding of dead clients wills ... and James Ness is the Chairman of "Law Care" - the organisation which gives "stressed out" excuses to crooked lawyers so they can get off the hook from just about anything !

So .. making the legal profession comply with Freedom of Information would be a good thing - and since we are about to have independent regulation of lawyers courtesy of the LPLA Bill, why not also give the public the right to know what their lawyers are up to and how they are regulated .. just to make sure things are really transparent.

No hiding place as plans to extend Freedom of Information unveiled

A HOST of organisations, including independent schools, charities and even the Faculty of Advocates could be forced to conform to the rules of the Freedom of Information Act, it emerged yesterday.

The Scottish Executive intends to contact hundreds of organisations currently exempt from the FoI regime, and then decide whether to bring them under the provisions of the act.

Margaret Curran, the minister for parliament, announced the findings of a review into the Freedom of Information Act yesterday. She said she would look closely at the fee structure but stressed she saw no need to introduce the sort of restrictions being considered by the government at Westminster.

Lord Falconer, the Lord Chancellor, wants a new charging regime for England, which would include the time spent by ministers and officials deciding whether to release the information requested as well as the cost of collating the information.

This could effectively give every official the go-ahead to delay and refuse any request that might prove embarrassing.

Lord Falconer also wants the cost cap of £600 - at which FoI requests can be rejected if they cost more than this to collate - to apply across all requests made by one individual or organisation in a particular period of time.

Ms Curran said she did not want to take this route, but would look at the detail of the fees regime before making a final decision.

Ms Curran did, however, announce that she would examine whether organisations currently exempt from the act might be forced to conform.

There has been controversy over the decision by Glasgow City Council to create a charitable trust, Culture and Sport Glasgow, to look after the council's leisure and sport facilities. As a charitable trust, it would not be covered by the FoI regime so nobody would have the right to demand information from it.

But sources close to Ms Curran indicated yesterday that she was prepared to change the law to include charitable trusts.

She will consult on a large list of organisations which were suggested by the public for inclusion in the FoI regime. Some - such as charities which receive public funds, private prisons, Network Rail, watchdogs and ombudsmen and Creative Scotland, the national arts body - are likely to be brought within the act.

But there are other organisations which have a strong case to remain outside the act, such as independent schools and even newspapers, both of which are on the list.

Independent schools are charities but do not receive much public money and most of that is in rates relief. Newspapers and broadcasters are private companies and it would set an extraordinary precedent if media companies were forced to conform to the act while other private companies were allowed to remain on the outside.

Ms Curran said: "FoI provides ministers with a power to bring other organisations which are not Scottish public authorities within the coverage of the act.

"It has always been our intention to use this power when appropriate and proportionate.

"The review did not provide conclusive evidence to underpin any decisions on changes to the fees system.

"It's important FoI strikes a balance between encouraging use of the act by the public while not imposing an unreasonable burden on authorities. We will be looking in more detail at how the fee regulations are working in practice across Scotland."

A spokesman for Kevin Dunion, the Scottish Information Commissioner, said he was pleased the Executive had not proposed any major changes to the fee regime, adding it "made sense" to keep the bodies covered by the act under review.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Law Society of Scotland still covering up for crooked lawyers as complaints reach over 4000

While the Law Society of Scotland continues to maintain it is the best regulator of the legal profession in Scotland - even in the face of impending independent regulation coming in the form of the new Scottish Legal Complaints Commission, the figures for complaints against solicitors last year show at least 4091 cases where clients were dissatisfied with the service provided by their solicitor or legal firm.

The Law Society of Scotland refuses, of course, to release the details & substance of those complaints, but many of them are of a serious nature, ranging from embezzlement of clients funds, falsifying work on cases, overcharging for work, fraud, client intimidation, lying to clients, theft of clients property & much more .... no wonder, Drumsheugh Gardens keeps the details to itself then.

However, while the official figures show 4091 cases of complaint, down from over 5000 the previous year, the real figure is thought to be much higher, running at 7000 - 8000 individual complaints a year against Scotland's less than 10,000 solicitors - which doesn't leave room for many 'clean' solicitors now, does it. Anyone who has had experience in dealing with the Client Relations Office & a little local knowledge of the solicitor & legal firm they are complaining against, will be in no doubt the real figures of complaints against poor conduct, negligence, embezzlement or worse, are much higher.

Of course, Alistair Sim, Director of Marsh UK, the British arm of the infamously corrupt Marsh Inc Insurers who were caught up in scandal & corruption for several years, admitted some time ago .. "there isn't a lawyer in Scotland who hasn't been complained against"

An example of such a lawyer perhaps : TOP LAWYER AT THE CENTRE OF 12 NEGLIGENCE CLAIMS

The above case is quite common, where the system of self regulation operated by the Law Society for soma many decades, allowing lawyers to investigate & cover up for their colleagues, has allowed negligence to flourish like fleas throughout the profession.

Philip Yelland, Director of Client Relations states : "The society's complaints committees, made up of 50/50 solicitors and non- solicitors, carefully consider all the facts and then base their decisions on the evidence available.

The so-called non-solicitor 'lay membership' is nothing but a rubber stamp for getting a crooked lawyer off the hook - as so many previous cases have proved, these lay members often being bullied or steered like mindless dumb sheep whatever decision the Law Society wants on a complaint (usually not guilty of course).

The 'non-solicitor' lay membership have proved time & again they won't go into the controversial issues at Complaints Committee hearings, or properly look at evidence submitted to them by clients against knowingly crooked lawyers with long records of poor regulatory conduct, instead, preferring to allow those rogues of the legal profession back into their offices to embezzle some more clients funds - safe in the knowledge nothing will ever be done.

Yelland goes on to claim : "For a complaint to be upheld the complaint needs to be proved on the balance of probabilities to comply with the legislation passed by parliament."

What a nonsense, Mr Yelland - another lie from the legal profession which illustrates the contempt that you and your colleagues at the Law Society have for those who dare to complain against their legal agents ...

Even when a Law Society 'investigating reporter' on a complaint actually recommends action, or even a prosecution before the SSDT of a rogue solicitor, Complaints Committees will often overrule such recommendations depending on the 'face' before them, and how many strings are being pulled by the accused solicitor's Law Society representatives - and even worse as in a complaint I made, initially decide on a prosecution, then change their decision on knowingly false evidence presented before them.

For a good example of how the Law Society of Scotland investigates complaints, read my earlier coverage of Scotland's most famous crooked lawyer - Andrew Penman : Scottish Legal Awards - Lawyer Lawyer on the wall, who is the most crooked of us all ?

