Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Scottish Lawyers blackmailing for more legal aid by boycotting family law cases

The following article is reprinted from "A Diary of Injustice in Scotland - by Peter Cherbi", available at :

Scottish Lawyers continuing to blackmail for more legal aid by holding hostage public`s right of legal representation

The continuing efforts of the legal profession to prove their worth to Scottish society continue - with the boycotting of family law cases (in addition to representing clients charged with selected types of criminal offences).

If this is the way in which Scottish lawyers are trying to endear themselves to the public - maybe ASBO orders would be of better use than ramping up their legal aid payments for representing clients.

The current tactics of the legal profession - to blackmail the Scottish Executive into awarding more legal aid fees for work done, is actually part of a strategy organised by the top echelons of the legal profession in Scotland to kill off the planned reforms in not only legal aid - but also more importantly - regulation of complaints - which currently operates at the hands of the Law Society of Scotland as a self-regulatory complaints system, but which is to be made independent under the terms of the Legal Profession & Legal Aid (Scotland) Bill currently being considered by the Scottish Parliament`s Justice 2 Committee.

The events of recent weeks - which have seen lawyers announce boycotts of various kinds of legal services to clients - is an indicator of just how important the legal profession in Scotland sees these reforms, and just how worried they are by change.

And so they should be worried ... because many of their members have been stealing from clients fro decades - and now they are about to be found out ... so why should they just sit back and let these changes take effect to what is their lucrative honey pot ? ... surely if a thief who has been stealing for 30 years from the same house sees CCTV cameras mounted in the house - the thief will either change his tactics, or break the cameras ? - well it`s the same here - it`s just that in this case - it`s lawyers who are about to be caught out.

So really, this is nothing much to do with income or the levels of legal aid, it`s really more to do with the legal profession not getting it`s own way - so they are throwing what is much more than a tantrum - they are actually playing with our human rights to be represented in legal cases ... so how, does the Law Society of Scotland justify that kind of conduct from it`s member I wonder ?

No doubt the Law Society`s response would be something like ... oh - well ... our members interests come first before the public - so we have to see that our members are well paid and get everything they want - including getting them off the hook from client complaints and negligence claims .. and this is exactly why Scottish lawyers are now playing with our rights as a tool to get more money .. and this is why we have another article, following, from "The Scotsman" on the legalaid dispute.

I have to laugh a bit though, at Andrew Gibb`s comments in the "Scotsman" article.

Andrew Gibb is a senior partner with the law firm Balfour and Manson, of Edinburgh. His firm took on the case of looking into the death of my mother at the Borders General Hospital - after 2 other lawyers - Michael Robson, of Robsons WS, Ratho, and David Reid of Morrisons WS, Edinburgh and Campbell Smith WS, Edinburgh, ruined the case completely - out of, it seems, incompetence, and malice.

But what did Balfour & Manson do ? - well, they whitewashed the conduct of the two crooked lawyers who ruined the case to try and make sure I couldn`t sue for negligence - so that`s Balfour & Manson for you - just as crooked and discriminatory as the rest when it comes to Scottish lawyers acting for people the legal profession hates - such as me, Peter Cherbi.

Fancy answering that one then, Mr Gibb ? or is it against your firm`s "ethos" (sic)

Read on for the article on the continuing efforts of the Scottish legal profession to blackmail for more legal aid by holding the public`s rights to legal representation as hostage ... certainly a terrorist tactic, wouldn`t you all agree ??
Solicitors boycott family law cases in dispute over legal aid payments

HUNDREDS of lawyers are refusing to represent families in divorce, child custody and domestic abuse cases in an escalating dispute with Scottish ministers over legal aid.

The Scotsman has learned law firms are slashing the amount of publicly funded family work they are prepared to carry out because they say current legal- aid payments are "scandalous".

Thousands of people are finding it increasingly difficult to find a lawyer, with many unable to secure legal representation in their home town.

Difficult and sensitive cases, many of them involving children in broken homes exposed to drug or alcohol abuse, or battered wives seeking a restraining order against a violent partner, are increasingly being taken on by junior lawyers because some big firms will take on only more lucrative private work.

Experts claim the service offered to many poorer clients is suffering as a result, leading to a two-tier system.

In a survey by the Family Law Association (FLA), which represents 300 solicitors in Scotland, more than half of those who responded say they have reduced their amount of family legal aid work by at least 50 per cent.

One of Scotland's largest law firms told The Scotsman it was turning away up to a dozen people a day because it will not take on new publicly-funded cases. The situation has become so serious that, in Edinburgh, it is almost impossible to get a lawyer to take on a family law case paid through legal aid.

The result of the poll has put further pressure on the Scottish Executive and the Scottish Legal Aid Board (SLAB) to overhaul the legal aid system. It comes as more than half of Scotland's criminal legal aid lawyers prepare to boycott sex cases in protest at delays in introducing new fees for solicitors defending people accused of serious crimes.

The number of lawyers prepared to take on family legal aid cases has plummeted since block payment fees for civil work were introduced in October 2003. The fixed payments replaced complicated itemised fees for preparing cases, and hourly rates for appearing in court.

Lawyers say the new fees do not take account of the complicated nature of many family law cases, offering no incentive to take on legal aid work.

Helen Hughes, of the Family Law Association, said: "As with criminal cases, family cases are rarely simple and often very high maintenance, involving issues such as domestic violence and substance abuse. With block fees, it doesn't matter if you have one meeting or 100 with a client, the fee is the same amount.

"The system can work, but it needs to be flexible. It makes no allowance for complex cases that can require a great deal of preparation and court time."

The Paisley-based lawyer said four local firms had decided to refuse to take on any legal aid cases as a result of the block fees, and that the FLA had petitioned the Executive to increase the payments. "Our member firms are finding they simply cannot afford to take on legal aid cases and the ones that do are overloaded with cases and can't help everybody that needs it," she said.

Ms Hughes said she had been paid £498 under the block fees system for representing grandparents who were seeking interim custody of their grandson. Under the old system, she would have been paid £968 and under private rates the fee would have been more than £2,000.

"What we receive in legal aid is not what we end up with," she said.

"From that amount, you have to deduct overheads such as the cost of staff and running an office. For family law cases, we are not being paid a reasonable fee for the work involved."

Andrew Gibb, a senior partner with Balfour and Manson, of Edinburgh, and a former president of the Law Society of Scotland, said: "Over the years, I have been proud to do legal aid work and have always taken the view that I am here to help the poor more than the rich. My firm has had the same ethos.

"However, in my area of family law, the position with the Scottish Legal Aid Board has become so scandalous that my firm will no longer take on legal aid work in certain types of cases, except in exceptional cases.

"It is now clear that in Edinburgh, people are finding it increasingly difficult to find solicitors who will take on legal aid work other than for established clients. On a daily basis, we have countless requests from members of the public to take on legal aid cases and decline to do so."

A spokesman for SLAB claimed the total amount paid to lawyers had increased by 21 per cent under the 2003 changes, but admitted that, in some cases, including family law, solicitors were being paid less and that "more flexibility" was needed.

An Executive spokesman said: "One of the principles of the legal aid system is that there should be fair reward for work necessarily undertaken. Monitoring of the 2003 changes is being done and any necessary changes to the regulations are under active consideration."

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