Wednesday, August 23, 2006
Law Society of Scotland claims success in gagging the press over Herald newspaper revelations of secret case memos
This controversial item reprited from "A Diary of Injustice in Scotland" by Peter Cherbi at http://petercherbi.blogspot.com
LAST week, I had a meeting with a 'source' .. a 'deep throat', as it were ... and one of the things which came up was a certain line of 'bragging'coming out of the Law Society offices, which senior officials had embarked upon, claiming they had "shut up the Herald [newspaper] for good".
This was of course, of interest to me, so I continued to question my source .. who reported that an article which appeared in early June - provoked intense rage from Douglas Mill - the Chief Executive of the Law Society of Scotland - because it reported on what were supposed to be secret memos, sent by Mr Mill to the then Law Society of Scotland President, Martin McAllister, Philip Yelland - the Director of the crooked Client Relations Office, and David Preston (who went on to become the President of the Law Society in 2002), reporting on discussions with Alistair Sim, the Director of the Professional Liabilities Division at Marsh UK, on the subject of Mr Stewart Mackenzie's negligence claims against several firms of Scottish solicitors who had indeed been negligent in their dealings of the client's legal affairs.
I published the memos in question, and reported on this story earlier on the site, here : http://petercherbi.blogspot.com/2006/06/corrupt-link-revealed-how-law-society.html
The Herald newspaper today, reports in an article on the matter - which has apparently been demanded by the Law Society of Scotland in correspondence to the newspaper I have now seen, that "The article was not at any stage intended to challenge the integrity or honesty of Mr Mill or the Law Society, but instead to question apparent contradictions highlighted by evidence to the committee."
Douglas Mill was in such a rage at the offending Herald newspaper article of June 4 titled - "Would Granny swear by the Law Society" - in relation to Douglas Mill's claim before the Justice 2 Committee that he swore on his "granny's grave" to Holyrood's Justice 2 Committee that "never once have I, any member of my staff, or any office-bearer dabbled in a claim" .. that he ordered the paper print a retraction to the appearance he claimed their article gave - that he had personally become involved in the Mackenzies financial claims against negligent & crooked laywers.
The 'retraction', or shall we say, 'clarification', in today's Herald newspaper reads like this :
"Mr Mill has asked us specifically to clarify that as chief executive he does not become involved in the handling or resolution of individual claims. We are happy to set the record straight."
Well, how does that sit with the content of the memos ?
Mr Mill, nor any office bearer of the Law Society of Scotland hadn't become involved in a claim for negligence .. but there he is, writing a memo on just such a case, arranging for more delays, having discussions with the Director of Marsh UK - who actually administers the Master Insurance Policy which defends against client claims for negligence .. and as we have seen from testimony from Mr Stewart Mackenzie himself before the Justice 2 Committee inquiry this summer - the case in which Mr Mill became involved .. still remains to be resolved - despite Mr Mill claiming to John Swinney MSP at the Justice 2 Committee hearing .. he was trying to help the Mackenzies ...
Clearly, from the memos, Douglas Mill did become involved in the Mackenzies claims of against negligent lawyers. Clearly, he hates the fact these memos became public, and clearly, he will do anything to prevent the reality of his involvement in such claims becoming a widely held view.
Mr Mill, by your brow beating of the Herald newspaper into this 'verification' of their article, you have only confirmed the fact of your involvement in financial claims of negligence against crooked lawyers .. and as such, you have confirmed the fact you have lied to the Justice 2 Committee of the Scottish Parliament, when you "swore on your granny's life" that you did not.
But we have been here before, haven't we, Douglas ?
You youself, wrote to the Scottish Legal Aid Board on the 6th April 1998, seeking to defeat my application for legal aid to challenge the Law Society's fiddling of the Andrew Penman complaint ... which was a financial claim for negligence.
You, Douglas Mill, became involved in my claim against Andrew Penman, and the Scotsman newspaper reported on this very involvement in an article on 5 June 1998 titled "Law Society accused of closing ranks as claim fails". Thank you, Scotsman newspaper.
So, the two major newspapers in Scotland, the Herald, and the Scotsman, have both reported on Douglas Mill becoming involved in financial claims of negligence against crooked lawyers.
The evidence, has been presented, clearly, showing letters or memos from Douglas Mill himself, and other office bearers of the Law Society of Scotland involving themselves in such claims.