Independent regulation has been long overdue for Scotland's legal profession, and it can't come soon enough - as well as a review of the way the Law Society has prejudiced complaints against clients, some quite vindictively, for so many years.

A reminder to you all ... If you have experienced poor treatment from the Law Society of Scotland in a complaint or lost money to a crooked lawyer and nothing was done about it, Please sign Petition PE1033 and begin the campaign for redress and resolution to the way clients have been discriminated against by crooked lawyers & the Law Society of Scotland under their decades old prejudiced self regulatory complaints system.

Read on for the article, from the Herald Newspaper - good thing we have the Herald, because the Scotsman's Law section today missed this one out, preferring to spout forth some more professional propaganda & demands for more legal aid ...

Law body receives 4000 complaints
PAUL ROGERSON, City Editor March 12 2007

A total of 4091 complaints alleging professional misconduct or inadequate advice by lawyers were lodged with the Law Society of Scotland in 2006, it has been revealed.

In around a quarter of the cases, no further action was deemed necessary, the figures showed.

Asked why the society had failed to take action in about 25% of the cases, Philip Yelland, director of regulation, said: "The society's complaints committees, made up of 50/50 solicitors and non- solicitors, carefully consider all the facts and then base their decisions on the evidence available.

"For a complaint to be upheld the complaint needs to be proved on the balance of probabilities to comply with the legislation passed by parliament."

Independent watchdog the Scottish Legal Services Ombudsman has in the past demanded the right to audit complaints which are not followed up, amid concern that some consumers do not get a fair hearing.

Last year's total number of complaints was down from a record high of 4849 in 2005.

The figure for 2006 represented the first drop in the number of complaints against lawyers in many years, as claims alleging endowment policy mis-selling by legal firms in the late 1980s and early 1990s continued to decline.

However, there are no figures on how many people complain to their lawyers before the society is asked to get involved.

Here's the article from the Scotsman - and you can see that despite over 4000 compalints a year made against solicitors, a little detail like rampant corruption & negligence doesn't stop them from wanting more legal aid money from the taxpayer ...

Unanimous vote calls for changes to civil legal aid

THE Law Society is to step up pressure on the Scottish Executive to increase rates paid for civil legal aid, after the profession backed family lawyers' demands for action to prevent "advice deserts".

Solicitors at the society's annual general meeting (AGM) on Friday overwhelmingly supported a motion from the Family Law Association, calling for urgent changes to the block fee system. Caroline Flanagan, a family solicitor and partner with Ross & Connel in Dunfermline and a former president of the society, responded to the motion on behalf of the society's council.

She said it would now be up to the council to consider how to take the issue forward at its next meeting at the end of this month, and it is likely that one of the legal aid committees will be asked to look at it.

However, she adds, it will come as "no surprise" to the Executive that family lawyers had concerns about the block fee system. Flanagan told The Scotsman that any campaign for an increase in fees was unlikely to become as vociferous as last year's high-profile battle over criminal legal aid.

But she warned more family lawyers would simply stop doing legal aid work in favour of private clients - a choice not open to criminal lawyers.

She adds: "In certain types of cases, the block fees have paid less than the old fees would have paid. There is also increased administration, so it is a double whammy."

Changes to the block fee regulations were introduced in February, but Flanagan argues that these do not go far enough, and merely address issues flagged up at the outset.

"A lot of the things that are being improved are things they were told in 2003 were going to cause problems in the first place," she says. "Some of the things that have now been fixed were always known as going to be problems.

"We were told that, after the nine and a half years with no increase, there would be regular reviews - which I think we took to mean as every couple of years or so - and here we are three and a half years down the line. It [will be] no surprise to the Executive that the profession feels like this."

She adds that the profession now needs to provide "hard evidence" to the Executive that advice deserts are emerging as a result of the problem with rates of civil legal aid.

"There is already anecdotal evidence of advice deserts appearing in parts of Scotland with solicitors stopping civil legal aid work," she says. "We need the profession to provide hard evidence so we can present a strong case to the Executive.

"We need to be able to show where and why solicitors are not being paid sufficiently and the effect that this is having on the public's access to legal advice."

Helen Hughes, the chairwoman of the Family Law Association, welcomed the support from 150 lawyers at the AGM, and stressed the importance of a review of rates to prevent more Scots being unable to find a solicitor for civil legal aid work.

"I am delighted for the people of Scotland that the Law Society has today unanimously endorsed our motion", she says.

"The message it sends to the Executive is that, to ensure access to justice, they must immediately review the block payment system and put in place a system that pays solicitors a reasonable rate for the very important work they do to protect people's rights."

The Executive has acknowledged concerns regarding fees for civil legal aid, and a spokesman has confirmed that a review of fees and eligibility levels is being carried out.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Law Society back on the hunt for more legal aid, while civil justice review faces legal talking shop.

Lawyers want more legal aid money - the eternal cry of the legal profession.

"Give us more, more more, or we will strike, boycott, fiddle cases & the courts to our liking" are some of the threats banded around from the legal aid leeches of Scotland's legal profession, and so they got their way yet again, passing a motion at last week's Law Society of Scotland Annual General Meeting, cloaking their motion in a call for "reform of civil legal aid rules" on the back of the legal profession's claim that the current system of legal aid payments have turned swathes of Scotland into "advice deserts" - reports the Herald Newspaper.

Well, those "advice & representation deserts" are the creation of the legal profession - not the Scottish Executive, simply because lawyers, who have got far too used to setting their own charges for work, now have to tow the line on legal aid cases - and thus so the policy of strike action & case boycotts came into being, in order to get what they wanted - and for the most part, it worked. The Executive duly obliged, by increasing the legal aid rates .. even though the Law Society's own research on the issue, showed that legal aid payments had actually been rising, rather than falling as the profession actually claimed.

Of course, passing motions at an organisation's agm are meant for the benefit of their own members - nothing to do with the public .. but we should take note because another round of threats, blackmail & more from Scotland's money hungry solicitors is just around the corner in the fight for more legal aid money - on the pretext of it making things easier to represent clients & take on cases of all description.

Of course, we all know in reality, solicitors discriminate daily the types of cases they take on ... and it's nothing to do with how much legal aid is available .. its more to do with professional interests and whether that solicitor is honest enough or brave enough to represent the client in whatever instance is presented to them.

Many of these cases of course, relate to civil law - where recently the Lord Justice Clerk has been asked to carry out a review of Scotland's civil justice system - a review that many campaigners, consumer organisations, and those who have been maligned by cranky civil law procedures in Scotland's court system, have been calling for decades.

However, will the Lord Justice Clerk actually listen to those who have been beaten down by Scotland's civil law system ? and if so, what is to become of the current mess of civil law procedures, which have also fed the gravy train of lawyers high fees for so long ?

Well, some in the legal profession are already beginning to talk down the review ... which will of course, not be everything it's supposed to be (seldom anything is in Scotland these days) ... so we can probably expect a half way house, where whatever improvements are suggested, do not impugn the self given right of Scotland's legal profession to award themselves as much as possible in high client fees, and spin cases out for as long as possible to milk that little bit more ... and keep themselves in work.

One way to resolve this, is of course to enact those parts of the Law Reform (Misc Provisions) Act 1990, which were to open up the rights of representation in the Courts to others than the present gang of solicitors & advocates ... such a widening of choice would certainly assist the public in being able to actually get into court, and perhaps take on cases which the legal profession had turned down, out of self interest or other nefarious motives .. and such an opening of the legal representation markets should have an effect on costs to the consumer too.

Of course, the Lord Justice Clerk may not be looking into actual cases of the past - because if he did, well .. that would certainly be much more revealing to the public and show just how Scotland's judicial system has been turned on those who actually sought to take controversial cases to court - such as taking on a crooked lawyer or other crooked professional, or trying to pursue governmental departments or public bodies for their negligence or lack of accountability the limited remit will be the order of the day again ... something like - do a review, m'lord, but don't find anything too controversial which the public might latch onto .. not forgetting the legal profession will also be snapping at his heels to the tune of - don't affect our right to fleece the client !

A review of the civil justice system ? Please, Justice Minister, listen to those who have suffered from it ... if you want to make real & honest improvements ...

Read on for the articles, from the Herald Newspaper :

Lawyers demand legal aid reforms
DAVID LEASK( March 10 2007

Lawyers yesterday demanded reform of civil legal aid rules which they say have turned swathes of Scotland into "advice deserts".

Many Scots are finding it all but impossible to find a solicitor willing to take on a civil case, especially a family law matter, on legal aid.

The reason, claim lawyers, is that payment is made in a lump sum that has no bearing on the amount of work involved.

A motion calling for change in the way the aid is paid was passed unanimously at the Law Society of Scotland's annual general meeting.

Caroline Flanagan, a family law specialist who sits on the society's ruling council, told the AGM: "There is already anecdotal evidence of advice deserts appearing in parts of Scotland with solicitors stopping civil legal aid work.

"We need the profession to provide hard evidence so that we can present a strong case to the Scottish Executive. We need to be able to show where and why solicitors are not being paid sufficiently and the effect that this is having on the public's access to legal advice."

The executive introduced block payment fees for civil legal aid work in 2003. Yesterday, an executive spokesman said officials were well aware of emerging concerns. He said: "A number of steps are being taken to ensure there is a nationwide supply of legal aid services to provide access to justice for individuals.

"Last year we announced that the Scottish Legal Aid Board is to develop a network of publicly employed solicitors to provide extra help to the public in matters of civil law in areas where there may be unmet demand, so that people get the advice they need from whoever is best placed to provide it.

"In addition, the Legal Profession and Legal Aid (Scotland) Act enables grant funding to be given to non-lawyers to provide expertise in specialist areas."

‘Scots law has taken great pride in its adversarial approach’


The Scottish Minister of Justice has requested the Lord Justice Clerk to carry out a review of civil justice in Scotland. A good thing, I say. But not great.

Lawyers have a fondness for precedent and tradition. Aspects of Roman law can be seen at work every day in the Scottish Courts. Change for the sake of change is rarely tolerated. Despite the blindfold that adorns many statutes, however, justice is not entirely blind to what is going on around it.

Concern about the procedures in both our criminal law and civil law has been growing for some time. You can find mention as long ago as 1980 in the Royal Commission on Legal Services in Scotland. In 1995 Lord Cullen in Scotland - and later, Lord Woolf in England in 2000 - felt obliged to carry out a review of their respective civil court systems. Lord Bonomy later carried out a similar review in relation to the procedure in the criminal courts in Scotland.

The resultant reports did not make comfortable reading, throwing up litanies of expense and delay.

In Scotland we responded piecemeal. A further review by yet another judge - Lord Coulsfield - resulted in a new "fast-track" procedure for some categories of personal injury cases. Judges were to adopt a more "pro-active" approach to the management of such cases. Further piecemeal reform followed for commercial actions - first in the Court of Session and then, with success, in Glasgow Sheriff Court. Judges were again encouraged to be pro-active.

Perhaps carried away by the success of the new rules for commercial actions, the Sheriff Principal in Glasgow has now introduced a pilot scheme containing new procedures for personal injury actions in Glasgow Sheriff Court - requiring judges to be more ... pro-active. Ditto in the field of criminal procedure where pro-active has taken the form of special intermediate diets, or pre-trial hearings, at which judges are expected to review undisputed evidence, and requests for expert evidence.

Scots are very cautious in the way they go about their business. Each of these piecemeal reforms has been first introduced with great care in pilot schemes with some success. But what happens when, or if, these piecemeal reforms are rolled out across the country, and are applied by every judge?

As with so many of these reforms, hidden cultural changes can lurk beneath what appears to be an attractive procedural change. Yes, these reforms do address the concerns about delay and costs. However, they may represent a more substantial and significant transformation of Scots law.

Scots law has traditionally adopted, and taken great pride in, its "adversarial" approach. It is tradition for parties in both civil and criminal proceedings to bring such evidence as they feel appropriate. And the judge, with no prior knowledge of the case, traditionally acts as passive umpire and guardian of the law.

In other jurisdictions, particularly those following the European system of civil law, they take great pride in, their inquisitorial approach. Here, an investigating magistrate undertakes a form of "official enquiry" in which the judge plays a pro-active part in the gathering of evidence, and in the notional search for the truth.

What concerns me about the above piecemeal reforms in Scotland, particularly when fully "rolled out", is that they may result in a subtle shift in emphasis away from an adversarial system and towards a system that is more inquisitorial.

Will we see "pro-active" judges given the powers to rule out particular lines of evidence or a particular type of expert witness? Not inconceivable in a personal injury case, or at procedural hearings in commercial actions, or even at Intermediate Diets in criminal cases.

And who is to say whether or not that is a bad thing? It might well be the price that has to be paid to eliminate delay and expenses. But should such changes be allowed to take place without some consideration being given to their full consequences? Debate and deliberation on that scale cannot be done piecemeal.

