As staff from the Law Society of Scotland migrate over to the new 'independent' Scottish Legal Complaints Commission, destined to begin its official work on the first of October 2008, tomorrow, it has been revealed today the 'independent' commission's monitoring role over the Law Society's Guarantee Fund and infamous Master Policy indemnity insurance arrangements may not begin until well into 2009.
As the 'independent' Scottish Legal Complaints Commission published it's operations rules late last week, the absence of any reference to the Commission's 'monitoring' role over the Law Society's well practiced insurance scams to thwart negligence claims against solicitors worried several clients whose claims have been stalled by widely reported corrupt practices by Law Society officials who have chosen to directly intervene in complaints and claims against crooked lawyers.
Jane Irvine, Chair of the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission admitted : "This is not in the Rules. The rules establish how we will deal with complaints. The SLCC has a range of other functions-including oversight of the PI policies & of course how misconduct will be handled. These latter two are not obligatory functions - but we shall be undertaking them within the first year."
Jane Irvine went on "If you read the Act the role is a "monitoring" role and we "may" do it. As i say we have determined we "will" do it! and work is already in hand. By the end of our first year we will be publishing a report on the effectiveness of the funds. It will happen & so far we have had 100% willing co-operation from the professional bodies ..."
So, effectively, there will be no monitoring of the Law Society Guarantee Fund or the Master Policy for Professional Indemnity Insurance for some time, enabling the Law Society to kill off a few more negligence cases and prevent a few more clients obtaining access to legal services to pursue 'crooked lawyers' for financial recovery.
It is also unclear as to whether the 'independent' SLCC will be allowed access to monitor client's financial claims against rogue lawyers which date before the SLCC beings its work on October 1 2008, and no information has been forthcoming from the Commission that question .. while no doubt the Law Society will be using the time to kill off as many claims as it possibly can ….
Law Society Chief Douglas Mill’s memo to the then Law Society President Martin McAllister (now appointed by Kenny MacAskill to appoint Judges) details a plan by Law Society officials to successfully thwart negligence claims against a string of crooked lawyers. The memo was then the subject of a bitter confrontation between John Swinney and Douglas Mill at the Scottish Parliament hearings into the LPLA Bill during 2006. How would the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission deal with that kind of evidence ?
One well placed legal insider claimed today "The delays in any oversight to the Master Policy and Guarantee Fund are no accident ... the Law Society might be going along with what is in the Act itself but the truth is they do not want any outside scrutiny of what is going on with their defence of financial claims, as the entire process is full of corruption from start to finish"
Another scandal involving client claims against the Law Society’s Master Policy emerged when Douglas Mill’s predecessor, Kenneth Pritchard wrote to a firm of solicitors advising them to cease acting for their clients who were trying to pursue negligence claims against crooked lawyers through the Law Society’s Professional indemnity insurance scheme. How would the SLCC handle such a situation, the likes of which is being repeated on an almost daily basis where clients claims against the Master Policy are ‘designed to fail’ by the legal profession itself.
Personally, as the letter from Douglas Mill to the legal aid board over me shows, I am not surprised the Law Society doesn't want any outside scrutiny of the Master Policy or the Guarantee Fund. I like many, have experienced the intense efforts the Law Society and it’s most senior staff will go to defeat claims and prevent even my own access to legal services to get anywhere near these 'compensation schemes' which are little more than fronts for financial operations which in my opinion rival the drug barons of South America.
Here are some examples of my own investigations and experiences with the Master Insurance Policy, which have all taken place because three has been a distinct lack of any external oversight :
If we look at the legislation in question, the Legal Profession & Legal Aid (Scotland) Act 2007, refers to the 'monitoring' duties of the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission as follows :
(1) The Commission may monitor the effectiveness of—
(a) the Scottish Solicitors Guarantee Fund vested in the Society and controlled and managed by the Council under section 43(1) of the 1980 Act (“the Guarantee Fund”);
(b) arrangements carried into effect by the Society under section 44(2) of that Act (“the professional indemnity arrangements”);
(c) any funds or arrangements maintained by any relevant professional organisation which are for purposes analogous to those of the Guarantee Fund or the professional indemnity arrangements as respects its members.
(2) The Commission may make recommendations to the relevant professional organisation concerned about the effectiveness (including improvement) of the Guarantee Fund, the professional indemnity arrangements or any such funds or arrangements as are referred to in subsection (1)(c).
(3) The Commission may request from the relevant professional organisation such information as the Commission considers relevant to its functions under subsections (1) and (2).
(4) Where a relevant professional organisation fails to provide information requested under subsection (3), it must give reasons to the Commission in respect of that failure.
Far too much "may", don't you think ? A distinct lack of obligation to do certain things which consumers should be entitled to expect, as part of the 'increased consumer protection' which the LPLA Act and the SLCC were designed to give clients of Scottish solicitors.
Insiders who are unhappy with the way the 'independent' complaints commission is being hijacked by the legal profession itself, point to a lack of motivation on the part of the Scottish Government for allowing the Law Society to take over the process of forming the SLCC, staffing the ‘independent’ Commission with former Client Relations staff who have caused significant hardship to thousands of clients, and filling the 'independent' commission's board with ex Law Society Committee members, lawyers and close allies of the legal profession.
Law Chief threatens legal action against Holyrood - Lets not forget too quickly that Douglas Mill, the Law Society Chief Executive in charge of opposition to the creation of the SLCC and the LPLA Bill itself, threatened to take the Government to court on Human Rights arguments if legislation was passed which allowed such oversight into the Master Policy and workings of the notoriously corrupt negligence insurance schemes … so there is plenty of evidence around to show the Law Society doesn’t want outside interference in its precious but crooked Master Policy and Guarantee Funds .. which offer consumers no protectino at all from crooked lawyers …
From the Herald article : "Mill does have one nuclear option up his sleeve. He told The Herald that the society will probably take Scottish ministers to court after the bill is enacted, if it is enacted in its present form.”
Douglas Mill : “The civil servants seem incapable of distinguishing between the master policy (which is negotiated annually on behalf of all solicitors with insurers by the insurance brokers Marsh) and the wholly separate guarantee fund," he adds. "They want to look at claims (against the master policy) and how these are handled. But they cannot do that. If they do try to do this, I believe the insurers and the Financial Services Authority will tell the Scottish Parliament to take a hike."
You can read some of my earlier reports on dealings with the Master Policy and the Law Society on their beloved negligence insurance schemes here :
So .. no shortage of evidence involving corruption within the Law Society and the legal profession against clients trying to pursue negligence claims or recover financial damages against crooked lawyers .. so why should there be a delay, when a delay will only allow the crooked to escape a little further …