Douglas, you can deny this all you want in the press - and you can deny this all you want to the Justice 2 Committee of the Scottish Parliament, but the fact is, you are a liar.
The evidence says you were involved, and in how many other cases have you been involved ?
I am therefore moving for you to be recalled before the Justice 2 Committee to account for your testimony.
Just for 'clarification' for my readers, I am republishing the memos, Douglas Mill's letter to the Scottish Legal Aid Board against me, the brave Scotsman's reporting of Mill's successful attempt to kill off my own negligence claim .. and I will throw in the letter from Mill's colleague, Phillip Yelland to my own lawyer instructing him not to proceed my own claim for negligence against Penman and the Law Society of Scotland.
The evidence speaks for itself. Douglas Mill and other office bearers of the Law Society of Scotland do become involved in client complaints and clients legal actions against crooked & negligent lawyers.
If you think the Justice 2 Committee should recall Douglas Mill to account for why he lied to them in his claim that he, nor any other office bearer of the Law Society have ever become involved in clients claims of negligence against crooked lawyers, email the Justice 2 Committee at Justice@scottish.parliament.uk and ask them to recall Mr Mill, Chief Executive of the Law Society of Scotland, to be held to account for his claims.
Read on for the articles, from the Herald Newspaper, links to follow :
PAUL ROGERSON August 14 2006
In our edition of June 5, 2006, we wrote an analysis on the ongoing concerns relating to the Law Society Master Insurance Policy.
In the course of the article, we questioned the Law Society chief executive Douglas Mill's role in the ongoing debate and in particular his evidence to the Justice 2 Committee. The article was not at any stage intended to challenge the integrity or honesty of Mr Mill or the Law Society, but instead to question apparent contradictions highlighted by evidence to the committee.
Mr Mill has asked us specifically to clarify that as chief executive he does not become involved in the handling or resolution of individual claims. We are happy to set the record straight.
and the offending article, which prompted Douglas Mill's rage at the Herald newspaper ...
Would granny swear by the Law Society?
PAUL ROGERSON June 05 2006
THE Law Society of Scotland continues to fret about the prospect of independent oversight of its controversial master insurance policy, which covers compensation claims against Scottish solicitors arising from negligence, fraud or dishonesty.
For years, critics such as the Scottish Consumer Council have complained that the policy gives rise to suspicions that solicitors, broker Marsh UK, and the insurance companies are in league to the detriment of complainers.
One oft-heard allegation is that lawyers will not take up negligence cases against other lawyers because, if they are successful, this will push up their own premiums.
The society vehemently denies any collusion. Last month, chief executive Douglas Mill felt moved to swear on his "granny's grave" to Holyrood's Justice 2 Committee that "never once have I, any member of my staff, or any office-bearer dabbled in a claim".
Back in 2001 Alistair Sim - a Marsh executive and member of the Law Society of Scotland - told predecessor committee Justice 1: "The society is not involved in the handling or resolution of individual claims."
Mill's extraordinary oath followed the production of evidence by MSP John Swinney apparently showing Mill, office-bearers and society officials becoming deeply involved in the resolution of a claim, never mind dabbling. The former SNP leader came brandishing what some have dubbed the "smoking memo", written in 2001 by Mill to Martin McAllister, the then president.
The document concerned complaints against solicitors brought by Stewart and Susan Mackenzie, from Pitlochry. It discussed not only the merit of the complaints, but also the character of the Mackenzies.
Mill told McAllister: "I have discussed the matter with Alistair Sim and I think a holding letter is ideal ... there is a saga here."
He added: "The Mackenzies, I would say, are different from some of our other complainers in as much as they have several valid claims, they have been let down by a series of solicitors but they are unreasonable in their expectations of quantum et cetera. Rather than trivialise matters I would recommend that the four of us, i.e.: you, me, David Preston (vice-president) and Alistair Sim ... have a summit meeting on the up-to-date position looking at both the complaints and claims aspects.
"There is no doubt Mr Mackenzie is (an) intelligent and well-organised individual (sic) who could, unlike some of the other thorns in our flesh, come over very well at (an) investigation."
The full text of the memo was only made public last year after the commendably persistent Swinney demanded to know why parts of the document were excised "for legal reasons" in submissions to Justice 1made public in 2001.
Paul Grice, chief executive of the Scottish Parliament, wrote to Swinney admitting "mistakes" were made in the editing and sanctioned publication of the full text. Who leaked the memo in the first place remains a mystery.