The direction in which any reform of Scots law should go, and any necessary protections that should accompany it, I would suggest, requires something far grander in scope and authority.

Of course, some kind of review is necessary, and that is why I say the Scottish Minister of Justice's decision is "good". But again, what we are getting is reform on the cheap. It is no substitute for an in-depth review by a Royal Commission.

And that is why I say it is not "great".

Friday, March 09, 2007

Legal Profession still guards its dirty secrets, with the help of the Scottish Executive.

I hope the Law Society of Scotland's Annual General Meeting gets through all their crooked little schemes... a meeting of crooks if ever there was one, to debate their dirty tricks & corrupt anti client practices ... be sure to protest if you are around Chambers Street this monrning !

Now, onto today's article, where Bill Alexander's FOI request to the Scottish Executive seeking disclosure of documents pertaining to the lack of implementation of sections of the Law Reform (Misc Provisions) Act 1990, which were to open up the area of legal representation available to the public certainly has caused a stir.

I covered the Bill Alexander case here : Scottish Executive thought to be blameworthy for allowing restrictive practices in legal services and the resulting defeat of the Executive after the actual Court of Session case ... :
Scottish Executive fails to block FOI disclosure on records of restricted access to Courts

Although the Scottish Executive lost the case, they are now considering whether to take the appeal to the House of Lords - so much for their value of Scottish Justice & transparency then ... have to run to Westminster to keep those dirty little secrets from the Scottish public .. and just what are those dirty little secrets in this case ?

Well, we saw the massive effort the Law Society of Scotland put into the legal profession's attack on the passage of the Legal Profession & Legal Aid (Scotland) Bill, even going to the extent of threatening the Parliament with Court action if LPLA was passed unamended, which I covered here : Law Society of Scotland threatens Court challenge against Scottish Executive over LPLA legal reform Bill

... so there should be no surprise that a similar intense effort is being put in to delay or prevent the release of documentation, notes of ministerial meetings with the legal profession, and other communications, which would go to show the legal profession had lobbied both the former Conservative Administration and its replacement Labour Government to prevent those parts of law reforming courtroom access from coming into force.

Rejection of Freedom of Information requests seems to be the norm with anything connected with the legal profession - take for instance, the case where the Crown Office was asked for the statistics on criminal charges/convictions of members of the legal profession.

The Crown Office duly responded with a "we don?t keep those statistics" response - and no wonder they would do that, since while they would have to admit the numerous cases of criminal charges/convictions concerning practicing solicitors, the Crown Office would also have to admit to criminal cases involving Fiscals, ranging from fraud to evidence tampering, to witness knobbling,.to even those charged in sex offence cases, including a memorable case where a Fiscal was actually dragged out of Court while a case was in progress, on having his pc stuffed of illegal underage pornography.

I suppose the Crown Office can't have that one revealed now, can they .. but as we all know, the Crown Office is happy to throw around conviction rates on many other offences .. just not those involving the legal profession it seems. Still,they were happy enough last year when the Police Forces had to admit the numbers of Police officers with criminal convictions. One rule for one part of the law, another for the upper branches ? That won't do, will it now ...

Yet another interesting area of Scottish Law requiring reform, is the subject of "Small Claims" and the amounts an ordinary member of the public can claim in a Small Claims action.

The Scottish Executive is unsurprisingly deaf to this issue too, when it comes to FOI .. but as "The Herald" newspaper revealed .. again, the dark, devious hand of the legal profession has been at work, with Messrs Digby Brown making sure nothing was done on that score .. and you can read about that here : Small claims limits in Scotland restricted to £750 for the last 18 years by the legal profession for their own interests..

So, you see, Scotland is still a secret place when it comes to issues involving the legal profession ... and there was me asking the Justice Minister not so long ago, to remove the Law Society of Scotland's exemption from FOI : Law Society of Scotland & Freedom Of Information - End the Exemption Now ... surely now we have LPLA, the Law Society must lose it's FOI exemption ...

A reminder to you all ... If you have experienced poor treatment from the Law Society of Scotland in a complaint or lost money to a crooked lawyer and nothing was done about it, Please sign Petition PE1033 and begin the campaign for redress and resolution to the way clients have been discriminated against by crooked lawyers & the Law Society of Scotland under their decades old prejudiced self regulatory complaints system.

Enjoy now, the following article from the Scotsman on FOI secrecy in Scotland, with an excellent debate .. but be quick .. as the forum censors seem to be more active these days !

Welcome to secret Scotland

* More than 500 Scots forced to appeal after knockbacks
* Almost two-thirds of appeals successful
* Information Commissioner's report calls for more progress on FoI requests

Key quote:
"I want to know whether there will be a new FoI culture, rather than just waiting to be asked about things and, as far as I can see, we are still waiting for that to happen." - Kevin Dunion, Information Commissioner

Story in full SCOTLAND'S public life remains shrouded in secrecy despite the Executive's flagship Freedom of Information Act, campaigners and experts warned last night.

They spoke out as it emerged that more than 500 people had been forced to appeal to the information watchdog last year after having their requests for information turned down by public authorities north of the Border.

That is twice as many as in England, per head of population, a figure which campaigners said suggested Scotland's public bodies were not as ready as they should be to divulge information.

Most of the appeals to Scotland's Information Commissioner were submitted after public bodies refused to hand over information, claiming they had a right to keep it secret. Yet, when the commissioner examined the details, he ruled in favour of the applicant (in whole or in part) in almost two-thirds of the cases.

Often, requests to public bodies seem quite innocuous, but they are not always treated that way by the authorities. Grampian Police refused to say how much taxpayers' money it had spent on new Range Rovers for the chief constable and deputy chief constable - until forced to do so by the commissioner.

The Fisheries Research Service declined to say which fish farm had been responsible for an escape of salmon; Fife Council refused to reveal why the high street in Dysart had not been traffic-calmed and Edinburgh University failed to provide information on fire safety.

All the figures and the details of the appeals were contained in the annual report of Kevin Dunion, the Information Commissioner, published last night. Mr Dunion said yesterday that some progress had been made, but he was clear that there was still considerable work to be done.

He said that while most public bodies were now operating within the letter of the law and were complying with many Freedom of Information requests, they had not changed their cultures to embrace the spirit of the law.

Christine Grahame, an SNP MSP, who has been frustrated on many occasions in her attempts to extract information from the Executive, said: "The culture of secrecy has not gone away, it has got worse.

