Monday, April 30, 2007

It's time for Injustice to end, but will the SNP end Injustice in Scotland ?

This week, may well see a change of Government in Scotland, with the polls showing a significant lead by the Scottish National Party over Labour. However, what would an SNP victory mean for the many victims of injustice throughout Scotland ?

Well, most politicians say much and do little, when it comes to issues involving justice & law .. and as a reflection of that, these issues only really entered the media spotlight in the last two weeks of the election.

Well, for the issues I write about - injustice, and Law - it seems there is a significant conflict within the SNP over what to do and what not to do, potentially giving justice to some, and injustice to others.

There are politicians within the ranks of the SNP who will fight tenaciously for constituents on issues of injustice - and one of those people is Mr John Swinney, who famously skirmished with Douglas Mill - the Chief Executive of the Law Society of Scotland, last May before the Justice 2 Committee, revealing secret memos written by Douglas Mill himself, showing the legal profession were engaged in a campaign of discrimination, prejudice and lies against client claims of negligence against firms of solicitors in Scotland.

John Swinney then went on to fight on for the aims of the Legal Profession & Legal Aid (Scotland) Act 2007, which I have campaigned for since 1994 .. and as you all know, the LPLA Bill was indeed passed in late December 2006, albeit with some amendments rushed in from mouthpieces of the legal profession.

Here is John Swinney fighting for the rights of his constituents and speaking before the Scottish Parliament during the passage of the LPLA Bill on candid issues of corruption within the Scottish legal profession.

John Swinney has certainly been admirable in his determination to see through the case of his constituent Stewart Mackenzie, who has suffered interminably at the hands of the Law Society of Scotland and their henchmen ... but surely, since every single MSP has received letters documenting injustices by members of the legal profession against their clients, they should all do the same as Mr Swinney and campaign for resolution to their constituents cases ? - well .. no !, they don't.

I know myself, from asking Christine Grahame (SNP) to take on my case, that not everyone in the SNP wants to do anything for people who have suffered at the hands of the legal profession. Christine Grahame refused to assist me, and as the then Justice 1 Committee Convener, she played havoc with the Justice 1 2002 inquiry into "Regulation of the Legal Profession" .. not allowing members of the public to testify to their problems with lawyers, but allowing the legal profession unfettered access to the Justice 1 Committee hearings, and hearing all manner of lies from those officials of the Law Society of Scotland and their supporters .. without even bothering to check the validity of their claims.

However, it seems there is another within the SNP who may not favour the victims of injustice .. and would it be a surprise to you if I said that individual is also, a member of the Law Society of Scotland, and (at least for now) former solicitor ?

Kenny MacAskill, the SNP's current Justice spokesman, who may become the next Justice Minister after this week's election, is quoted in an article written by himself in the Journal of the Law Society of Scotland, as describing victims of injustice as "malcontents".

Mr MacAskill goes on in the "Journal' article, to demonstrate a significant lack of understanding of how people feel with regard to the way the Scottish legal system has been failing us for all these years .. and he certainly doesn't seem to understand how victims of the legal profession have had their lives ruined, and been tortured over the years by the likes of the Law Society of Scotland, just for making a complaint about how they were ripped off by their crooked lawyer or for that, by making a complaint against any crooked professional whose self regulatory body carries a lot of political influence and friends & colleagues within political circles ....

The article from the Journal of the Law Society of Scotland is reprinted here :

View from Holyrood
by Kenny MacAskill
Issues currently before the Scottish Parliament, including whether to raise the small claims limit

It’s strange being a contributor rather than a reader of this Journal. However, having retired from practice as a solicitor shortly after election I now find myself covering the Justice portfolio for the SNP. Rather than responding to what has happened in the legislature I am in the position of commenting on what is happening there.

Moving from lawyer to politician was like shifting from the frying pan into the fire; from a derided profession to a despised business. Absence makes the heart grow fonder but I see no reason why lawyers should apologise for the work they do. Whether court, conveyancing or commercial, the overwhelming majority do an excellent job for their clients, ensuring that important matters whether financial or personal are addressed and rights and obligations met. If lawyers didn’t exist then society would need to invent them. Politicians are lobbied incessantly by an organisation attacking crooked lawyers. As both a lawyer before and a politician now, I am yet to meet a member of the profession who does not seek or insist on action being taken against those that bring all into disrepute. Whatever a few malcontents may say, lawyers need not hang their heads in shame but can hold them high.

The Parliament has now convened in its new home. Irrespective of arguments over costs, there is an acceptance that it offers a second chance to deliver what the people of Scotland wanted when they voted for it. What it does need not be earth-shattering, but it must be an improvement and add tangible value to our lives. Such as, perhaps, the Tenements Act so recently approved. In itself it is hardly the legislation that turns the nation, never mind the earth, on its axis. However, it is of significant importance to many who reside in such accommodation. It is action that the profession has highlighted the need for over many years. In the absence of the Parliament, doubtless change would have required to await some Law Reform Act in decades to come. It isn’t big in the grand scheme of things but it does make a discernible difference. The profession needs the change and the politicians need to be seen to be effecting change.

Another piece of legislation that is meandering its way through the legislative procedure is the Emergency Workers (Scotland) Bill. This is a piece of legislation with worthy intent. After all who can possibly object to the protection of paramedics or firemen going about their business? That said, these matters can already be libelled as aggravated offences and sheriffs and procurators fiscal advised of the serious view taken of such incidents. The Executive has decided though to proceed with a specific offence, as it is entitled to. In that I will seek to support, not hinder. However, if such legislation continues unabated then consideration sooner rather than later needs to be given to codification. Legislators bring in many well intentioned laws but it’s the implementation that is the problem. Time will tell.

Finally, there appears to be something brewing on the financial limits for small claims and summary cause actions. Motions are now being lodged by individual MSPs calling for the threshold to be raised or personal injury excluded. I doubt that they are doing so without some hint or suggestion from the Executive that change is in the offing. Clearly, there has to be change. The limits are dated and eroded by inflation.

The warnings of the dangers of increasing them without considering the ramifications for personal injury cases in particular are correct. This should not simply be rushed through with a statutory instrument uprating the limits. There must be a proper debate on the nature of justice and access to it for smaller financial claims. Given that the cost of a sheriff, according to a parliamentary answer I received, now amounts to £159,000 per annum, do we want them deciding on whether someone’s plumbing work was poor, or whether I signalled or not as your car ran into the back of mine causing £200 worth of damage?

There must be access to justice but also at an affordable level – especially for minor claims. How courts are run, staffed and operated at that level needs to be decided. It must not be foisted on either politicians or the profession with a take it or leave it increase in thresholds through a statutory instrument. This is a debate that must take place not just in the chamber but in the profession.

Kenny MacAskill

However, by coincidence, Kenny MacAskill appears in the Herald newspaper today, and while it is reported he has no plans to alter any of the reforms as proposed in the LPLA Bill as passed, he does indicate the SNP, curiously, will be taking 'cautious line on the vexed issue of Scotland's shockingly low threshold for small claims'.

Why is that now ?

We all know the issue of the small claims limit has been held back by lobbying from the legal profession, particularly the firm of noted friends to the Labour Party - Solicitors Messrs Digby Brown, which has been covered before in the Herald and on my blog ...
Small claims limits in Scotland restricted to £750 for the last 18 years by the legal profession for their own interests.

We also all know the legal profession has tried to gag the media over revelations of serious corruption by the most senior officials of the Law Society of Scotland attempting to fiddle complaints against lawyer colleagues Law Society of Scotland claims success in gagging the press over Herald newspaper revelations of secret case memos

We also all know the legal profession - well, the Law Society of Scotland itself, threatened the Parliament & Executive with court action if the LPLA Bill was passed : Law Society of Scotland threatens Court challenge against Scottish Executive over LPLA legal reform Bill

We also all know the 'tesco law' which some (lawyers) don't want in Scotland, goes much further back than Clementi - and we have Sections 25-29 of the Law Reform Misc Provisions Act 1990 which were to open up the legal services market - but which were never implemented due to intense lobbying from the legal profession - and resistance from at least one serving Lord Advocate who in 1997 floated the idea of delay, and even repeal - which left lawyers & advocates retaining their monopoly over legal representation - and also - their power over saying who gets access to justice or the courts, and who does not.

