Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Scottish Legal Services Ombudsman resigns amid Scottish Executive fiddling ...

Well, I think we can safely say - Thank God we have "The Herald" as a newspaper in Scotland to headline some of the inadequacies of Government .. when it comes to Legal issues involving the legal profession ... some other newspapers just completely missed this .. amid deals with the legal profession of course, to keep up their flagging circulation ....

Well, as it is reported, the Justice Department of the Scottish Executive - which must certainly rank as a 5 star pot of corruption at the moment, amid the claims of the McKie inquiry (and many more legal scandals besides) .. .have 'pledged' to keep 'continuity' over the Scottish Legal Services Ombudsman's duties to investigate & report on complaints against the Law Society of Scotland - which are rising every day ....

I wonder just who they are going to appoint to the position of SLSO, which was vacated last week by Linda Costelloe Baker because the Executive had failed to respond to her requests for further funding and even her own resignation letter .....

Maybe some crony from the Law Society of Scotland perhaps ? there is an ever growing list of crooked lawyers and staff at the Law Society of Scotland who could temporarily fill the position and fiddle the complaints statistics so it looks like everything is well (just in time for the Justice 2 Inquiry of course) ... or maybe some bent ex-minister or politician who bungs the Executive political loans or favours could do the rounds temporarily ? ... .the mind boggles ....

It's interesting though that this is happening just now, with the announcement of the "Legal Profession & Legal Aid (Scotland) Bill" going off to the Justice 2 Committee to be considered .... are we seeing perhaps some kind of strategy agreed with the Scottish Executive & the Law Society of Scotland to undermine the Bill before it even gets a chance to be heard ? ... perhaps delay things so much that it doesn't come into Law at all ? ... yes, there certainly seems a chance of that given what is happening ... because from what we have already seen in the many legal scandals which have come and gone, and come back again ... nothing really happens as an 'accident', does it ? Madam Justice Minister .... nothing really happens as an 'honest mistake' .... does it ? Mr McConnell .... somehow, events are planned from the outset .. to cover up secret deals and friends positions .. and as one who has studied many legal & political scandals in Scotland recently, I think we have another one brewing here right now .....

Oh yes .. the simple explanation - Scottish Executive decides to silence critics & campaigners against the legal profession by bringing in a Bill to give independent regulation - but secretly makes a deal with the legal profession to delay and destroy the bill, so that when the time comes to bring it into law ... there is either an election, a new Government, or that the Justice 2 Committee has fiddled the new legislation so much on party political orders .. that it just doesn't get through ....
So .... Here we go again ? .. time for another round of disgracing some politicians I think .... and the books are certainly full of info to do it :)

Here's the article from "The Herald".
Continuity pledge over legal sevices watchdog
PAUL ROGERSON April 10 2006

The Herald's report last week about the non-existent handover arrangements relating to the office of outgoing legal services watchdog Linda Costelloe Baker appears to have struck a chord.

The justice department has pledged to "take steps to ensure continuity of service" at the Edinburgh headquarters of the Scottish Legal Services Ombudsman.

It is rumoured the executive may be ready to appoint an "interim, interim ombudsman" – someone to hold the fort until Costelloe Baker's successor, itself a temporary appointment, takes office later this year. One informed source reckons the stop-gap appointee could be in post as early as April 26.

Such a move would help avoid a hefty backlog of un-resolved complaints about the Law Society of Scotland and the Faculty of Advocates which would otherwise have been left to gather dust over the next few months.

Costelloe Baker has only one day left to work and departs officially at the end of April. The executive did not advertise the post until March 30.

Costelloe Baker was deeply annoyed about the delay, pointing out that she told the executive in January that she was going. She felt moved to write some 200 letters to lawyers and complainers admitting she had no news of when her successor would be appointed. Her team continues to investigate complaints but does not have authority to sign off recommendations.

The society is also anxious to see the problem resolved. President Caroline Flanagan said: "The Ombudsman has repeatedly flagged the issue of her successor with the executive and that the post is likely to remain vacant for a number of months.

The society has done likewise.

"This will affect the society's ability to consistently deal with 75% of complaints in six months. Any delay causes confusion and upset to people who are already concerned and unhappy.

"The delay in appointing a successor damages the public perception of the executive's commitment to dealing effectively with complaints-handling issues. I hope this is not a sign of things to come.

"The complaints process can be complex and it will take time for any new appointment to get up to speed."

and here is our commentary on last week's "Herald" article, together with the link :

The resignation of Linda Costelloe Baker this week (well, she actually resigned in January), only leaving her position last Friday ... would certainly be one of the most damning indictments so far this year of the performance of the Law Society of Scotland AND the Scottish Executive when it comes to regulation of the legal profession ....

Personally of course, I have had a LOT of dealings with Linda Costelloe Baker in her post as Scottish Legal Services Ombudsman. She has considered many complaints for me, and recently recommended that a complaint be reopened against an extremely crooked lawyer by the name of David Reid, formerly of Alex Morrison & Co, then of Morrison Bishop WS, then of Campbell Smith WS .. and now a Law Accountant who prepares clients accounts (better watch yourselves there !)

