Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill continues to disappoint the public in terms of their consumer rights against lawyers & legal services as it was revealed today that telephone comments by staff at the the Scottish Government's Justice Directorate have revealed that a vast amount of staff from the Law Society of Scotland itself are to be migrated to the new 'independent' Scottish Legal Complaints Commission, where 'independent' means ... 'more lawyers than ever'.
At least 34 members of staff from the Law Society's headquarters at Drumsheugh Gardens in Edinburgh, are to work for the new SLCC, which was confirmed in a telephone conversation upon enquiries over the make up of the 'independent' complaints body.
The SLCC, which is yet to even start its work, but has suffered from constant attempts at the hands of the Law Society of Scotland to undermine its function, is rapidly losing it's independence from the legal profession at the hands of Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill, even though the aims of the new complaints body was to be a break from the past and ensure independent regulation of complaints against Scottish solicitors.
We were to be treated to a spin release from the Justice Directorate over the influx of Law Society personnel as a way of 'bringing into the SLCC the most capable staff of dealing with complaints against lawyers' but discussions on how to go about this still seem to be ongoing, as some are concerned over the 'more jobs for the lawyers to protect each other' image it brings to the SLCC.
Since I have now broken the story, that will ease the problems of telling the public I hope ...
A source at the Justice Department speculated that many of the members of staff from the Law Society had themselves been involved in mishandled complaints against some very well known solicitors, where clients rights and finances had been seriously breached by the conduct of their legal representatives, with the Law Society of Scotland taking a back seat and ultimately letting those solicitors, some who had been involved in serious financial frauds against clients, to escape penalty, while ensuring the client got no compensation.
As one lawyer put it this afternoon after hearing the Law Society staff were being squirreled into the new regulatory body - "that's like asking serial abusers to go into their victims homes when they are alone and abuse them again. I don't think the public will be very happy at that."
Oddly enough I have written along these lines before, being warned during the appointments process of the Law Society's wish to ensure its staff were "at the heart" of the new complaints body with the following articles :
update 20 February 2008
After contacting the Scottish Government for comment, the following was received :
“Scottish Ministers have directed that TUPE applies to those staff at the Law Society of Scotland affected by the creation of the SLCC. The number of staff transferring will be borne out of the current internal organisational review within the Law Society.”
So, TUPE saves the day for the same people who are responsible for getting as many crooked lawyers off the hook as possible ... for instance, the people who let John O' Donnell amass some 21 plus negligence claims, will be saved by TUPE and instead of getting paid by lawyers to knock off complaints against lawyers, they will be getting paid by the taxpayer to knock off complaints against lawyers ...good work if you can get it - but not one move to tackle the long line of victims left by their prejudiced anti-public work at the Law Society of Scotland.
Here's some examples of the work of the Law Society staff who are migrating to the new Scottish Legal Complaints Commission :
Law Society of Scotland covers up history of crooked lawyer as new President indicates little change on pro lawyer anti client policies
If you want to find out more about TUPE, go here : Transfer of Undertakings - TUPE
The conveniently placed review of the Law Society's workings, which have been geared for the last few decades to getting as many lawyers off the hook from public & client complaints, might see jobs protected but will deliver a final blow of dishonesty to what was to be a new hope for independent complaints handling against the legal profession.
On enquiring whether the Scottish Government would announce to the public that Law Society staff were to be taken into the 'independent' SLCC, the following comment was received :
"We have already announced the establishment, location and membership of the Commission.There are no plans for any further announcements at present"
Yes, I can see that would be a tricky announcement to make, and with no apparent thought to tackle the problem of an influx of 'negligence preserving lawyers' to what was to be an 'independent' complaints commission, the Justice Secretary is making a mess of things for the public, in favour of lawyers ...
end of update
The continuing demise of the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission even before it begins its work, seems to be aimed at preventing clients of solicitors and the public getting a fair hearing of their complaints in the independent venue which the SLCC was designed to be.
Allegations of continuing interference in the SLCC's formation process by the Law Society of Scotland, and charges of an almost "clueless attitude" at the Scottish Government on how to go about forming the new independent body to deal with public complaints against lawyers, have helped the legal establishment see that everything down to even the SLCC's appointments process has seen many from the legal profession itself migrate into the new body designed to prevent the mistakes of the old.
It's almost like the Law Society of Scotland has now renamed itself the "New" Law Society of Scotland - in the form of the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission, and is ensuring professional survival and control over regulation by getting their own staff into the new complaints body to prevent fair & proper hearings of public complaints against crooked lawyers.
Also today, the Scottish Government refused requests from myself and others to carry out an investigation into the appointments process, citing there was no such need and that everything had been handled correctly and above board with all appointees declaring their full histories and backgrounds.
However as you know this is not the case at all, and the new Chairman Jane Irvine, confirmed in writing she had not been given any prior knowledge of the appointees to the SLCC, even though they include lawyers whom her office has considered complaints against how the Law Society of Scotland has handled complaints against their respective legal firms and other solicitor partners, and the checkered histories of ex-Police appointees to the SLCC to which the incoming Chairman was also not made aware of.
See my earlier article for the call for an investigation into the SLCC appointments process after revelations of previous scandals of some of the appointees here : Call for MacAskill appointments 'sleaze investigation' as revelations show Legal Complaints Commission member was subject of Police inquiry
A Justice Department civil servant today stated that "shortlisted lawyer candidates were subject to checks on their disciplinary record" but those records were themselves provided by the Law Society of Scotland - who are well known to fiddle a few complaints against crooked lawyers and legal firms ... so the records themselves have no validity whatsoever other than perhaps whitewash value, which the Justice Secretary seems to be using quite well .. when it comes to his friends in the legal profession.
Cover up or cover up ? - No need for an investigation into appointments scandal, says Scottish Government
As for the public, well, there is clearly a diminishing chance of getting your complaints heard properly at the hands of the new Scottish Legal Complaints Commission, when it is going to be comprised of mostly migrated staff from the Law Society of Scotland.
The Law Society of Scotland have wasted no time in getting their spies into the new SLCC, and I say that with considerable ease, as given the performances I have seen from the Law Society staff against poor clients who had to complain against a crooked lawyer, I wouldn't trust anyone who worked at the Law Society to be able to change their conditioning and work in what is supposed to be a completely transparent regulatory environment at the SLCC, compared with the secretive, closed and corrupt regulatory environment at the Law Society of Scotland.
Not much of a public interest performance from Kenny MacAskill then, who doesn't seem to value Scots rights at all when it comes to dealings with lawyers.
There does seem to be a problem emerging now with the SNP on issues of Justice and public access to it. While I am fully supportive of many other Scottish Government policies in different walks of life, I am left to wonder, as many now are, why the SNP is failing on justice. Is that solely down to Kenny MacAskill and if so why is this being allowed to happen ?
Put Scots before lawyers for a change ... we deserve it, Mr MacAskill ...