"Structures are now in place and practices are now in place to make sure that, even if you are successful, the information you want will not be there; they will have discussed it in places where it is not recorded or minuted and the worst offenders are the Scottish Executive."

Bill Welsh, a campaigner on autism, said: "Every government department now has an information officer - maybe they should change the terminology to a 'you are not getting the information officer'. They have been erecting the barricades since the Freedom of Information Act and it's still very difficult to get information from government departments."

Lindsay Scott, of Help the Aged, said: "In many public services, there is an 'us and them attitude' and they forget they are there to serve the public.

"It is not made easy to get information and there are plans afoot to make it more difficult. That has to be resisted because it is a step forward to able to get information we have always been told is none of our business."

Mr Dunion said that compliance with the act was now good, but he queried whether the culture within government had changed sufficiently.

He said: "Beyond compliance with the law, are we going to do things differently? Are we going to make decisions differently? Are we going to minute meetings differently?

"I want to know whether there will be a new FoI culture, rather than just waiting to be asked about things and, as far as I can see, we are still waiting for that to happen."

Mr Dunion said he was still coming up against public authorities which refused to divulge information because, they claimed, if they did, it would inhibit the actions of future civil servants.

The commissioner said he rejected this excuse every time but said it was symptomatic of a reluctance to change within the civil service.

He said that all public authorities should change their way of working, collating all information and minuting all meetings with an eye to the Freedom of Information Act.

During 2006, 511 people appealed to Mr Dunion in a bid to get information from public authorities.

The commissioner ruled on 252 cases and intervened to force bodies to reveal information in 144.

In 22 per cent of all cases Mr Dunion found entirely in the applicant's favour and in 35 per cent of cases he ruled partially in their favour.

Margaret Curran, the minister for parliamentary business, said that much more information was available now than had been in the past.

She said: "Release of information does ultimately require, in some instances, a change to a culture of openness. But that does not necessarily mean that the starting point was a culture of secrecy.

"FoI is delivering genuine benefits to the people of Scotland, providing greater access than ever before." - details about their local hospital, for example."

She added: "Since the introduction of the act, the Executive has routinely published more information than was previously available, and we are continuing work to build upon the success to date. In such a short space of time, FoI has broken down many barriers."

There is strong evidence to suggest the public is much more attuned to the scope of the new laws, with 65 per cent of all applications for appeals last year made by members of the public - up from 55 per cent the year before.
Questions, questions ... but not too many answers

HERE are examples of Freedom of Information requests that were denied. They include requests lodged by the public and The Scotsman. Some of the rulings were later overturned.

• Q) "How much has it cost Grampian Police for new Range Rovers for the chief constable and deputy chief constable's use?"
A) "We can't tell you," said the police.
The information commissioner had to order the force to publish details.

• Q) "How many Labour Party and personal events have been held at Bute House, the First Minister's official residence?"
A) "That information is not held by the Executive," said Executive officials.

• Q) "What tenders did Dundee City Council receive to re-roof former council properties?"
A) "We won't tell you - it would compromise trade secrets," said the council.
This decision was overturned on appeal.

• Q) "Which fish farm accidentally released salmon on Orkney last year?"
A) "We won't tell you," said the Fisheries Research Service.
It was eventually forced to do so by the commissioner.

• Q) "Why was Dysart High Street excluded from local traffic-calming measures?"
A) Fife Council refused to give this information.
The applicant appealed, successfully.

• Q) "What was in the early drafts of the Executive's sexual health strategy?"
A) "We do not have to publish information on the formulation of government policy," said the Executive.

• Q) "What was in an Executive-commissioned report on financial independence for Scotland?"
A) This document has still not been released, 11 months after the request, and is not likely to be published before the election.

• Q) The Scotsman asked how many complaints of bullying or harassment NHS Borders had received from employees after an incident involving another member of staff, in the period 1999-2006.
A) "There is no central record of incidents and it would be too expensive to go through staff records," said NHS Borders.

• Q) The Scotsman asked for details about how many cases of Clostridium difficile had been diagnosed in NHS Highland hospitals between 2000 and 2006.
A) "While the lab at Raigmore Hospital has the number of C. difficile toxin-positive stool specimens, this is not equivalent to the number of patients diagnosed," came the reply.

• Q) The Scotsman asked what was in reports submitted by casualty notification officers in the military (the officers nominated to tell a family a loved one has been killed).
A) The Ministry of Defence issued flat refusals.

• Q) "How many dawn raids have been carried out in Scotland in the past five years?"
A) "The information is not available," claimed the Home Office.

• Q) Every local authority in Scotland was asked how much it spent on meals for the elderly in residential homes.
A) Stirling, the Shetland Isles, Perth and Kinross, North Ayrshire, Falkirk, Edinburgh, Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire were unable to give figures, although every other council was able to provide an answer.

• Q) Hunter Watson, a campaigner on the rights of the elderly, asked the Scottish Executive to reveal details of the legal advice it had received on legislating to prevent surreptitious medication.
A) The Executive has so far refused to release the advice, which could shed light on the debate over whether hiding drugs in the food of elderly residents with dementia is against human-rights laws.

• Q) Scotland's police forces were asked by The Scotsman how many serving officers had criminal records.
A) One force, Fife Constabulary refused to provide the information, claiming that it would be "too expensive" for staff to extract the data from its files.

• Q) The Scotsman asked local authorities how many children were not given a free nursery place.
A) Some councils simply failed to provide the information. Others suggested there was no waiting list, despite parents being refused a place.

• Q) East Lothian Council was asked by The Scotsman how many women were on the homelessness register.
A) "This information will take too long to find," came the reply

• Q) Michael Foote asked Aberdeenshire Council for a copy of the agreement with Tesco over the sale of land and property at Canal Park, Banff.
A) The council refused and said it was confidential. The information commissioner agreed.

• The following exchange - between Scotsman reporter Eben Harrell and a police control room - is not an FOI request as such, but demonstrates the difficulties in gleaning even basic details.

EH: "We've heard there has been an arrest in Edinburgh."
Police: "We can only confirm there has been an incident."
EH: "Can you tell me if there has been an arrest?"
P: "We can only confirm there has been an incident."
EH: "Was it a man or a woman that was arrested?"
P: "We can only confirm there has been an incident."
EH: "How many police officers were involved?"
P: "We can only confirm there has been an incident."
EH: "Were there any armed units involved?"
P: "We can only confirm there has been an incident."
Etc, etc.

• Q) Stephen Harte wanted information on fire safety from Edinburgh University.
A) The university failed to respond.
Eventually, when prompted by an appeal to the information commissioner, it provided the information requested.