Why should we then give these people any extra favours ? They, the legal profession, have threatened our very independence & democratically elected Parliament & Government, just to keep their right to cover up for their own colleagues in case of injustice after injustice .. for money, profit, power and influence.

So, members of the SNP if you win this week, why not just raise the small claims limit, and introduce some competition into the area of legal representation, so we can have justice for all, and not just justice for some.

As we all say, IT'S TIME ... so, IT'S TIME FOR INJUSTICE TO END, and if the SNP are true to their word, INJUSTICE IN SCOTLAND MUST END.

I ask you, Alex Salmond, if you become the next First Minister, to ensure that injustice in Scotland ends. You will have the power to do it, please use it.

After all, its our Scotland - all of us, and we all deserve and have the right to justice, and proper resolutions to those cases of injustice we have suffered for years, because of the constant 'oh lets not do anything for those people because the legal profession don't want us to'attitude of politicians at both Holyrood and Westminster ..


Herald article of today, with link :

SNP says ‘Tesco Law’ is not suited to Scottish society
PAUL ROGERSON, City Editor April 30 2007

SNP justice spokesman Kenny MacAskill has said the party will not seek to introduce so-called "Tesco Law" north of the border, should it take power at Holyrood.

He was commenting on the party's policies towards the legal profession, which are broadly outlined in its election manifesto.

South of the border, of course, external investors such as supermarkets and banks are being allowed to own and run law firms for the first time. Practices will also be able to float and appoint non-lawyer partners, and English barristers and solicitors will be able to form partnerships.

"MacClementi", a working party report on Scotland's legal services market commissioned by the Scottish Executive and published early last year, was widely viewed as a damp squib in respect of opening up the market to greater competition. This has split the profession, with some eminent lawyers in favour of the new freedoms and others hostile.

Asked if he would seek to legislate to allow any or all of the freedoms enshrined under the general term "Tesco Law", MacAskill responded: "Further investigation is needed. Tesco Law is to be avoided as it would not suit Scottish society. However, some opportunity for successful Scottish firms to compete globally is appropriate."
Protection of those pursuing personal injury claims must be assured

MacAskill did give a commitment to implement fully reforms scrapping self-regulation enshrined in the recently passed Legal Profession and Legal Aid (Scotland) Bill, including the creation of an independent Scottish Legal Complaints Commission to address complaints of poor service by lawyers.

Some consumers have expressed concern about his commitment to that cause, since he himself is a qualified solicitor and was a partner in an Edinburgh law firm until 2000.

Asked if the SNP was committed to the full implementation of the bill as recently passed by parliament, however, MacAskill answered with a simple "yes". He said he has no plans to alter any aspect of the reforms. The SNP is taking a cautious line on the vexed issue of Scotland's shockingly low threshold for small claims. It is now nine years since it was recommended that the limit be lifted to £1500 from £750, but nothing has been done.

Scottish consumer groups continue to despair that for people wanting compensation from a supplier of shoddy goods or services without the expense of hiring a lawyer, the effective maximum is £750 - less than the cost of a plasma TV. That limit has been frozen for 19 years, whereas in England and Wales the small claims ceiling is £5000 and has been since 1999.

According to consumer organisation Which?, some despairing Scots who can do so, choose to pursue their cases in the English courts. Julia Clarke, public affairs officer for Which? in Scotland, has described the Executive's failure to act as a "charter for cowboys".

Personal injury claims are to be excluded from increases in the small claims threshold if and when the Executive does act. That much is clear.

Opponents of higher limits, however, which include trade unions, allege that more radical action would deny legal redress to thousands of Scots by taking them out of the legal aid net.

Others make dark allegations of protectionism, stressing that a rise would enable more people to go to court without having to pay a solicitor. Asked if the SNP will be increasing the small claims limit and, if so, to what level and when, MacAskill responded: "A root-and-branch reform is needed for a system unfit for 21st century society.

"The protection of those pursuing personal injury claims must be assured.

However, a faster and more streamlined system must be available for minor consumer and other small claims."

Friday, April 27, 2007

Scotland Against Crooked Lawyers campaign for the Scottish Parliament Elections on Thursday 3rd May 2007

With the approaching elections for the Scottish Parliament coming on Thursday May 3rd 2007, we can be sure of only one political party which will listen to those people who have experienced injustice at the hands of Scotland's legal profession, and other self-regulating professions & public bodies who refuse to tackle incidences of corruption within their membership .. and of course, that party & well known campaign group I refer to must be - Scotland Against Crooked Lawyers


Love them (as many who have fallen at the hands of their crooked lawyers do) .. or loathe then (as many members of the legal profession do), SACL have scored numerous successes over the years against the legal profession, and brought the issue of crooked lawyers and corrupt practices of self regulation into the public eye. Indeed, the very phrase, crooked lawyers, has certainly been more widely used since SACL came into being !

Myself, having been a long time campaigner on these same issues of a dishonest legal system & legal profession in Scotland, since the early 1990s, kindled by my own experience at the hands of Scotland's most famous crooked lawyer - Andrew Penman of Stormonth Darling Solicitors, Kelso ... I can sympathise with anyone or any group which seeks to end the domination of our legal fraternity over issues such as access to justice & legal representation, and interference in our political system ...


While the other parties barter with some of the most hated & most crooked members of the legal profession for donations & agreements of cooperation after the elections are over ...SACL have certainly maintained their stance on issues which sooner or later, affect everyone in the land, as we all need to use legal services at some point in our lives, or have access to legal representation - which currently, many are not getting because the Law Society of Scotland's membership either can't get enough legal aid to fill their pockets for your cases - or simply don't want your case to proceed through the courts out of some professional or personal interest.

So, next Thursday, decide for yourselves where to place your vote, but remember those who campaign for issues such as accountability, transparency, honesty, and use your vote wisely as you decide yourself - after all, it's your right, it's your vote !

2007_Election_Trailer SACL_Lamppost_Poster

.. and a reminder for 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 .

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Crooked lawyers want to say "Sorry" to ruined clients - so they can go ruin some more clients

An exchange between a crooked lawyer & a client who has been brave enough to question their poor service, making a complaint to the Law Society of Scotland, usually goes something like the following ...

I (crooked lawyer) ruined your life, ruined your health, ruined your business, embezzled your money, stole your house from under you & left you homeless - and we got away with it - so too bad, there's nothing you can do about it, and if you try, we, as a profession, will ground you into the dirt and make you regret the day you ever used a lawyer ...

A common enough experience which thousands of 'disgruntled clients' have faced over the years when making a complaint to the Law Society of Scotland against their oh-so-nice lawyer who then turned out to be nothing less than a big rogue out to milk them for every penny .. and then, of course, the Law Society turned their vast resources against the client too ... making their lives a living hell.

Well, there are some in the legal profession who want to patch that up, by saying "Sorry" before they say the rest of the line ... without of course, any thoughts of proper and just compensation for their actions in the first place.

Simply, the legal profession wants to be able to say sorry, and then just get away with what they did to their clients without punishment. Great stuff, isn't it ... almost one could say, the lawyers equivalent of the confessional, but without penance or repentance.

Many clients of crooked lawyers I know who have made complaints to the Law Society of Scotland over some of the most heinous conduct by their solicitors towards them, would want a lot more than a "sorry" or an expression of regret, as John Sturrock puts forward in the Scotsman earlier this week.

Some people over the years have asked me if I would have accepted an apology from Scotland's most famous crooked lawyer - Andrew Penman. No I would not such an apology - because I know he wouldn't mean it, and he would go on to do the same to others, just as he has actually done - and got away with that too.

Andrew Penman, of Stormonth Darling Solicitors, Kelso knew full well what he was doing, and deliberately embarked on a scheme to ruin my family, along with notorious Scottish Borders accountant Norman J Howitt, of Welch & Co, Accountants. Hawick & Galashiels

We are talking about people who delighted at my mothers death, and hoped for mine too .. people who also falsified reports to the Police to cover up their own vast frauds & fiddles, people who deliberately set out to deceive Banks, financial institutions, and even the Inland Revenue, in a well planned scheme to ruin my family and take what was there for themselves.

So, would anyone really accept an apology from such people ? I doubt it - and the same has happened to countless clients of crooked lawyers & other crooked professionals over the years, so Mr Sturrock, and your friends in the Law Society of Scotland - "Sorry" will simply not do.

Rather, a full review of the prejudice, discrimination, corruption & twisted practices which the Law Society of Scotland have mounted against clients who dared make complaints against their corrupt legal representatives, needs to be put into motion by the Scottish Executive & Scottish Parliament - and proper & just compensation paid out to all those victims of crooked lawyers dirty tricks, frauds, embezzlement & other dirty money grabbing schemes which have been implemented against clients wholesale over the years while the Law Society of Scotland have proudly & corruptly self regulated Scotland's legal profession - making sure the cream of the crooked get off at every turn.

Save your "Sorry" for after all of that, Mr Lawyer ...

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 ..

Earlier articles covering the aims of Petition PE1033 can be found here :

Experienced poor treatment at the hands of the Law Society of Scotland ? &
A time for truth, reconciliation, & settlement of injustice between the Scottish legal profession and the public

Article to follow, with link, from the Scotsman :

Mon 23 Apr 2007

'Sorry' can be worth its weight in gold...


"I NOW understand the human side and the hurt you felt. It's a people business and we need to work together... I am truly sorry that this happened."

These were the words of the senior partner of a professional services firm to a client. In a face-to-face meeting, he had listened to the strong concerns expressed by the client about a transaction that had not worked out as the client had expected.

The client blamed his advisers. The firm did not accept that they were at fault. Nevertheless, by addressing the sense of frustration directly, the senior partner brought to an end what would have become a long-running and expensive dispute - both monetarily and in reputation.

We hear a lot these days about the giving of apologies at national and international level for events that have occurred generations ago.

As a mediator, however, my interest is in the frequency of occasions in which apologies can play a vital role in commercial disputes. Often, people say "It's only about the money" or "Let's cut through this and get straight to the figures".

Nearly always, even in an apparently hard-nosed commercial transaction, there is a further dimension. At a human level, someone feels slighted, offended, angry, deceived or hurt by what someone else on the other side has said or done.

If this is not addressed, the prospects of achieving a sensible negotiation and a satisfactory resolution can be greatly diminished, because the sense of being hard done by will resurface and plague discussions about the commercial aspects.

On the other hand, I have seen notional claims reduce by hundreds of thousands of pounds when a claimant has feelings of anger or hurt acknowledged. We often do not fully appreciate the value of self esteem - and the cost of ignoring it.

Take, for example, a contractor who had invested money, time and effort in a project. He felt that the beneficiaries of this, with whom he had a number of contracts, had deliberately tried to put him out of business. There were claims and counter-claims. In reality, however, until the sense of injustice had been explored and understood, recognised and acknowledged, no progress could be made.

Or take a long-serving and dedicated employee who felt that she had been bullied and harassed by a superior. Internal grievance procedures had found no evidence of wrongdoing but the sense of hurt at the treatment she perceived she had received at the hands of her employer was deep-seated.

She became ill and clinically depressed. She made a large claim against her employer. The matter dragged on for many months. It took a series of face-to-face meetings for the scale of the impact on all concerned to be appreciated.

When her employer expressly recognised her feelings, acknowledged the impact on her family, and apologised for the effect that events had had on her, the lifting of a heavy burden was palpable.

This did not constitute an acceptance by the employer of liability for what had happened but it created an environment for constructive conversations about how to move on.

There are distinctions between apologies, acknowledgements and expressions of regret.

Saying "I am sorry that this happened to you" is different from saying "I am sorry for what we did that day".

Different again is saying "I understand what you have said and appreciate what you have been through".

Each may have its place according to the circumstances.

It is important that whatever is said is expressed thoughtfully, clearly, unequivocally and sincerely - and face-to-face if at all possible. A follow-up letter reinforcing the points made can be helpful, as people often don't absorb everything in the anxiety of the moment. Consistency is critical.

They say that "sorry seems to be the hardest word" but it can be worth its weight in gold.

Not content with giving us the laughable, if pathetic idea of saying "Sorry" to avoid punishment for ruining lives or paying out compensation .. there was also this other interesting article which reports on a legal firm hiring a 'focus group' to tell them what people think of them ... and the final report sounds about as believable as the unemployment figures for the entire UK .. seasonally adjusted of course ... ! oh .. and the article was of course, written, by .. a lawyer !

Further article from the Scotsman, with link :

Focus groups give law firm the power to 'see themselves as others see them'


ROBERT Burns wrote: "O' wad some Power the giftie gie us tae see oursels as ithers see us." Firms in the modern world now have that power. Few large business would consider making decisions without bringing in professionals who can judge what the public think. From governments assessing policy to Cadbury launching a new chocolate bar, it's all done with focus groups and market research to test the public's attitude.

Such research is not normally associated with lawyers - but our law firm decided to find out exactly what clients and non-clients thought of us and what people were looking for in a firm of solicitors.

Like many professional firms having to meet the demands of modern business, we at Maxwell MacLaurin solicitors in Glasgow and Edinburgh are continually assessing where we are in the market and updating our business plan to reflect that assessment. At the end of last year, we decided to break new ground and follow the example of politics and big business in seeking the opinions of individuals who were not clients, as well as the opinions of some of our own clients.

This was to be so much more than just a satisfaction survey, so we employed Scotinform, an Edinburgh-based market research company, to find out how Maxwell MacLaurin is perceived by clients and non-clients alike.

We now have a valuable 14-page document telling us exactly what people think of our firm, all based on direct answers to questions that were given to our clients and non-clients in focus groups held in Glasgow and Edinburgh.

My partners and I are delighted with the report, not only because it includes findings of a very high level of satisfaction with the firm and its people but also because it gives us a very clear indication of what marketing strategy we should undertake in the future. We are now in active discussion with One O'Clock Gun, an Edinburgh-based design company, to implement that strategy.

What the survey has also done is help us to recognise the importance of existing client retention. Sheila Muncie, of Scotinform summed up how some clients feel about Maxwell Maclaurin as follows: "Clients in Glasgow and Edinburgh highlighted the very good personal relationship they have with Maxwell Maclaurin and their property department. They frequently used the work 'caring'.

"In Glasgow, where the company has been established for a long time, loyalty was incredibly high. The clients almost thought of Maxwell Maclaurin as 'part of the family'."

We have a very strong client base and we were aware the majority of our business comes from client referrals. Some of our clients are third or fourth generation and nearly every new client will drop a name of an existing one during their first meeting.

Through One O'Clock Gun, we are now also going to reach out from that strong base to new contacts and clients.

It was just as well Burns himself wasn't in the focus groups, as his views on the legal profession have already been well documented. Mind you, as a client, he would have kept the family law division of Maxwell Maclaurin very busy!

• Peter Duff is the managing partner at Maxwell Maclaurin.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Scottish electorate finally hears of Justice priorities from political parties - Justice for some, Injustice for others

It took long enough for the issue of Justice to come into the election campaign, and finally the various political parties have come forth with their policies on issues of Law & Order.

Predictably, the issue of Injustice has skipped the mind & PR spin doctors of the major parties in the coming election, but there are tell tale signs of what we can expect.

Labour - would certainly seem to be wishing to tackle issues of injustice, with their track record of introducing & passing the LPLA (Scotland) Act 2007.

SNP - they certainly want to tackle some issues of injustice - Alex Salmond has claimed he wants a public inquiry into the Shirley McKie case .. but of course, whether there ever will be, is another matter - as one inquiry into an injustice may give rise for calls for many more.

LibDems - Injustice is a low / non existent priority in their policies - and we can expect bargains between the criminally funded LibDems to sweep away any talk of consumer reforms to the likes of dealings with the legal profession etc ...

