Scottish Legal Complaints Commission censored documents to protect top judge’s husband’s anti-public insults. CONTINUING REVELATIONS OF AN ANTI-CLIENT POLICY at Scotland’s legal complaints regulator – the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission have led to the SLCC demanding key documents revealing a series of insults against Scots consumers made by one of its lawyer board members David Smith, the husband of Court of Session judge Lady Smith, be withheld from release in an investigation currently being carried out by Scotland’s Freedom of Information Commissioner, Kevin Dunion.
Scotland’s Information Commissioner Kevin Dunion. FOI Commissioner Kevin Dunion was asked to investigate the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission over a Freedom of Information response which contained heavily blacked out, yet readable details of insults & tirades by the SLCC’s board members against consumers, individuals, and solicitors clients who had been invited by the Commission to take part in the first ever external investigation into the infamously corrupt Master Insurance Policy & Guarantee Fund, operated by the Law Society of Scotland & Insurers Marsh & Royal Sun Alliance, the purpose of which is to compensate victims of ‘crooked lawyers’ but which in reality rarely ever pays out to consumers.
The Scottish Legal Complaints Commission’s findings in their report on the Master Insurance Policy, carried out by the University of Manchester Law School, revealed as I reported earlier : Suicides, illness, broken families and ruined clients reveal true cost of Law Society's Master Policy which 'allows solicitors to sleep at night'.
The investigation by Mr Dunion, which has yet to reach a conclusion, has revealed significant amounts of documents released by the SLCC were so poorly censored that personal details of individuals, identifiable home addresses & contact information, all of which is firmly contrary to the practices of the Freedom of Information Act were easily readable to those in receipt of the documentation.
SLCC Board member David Smith branded consumers as “Frequent flyers”. In one example document, Mr Smith, a lawyer member of the SLCC’s board, who formerly served with Edinburgh legal firm Shepherd & Wedderburn, said in censored but readable emails to the SLCC's now former Chief Executive Eileen Masterman, who resigned recently on grounds of ‘ill health’ : "I have read through the Report and it is quite clear that it is of only limited value because of time (and funding ?) constraints and the fact that the claimants interviewed were all frequent flyers." Mr Smith went onto repeat the insults further, stating : "I suspect that when we go public we will be seen by the claimant lobby and consumer organisations to have achieved nothing and that we have paid only lip service to our monitoring role. Conversely I think LSS and the profession will think we have achieved nothing as the research has only focussed on the frequent flyers who have longstanding grievances against LSS/the profession."
Mr Smith’s remarks against clients stemmed from the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission’s findings in their report on the Master Insurance Policy, carried out by the University of Manchester Law School, which revealed as I reported earlier : Suicides, illness, broken families and ruined clients reveal true cost of Law Society's Master Policy which 'allows solicitors to sleep at night'
Realising the significant public humiliation of being revealed as an anti-consumer quango which appears more pro-lawyer than pro-client, the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission have made new demands to the FOI Commissioner’s office that it be allowed to extend the initial exemptions used to conceal the bitter insults by its own board members against the public under at least five more categories (sections 30(b)(ii), 30(c), 33(1)(b), 36(2) and 39(1) of FOISA), in an attempt to thwart any public backlash against its increasingly pro-lawyer policies which have ensured not one successful complaint outcome for a member of the public against a rogue lawyer, since the SLCC took up its remit ion 1 October 2008 at an accumulated cost to both the taxpayer & legal profession of well over £6.5 million.
A legal insider said today the SLCC ‘were desperate’ to prevent the censored information from becoming public knowledge, despite the fact the redactions undertaken by the SLCC could be read by all.
He said : “The SLCC are going all out on this one to protect the judge’s husband from public humiliation even though a anyone could tell from the tone of the documents the Commission has become more anti-client than ever.”
He continued : “People are beginning to notice outside the Commission there is a huge problem with the lawyer complement on the SLCC’s board, where several of its members have expressed unhelpful and insulting views against individuals. We all know these insults & rants translate to operational policy very easily but no one is allowed to talk about it openly. Personally I am in no doubt the Commission has become overly protective of the legal profession and is now failing to perform its function under the legislation which created it.”
An official from one of Scotland’s consumer organisations said this morning : “We have long felt the inbuilt bias of the Law Society of Scotland’s regulation of complaints against solicitors would eventually transfer over to the new Scottish Legal Complaints Commission, which now seems to be the confirmed.”
“It appears the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission from the top down, hate the publoc. An organisation with such an overtly hostile approach to consumers does not deserve to command any confidence, respect or trust from members of the public."
He continued : "If, as seems to be the case from the FOI documents the SLCC’s board members feel so embittered against consumers who are in many cases, forced through the most appalling circumstances to approach the Commission for an investigation into a solicitor, these board members should hand over their regulatory duties to someone of a more balanced and less partisan approach."
"We would however prefer to see a fully independent regulator of legal services in Scotland which would address most of the SLCC’s problems.”
So far the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission have made no official comment on the ongoing investigation into the badly redacted documents, however one member of the public who was identified, along with his address within some of the released papers which contained details of communications with the Scottish Government’s Finance Chief Mr John Swinney, said he would pursue the matter further, as the Commission had been negligent in their duty to handle FOI material in a responsible manner.
You can read just how effective the SLCC has been since 2008 as a regulator of complaints against solicitors, in my earlier reports HERE
The Freedom of Information Commissioner’s office is yet to make a ruling on this latest case involving the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission.