The Scottish Legal Complaints Commission seems to have fell the way of all other efforts to reform complaints handling procedures of the legal profession - into failure, with the startling appointment of Jane Irvine, the outgoing Scottish Legal Services Ombudsman to the post of Chairman of the new independent complaints body which is supposed to deal with service only complaints against solicitors.
Ms Irvine, with a long background in complaints against the Police and other areas, finds herself jumping from one quango to another, in what many see as a poor selection for the post of the new commission which was intended to be a break from the past, which has drawn so much criticism from both solicitors & clients alike in the way the Law Society has poorly dealt with complaints ...
It is also interesting to note the various reviews of Police complaints procedures over the term of Ms Irvine's service has only produced a Police Complaints Commissioner with the same limited powers as the outgoing Scottish Legal Services Ombudsman - which is basically not much power at all, with no powers of enforcement of decisions ...
The following comes from an email from a staffer at the Law Society of Scotland to us at Scottish Law Reporter :
Mrs Irvine's history records she ha acted as an ombudsman type figure in such issues as holiday to even funeral and financial service complaints.
Ms Irvine also sits on the disciplinary board of the Institute of Actuaries, and also acts as a mediator in consumer and commercial disputes and works voluntarily as a member of the Mediation Panel for Edinburgh Sheriff Court.
As a past HM Lay Inspector of Constabulary for Scotland, Mrs Irvine reviewed the manner of responses by Scottish Police forces to complaints by members of the public for three years between 2001 and 2004. She was also the elected chair of the Scottish branch of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators 2003-2005.
The post of Scottish Legal Services Ombudsman has over the years, done little for clients concerns at the way the Law Society of Scotland has handled complaints against solicitors, and frequently, the SLSO has failed to take a critical stand on issues which have severely affected the public expectation of a transparent & more accountable legal services framework ...
Perhaps Ms Irvine may turn over a new leaf and put right her office's mistakes of the past for clients and solicitors alike ?
It does rather seem the Justice Secretary has made a hash of the SLCC .. not really sticking to the spirit of the Legal Profession & Legal Aid (Scotland) Act 2007 and the publics expectation of better, independent, more accountable regulation .. but then again, Mr MacAskill is a lawyer ...
Perish the thought any 'real people' outside the establishment could ever make it to an independent commission ...
The Scotsman reports :
By JOE QUINN
TWO former senior police officers have been appointed to an independent body for legal complaints, it was announced yesterday.
Ian Gordon, former deputy chief constable of Tayside Police, and Douglas Watson, an ex-head of CID with the Lothian and Borders force who worked on the Jodi Jones case, will be among the four non-lawyer members of the newly-created Scottish Legal Complaints Commission.
Other non-lawyer members are former nursing director Linda Pollock and George Irvine, former director of social work at North Ayrshire council.
The new body will be chaired by Jane Irvine, who is currently the Scottish Legal Services' ombudsman. It will begin work in October.
Kenny MacAskill, the justice secretary, said: "I am confident that independent scrutiny will safeguard the rights of both the profession and users of legal services throughout Scotland. "
The Law Society of Scotland said the new body would act as a "gateway" for all complaints about solicitors, adding that it would continue to receive complaints, via the commission, about solicitors' conduct.
Now the Press Release from the Scottish Government on the appointments to the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission ....
Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill today announced the appointment of Jane Irvine to chair the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission (SLCC), the new independent legal complaints handling body. Jane Irvine is currently the Scottish Legal Services Ombudsman. Mr MacAskill also announced Alan Paterson, David Smith, Margaret Scanlan and David Chaplin as lawyer members and Douglas Watson, Linda Pollock, George Irving and Ian Gordon as non-lawyer members of the Commission. The SLCC will be a new, independent, complaints handling body which will receive and deal with complaints which could not be resolved at source. The Commission will be located in Edinburgh and is expected to be operational in October 2008.
Kenny MacAskill said:
"This Government is committed to modernising the legal complaints handling system to ensure that any complaints against the legal profession are resolved quickly and effectively. That is why we supported the setting up of this Commission.
"Jane Irvine and her fellow commissioners will have a strong remit to deal with complaints and I am confident that their independent scrutiny will safeguard the rights of both the profession and the users of legal services throughout Scotland.
"Complaints handling is not just about dealing with things that go wrong, but ensuring that things go right. The commissioners will help to build a culture of learning from complaints through their oversight and promotion of standards. This focus on the quality of service will undoubtedly benefit both consumers and the profession alike."
Jane Irvine said:
"This new Scottish Commission is an important body. It will provide a modern system for resolving complaints about legal services that both the profession and public can have confidence in. I am delighted to have been appointed with such a strong group of commissioners who bring with them a diverse and exceptional range of skills and experience."
Jane Irvine has been the Scottish Legal Services Ombudsman since April 2006. She is a specialist in consumer complaints having held a number of positions as a mediator, arbitrator and adjudicator of consumer complaints. Between 2001-05 she was HM Lay Inspector of Constabulary considering handling of complaints against the police in Scotland. She later prepared a report on modernising police complaint and conduct systems for the Justice Minister. She has sat on a range of disciplinary tribunals and currently sits on the Discipline Board of the Institute of Actuaries.
Douglas Watson has been a police officer for 30 years and is currently an adult protection development officer for Edinburgh, Lothian and Borders Executive Group. Mr Watson has previously been a chairing member of the Child Protection Committee, Scottish Borders Council and Edinburgh Drug and Alcohol Action Team. He is currently a Committee member for the Law Society of Scotland and is a sessional inspector for the Social Work Inspection Agency.
Linda Pollock has had a broad based career in the NHS with clinical, teaching, research and management experience. She has been in leadership roles since 1989, an Executive Nursing Director until 2006, and interim Board Nurse Director (2002-2003). Her last role, before leaving the NHS, was a full time secondment as the Chief Nursing Officer's Advisor for Nurse Prescribing. Dr Pollock was a part time nurse member of the Mental Welfare Commission (1997-2005) and is currently a registrant member of the Nursing and Midwifery Council Appointments Board
George L Irving CBE was Director of Social Work North Ayrshire Council and during the period 1999-2000 he served as President of the Association of Directors of Social Work (Scotland ). From 2001-2006 he was Chair of NHS Ayrshire and Arran. He led the National Support Team, Management of Offenders 2005-2007 and is currently a Visiting Professor to Glasgow Caledonian University School of Health and Social Care.
Ian Gordon OBE, QPM, LL.B (Hons) is a retired Deputy Chief Constable of Tayside Police. He is currently an associate professor in policing for Charles Sturt University (Australia). He was Chair of the Association of Chief Police Officers in Scotland (ACPOS) Professional Standards Business Area and Vice-Chair of ACPOS General Policing Business Area.
Alan Paterson is Professor of Law and Director of the Centre for Professional Legal Studies at Strathclyde University, an independent "Think Tank" on the Scottish Legal System. He has researched in, and published on, the regulation of lawyers and the provision of public legal services for over twenty years. Although he is qualified as a solicitor in Scotland, Professor Paterson has never practised. He is currently a research adviser to the Scottish Legal Aid Board, a lay member of the Judicial Appointments Board and a co-opted member of the Council of the Law Society.
David Smith has been a partner in Shepherd and Wedderburn for 33 years. He has spent over 20 years as part of the firm's management board and was Chairman between 1999-2005. Mr Smith is a senior commercial property lawyer. Since 2004 he has been the Client Relations Partner within Shepherd and Wedderburn and since 1998 he has chaired the firm's Compliance Committee which monitors professional indemnity claims, client complaints and risk management issues.
Margaret Scanlan is an accredited specialist in family law at Russells Gibson McCaffrey. She has also tutored in family law at Glasgow Caledonian University. Mrs Scanlan was a member and latterly Deputy Chair of the Scottish Legal Aid Board between 1997-2007. She has also been Director of the Legal Defence Union between 1998-2002. Mrs Scanlan was a founder member of both Strathkelvin Women's Aid and the Family Law Association. She held the post of Chair of the latter between 1992-93.
David Chaplin has been a senior partner in Anderson Fyfe for the last 15 years and is a specialist in insolvency law. He has been the Client Relations partner for his firm for ten years. Mr Chaplin advises in pre litigation resolution of commercial disputes for clients. He was a member of the Education Committee of the Royal Faculty of Procurators in Glasgow during 2004-05.
The SLCC is established by virtue of the Legal Profession and Legal Aid (Scotland) Act 2007. Its main functions are to resolve complaints alleging inadequate professional service or negligence by legal practitioners, to refer complaints which allege professional misconduct or unsatisfactory professional conduct to the relevant professional body and to promote good practice in complaints handling.
The chairing member has been appointed for a five year term from 1 January 2008 to 31 December 2012. The lawyer and non-lawyer members' appointments will be for four years, from 1 January 2008 - 31 December 2011.
The posts are part-time and attract daily fees of £302 for the chairing member for a time commitment of four-six days per month and £205 for the lawyer and non-lawyer members with a time commitment of four days per month. Jane Irvine holds one other public appointment, that of the Scottish Legal Services Ombudsman, with remuneration of £56,746 for 37 hours a week. All the other members do not hold any other Ministerial appointments.
These Ministerial public appointments were made in accordance with the Commissioner for Public Appointments in Scotland's Code of Practice.
All appointments are made on merit and political activity plays no part in the selection process. However, in accordance with the original Nolan recommendations, there is a requirement for appointees' political activity (if there is any to be declared) to be made public. Within the last five years members have not been involved in any political activity.