Conservatives - fancy dealing with the devil now do we ? ... well, many would say the Conservatives have a strong Justice policy - but that only relates to Law & Order in the area of Criminal Law ... nothing to do much with injustice or correcting the past wrongs of the likes of professionals ripping off their clients in all walks of life .. so nothing doing here either I'm afraid.

The rest ... well, the following Scotsman article makes for good reading and a good summary of what we can expect .. so here it is, with the link :

Laying down the law and order priorities

CRIME, and the fear of it, always figures highly in the priorities of voters and political parties. On one level, the debate over law and order in the forthcoming election can be boiled down to one question - which party will make Scotland a safer place?

On that front, the Labour-Lib Dem pact claims already to have provided some answers. After all, crime, or at least crime recorded by the police, is falling.
Advert for's football briefing

But while the numbers may be heading in the right direction, there were still more than a million crimes committed in 2005-6 and many communities remain plagued by drugs, violence and disorder. And latest figures show the number of killings has risen.

So there are myriad law-and-order issues over which the main parties are competing fiercely for your vote.

What to do, for example, about Scotland's high reoffending rate? Nearly half of all convicted criminals commit more offences within two years of receiving their punishment, leading Cathy Jamieson, the justice minister, to admit that the system, for some, is little more than a "revolving door".

The parties agree that prisons, for many, do not rehabilitate and that chronic overcrowding only makes the problem worse, which is why sentencing policy - while not necessarily a headline grabber - figures large in many of the manifestos.

Then there is the problem of youth crime. The last administration failed to reach its own targets on cutting the number of hardcore young offenders. In fact, the numbers have risen.

Labour will reform the overworked children's hearing system and the SNP has pledged to clamp down on underage drinking and reinstate the Airborne "boot camp" initiative. The Lib Dems believe early intervention is needed while the Tories want to expand youth courts.

Antisocial behaviour remains one of the biggest, and most controversial, issues, with Labour's proposal for "instant ASBOs" and naming and shaming the worst offenders attracting plenty of comment. The threat posed by sex offenders also features prominently in several party manifestos.

The smaller parties' proposals address a number of controversial issues. The Scottish Socialist Party, for example, is pledging to allow free heroin on prescription to registered addicts and give prisoners the vote, while the Greens have promised steps to address Scotland's low conviction rate in rape cases.


Establish a community police team in every area in Scotland. Introduce new police powers to tackle gangland criminals by allowing more cross- Border sharing of intelligence. Build Crime Campus to bring law enforcement agencies under one roof.

Recruit 1,000 extra community police officers, with at least two community officers in every council ward. Increase links between neighbourhood watch schemes and local police.

Recruit 1,500 more police officers. Work with chief constables to cut police red tape. Increase accountability by making police publish community crime statistics.

Recruit 1,000 more police officers and encourage chief constables to focus extra resources on community policing. Create Serious Crime Taskforce, with police investigations supported by dedicated prosecutors and specialists.

Place more emphasis on community policing and integration between police and social services.

Replace “ toothless” joint police boards with new community, regional and national boards, to improve the accountability of police.


Double the number of community wardens to more than 1,000. Name and shame people who cause chaos in their neighbourhoods. Invest more from the proceeds of crime in community activities and CCTV. Introduce instant ASBOs, allowing police officers to take immediate action.

Roll out community reparation orders across the country. Make more use of restorative- justice panels.

More accountable police will encourage zero tolerance towards vandalism, graffiti and other forms of antisocial behaviour.

Review and improve the working of the ASBO system, including consulting on giving revamped community councils a greater role in the process of applying for antisocial behaviour orders.

End the “ obsession” with ASBOs – such orders should be used only as a last resort. Encourage police to focus resources on areas with high levels of antisocial behaviour.



Build culture of early intervention among teachers, health workers and social workers, to identify problem behaviour early. Establish youth panels, allowing peers to help change bad behaviour. Put more resources into diverting young people from crime.

Create community youth forums across Scotland to identify what amenities are needed in each local area. Ensure local youth facilities are run by young people.

Reform the children’s hearing system to deal more effectively with persistent offenders. Expand the use of electronic tagging for the most serious cases. Build three new youth courts in Kilmarnock, Paisley and Dundee.

Ensure that persistent offenders aged 14 and 15 go to dedicated youth courts. Give children’s hearings the power to issue drug treatment and testing orders.

Clamp down on under- age alcohol sales: culprits will lose their licences and buying alcohol for under- 18s will lead to prosecution. Extend crackdown on irresponsible drinks promotions in clubs and pubs to the off- licence trade. Reinstate the Airborne Initiative.

Provide more resources for the children’s hearing system. Invest in facilities for young people and revive youth work.


Ensure prisons are used appropriately by utilising supervised attendance orders for fine defaulters. Examine what further steps are needed to tackle drugs in prison and reoffending. Create Sentencing Guidelines Council to set out clear guidelines for judges and courts to bring more consistency to sentencing.

Replace Scottish Prison Service with new Scottish Custody and Rehabilitation Service. Replace prison sentences of three months or less with community sentences. Pilot new dual sentences, where judge sets community part of sentence at end of jail term.

Build an extra prison, allowing prison staff to spend more time on rehabilitation of inmates. Scrap early release. Introduce “ three strikes” system, with threat of longer jail sentence for repeat offenders.

Create Scottish Sentencing Council to provide guidelines for judiciary. Have a presumption against custodial sentences of less than six months in favour of community- based punishment. Retain Peterhead jail.

Replace “ very short” prison sentences with community disposals. Use prison only for offenders who pose genuine risk to public. Give courts power to force those convicted of environmental crime to pay for restoration.

Reduce prison population by expanding alternatives for low- level offenders. Introduce system of accountability for judges and sheriffs. Allow prisoners to vote in elections. Expand prison rehabilitation. Reverse privatisation.


Improve process of offender release to “ rebalance” interests of public safety and rehabilitation. Introduce new arrangements for publicising identities of predatory sex offenders. Act on recommendations of Scottish Law Commission to tackle “ unacceptable” low levels of rape convictions.

Release the names and photographs of dangerous sex offenders who go underground to the community. Introduce traffic- light system to alert people when sex offender’s behaviour causes concern.


Require sex offenders to undergo polygraph tests to check behaviour. Monitor their movements through satellite tracking.

Will “ address” the low conviction rates for rape, sexual violence and sexual abuse.

Require every convicted sex offender to undergo a treatment programme either in the community or in prison. Provide more police resources to monitor and supervise sex offenders. Create secure units for the most dangerous offenders.


Expand the public defender scheme to cover the whole of Scotland by 2011. Improve criminal and civil legal aid so that it provides equal access to the law.

Improve access to legal advice in rural areas. Provide more grant assistance to help people access advice through Citizens’ Advice Bureaux.

Carry out root- and- branch review of legal aid system to ensure people across the country have access to representation.



Extend legal aid to cover workplace and consumer disputes.


Provide free heroin on prescription to registered addicts. Expand rehabilitation and detox facilities.

Spend £ 100 million a year on drug rehabilitation. Ensure suspected drug dealers are tried at indictment level. Suspend visitation rights for prisoners found with drugs. Reintroduce random drug testing in jails.

Set up National Drug- Free Lives Unit to drive policy. Improve drugs education, including the use of former drug users in schools. Provide rehabilitation places specifically for mothers with children so they can be cared for during treatment.

Extend drug treatment and testing orders to district courts. Double funding for drug treatment. Create national register of drug services.

Increase spending on drug rehabilitation by 20 per cent.

Create more specialist secure rehabilitation facilities for prisoners who want to end drug use.


Introduce corporate homicide legislation to place duties on individual directors.

Retain DNA samples and the fingerprints of all crime suspects.

Ensure victims of crime are regularly briefed by police and the Crown Office.

Introduce new restrictions on the sale of firearms, with an attempt to transfer powers from Westminster.

Bring in a fast- track appeals system to deal with suspected miscarriages of justice.

Bring in maximum s e v e n - y e a r combined custody and community sentence for possession of a knife.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Failure of regulation at Crown Office allows Fiscal Depute in criminal investigation to resign.

