Millions from Police budget ends up funding lawyers. SCOTLAND’S single national Police service – Police Scotland is spending millions of pounds of public cash on external law firms, advocates & QCs over and above the significant costs of it’s own in-house legal teams.
The single national Police service for Scotland has admitted paying at least £1,316,819 to external solicitors, QCs, advocates and the courts over a three year period - over and above costs for in-house legal teams.
The largest beneficiaries of public cash from Police Scotland are Clyde & Co (formerly Simpson & Marwick) who were paid £361,801.91.
However, while that firm was still Simpson & Marwick prior to its merger with Clyde & Co, they earned £284,914.15, giving total earnings since January 2014, of £646,716.06.
Other big-earning firms from Police Scotland’s public cash splurge on major law firms were Morton Fraser (£278,069.60) and Ledingham Chalmers (£103,906.08).
However, the figures - released in response to a Freedom of Information request - Police Scotland & SPA Fees to external lawyers, law firms & QCs 2014 to 2017 - are now subject to scrutiny - after journalists questioned the Police as to why over half a million pounds paid by the Police to a law firm named in a £400m collapsed Hedge Fund scandal and a suspended judge were excluded from the figures handed over by Police well out of timescales tolerated by the Scottish Information Commissioner.
It was reported by the Scottish Sun in March 2016, a sum of £187K was paid to lawyer Peter Watson – a sheriff who has been suspended from the judicial bench for well over two years, and a further £364,830 was paid to Levy and Mcrae – the Glasgow based law firm named in a £28m writ in connection with the collapse of the Heather Capital hedge fund, run by Gregory King who is subject to a Crown Office probe now in it’s fourth year.
Police Scotland also disclosed at least £52,014 has been paid to in respect of Opinions of Counsel and Senior Counsel instructed by in-house Legal Services directly and at least £32,378 has been paid to the Scottish Court Service since January 2014 by in-house Legal Services directly.
Police Scotland also disclosed the names of law firms and Advocates Chambers who have received legal fees.
And, today, it has emerged in an additional, three months late FOI disclosure – the controversial Scottish Police Authority (SPA) has admitted to spending millions more on legal fees for it’s own use, with at least £623K spent on external law firms and £435K on it’s own in-house legal teams.
SPA Legal Costs (in-house and Third Party) From Jan 2014 to June 2017 saw the following public cash spends on third party legal costs: £154,449 (2013/14) £104,570 (2014/15) £175,785 (2015/16) £167,667 (2016/17) and £20,543 spent already in this financial year which runs to 2018 making a total of £623,012 on third party legal costs.
Costs for the SPA’s own in-house legal team has now reached £434,512 in just three years.
However, unlike Police Scotland, the secretive Scottish Police Authority refused to identify the names of law firms & counsel involved in it’s £1million plus legal expenses bill.
The SPA’s refusal to identify legal firms via FOI legislation has now been submitted for review, and possible investigation by the Scottish Information Commissioner, after weeks of deliberate delays by the SPA in disclosing the legal costs.
Additionally, questions are also being raised with the Scottish Information Commissioner on Police Scotland’s attitude towards Freedom of Information timescales after weeks of deliberate delays in the force’s handling of FOI requests.
AC White £396; Allan Black & McCaskie £300; Allcourt Solicitors £462; Balfour & Manson £1236.3; Blackadder & McMonagle £342; Brazenall & Orr £168; Carruthers Curdie Sturrock & Co. £324; Clyde & Co.(Simpson & Marwick) £361801.91; Cockburns £54; Corrigal Black £306; Criggies £42; Douglas Gilmour & Son £36; DWF £134.8; Gray & Gray £60; George Mathers & Co £600; Grigor & Young £1920; Hamish L Melrose £540; Hunter & Robertson Solicitors £1872; John Henderson & Sons £2232; Leddingham Chalmers £103906.08; Linda George Family Law £984; MacIntosh Humble £174; Mackie Thomson £96; Mackintosh Wylie £48; Macnabs Solicitors £312; Malcolm & Hutchison £132; Mathie McCluskey £78; McCluskey Browne £2032; McCusker McElroy & Gallanagh £30; McIntyre & Co £258; McLellan Adam Davis £54; MacDonald McIver & Co £353.1; Morton Fraser £278069.6; Patten Prentice £96; Rankin & Aitken £42; Reid Cooper £15901.92 ;Russel & Aitken £60; Russell, Gibson McCaffrey £4084.8; Simpson and Marwick £284914.15; Stewart Balfour £48; Thorntons £3760.16; W & AS Bruce £60 TOTAL: £1,068,320.82
The sum paid to advocates broken down by chamber and year are as follows:-
Chambers fees from 2014 - 2017: 5 Essex court £16620; Ampersand £84000; Arnot Manderson £12840; Axiom £8640; Black £6600; Compass £20334; Terra Firma £3780 TOTAL: £152,814
The National newspaper reports on the Police spend on external law firms, here:
Martin Hannan Journalist 13th August
Police Scotland's legal costs were exposed after FoI requests
DESPITE having its own legal team, Police Scotland has spent more than £1000 per day on external legal lawyers and court costs since January, 2014.