MSPs will have to decide whether Mill's granny is now spinning. Addressing Justice 2, the society's chief executive explained away the apparent contradiction thus: "
The layer of insulation between the society and claims handling is Marsh the broker. Our then president (McAllister) got a letter from (Mackenzie). Many of the letters that our president gets do not have the same degree of foundation as lies behind Mr Mackenzie's issues. I was asked to give a briefing on the matter. I quite properly inquired of Marsh, 'I seek an assurance that these claims are being progressed quickly.' That is what I do in such situations. I give my president an assurance that I am satisfied, having been satisfied by Marsh."
If Mill was solely concerned about the expeditious resolution of the Mackenzies' claim, it is unclear why he thought it appropriate to comment on both the amount of the claim ("unreasonable") and liken Stewart Mackenzie to a "thorn" in the society's flesh.
John Swinney is not reassured. "The memo is plainly at odds with what the Justice 2 committee is being asked to believe,' he told The Herald. "None of the answers given to Justice 2 give me any confidence that the society's position is as stated in Mr Mill's evidence."
The semantics experts on Justice 2 may ponder how looking at the "claims aspects" can be distinguished from "dabbling in a claim". The dictionary defines "dabble", incidentally, as: "To undertake something superficially or without serious intent."
One might also ask why the society is worried about independent oversight if the master policy is working so well for claimants.
Michael Clancy, the organisation's in-house lobbyist, gave an answer in a letter to Justice 2 on May 25. He wrote: "The society does not accept that the 'light touch' approach in the (Legal Profession and Legal Aid (Scotland)) Bill will be maintained throughout the life of the (Scottish Legal Complaints) commission. There is no evidence that the master policy (does) not work in favour of the client. There is no evidence of undue delay of treatment (of) master policy issues."
A decade ago dozens of Westminster MPs, some of whom are now MSPs, begged to differ. In February 1996, 49 members of parliament signed an early day motion condemning the operation of the master policy as fundamentally hostile to the underlying principles of Scots law.
Their number included several big-hitters: David Steel, Charles Kennedy, Ken Livingstone, Martin O'Neill - former chairman of the Department of Trade and Industry Select Committee - and the current UK parliament speaker, Michael Martin. One signatory - Malcolm Chisholm - is now an executive minister.
The late Gordon McMaster tabled the motion after learning of the plight of Paisley housebuilder Iain McIntyre, a constituent who suffered estimated losses of ?2.7m following a 10-year legal nightmare involving a string of incidents of negligence and bad faith at the hands of various law firms.
The motion stated: "Inherent conflicts exist between the Law Society of Scotland's duties to guard the public interest and protect its members' interests, which have forced Mr McIntyre to endure the loss of his business (and the) forced sale of his home ... it is unjustifiable that the Law Society holds the master professional indemnity insurance policy which has built into it penalties and bonuses which give solicitors a vested interest in minimising negligence claims at unfair levels".
The MPs were "convinced that the principle of Scots law that everyone is entitled to independent legal representation has been breached by the Secretary of the Law Society of Scotland actively encouraging one firm of solicitors to cease acting for Mr McIntyre". They were not alluding to Mill but a predecessor.
Justice 2 will doubtless ask itself whether such a large number of MPs would have made such a damning statement without compelling evidence. Commenting specifically on the operation of the master policy last week with reference to the 1996 early day motion, the Law Society said:
"In 2005, the Office of Fair Trading endorsed the master policy by closing their investigation with no recommendations for action on professional indemnity. The OFT recognised the protections for the clients of Scottish solicitors and this follows similar scrutiny by the European Parliament, the UK Parliament and the Scottish Executive, with similar results."
It is certainly true that the OFT could find no "strong and compelling" evidence that the master policy was anti-competitive by denying legal firms the right to seek cheaper insurance cover. Whether its investigation amounted to an "endorsement' is another matter.
The watchdog's written judgment asked searching questions about the Scottish public's access to justice when complaining about solicitors, a subject beyond its formal remit. It said there was evidence that some Scottish consumers have found difficulty in finding another solicitor to represent them when they lodge malpractice claims.
The watchdog admitted it did not have enough evidence to prove collusion, but added: "In the absence of such evidence, we consider that the difficulties experienced by some legal services clients in gaining representation ought to be considered as an access to justice issue."
Posted by Legal Beagle at 3:20 am