While the legal profession as a whole, suffered a bite into their armour last year with the passing of the Legal Profession & Legal Aid (Scotland) Act 2007, nothing much changes at the Crown Office, with the revelation that a Procurator Fiscal Depute has escaped a criminal investigation over allegations she dropped a criminal case as a favour to a friend - reports the Scotsman.

Nothing new here then, which dashes the hopes that Colin Boyd's replacement, Elish Angiolini, would give a much needed clean up to the Crown Office's way of doing things, which by this incident, seems to indicate that has certainly not happened.

Of course, we could also assume that Morag Stuart, the now ex-procurator fiscal depute can now look for a job in private practice as a solicitor - since she is of course, a qualified lawyer ...but if that were to happen, would clients really like someone who has been involved in such a criminal investigation handling their legal affairs ? .. indeed, could they be trusted enough to retain a solicitor's practicing certificate ?

However, since Ms Stuart has resigned from the Crown Office, and retains her practicing certificate - perhaps, in the public interest, someone should put in a complaint to the Law Society of Scotland to see if she is fit to retain that practicing certificate ?

After all, solicitors have to be beyond reproach, don't they ? *laugh* .. and it would certainly be in the public interest to ensure that clients have full knowledge of a solicitor's experiences before they use then for legal representation ...

Ms Stuart has already been in civil practice, apparently, as reported by the Scotsman article .. but also it is reported she was once chairwoman of the Scottish Young Lawyers' Association and also served as the executive member for Scotland on the European Young Bar Association .... but at the end of it all, as you can see, she had to resign to escape action being taken on her case ... or of course, it may well be she was told to resign, because it may have been difficult for the Crown Office to cover up on this one, such as they have done in the past, when even their members of staff have faced serious criminal charges from everything from fraud to sex offences ...

We've all seen this kind of thing before in the media of course ... Crown Office covers up for it's staff ... Police cover up for their own, lawyers cover up for lawyer, accountant, doctor .. you name it ... self regulation covers it up ... and having another district's Procurator Fiscal's office investigate a complaint as a sign of 'impartiality' makes a mockery of the notion of transparency ...

If the Lord Advocate wants to clean up the Crown Office - just as the entire legal profession should be cleaned up, and if the evidence in this case necessitates a criminal charge - shouldn't it proceed ? rather than be allowed to slip away just because the offender has resigned ?

If someone who represents & serves the law and who is expected to "exceed the high standards of probity, justice and fairness expected by the public" in the acting of their duty, ends up twisting or using the law to defeat a criminal enterprise .. should they not be held to account for their actions just as everyone expects to be ?

Link from the Scotsman :

Crown won't charge fiscal who allegedly dropped case for friend

THE Crown Office has decided to take no action against a prosecutor after she resigned amid allegations that she dropped a criminal case as a favour to a friend.

Morag Stuart, a procurator- fiscal depute, was at the centre of a seven-month criminal investigation into allegations of corrupt practices at work.

Yesterday, it emerged that Ms Stuart had resigned from her post. A few hours later, the Crown Office announced no further action would be taken against her.

She had been escorted from the procurator-fiscal's office in Dundee by Crown officials after the allegation was raised by a colleague.

It is understood that Ms Stuart, 34, whose father is a retired police officer, tendered her resignation earlier this month.

A spokesman for the Crown Office confirmed yesterday morning that an investigation was continuing into allegations about Ms Stuart's conduct.

He said senior Crown counsel were considering the case and "no decision" had yet been made on whether she would face criminal prosecution.

But the case took a sudden twist last night when the Crown Office announced that they would be taking no further action.

Detectives had raided the Dundee office where Ms Stuart worked last September and removed files relating to hundreds of cases she had worked on.

The police investigation was launched at the request of Betty Bott, the district procurator- fiscal.

Ms Stuart had been on sick leave for several weeks and returned to work on a three-day basis shortly before being suspended. She was removed from the office and remained suspended from her post while officers from Tayside Police carried out their investigation.

The experienced prosecutor was alleged to have quietly dropped a court case in which the accused was someone who was known to her.

Documents relating to the case in question were carefully examined and a number of staff at the fiscal's office have been quizzed by detectives.

A court insider said: "There were apparently very dramatic scenes when she was marched out of the office.

"I don't know how it came to light, but it involves a case she was handling which was dropped. The allegation is that she took the decision not to proceed any further with the case because the accused was someone she knew.

"Fiscal staff have to be seen to be squeaky clean and they just can't deal with cases where they know the people involved."

Ms Stuart had been on long-term sick leave with a reported back problem.

Another court regular said: "She mainly worked in Dundee and Arbroath sheriff courts. She has done all the usual stuff - trials and pleading courts.

"She was not what you would describe as one of the popular figures round here. Being off for such a long time probably didn't help.

"This episode must be hugely embarrassing for the fiscal's office, as they are supposed to be seen to be above this kind of thing."

A Crown Office spokeswoman last night said: "Following full and careful consideration of all of the facts and circumstances, Crown Counsel have instructed that no proceedings are to be taken in this case."

It is understood that special arrangements are in place for investigating allegations against Crown Office employees or members of their families.

In this case, the investigation was carried out by the Edinburgh procurator-fiscal's office in an effort to ensure impartiality.

Ms Stuart, a graduate of Dundee University, is a former chairwoman of the Scottish Young Lawyers' Association and also served as the executive member for Scotland on the European Young Bar Association.

After qualifying in 1995, she spent several years in Glasgow as a civil litigator before moving to Dundee when her husband found work there. She later joined the Procurator-Fiscal Service.

A spokeswoman for Tayside Police said: "We were asked to carry out an investigation and a report is now with the procurator-fiscal.

" It would be inappropriate to make any further comment."

• PROCURATOR-FISCAL deputes' duties include directing police on local criminal inquiries, deciding when and how to prosecute and investigating sudden and suspicious deaths.

They are also tasked with conducting proceedings in sheriff and district courts, and preparing cases for prosecution in the High Court and are expected to "exceed the high standards of probity, justice and fairness expected by the public".

Their posts have a starting salary of between £24,500 and £30,750, depending on experience, with pay rising to up to £44,784.

The investigation involving Ms Stuart comes more than a year after another prosecutor, Stuart MacFarlane, was caught with a prostitute. However, it emerged last May that Mr MacFarlane would not face trial after the Crown decided it would not be in the public interest to proceed.

Mr MacFarlane, 37, had previously resigned his position as the principal procurator-fiscal depute in Glasgow, six months after he was arrested following a function at Strathclyde Police headquarters. It was alleged he and 27-year-old Joanna Crane were caught by police while she was performing a sex act on him.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Talk of Judicial Reforms enters Scottish Election as Labour claim the high ground on Justice system

One area of rather noticeable neglect in the recent spate of election articles all over the Scottish media - is that of which party will do what with our failing legal system.

An unimportant issue then perhaps ? Certainly not. If we don't have an effective and honest legal system in our own country, then we don't have much, do we ...

The first party to jump on this issue, has been Labour, with announcements from Cathy Jamieson, the Justice Minister, and First Minister Jack McConnell that recent ideas such as the "Judicial Appointments Board" actually turn into reality .. although from what we saw last year, the opposition from the Judiciary itself will be considerable to any perceived interference in it's current 'old boys club' operation.

Well, while we are waiting to hear from the other political parties on this issue, I'd have to say one thing - Labour do have a track record in this area - we did, after all, get the Legal Profession & Legal Aid Act (2007) Legal Profession & Legal Aid Act (2007) ... which I have a feeling no other political party would have given us.

Download a full copy of the Legal Profession & Legal Aid (Scotland) Act 2007 in pdf format HERE

Yes of course, we didn't get everything we wanted with the LPLA (Scotland) Act ... and there are still a few loose ends where the legal profession have more control over matters than they really should - but it was a start, and that is definitely to be built on, as the new Scottish Legal Complaints Commission takes shape and begins operation.