I would say on balance, Linda Costelloe Baker has probably been the more effective Scottish Legal Services Ombudsman we have had ... but of course, there's not been much to choose from, with her predecessor Garry S Watson being no more than a puppet of the Law Society of Scotland, always willing to do as he was told .. then moving on to the Scottish Parliament to fiddle complaints against MSPs prior to Jim Dyer getting the job (and following in the same vein ....)

Costelloe Baker has went from supporting self-regulation in the past - most notably when she appeared before the Justice 1 Committee "Regulation of the Legal Profession" inquiry to now condemning self-regulation with her recommendation for a fully independent system of regulating complaints against the legal profession in Scotland ....

Costelloe Baker has said in the Herald that she is quite upset over the way her office has been prioritised by the Scottish Executive (very low, of course) .. and why would the Scottish Executive give low priority to her office ? ... well maybe her change of heart over the complaint system as operated by the Law Society of Scotland had something to do with it ... and some of those secret briefings & wine & steak meetings between the big guns of the Law Society and Scottish Ministers have had their effect .... because of course, she lost her backers at the Law Society of Scotland once she went against their corrupt practices in the way of complaints investigations & recommended independent regulation ....

Yes, I would say that what has happened to the Office of the Scottish Legal Services Ombudsman has probably proved without a doubt, the power of the legal profession in Scotland - where once they supported the existence of the Ombudsman over the years and even trumpeted the office as more often than not, siding with the Law Society against clients .. now the same Law Society has helped to undermine and sideline the office - even it looks like, interfering in the funding requests put forward by Costelloe Baker for additional staff .....

.... and there are good reasons for me saying this - there are currently several very important complaints being considered by the Scottish Legal Services Ombudsman's office against the Law Society of Scotland and the Faculty of Advocates, and it is in the Law Society of Scotland's interest to either delay or destroy these complaints before the Justice 2 Committee of the Scottish Parliament consider & finalise their recommendations for the new Legal Profession & Legal Aid Bill which is going to give us independent regulation of lawyers and legal agents .... it's that simple, folks !

The article following, from "The Herald", is quite damning of the Scottish Executive and Justice Minister Cathy Jamieson .... and it is of note that the Justice Minister didn't even bother to answer Costelloe Baker's letters on the lack of a new appointment ... is the Scottish Executive so shambolic ? or are they just too busy faking up more evidence in the McKie case and other cases to keep their criminal treatment of people a secret ..... this remains to be seen .. but there is one thing for sure - whether it's fiddling legal complaints or dragging dead birds around to grab headlines from other stories .. we certainly can't trust our Government in Scotland these days ....

You can visit the Scottish Legal Services Ombudsman's website at it hasn't been updated yet though with Ms Costelloe Baker's resignation ....

Link to the article on Linda Costelloe Baker's resignation from "The Herald", at :
Executive drags feet over appointing new watchdog
PAUL ROGERSON April 03 2006

Scotland's legal services watchdog bowed out on Friday after six years in the role with a parting shot at the Scottish Executive's Justice Department.

Linda Costelloe Baker is unhappy ministers have failed to ensure a smooth transition for her Edinburgh-based office by appointing a successor.

The position was not advertised until Friday, despite her repeated promptings. As a result, dozens of people face lengthy delays in the handling of their complaints about the law society or Faculty of Advocates because adjudications cannot be signed off until the job is filled.

"It's a disappointing way for me to go," Costelloe Baker told The Herald. "I am very upset about the way the handover has been managed. Clearly this office is a very low priority."

Costelloe Baker tendered her resignation to Justice Minister Cathy Jamieson in January and wrote to the executive in both February and March to try and move things along.Her letters were not acknowledged. "I am very concerned because even if I had completed my full-term of office, ending in June, my understanding was that the position would be advertised in January."

Costelloe Baker has personally signed about 200 letters to lawyers and complainers admitting she has no news of when her successor will be appointed or when outstanding complaints will be resolved.

She presently has about 130 complaints on her books and will return to the office for one day next month to sign off several more decisions. The remainder – and any recommendations made by the investigations team in the meantime – will effectively remain "in limbo" for weeks, if not months.

Another regret for Costelloe Baker is that her turnaround times have slipped because her resources have not been increased in line with the number of complaints to her office. In the financial year ended March 31, she received nearly 500 complaints, compared with just over 100 in 2000-01.

She asked the executive for an office manager but was told there was no cash to spare. She is presently reaching a decision on about 40% of complaints within her 13-week target maximum.

Some cases had dragged on for six months but the maximum has now been reduced to about 20 weeks – an achievement now jeopardised amid the uncertainty over her successor.

Costelloe Baker can certainly look back with satisfaction on her six-year tenure. In her first annual report, she complained of the inadequacy of Scotland's regime of legal self-regulation. Her last report will be published as the Legal Profession and Legal Aid (Scotland) Bill ushers in a new independent watchdog to handle complaints about Scotland's 10,000 lawyers.

One consolation for Costelloe Baker is that the new interim ombudsman will at least be a full-time position. Sheis technically employed four days a week but is known to have worked the fifth day as a matter of course.

Her successor will probably be in post for about two years, until the new commission is established in mid-2008. Where that commission will be based remains to be seen.

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