Having a laugh at ‘life changing complaints’, Jane Irvine & Rosemary Agnew of the SLCC. AFTER spending some FOURTEEN MILLION POUNDS of complaints levies funded by hikes in legal fees to clients & at least TWO MILLION POUNDS from the Scottish Government, Jane Irvine & Rosemary Agnew, Chair & outgoing Chief Executive respectively of the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission (SLCC) have publicly branded the 2007 Legal Profession & Legal Aid (Scotland) Act which created the SLCC a bit of a shambles, preferring to blame perceived inadequacies in the way the act was written rather than explaining why over the past FOUR YEARS and thousands of complaints later, not one board member from the SLCC has ever spoken out publicly over the dysfunctionality of the complaints body, widely derided by the media, the legal profession, consumer groups & clients who point out not one ‘crooked lawyer’ has ever been prosecuted & struck off by the SLCC since it began operation (an even worse record than the Law Society ! – Ed).
The claims of Rosemary Agnew who today jets off to an £80K a year plus expenses role as Scotland’s Information Commissioner, & Jane Irvine who remains as the £300+, per day Chair of the SLCC, were made in an interview in yesterday’s Scotsman newspaper, which is available via a google search, and has also been reported in the Law Society of Scotland’s Journal Online.
A reporter who asked “Would the interview be reprinted on the SLCC’s website ?” was told “No”, giving rise to claims today from all quarters the complaints pair are eager to blame everyone else but themselves for the organisation’s multiple failures and constant hurt caused to both clients and solicitors.
There has been no rebuttal from the Law Society of Scotland over the pair’s claims, however a senior legal source rubbished the claims of Agnew & Irvine, saying : “Its like putting Beavis & Butthead in charge of the couch.”
He went on to say : “The SLCC and its staff are not sufficiently independent enough from the legal profession to make an impact on complaints, nor does it appear to me the organisation appears willing to campaign for more powers, something it has never asked for since it came into a costly existence in October 2008”
The Journal Online reports :
The complaints system entrusted to the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission is not user friendly and could have been "hugely simpler", according to the Commission's chair, Jane Irvine.
Interviewed in today's Scotsman newspaper along with outgoing chief executive Rosemary Agnew, Ms Irvine said it was difficult to follow all te statutory processes cheaply and correctly and make sure the complaint remained confidential.
Ms Agnew said the Commission "could do things much more efficiently if we had more freedom within the legislation that governs us". She added that the statutory language irritated and upset people by requiring the Commission to apply the tests of "frivolous, vexatious or totally without merit" in deciding not to accept a complaint for investigation.
Both women believes there are positives in the Act, the Legal Profession and Legal Aid (Scotland) Act 2007, because it offers the chance to use mediation and it "empowers the legal profession", but say the question cannot be answered whether we are in a better position than before the Commission was set up, "because there is no comparator".
Complaints of inadequate professional service were formerly handled by the professional bodies, the Law Society of Scotland and the Faculty of Advocates, and they continue to investigate cases of alleged professional misconduct – which the Commission also believes makes things more complicated.
On relations with the Law Society of Scotland, Ms Agnew said: "Relations are cordial but we are all constrained by the Act. If we didn't test each other" – such as by the Society challenging the Commission's proposed budget, and the Commission checking the Society's complaints handling processes – "it would not be a healthy relationship."
However they express pride in the thoroughness of their investigation processes. Ms Agnew takes up office as Information Commissioner for Scotland tomorrow, 1 May.