I would like to say the SNP would also have given us such legislation, but my attention has been drawn to various outbursts from Kenny MacKaskill (the future SNP Justice Minister) who regards victims of the legal profession in rather worrying derogatory terms .. to the point I would hope Alex Salmond would take note of and appoint someone with more neutrality to the post of Justice Minister, if the SNP do win in May.

Would the LibDems do anything positive for the Scottish legal system ? I think not.

Actually, LibDem peers from the House of Lords were brought in by the Law Society of Scotland to defeat the LPLA (Scotland) Act, threatening court action against the Scottish Parliament itself if legislation was passed making complaints against lawyers an independently scrutinised process ...

LibDem peer Lord Lester of Herne Hill QC was intent on arguing it was against the Human Rights of crooked Scottish lawyers to be independently investigated ! .. so I don't think we can expect anything positive from the LibDem party .. who after all, took funding from a convicted criminal and didn't hand it back ...

The Conservatives may do something positive for the Scottish legal system them ? .. well perhaps they may, but the tories don't stand a chance of power, and with the likes of David McLetchie still in the party, I think the tories would be more intent on repealing the LPLA (Scotland) Bill, like the LibDems .. than helping the victims of injustice ...

As for the rest of the parties in the election, well, we can certainly trust Scotland Against Crooked Lawyers to do something about the Judicial system .. and you can find out more about their policies and candidates here Scotland Against Crooked Lawyers

Following article reporting on pledges on reforming Judges comes from the Daily Record, links in the headlines... and before anyone accuses me of being a Labour supporter - remember my politics are neutral - I'm reporting on the facts and events, not here to promote anyone over the other. If you want me to run stories on the other parties and their plans for tackling injustice or legal reform - send them in please.


McConnell in election pledge
Exclusive by Magnus Gardham

LABOUR will today unveil plans to sack out-of-touch judges.

Jack McConnell will promise tough powers to discipline and dismiss judges if he is still First Minister after May 3.

The move follows public outrage over lenient sentences.

McConnell will pledge to beef up the Judicial Appointments Board, set up to end secrecy surrounding judicial appointments.

The independent board, who include lay people, will be given statutory powers to discipline and sack badly performing High Court judges, sheriffs principal, sheriffs and part-time sheriffs.

At present, judges can be sacked by the head of the judiciary in Scotland, the Lord President - but the process can take years.

The proposed powers would be set out in a Bill within the first year of a new Labour government.

The move will be controversial - the legal establishment has hit out before at what it sees as attempts to undermine judges' independence. But a source close to McConnell said: "The public can lose faith in the legal system when they see decisions that are not credible, mainly because judges have been too lenient."

In one of the most infamous cases of recent years, sex beast James Taylor, of Grangemouth, was jailed for just five years for raping a baby and taking pictures of the attack.

The source added: "We want a system where judges can be held to account and disciplined for poor performance.

"Judges will still be free to be independent but the wider public interest has to be taken into account too."

The move will be announced by McConnell and Cathy Jamieson as they highlight Labour's commitment to fighting crime.

It comes after a poll showed Labour had overtaken the SNP. The Scottish Opinion poll for a Sunday paper said 35 per cent of voters backed Labour compared with 32 per cent for the Nats.

But a poll a week ago gave the SNP a 12-point lead and reaction to the latest findings was cautious.


TOUGH powers to sack out-of-touch judges are on the cards if Labour win on May 3.

The move is designed to make them more accountable and put the power to dispense with them back in the hands of politicans and public opinion.

To be fair, Scotland's judges are more in tune than their colleagues down south.

There have been outcries over lenient sentences in recent times.

And there is no reason why judges should not face the same scrutiny as senior civil servants, head teachers and others with highly responsible public sector jobs.

The move will no doubt be seen by the legal establishment as an attack on the independence of the judiciary.

But under the existing format, it can take years to get rid of a poorly performing judge.

The recently created Judicial Appointments Board, who will exercise the new powers, were greeted with suspicion when they were set up.

But they work well and have now been accepted. They ensure the legal old boys' network can no longer hire judges over a G&T at the golf club.

If Labour get their way, the board will bring the same spirit of openness to ensuring judges continue to be up to scratch.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Angela Baillie - aka Ally McDeal, gets an early release - more preferential treatment for lawyers in the eyes of the Law ?

Thanks for all your emails and posts regarding my last article on the Scottish Executive FOI disclosure on material regarding the failure to implement Sections 25-29 of the Law Reform (Misc Provisions) Act 1990, including of course, the communications from the then Lord Advocate's Office regarding delaying such changes and even floating the idea of repeal.

Most of you seem to agree, along with several journalists I know, that this particular FOI disclosure has, at the very least, a few omissions which would lead the reader to suspect persons or organisations were being protected from implication in maintaining the monopoly by lawyers and advocates over availability of legal representation.

Among a few articles I missed in the media last week, was the story of one of the Law Society's shining stars, Angela Baillie, aka Ally McDeal, the drugs running lawyer who smuggled narcotics into jail for one of her clients, who managed an early release - earlier than probably anyone else, considering what she did.

Of course, lawyers do get preferential treatment, don't they ? and that seems to include matters arising from criminal charges & convictions ...where Scotland's legal profession is littered with solicitors who have criminal records or have been charged with serious criminal offences.

What are the odds, for instance, that a rape victim's lawyer has actually been charged with rape himself ... well .. the odds are shortened on that one in Scotland, dear readers .. and we certainly don't get to know about it, because such records are more secret than the files of MI5 .... although sometimes a wee dribble of a story leaks to the media, where for instance, a Crown Office employee - a Fiscal, who was prosecuting a case, was actually dragged out of court to face charges of child pornography ... just imagine the odds then of someone like that prosecuting someone for the same offences they were charged with .. in Scotland ? more than likely it seems, despite the Freedom of Information Act.

I was also sent an article regarding the thoughts of some politicians against clients of solicitors - nothing very good I'm afraid ... and of course the politicians concerned, are lawyers themselves ... ho hum ... words can certainly come back to haunt people later on then ... but I wonder how one of those politicians named in the articles would tackle a client of a lawyer whose daughter was threatened with rape unless the complaints were dropped against that crooked lawyer ... I wonder if said politician would call said client a 'malcontent' ? ... more to come on that one soon ...

Anyway, without further ado, the article on Angela Baillie, from the Daily Record - good thing the Record noticed it too .. because the rest missed it ... link in the headline of course.


Neighbours' anger as she goes home
By Craig Mcdonald

DRUG-DEALING lawyer Angela Baillie was lying low last night after being freed from prison less than a year into a 32-month sentence.

Baillie, 33, was at her £200,000 semi-detached house in Newton Mearns, on the outskirts of Glasgow.

Neighbours last night spoke of their fury that Baillie - nicknamed Ally McDeal after the TV lawyer - had chosen to return.

One said: "We all remember the time police raided her place and she was out screaming at them in the street.

"There has even been a gun brought to the house. It's outrageous. This is a quiet neighbourhood and people like her are just not wanted."

Former criminal defence lawyer Baillie destroyed her career when she was caught smuggling drugs to a client in Glasgow's Barlinnie Prison in October 2005.

The drugs were stuffed in a cigarette packet.

Last year, at the High Court in Paisley, Baillie admitted dealing in heroin and diazepam worth £1600 and was later jailed.

Baillie said at the time that she would never return to her home in Newton Mearns for fear of reprisals from her former client's family.

During the court case, it was revealed that a female relative of a client had brought a gun to Baillie's house in October 2005.

The woman asked Baillie to keep the gun for her.

Baillie told the Record as she awaited sentence: "I'll never go back to my home. I don't feel safe enough. The house has been cleared and I'll not be back."

But family and friends are understood to have redecorated the property in recent weeks.

It's thought that her 15-year-old daughter, who has been staying with family for the past year, may also eventually move back into the three-bedroom house.

Baillie will be tagged as part of the home detention curfew scheme, which allows prisoners to be released before serving even half of their sentences.

During her time in prison, the Crown sought £52,000 in cash it was claimed Baillie had made from dealing drugs.

Last month, she agreed to pay £5000 but did not admit it came from selling drugs.