In the three years and six months to June of this year, Police Scotland paid out £1,316,819 to external solicitors, QCs, advocates and the courts, according to figures released under Freedom of Information (FoI) rules.
Peter Cherbi, the legal issues campaigner and blogger who made the FoI requests, has criticised the force after it refused to answer The National’s questions on the issue, directing us to use FoI questions.
Cherbi said: “There are firms on the FoI list provided by Police Scotland who specialise in legal issues relating to defence of damages claims and other similar legal issues, yet at this time the force appears unwilling to cough up the real reasons for running to lawyers at all hours of the day.”
More than 950 fee notes were issued to Police Scotland by law firms and individual solicitors, with £32,378 paid directly to the Scottish Courts Service for costs incurred in numerous actions.
More than 40 law practices across Scotland were paid for work, some of which is believed to have been connected to the many police property disposals which have taken place over the past few years since the national force was created in 2013. Other firms were paid for expertise in various personnel and legally complex matters, and QCs, solicitor and advocates all represented the force in court, including cases at the Court of Session.
In all, solicitors received £1,068,320 in that time. The National can reveal that the biggest earners from police work were Clyde & Co (formerly Simpson & Marwick) who were paid £361,801.91 for their involvement in such high-profile cases as former Assistant Chief Constable John Mauger’s failed action for judicial review of a decision by then Chief Constable Sir Stephen House – Maria Maguire QC acted for the force in that case.
While that firm was still Simpson & Marwick prior to its merger with Clyde & Co, they earned £284,914.15, giving total earnings since January 2014, of £646,716.06.
Other big-earning firms were Morton Fraser (£278,069.60) and Ledingham Chalmers (£103,906.08). By contrast, Renfrewshire law firm McCusker, McElroy and Gallanagh were paid just £30.
The total sum paid to advocates and QCs was £152,814 – in its response to the FoI request, Police Scotland explained: “These figures relates to instances where advocates have been instructed directly by Legal Services.”
The force’s response added: “I regret to inform you that I am unable to provide you with the figure in respect of fees charged on occasions where Counsel and/or Senior Counsel have been instructed by external solicitors acting for the Chief Constable as it would prove too costly to do so within the context of the fee regulations.”
The response did state, “951 fee notes have been rendered by external solicitors since January 2014”.
The National asked the Scottish Police Authority (SPA) which is supposed to superintend the national force if it was aware of the extent of usage of lawyers outside the legal services section of Police Scotland. We also asked if Police Scotland had to pay the legal costs of anybody taking out a court action against the force, and why do many solicitors firms were used?
We also asked what is the annual budget for the legal services section and asked both Police Scotland and the SPA to say if any of the costs were for defending Police Scotland personnel accused of crimes, or if any external cost was incurred in defending Police Scotland personnel in civil cases. The reply we received was “you would have to submit an FOI request in relation to these questions”.
Peter Cherbi commented: “While chief constables and senior officers have been talking up their lack of resources and funding in public, Police Scotland have been keeping law firms afloat with huge public spends of funds better spent on front line policing.
“The force’s overuse of law firms for legal action and other legal services must be opened for public inspection on a case-by-case basis. What are Police Scotland spending all this money on lawyers, and why? What are the processes employed by Police Scotland for using legal services? A key question given they have their own in-house lawyers.
“The public have a right to know and the Scottish Parliament should be looking to raise questions on this issue, which would make for some interesting exchanges before the Scottish Parliament’s Justice sub committee on Policing.
“This addiction to lawyers and exorbitant legal fees by Police Scotland and other public bodies must be brought to a halt as the operational budgets for policing and any public service are not meant to act as unaccountable public subsidies for the legal profession.”
Previous articles on the Scottish Police Authority can be found here: Scottish Police Authority - Poor governance, private meetings & lack of accountability at Police regulator