• Q) Sheila Murphy asked West Lothian Council how much Jackie Bird, the BBC presenter, was paid to host a dinner in 2006.
A) The council refused to provide the information but was overruled.

• Q) Sir Tom Farmer asked Edinburgh City Council for information on the sale of land known as the Lochend Butterfly.
A) The council refused, claiming it would prejudice its commercial interests and would cost more than £600 to get the information.

The commissioner ruled against Sir Tom and in favour of the council.

Scots vow no new charges for official information

RESTRICTIONS on the Freedom of Information regime planned for England will not be applied in Scotland, ministers have promised.

Lord Falconer, the Lord Chancellor, wants a new charging regime for England, which would include the time spent by ministers and officials deciding whether to release the information requested - as well as the cost of collating the information itself.

This could effectively give every official the go-ahead to play for time and refuse any request that might prove embarrassing.

But Executive sources made clear last night that, while there might be some "tinkering around the edges" of the FoI regime in Scotland, ministers would not introduce new charges or make it more difficult for people to access information.

The Freedom of Information regime is already more generous to applicants in Scotland than to ones in England.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Help required in resolving the suspicious death of Annie Borgesson at Prestwick, Scotland, December 4th 2005

A case has come to light, which some of you may have seen in the media, of a suspicious and unaccountable death of a Swedish woman - Annie Borgesson, (30), at Prestwick, in Scotland, in early December 2005.

Guje Borgesson, Annie's mother, has been seeking a proper investigation into the death of her daughter - as any mother would, but in typical Scots Law fashion, hasn't got very far with all the rules & regulations - and what appears to be a general apathy on the part of the Police & Crown Office to do anything - rather hiding behind rules & exemptions than actually examine the facts of the case.

Guje Bogesson's website on her daughter's death can be seen at :

A parent deserves an explanation over the death of their child - just as I know myself, a child of a parent deserves an explanation over the death of their parent .. and I can certainly sympathise with Annie's mother over the lack of proper responses from the Procurator Fiscal in this case - and all the secrecy which is a disgrace.

We are talking about a life here, Mr Procurator Fiscal .. it may not mean much to you, just another case, but to real people, and family members - hiding behind secrecy and refusing to give explanations or accounts over whether there were proper investigations into the death .. are simply no good.

As Annie's mother has posted a summary of what happened in the case of her daughter, I will repost that here - and ask you all to please help out on this one. The girls mother deserves an explanation for what really happened, and if there is a murderer on the loose, we have to catch them and give poor Annie some justice for her extinguished life.

Please help out on this one if you can ...

The following posting on "A Diary of Injustice in Scotland" from Annie's mother - Guje Borgesson, who can be contacted at :

My name is Guje Borgesson. Living in Sweden I do not where to turn and I am now writing to you to ask for help.

What has happened is that Dec 4, 2005 my daughter Annie 30, was found dead in Scotland. At the time she lived in Edinburgh but was found dead on the shore in Prestwick, probarbly drowned, about 100 kilometers from Edinburgh.

She was found at a walking distace from the airport in Prestwick from where she always travelled home to Sweden. Annie was found dressed, except from her jacket, that was right beside her. In her bag she had her Swedish passport and two library books to return to a Swedish library. She had also made an appointment with her hairdresser in Sweden Dec.5.

Although Annie's body, bag and her jacket had different weights and density they were all found on the same spot. The ground is also very flat where she was found, the tides goes out 150 meters and you then would have to walk for several hundreds of meters to get into deep water. When the tide is in it's not more than one meter high where the wall is where Annie was found. On one of Annie's arms there were "square contused areas", but how do you get that at sea? These and other big bruisings I got to see when Annie's body got returned to Sweden. One of the them in the shape as from the edge of a hand on her right temple. This makes us believe Annie was transported to the shore, hit and drowned!

The days before she died Annie also called home and it then got obvious that she was under a threat. Due to these and several other very strange circumstances as well as Annie's personality, we her family and her friends are convinced that Annie was murdered. Yet the Scottish Police has not been investigating Annie's death as a crime, but as a suicide! And in accordiance to that, never seeld her room off, sent all the evidence material back, and never payed any attention to what I had to say about people that Annie knew, and so on.

When we got Annie back home we also got to see that her blond, waist-long very thick hair had been chopped off! Why, and by whom the Police and the Procurator Fiscal refuses to investigate!

It has now been more than a year since Annie was found dead and the investigation about her death now is closed by the Strathclyde Police. The desicion was made by Crown Council, why and by whom, we are not allowed to know and we are denied to take part of the documentation!

According to the law Freedome of Information we are not allowed to take part of the investigation because there is an exeption for deaths saying; it would not be in the interrest of the public! Well, we think there is! And it is certanly in the interrest of our family!

We have now been struggling for more than a year to get to know what happened to Annie and still know nothing. Not only have we lost a lovely daughter, sister and friend but we are also denied a proper investigation about her death!

Living in Sweden I of course know nothing about the legislation in Scotland, but is this the way the law Freedome of Information is supposed to work? Shouldn't the law serve the public, and are there any efforts beeing done on changing this law to serve the public instead of mistreating individuals?

As you can see my daugters's case is an excellent example of that! I therefore would like to ask you, what can be done to help us get access to the documentation about Annie´s case? Can anyone please help?

This letter is just a very brief summary of what has happened and if you would like to take part of some more information about Annie we now have a web-site for her, the adress is; I would of course be very pleased if you would like to write to me and I can give further information about my daughters case, e-mail; or

Thank you very much for reading this, and please help us get to know what happened to Annie. Yours sincerely, Guje Borgesson, Annie´s mother.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Law Society of Scotland meets to carve up taxpayers money & plan more anti client dirty tricks

The Law Society of Scotland's Annual get together is to be held on Friday of this week - 9th March 2007, at the Royal Museum of Scotland, on Chambers Street, in Edinburgh, starting at 10:30am. A fitting place perhaps for something which should have been put in a museum a long time ago ?

Lawyers never learn from their mistakes though - and to be sure, this week's meeting will focus on things like

1. How to rip off Clients for more money
2. Embezzlement is an art - and we lawyers know how to get away with it.
3. How to lie and fake file notes - A lawyers guide.
4. Clients should be persecuted and hounded to death if they complain against fellow lawyers.
5. We, the Law Society of Scotland, can dictate the law and prevent any major reforms to the way we handle our crooked business.
6. Time to milk the Legal Aid Board & taxpayer for more money via Legal Aid
7. Property - and how to steal it from sellers at a low price, then resell it to colleagues & favored clients for a profit.
8 Getting off from Criminal Charges - A guide to fiddling evidence & buttering up the Crown Office.
9. Political interference and how to blackmail politicians with their dirty secrets.
10. Let's burn Peter Cherbi at the stake

Well, I'm sure Douglas Mill, Phillip Yelland and a few others would like to don the sacrifice paint and chant 'death to clients' while dancing round my burning corpse (alongside a few others) .. not to happen though, thankfully ... they will have more things to do & discuss, as one Scotsman journalist said to me this morning - one item might be "keeping the queue of rent boys a little more discreet this year" .. really ? my goodness .. I would never have thought such antics went on at an a.g.m ... what's the matter ? don't they take their wives along these days ? tut tut ...

Anyway, as an article in the Scotsman ran this week, one of the hot topics on the agenda for this years general meeting, is milking the taxpayer for more legal aid - this coming from the "family lawyers" side of the profession .... and one would really have to shudder at that term "family lawyers" after reading stories like this : Lawyer 'planned sex with child' .. so as you can see .. nothing much changes in the legal profession.

We've already been through the Legal Aid scam though - as you know from my previous articles such as this : Lawyers protests over low legal aid fees revealed to be fake as Law Society's own research points to increase.. where they did actually get their way and the Scottish Executive duly announced increases in legal aid for our legal thieves ... so why the fuss again ? Well, as always, the legal profession always wants that little bit more ... and it's time again to bully & threaten the taxpayer for some more money - otherwise the "family law" fraternity will boycott cases & strike until they get it.

Here's another method Scotland's 'honest' legal profession employ to get more legal aid - bribing clients to sign legal aid forms : Lawyer caught in media sting bribing clients to defraud Legal Aid Board - the tip of an iceberg

Another item from the Scotsman of the same day report that drugs running lawyer Angela Baliie has been told to give up a paltry 5k from her profits as a drugs mule.

I covered the Angela Ballie case earlier last year : Drug Running Lawyer flees Scottish Justice to evade sentencing.

The thing is though - about tthe Angela Ballie case - it was already reported by the Scotsmanshe made 50,000 ... which I covered here : A Crooked Lawyer - one of the 'cream' of the Scottish Legal Profession exposed as a drug runner - and now awaiting a jail term so why is she only being asked to give up ₤5,000 ? Something wrong with the arithmetic on that one perhaps ? ..

The Scotsman article of yesterday reports

"The Crown Office had sought a confiscation order for £52,556, which officials believed were the proceeds of her crimes. Yesterday, they were forced to settle for just £5,000. Under the Proceeds of Crime Act, Baillie was expected to provide written evidence - including bank statements - that the total sum sought was legally earned. She successfully argued that for £47,556 of the £52,000"

A little bit of a legal fiddle going on there perhaps ? Why the sudden drop and lack of a challenge from the Crown Office ? .. just because the legal profession waded in with their antics again to protect a colleague ? .. and we were all told Ballie had psychological problems .. not enough to want to lose all her drugs profits though it seems ...

A reminder to you all ... If you have experienced poor treatment from the Law Society of Scotland in a complaint or lost money to a crooked lawyer and nothing was done about it, Please sign Petition PE1033 and begin the campaign for redress and resolution to the way clients have been discriminated against by crooked lawyers & the Law Society of Scotland under their decades old prejudiced self regulatory complaints system.

Lastly today,let me welcome my readers from the rest of the world, including, China.

I didn't realise my blog was so popular there, to the point that some, particularly in China have 'been learning' from my experience in campaigning against injustice.

To you, and to all those in the world who suffer injustice, continue with your campaigns, if you can, make it an issue affecting all (which is normally the case anyway) - and you get more attention and a greater chance of a satisfactory conclusion at a later date.

Of course, it's not just individual campaigners across the world who read this blog. Over the years, Injustice Scotland, a site I also write for, and even more so in the past year since I began this blog for the passage of the Legal Profession & Legal Aid (Scotland) Bill, have received requests from individuals, and even companies, for my opinion on specific Scottish legal firms & lawyers.

Lately, a few requests from foreign companies, including some Chinese companies have come in, asking whether I consider various individuals or their legal firms 'trustworthy'.

Well, mostly I don't, and I'm not just saying that because I don't like lawyers. I'm saying that because I am aware of their track records as lawyers

On preparing a recent profile list of Scottish Law Firms & lawyers for some 'enquiring persons, agencies, & companies', it was quite easy for me to pin terms such as "suffers from a poor regulatory history", or "has made several clients companies bankrupt", or "has a history of embezzlement" to several of the major names of Scotland's legal profession who pass themselves off to companies as being 'the bees knees'

Actually you should have seen the response I got from an agency when I produced documents from a clients complaint over one of Scotland's supposedly well respected lawyers grooming a client's under age son for sex ... I think the company concerned decided to give Scotland's legal profession a miss after hearing that ... and no wonder.

So, members of the legal profession - if you want to clean up your act - begin by cleaning up your past - and the present. Simple as that. Until then, the campaign goes on - and what we have in store ...

Link to the Scotsman article on this Friday's Law Society Annual General Meeting - written by well known Law Society favourite Jennifer Veitch, whose colleagues at the Scotsman like to spill the beans on ...

AGM motion will debate 'crisis inaccess to justice'

FAMILY lawyers will seek the legal profession's backing this week for their demands that the Scottish Executive overhaul the rates paid for civil legal aid and avert what they say would be a crisis in access to justice.

The Family Law Association (FLA) will table a motion at the Law Society's Annual General Meeting in Edinburgh this Friday, calling for the Executive to review the block fee system. The move follows last year's bitter row between the profession and the Executive over rates paid for criminal legal aid work.

Helen Hughes, the chairwoman of the FLA, which represents more than 300 family lawyers, says solicitors are becoming increasingly concerned about the impact of the block fees, introduced in 2003.

Hughes - who is a partner with McAuley, McCarthy & Co in Paisley - says the full impact of the new system only became apparent in the past 12 months, as family law cases usually run for around two years.

"Over the last year or so, family law solicitors have become more concerned, because it was probably only about the turn of 2006 that they began to finish cases and submit accounts to the [Scottish] Legal Aid Board (SLAB)," she says.

"Then, around Easter or into the summer of last year, they were realising just how stark the difference was between what a case would be paid at under the old system and what was being paid at under the new system."