Baillie is understood to have a couple of allies in her cul-de-sac. But most locals are aghast at her return.

One neighbour said: "The feeling is, she is showing some nerve by coming back.

"She had a particularly nasty run-in with one woman here.

"People are actually afraid of her. They know about the types she has mixed with and worry they will be here - maybe to carry out reprisals against her.

"It would be a relief if she just took herself off somewhere else."

and a little history on Angela Baillie from The Scotsman ....

'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

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Former Lord Advocate Andrew Hardie revealed as major obstacle in removing lawyer-advocate monopoly on legal representation

Scotland's former Lord Advocate, Andrew Hardie QC, has been revealed as one of the chief obstacles in opening up the long standing solicitor & advocate monopoly on the public's wider access to legal representation and the courts.

You can download the Scottish Executive's FOI Law Reform Disclosure on their failure to open up the public's access to legal representation HERE (pdf format)

In an amazing hardline veto of reforms which would have opened up choice of legal representation to the public, the Lord Advocate stamped his outright hostility to implementing sections 25-29 of the Law Reform Misc Provisions Act 1990, which have come to light in an email from his Private Secretary reprinted here :

Lord Advocate Andrew Hardie on  courtroom reforms - Page 19 of FOI response


The Lord Advocate has seen your Minute of 13 June, and said that he does not think that work should commence on implicating Sections 25-29 for the following reasons:

( 1) Other reforms have not had time to bed down (para 16).The Lord Advocate understands that the effect of the introduction of Solicitor-Advocates is being evaluated.

(2) There is little interest in Scotland having these provisions available (para 17). The ONLY interest has been from the Institute of Commercial Litigators, which body was rejected by the Lord Chancellors Advisory Committee.

(3) There is no obvious benefit from implementing Sections 25-29 (para 18).

(4) The provisions will involve considerable preparatory work by the Secretary of State and the Lord President - both of whom have more important concerns.

(5) There is no pressure for implementation

The Lord Advocate advises delaying all work and if no relevant interest appears within the next year, consideration should be given to repealing these provisions.

RAHAT NAWAZ Private Secretary CROWN OFFICE 24 June 1997

The Lord Advocate must have really had it in for people who couldn't get access to the courts or even secure the services of a lawyer, because the Executive - and particularly the Lord Advocate's Crown Office knew full well - for years, the problems reported to them by the public, elected politicians and civil servants, not to mention consumer organisations such as the Scottish Consumer Council, that there was a severe problem in the Civil Courts system in Scotland where swathes of people simply couldn't get access to the courts, or even obtain the services of a solicitor to handle necessary and important cases - unsurprisingly, including such cases as ... suing lawyers for negligence and handling other legal issues directly involving or against the legal profession itself....

So, the question is, was Andrew Hardie standing up for his colleagues in the legal profession, ensuring their valuable commercial monopoly over access to the Courts would continue ?

You can make a conclusion for yourselves based on the content of the above email alone .. but I say - Yes, the Lord Advocate, and indeed, the Scottish Executive were standing up for protectionism and commercial monopoly, with probably a helping hand from the legal profession to keep their profits & monopoly over legal representation.

Why do I say that ?

Simple. Andrew Hardie and everyone else, from 1990 onwards when the Law Reform Misc Provisions Act 1990 was introduced - and that includes the former Tory Government & Scottish Office prior to 1997, knew there was a huge public outcry for opening access to the courts because the cosy deal between the legal profession & the then Scottish Office, continued on to the Scottish Executive was effectively restricting the rights of the public to get into court in the first place - even having the effect of restricting the availability of legal representation - because lawyers and advocates could, and still do, select the cases they want to appear in court - and kill off the ones they don't like - or those which would be a major thorn in the side of the legal profession or the law in general.

Actually, as you can see, the Lord Advocate went much further than recommending a delay in the implementation of Sections 25-29 ... he actually sought the repeal of these sections of the Law Reform (Misc Provisions) Act on reasoning and motives mentioned in the email, one could question as perfidious.

Of course, not everyone thought like the Lord Advocate .. and there were actually recommendations from the Justice Division of the Scottish Executive to begin work on implementing Sections 25-29 of the Law Reform (Misc Provision) Act 1990, to allow a wider choice of legal representation ... shown here in report from Mrs Brennan of the Scottish Executive.

Brannan Letter June 1997 page 1Brannan Letter June 1997 page 2Brannan Letter June 1997 page 3Brannan Letter June 1997 page 4Brannan Letter June 1997 page 5

However, it wasn't just some officials in the Scottish Executive who agreed there should be a wider public choice of legal representation & access to the courts, as you can see from the following letter from the Director General of the Office of Fair Trading, John Vickers who took the exact opposite view of the then Lord Advocate Andrew Hardie - who would rather have had those parts of law repealed, which would have allowed wider available legal representation to the public.

OFT support for Sections 25-29 march 2003 Page 1OFT support for Sections 25-29 march 2003 Page 2

Director General of the OFT, Mr John Vickers welcomes the implementation of Sections 25-29 of the Law Reform Misc Provisions Act 1990 - bringing a wider choice of access to legal representation and the courts, because as we can see - this is actually the case already in England - so, why keep Scotland in the dark ages again and maintain such monopolistic restrictions on the public's right of access to legal representation when those in England & Wales can secure the services of those other than solicitors & advocates for their legal work ?

Simply for the benefit of the Scottish legal profession's pocket perhaps ? Many feel this to be the case, and all that I have experienced to this date with regard to matters involving the legal profession in Scotland, tells me so. After all - it's all about money, isn't it ? and who gets it and who is allowed access to legal representation and what cases are actually allowed by the legal profession into court.

The remainder of the published disclosure reads as a rather indecisive position from the Scottish Executive, but one could ask - where are all the minutes of correspondence with the Law Society of Scotland and members of the legal profession who had an interest in leaving out implementation of Sections 25-29 ?

There are allegations such meetings did take place .. and such correspondence relating to & involving the views of the legal professions, did exist ... but curiously, none of this material has surfaced in the published disclosure, leading one to believe as many expected, the worst offending information would be withheld from public view.

You may question my comment on that, but inevitably, when the Scottish Executive discuss legal issues or legislation, the opinion of the Law Society of Scotland, or indeed, Law Society officials who work for the Scottish Executive as consultants is usually sought ... and in such a case as reforming access to legal representation and the courts, it is very difficult to believe the Executive, and Scottish Office before it, did not discuss, or meet with representatives of the legal profession to discuss these reforms .. which have of course been held back, many would say, on the orders of the legal profession itself.

Noticeably also in the published disclosure on this matter, is the lack of any documentation pre 1997 .. and I would have to take personal issue with that one myself, as a recent disclosure to me from the Executive included many documents which had accumulated many years before 1997, when the Scottish Office still existed.

Personally I would have to wonder why such documentation which would inevitably identify conservative politicians of the pre 1997 Government, and possibly members of the legal profession themselves, have been withheld, since Labour usually enjoy blaming the former Tory Government for just about everything under the sun .... suspicions abound then but my conclusion is this is not an honest disclosure, and I leave you all to make your own conclusions as to the honesty of what has been published.

Finally, there is an interesting remark contained in one of the documents which should give us all food for thought : "As there is an inherent awkwardness in decisions by government ministers not to commence legislative provisions enacted by parliament" .. a sobering thought for us all to keep in our minds .... with tales of awkward Ministers, and perhaps even awkward Lord Advocates ... is it not time to remedy the sins of the past and give the public a decent, transparent, honest and independently regulated legal profession ?

Monday, April 09, 2007

Institute of Chartered Accountants of Scotland take their quest for corrupt practice to the US

With the forthcoming introduction of independent regulation for Scotland's legal profession, via the Legal Profession & Legal Aid (Scotland) Bill, it may well be a good time to consider taking a look at other self regulatory professions, which have buried the corruption of their members for so long.

One of those self regulating professions, which you know well I have covered (through personal experience) in the past, is Scotland's accountancy profession - ruled by the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Scotland.

