True to tradition, the Scots legal profession always fall back on deception, censorship and manipulation of the media & public opinion when things don't go their way, and in spectacular style, the Sunday Herald today has exposed the Glasgow Bar Association in a media manipulation scandal where it hired a Public Relations firm to attack the recent legal aid reforms, which are depriving lawyers and legal firms of legal aid income.
While at first glance there may be no evidence of Law Society of Scotland involvement, you can be sure Law Chiefs at the Law Society's Edinburgh Headquarters in Drumsheugh Gardens knew all about what was going on, and tacitly supported the covert plan to kill off the widely supported reforms to legal aid, ensuring more money coming back into the legal profession's coffers.
The Law Society itself is no stranger to media manipulation, as the following two stories I have previously covered demonstrate :
One of the above stories even involved a mafia style 'hit' on a senior member of the Law Society itself, which involved officials privately briefing journalists in an attempt to blame the attack on the Law Society's Chief Accountant Leslie Cumming on critics of the legal profession .. but which turned out to have been an attack orchestrated by crooked lawyers attempting to escape investigation ...
Kenny MacAskill, the Justice Secretary is quoted in the Sunday Herald article with the following : "I regret that the Glasgow Bar Association have paid lobbyists in order to trawl around for mistakes. It doesn't serve them well.
"We want to reward lawyers for doing their job, not have people playing the system. Unfortunately, it does seem that a small minority of lawyers want to persist in milking the system."
Who are you kidding Mr MacAskill - your Justice Department has been using just about anyone they could to justify some of your own recent appointments to key positions in the areas of regulation of the legal profession, which I covered in the following previous articles :
Also, not content with shipping in legal colleagues to key legal regulatory and appointment committees, the current Scottish Government has allowed the legal profession to take over what was to be the new 'independent' regulator of complaints against lawyers in Scotland - the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission. You can read more about that here :
Good old Kenny MacAskill - always wanting to ‘reward lawyers’ for doing their job, but at what cost to the rest of us in Scotland ?
Does “this Scottish Government” owe the legal profession such an immense debt it must ensure lawyers continue to cover up for crooked lawyers and always put lawyers interests before those of the public ?
Maybe if there wasn’t a lawyer in the position of Justice Secretary who is so inconsiderate in putting the legal profession’s values over the public, there may be a little more order in Scotland’s out-of-control legal services sector …
So, the legal profession using PR firms and fake news stories in certain newspapers by lawyers themselves to promote their image.That is nothing new.
What is new is that such events are now being reported .. which is good - good for the public who should realise the Scots legal services market is dominated by corruption dodgy political alliances, and greed, putting the interests and safety of the client and public last.
The Sunday Herald reports :
Scare stories about new system were placed by media company
By Paul Hutcheon, Scottish Political Editor
AT FIRST sight, the recent media coverage about how new criminal justice reforms were allowing yobs to walk away from their crimes with a fine seemed only to be a reflection of public concerns.
The last Scottish Executive's summary justice proposals, which came into force on March 10, were intended to speed up the system by keeping low-level criminals out of court and instead punishing them with either a fine or a warning.
In practice, "reform" was allowing people charged with assault to get away with a £150 fine, a sanction which was bizarrely applied to two women who attacked a nurse with a glass.
The result was a plethora of stories about "soft touch" Scotland and a barrage of criticism for the SNP government and prosecutors.
However, the Sunday Herald can reveal that much of the coverage was being driven by the Glasgow Bar Association (GBA) - a body representing the legal profession in the west of Scotland - which had hired a PR firm, McGarvie Morrison Media (MMM), to attack a key plank of the criminal justice system.
A consequence of the fiscal fines system, otherwise known as "diversion", is that people charged with low-level crimes need not get bogged down in drawn-out court cases, thus depriving lawyers of legal aid.
Statistics from the Scottish Legal Aid Board show how lucrative state cash is for law firms. In 2006-2007, firms received £122 million for work done.
In other words, Glasgow's legal establishment has been bankrolling a secret campaign to attack a set of reforms that will reduce the subsidies for wealthy law firms.
A leaked letter from last month between two solicitors makes clear MMM's remit to mount a campaign against a set of reforms that had widespread cross-party support at the time.
"As you will probably know, they GBA have employed media consultants who have basically commenced a campaign through the Scottish Sun regarding diversion being used in serious cases rather than prosecuting somebody in court. The consultants are looking for any cases where it would appear that diversion has been used for something more serious than it should have."
The letter continued: "Apparently the consultants are offering discretion and confidentiality and if any member has such a case they want to report to them they should send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org."
The email address was for John Morrison, a founding director of MMM, which for the last two months has placed stories and trawled for negative diversion cases on behalf of their well-paid clients.
MMM, a Labour-supporting PR firm which donated £2000 to the party last year, lists a number of its clients on its website, but not the GBA.
But the blurb on its site states: "We deploy our experiences, skills and contacts to ensure that MMM campaigns make headlines and achieve results."
The firm's "discreet" strategy appears to have had one central plank: find bad examples of diversion and hand them to the media. It is a tactic that has certainly made headlines.
A raft of articles in broadsheet and tabloid newspapers have focused on individual cases of diversion, which were accompanied by either statistics or obliging quotes from a member of the GBA.
In one July report, published in The Sun, GBA past president Gerard Considine was quoted on the summary reforms: "I can't see how this is about protecting the public from harm."
In an earlier article in the same newspaper, Considine had another criticism of the system: "This is undermining the credibility of the justice system."
Sara Matheson, the current president of the GBA, also hit out at the new regime. "This is a matter that should concern the general public," she said.
Another piece, in The Sunday Times in June, reported how lawyers had "compiled a dossier" of cases in which serious crimes had been "downgraded" to free up court time.
This time, Edinburgh Bar Association president Kenneth Cloggie popped up with a quote: "It seems to be a bit of a lottery depending on the fiscal you get on the day."
Cloggie's email address was also listed in a fax obtained by the Sunday Herald as the contact for suitable examples of "direct measures", such as fiscal fines, for use in a BBC programme on the matter.
Morrison said of MMM's work: "Our company was recently appointed as short-term media advisers to the Glasgow Bar Association. There has been intense press and media interest in issues linked to summary justice reform and the use of fiscal fines. The GBA asked MMM to provide advice on how best to deal with inquiries from journalists and to help promote their point of view."
He added: "The GBA have consistently argued that fiscal fines are not in the public interest, because some offenders who are guilty of violent and other serious offences are not being convicted through the courts and escape without a criminal record."
Matheson defended the GBA hiring the PR firm. "The overwhelming motivation was to have some assistance with the press. They are helping us with all aspects of getting our message across," she said. "Our members are gravely concerned about diversion and the effect it will have on the public."
On whether the legal aid aspect of the summary justice reforms was part of the reason for hiring MMM, she said: "That's certainly one aspect, but it's not the only driving force."
Justice secretary Kenny MacAskill MSP, who concedes that there are problems with the system, said: "I regret that the Glasgow Bar Association have paid lobbyists in order to trawl around for mistakes. It doesn't serve them well.
"We want to reward lawyers for doing their job, not have people playing the system. Unfortunately, it does seem that a small minority of lawyers want to persist in milking the system.
"The two-month media blitz on the summary justice reforms, far from being a bottom-up process reflecting public anxiety, appears to have been a campaign manufactured by a PR company and paid for by a legal establishment that has a financial interest in resisting the new system."