Hughes says the FLA has commissioned a statistical analysis from law accountants, but anecdotal evidence already shows a dramatic difference in payments - vastly increasing the gulf in fees between legal aid and privately paid work and forcing many solicitors to stop doing legal aid work.

"In some of my cases, the difference is 100 per cent - the old system would have paid me double," she says. "When you then compare that with private rates, it then just becomes a phenomenal difference.

"Lawyers who do legal aid appreciate they are never going to be paid at private rates and that is not our expectation. But we feel that family law cases are a special case - they should be dealt with in a different way from other civil business."

SLAB has been monitoring the impact of the block fee system, and recently wrote to civil legal assistance practitioners to advise them of some changes, which chief executive Lindsay Montgomery says should add around £1 million a year in fees to solicitors.

Hughes concedes that the changes have addressed some problems, such as allowing payments for preparing for multiple child-welfare hearings. However, she adds: "The review they have undertaken and the new regulations they have introduced only scratch at the surface - they don't go far enough."

The legal aid system needs to take account of the complexity of family law cases, Hughes says, as clients are often emotional and distressed, and the law can be difficult to interpret.

"As a family law solicitor, you are dealing with people who are in an emotional state, and that is why you have to spend an hour or an hour and a half going through it with them. That's why family-law solicitors feel that family-law cases are separate from other civil work.

"Family lawyers are having to get their heads around quite complex legal issues that have just been introduced in the last year, which give a very wide discretion to the sheriffs."

While SLAB is taking forward plans for the Civil Legal Assistance Office to plug gaps in legal aid provision, Hughes remains sceptical that this will be enough to ensure access to justice.

"That's not going to work Scotland-wide. For example, in a town like Paisley, where I practice, if you have an equivalent of the public defender there, there is a conflict of interest between a husband and a wife, so if one of them goes there, where does the other one go? The two of them can't go to the same place."

Hughes says she is "very confident" that FLA motion will receive the backing of the AGM.

She adds: "Family-law solicitors have become more vociferous. They are not by nature folk who kick up a fuss, but it is becoming apparent that the legal aid situation is becoming a crisis."

A Scottish Executive spokesman says new fees regulations were introduced in February to address concerns expressed by family lawyers, including increases to fees for summary cause cases and for detailed and contentious type cases. He adds: "Ministers have announced that civil legal aid fees and eligibility levels will be reviewed. The changes that recently came into effect will be monitored to see how the changes are working."

The Law Society of Scotland's Annual General Meeting (AGM) is due to take place this Friday at the Royal Museum of Scotland, on Chambers Street, in Edinburgh The meeting is scheduled to begin at 10:30am.

Link to the article on drugs running lawyer Angela Ballie at :

'Ally McDeal' ordered to hand over £5,000 crime profits for acting as prison drug mule

SITTING on a padded bench at the High Court in Edinburgh, Angela Baillie was yesterday confronted with the financial cost of her crime. The designer suits, elegant handbags and promising career were gone. Instead, the former solicitor was clothed in a green jumper, her long dark hair lank and loose.

For the last 11 months Baillie, 33, who has been dubbed "Ally McDeal" in the tabloid press, has resided in a single cell at Cornton Vale women's prison in Stirlingshire, which she has tried to brighten with photographs of her 16-year-old daughter, her family and what few friends remain.

Last April, she was convicted of drug dealing by smuggling heroin and diazepam tablets worth £1,558 to an inmate at Barlinnie Prison in Glasgow.

The authorities believed Baillie was a veteran drug mule. However, she was charged and convicted on a single incident, which her defence team insisted was carried out under duress and in fear for her life and that of her daughter.

The Crown Office had sought a confiscation order for £52,556, which officials believed were the proceeds of her crimes. Yesterday, they were forced to settle for just £5,000.

Under the Proceeds of Crime Act, Baillie was expected to provide written evidence - including bank statements - that the total sum sought was legally earned. She successfully argued that for £47,556 of the £52,000.

Baillie, formerly of Newton Mearns, Glasgow, had admitted being concerned in the supply of the drugs passed in a cigarette packet to a client during a prison visit in October 2005, while working for a criminal-law firm in Glasgow.

Baillie - who is the daughter of Frank Baillie, a successful businessman and a former director of Scottish & Universal Newspapers - claimed she was pressurised into carrying the package by a female relative of a senior underworld figure, who visited her home and showed her a gun.

Former friends of Baillie described her as being attracted by the illicit thrill of associating with gangsters. She was also a cocaine addict with a history of psychiatric problems, which were later diagnosed as manic depression. In 2002, she took an overdose of paracetamol, and agreed to be treated for drug addiction at the Priory Clinic in Surrey. She attempted suicide again in 2004.

During her trial last year, the court was told that Baillie's history of psychiatric problems left her unable to resist the gangland figure's demand to deliver the drugs. On 23 October 2005, she visited Barlinnie Prison and passed over the cigarette packet to a prisoner. However, authorities had been tipped off and the prisoner was later strip-searched and the drugs discovered.

As well as receiving a 32-month jail term, Baillie was faced with action under the Proceeds of Crime Act, which allows authorities to examine an offender's financial records going back six years, and to calculate legitimate income and the total sum received.

In confiscation cases, two figures are recorded - the proceeds of general criminal conduct, and the amount to be confiscated. Often, an offender's known, realisable assets are insufficient to cover the proceeds and the amount seized can therefore be much lower.

In January, a cocaine trafficker whose proceeds of crime were more than £300,000 had a confiscation order of £1 made against him as he had no possessions of any worth. However, if any are discovered in the future, they may be seized.

Defence counsel Mark Moir said he had been instructed by Baillie to agree £5,000 should be recorded as the proceeds of her general criminal conduct.

He added: "The instructions have been tendered on the basis that the onus is on an accused to account for all monies passing through their bank account in the last six years. With a number of cheques and monies [in Baillie's case], the source cannot be verified because the bank's microfiche system has effectively been deleted. She is unable to satisfy the legislation on these matters and unable to rebut the presumption made in the act, and accepts the figure of £5,000 is to be the proceeds of her general criminal conduct."

Barry Divers, the advocate-depute, confirmed the figure and said a confiscation order should be made in the same amount, with Baillie to be given two months to pay. The judge made formal orders to verify the agreement.

During her time at Cornton Vale, Baillie has reportedly worked in the beauty salon and assisted Margaret "Mags" Haney, a convicted drug dealer, in completing her autobiography by marking libellous passages. It was also reported she was assaulted by one prisoner for not sharing her newspapers.

Baillie is eligible to be fitted with an electronic tag and may be released in May, after serving less than half her sentence.