ICAS, and the rest of the accountancy profession, have special deals with Westminster, to regulate their own members, throughout the UK. The issue is therefore not devolved to the Scottish Parliament, and any change to the current corrupt set up of accountant regulates accountant, would have to come from London.

Is this a fair deal for Scotland ? in our time of the Scottish Parliament and supposed right to self-determination ?

Well, I don't think it's fair at all ... having some issues we can amend the law or make laws on, but others we can't. That only confirms we are still run from Westminster, and that Holyrood is simply a fiddle-stamp Parliament for the wishes & controls of whoever is in power south of the border.

How could any Scottish politician honestly argue there are laws & things we can't touch, yet we have our own Parliament, have certainly paid for it (through the teeth), and continue to pay for the extravagances & mortgage fiddles of its many members .... so we should be able to vote on & change the law when its not fair, shouldn't we ?

Well, here is such a law - the right of the accountancy profession to self regulate itself, should be struck down, and its current crooked system, which produces Howitt after Howitt, should be replaced by an independent regulator, with wide ranging powers as envisaged in the new Scottish Legal Complaints Commission - to give the consumer and even company client, a fairer, more transparent deal, when it comes to accountancy regulation.

It may just cut down on the fiddles & frauds undertaken by plenty accountants too, from issues involving the collapse of the former US company Enron, to simply milking a few pounds out of small business clients, for their own ends & pockets.

Information on how the accountancy profession is regulated, is fairly hard to come by, since there is no set up like the Scottish Legal Services Ombudsman for complaints against accountants, and organisations such as the FSA and DTI are reluctant to become embroiled in how the very powerful accountancy profession regulates itself .. so the media basically have to rely on statements & snippets direct from the regulators themselves - which is akin to taking Goebbles word as the truth and printing it.

Tom McMorrow, General Counsel to ICAS (he used to be Legal Services Director), claims there are hardly any complaints against accountants at all .. and that we shouldn't worry our little hearts about the situation, because ICAS are doing an honest job.

Well, here is a good example of how ICAS and particularly, Tom McMorrow, do their honest job :

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

Not very honest then, Mr McMorrow, are you ... and ICAS ... well, after reading through the Howitt case, and a slew of complaints which have never been answered by his firm, or ICAS ... oh and not to mention complaints to ICAS where apparently members fiddled cheques through banks of dead clients .... I'd say the Russian Mafia is more trustworthy than ICAS.

All those links to the Privy Council too, just to ensure the power to self regulate your own colleagues is retained ... and getting members of the Privy Council to interfere directly in complaints against accountants, to get them off the hook from further scrutiny .. well, I'd say that proves corruption on quite a scale, which we don't need in Scotland, thanks.

Another interesting point about the accountancy profession, is how it ensures it's members by way of Professional Indemnity Insurance.

Yes, you guessed it - almost duplicate insurance arrangements to which lawyers enjoy - a policy similar to the "Master Insurance Policy" where all members pay a subscription, which also seems to involve the infamously crooked Marsh Inc insurance & brokerage firm, but which has amazingly escaped the attention of the OFT, unlike of course, the insurance deals which the legal profession have with Marsh - which did merit an investigation.

Scotland has some 16,000 accountants, versus just under 10,000 lawyers.

There are 4000-5000 complaints against lawyers in Scotland each year (although the unofficial figures are much higher)

ICAS claims there are about 60 complaints against their accountants each year ... which statistically is a nonsense .. .and certainly from reading a few of your emails, where ICAS won't even acknowledge letters of complaint, and individual accountancy firms will harass a client who tries to make a complaint ...the evidence is that the true figure of complaints & dissatisfaction with accountants in Scotland is much higher than the figures made available from the regulators themselves ...

God only knows why the media is so willing to believe the likes of these statistics, when just about every other statistic in the UK is questioned to the hilt .. for instance, ... heard the one about the unemployment figures ?

Anyway, here is a story from the Herald newspaper, reporting on ICAS taking their "quest for principled practice" to New York.

Perhaps that means ICAS are trying to get the american accountants to steal pensioners bank books & pension books too ...

Quest for principled practice

Quest for principled practice
IAN FRASER April 09 2007

The Institute of Chartered Accountants of Scotland last week took the fight over the future of global accountancy standards to the belly of the beast.

New York will be the battleground in the struggle between the principles-based accounting standards favoured in the UK and the rules-based system favoured in the US.

And it was to New York that Sir David Tweedie, chair of the International Accounting Standards Board, took the message of "convergence".

Tweedie, a keynote speaker at the half-day conference in New York, entitled Principles into Practice, believes that as accounting standards converge, it would be preferable for the global profession to gravitate towards a principles-based approach.

He is a staunch advocate of accountants using judgment and professionalism rather than mere "box-ticking".

He and his fellow advocates of principles-based standards say their approach is less likely to lead to fraud and financial engineering than would a complex system of rules. Also, says Tweedie, a principles-based system is more likely to promote stable capital markets.

They also argue that convergence cannot be achieved if it is to be based on a detailed rules-based approach, which they say would prove to be very difficult to roll out across different jurisdictions and cultures around the world.

In a kneejerk response to the massive frauds at Worldcom and Enron, the US government tightened its rules-based approach through the 2002 Sarbanes-Oxley Act. With it came onerous reporting requirements for US-listed companies, which many claim has sapped the health of US capitalism and encouraged growing numbers of firms to list their shares on international stock exchanges rather than on the NYSE and Nasdaq.

Speaking at the conference, held with the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants, Tweedie said: "If people keep coming to me for clarification on the principles-based standards that are issued, then the game is up. Principles will then become rules. This is one of the last chances we've got to get this right. If the US fails to accept principles-based standards, then the IASB may have to consider a Plan B' on convergence."

David Wood, executive director of technical policy at ICAS, said: "We have reached a critical point, and there had been a risk that IFRS (international financial reporting standards) could start moving towards the US's rules-based system. That's why we decided to take the debate to the place that really matters. This is where the battle is going to be won or lost."

Icas believes that principles-based accounting provides a comprehensive basis for the preparation of financial statements in that it is the definition of flexible, and leaves auditors less scope to convince themselves that an inappropriate interpretation may be acceptable.

Wood says he detects some chinks in the armour of the Americans. Some prominent figures are beginning to question whether their overly rules-based approach may explain the exodus of stock market listings to London and other international markets. In March, US Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson argued in favour of lighter-touch regulation, indicating that a principles-based system might be preferable for the US markets.

Paulson said: "We should also consider whether it would be practically possible and beneficial to move toward a more principles-based regulatory system, as we see working in other parts of the world."

At the ICAS event, Bob Herz, chairman of the US Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB), stressed that principles-based accounting standards would best serve users of accounts and the public interest.

Wood added: "We have heard widespread support from US and UK speakers for principles-based standards. Now the challenge is to put this into practice. To do that, the global profession must promote judgment through the training of accountants; reject a slide into the safety-net of rules and work with regulators to ensure that they accept properly documented decisions that have been arrived at using judgment, instead of blindly following the rule book."

At the ICAS event, principles-based standards also received support from US litigation lawyer Michael Young. An expert on financial reporting and financial fraud at the New York firm Wilkie, Farr & Gallagher, Young said that principles-based standards could survive in the US, despite perceptions that it is a highly-litigious corporate culture.

He said: "Principles-based standards, according to conventional wisdom, would increase liability for preparers and auditors. Rules would seem to offer more certainty. My experience suggests the opposite: if something fishy is going on, rules can't get you off the hook. Rules send corporate culture in the wrong direction - they say we don't trust you'. Finally, rules spawn more rules - not something anyone wants to see."

Michael McKersie, manager of investment affairs at the Association of British Insurers last year, says the idea of a global monopoly of financial reporting is not necessarily a good thing.

"We need to ask the question whether some degree of competition is necessary to achieve objectivity or better standards."

Speaking at an earlier Principles into Practice event, he said that Tweedie's IASB needs to stand up for non- US views around the world, adding that principles are absolutely right but there are "enormous grey areas" which may sometimes need rules.

ICAS intends to hold similar Principles into Practice events in Luxembourg in May and Brussels in September.