Monday, January 29, 2007

Complaining against a lawyer ? You should expect a knock from the Police

More in from A Diary of Injustice in Scotland

To all those who made complaints against lawyers .... how long was it before the Police ended up at your door, armed with 'anonymous tips' or information from 'unquotable sources' you were up to something ?

Well, for those who have made complaints of a significant nature against their lawyer .. be that a local lawyer in a small town, or one of the so-called Edinburgh 'high-flyers' ... it doesn't take long before either yourself or other members of your family gain the attention of the Police.

For many who have contacted me over the years, it seems to be little more than a few weeks after making the complaint to the Law Society of Scotland .. about their crooked lawyer,

For me, well .. when I made my complaint against crooked lawyer Andrew Penman , of Stormonth Darling Solicitors, Kelso , I sent a copy to the Scotsman newspaper, back in 1994 .. so I had media attention .. and it took the Police a wee while longer to come knocking on my door. Take it from me, going to the Press as soon as I made the complaint against Penman was probably one of the best things I did for myself, and ultimately, my campaign to bring independent regulation to the legal profession in Scotland.

Scotsman 18 October 1994 Son threatens to walk away from inheritance after legal row

There was another difference though ... I knew the Police in the Borders quite well .. (don't forget, they were almost living with us for several months to catch a gang of drug dealers in Jedburgh) .. so the Police talked [on the side] .. told me what was going on and why I was being targeted. That was the junior officers, you understand .. not the 'big white chiefs' .. with all their wire braiding ... that lot were obviously well in the hook of the legal mafia.

I remember some of these incidents quite well.

One Saturday afternoon, for instance, PC Keith Sudlow, turned up on his own at my house in Bongate, Jedburgh, on account that Norman Howitt , the crooked accountant who had ripped off my dad's estate .. and even worse, had stolen my mum's pension book, had made a claim he was being threatened over the sale of my dad's car to his business partner. The origin of the 'threat', was unspecified, but my name was given by Howitt to the Police at Wilton Hill Police Station, Hawick.

However, what had actually happened was that Norman Howitt had given the false information to the Police to knock me off the scent of finding out who he had actually sold the car to at the time - which turned out to be Felix Sears , of Melrose - who was well known to Norman Howitt as a friend & business associate. I hadn't known of the identity of the purchaser of my dad's car at the time - but was told that by the Police .. so Howitt's plan sort of backfired and ended up giving me more information on his crooked dealings involving my dad's estate.

What knocked that particular Police inquiry on it's head, was the wee snippet of information that when Norman Howitt secretly sold my dad's car to his friend, Felix Sears, he stuffed the money into his firm's business accounts - the crooked firm of Borders accountants : Welch & Co, Chartered Accountants, Hawick & Galashiels

When the Cops verified that information .. that was it ... a few off the record apologies to me .. but no action against Norman Howitt - who I think certainly should have been charged with providing false information to the Police, to cover up his own crimes. Wouldn't you agree ?

Another incident I remember quite well, was 30 October 1997, when 3 Police officers, among them, Sergeant Murray, PC Stuart Roughhead & one other, ended up outside our kitchen door brandishing a search warrant & one of those thingies to bash in the door of a house.

Quite a surreal incident that morning, I must admit .... talking to my mum for a few minutes & her giving me a shopping list, then the cops try to break down the door.

Why were the Police at my house that day ?

Well, they had received information from one of the lawyers I had made a complaint against, that I was up to no good .. so they were here to shake me & my mum down.

Of course, the Police entered the house, and began having a look around, then after Sgt Murray actually decided to tell me his name, I asked, "hmm .. are you by any chance, Kevin Murray's dad ?" .

His face went as white as a sheet. He said "Yes, I am. How do you know Kevin ?"

"Well", I said, "Kevin, your son, has been one of the CID officers operating in my house & property for months to catch the drugs gangs in Bongate View".

The officers looked at each other in astonishment, and I could see what was going to happen next.

The 'search' on the bogus information provided by one of the crooked lawyers I was complaining against, stopped. The conversation then went on to stuff such as "ooch, the weather is a wee bit chilly today" & "how nice the posters were on my bedroom wall" ... It seemed one particular blonde caught the eye of Sgt Murray .... If the new retired Sgt Murray is reading this, he will no doubt remember verbatim what happened that day .. or of course, I could play it back to him ...

So that was it .. search ended, after I had asked what the hell was going on, why were we being searched, and why, then the Police had been in our house for so long, was I obviously being accused of something I couldn't have possibly been up to - whatever that was .. because I still don't know.

After the officers left, I found out a wee bit more about what had happened.

It seemed .. the clever lawyers & their friends in the Police, had been unaware of the months long Police operation at my house .. and that when the Procurator Fiscal had been asked to sign the search warrant for my house on that morning, he was actually fresh from a meeting with the Officer in charge of G Division CID at the time, discussing the actual operation to catch the drugs dealers in Bongate View.

Well, there is another version .. perhaps more sinister ...

I was told that the information may have been given to the Police to kill off the drugs operation against the Jedburgh drugs dealers .. so they could go on selling drugs ... I certainly didn't believe that at the time, but come to think of it now, the family who were selling the drugs to all the Jedburgh kids, were represented by this particular legal firm .... so you see .. there could have been a motive there.

I remember a string of other visits from the Police, all on the back of false information provided by crooked lawyers in an attempt to 'persuade' me into dropping complaints against them .. but of course, I had too much press attention .. so nothing could ever really be done against me on that level ... lucky me ..because some of the other visits had the prospect of harm to myself.

Well, the Herald Newspaper is reporting that another individual seems to have gone through the same as me - a few years before my experience ... and the alleged Police involvement in a long history of intimidation & worse against the individual, Mr Duff, seems to spring from .. complaints made against lawyers.

Well, I am running another story related to this issue soon, .. so I wont spoil that one, but for now, read of Mr James Duff's experiences with the Police .. and remember folks ... it seems to be quite common for crooked lawyers to provide the Cops with malicious allegations against complaining clients, to cover up their crooked behaviour .. and this tactic mostly works .. although not so much in my case, as there are still plenty in the Police who give me snippets of information on crooked lawyers and a whole lot more besides ...

While reading the Herald's story on Mr Duff, you might like to read FOI Commissioner Kevin Dunion's decision in favour of Mr Duff on his FOI request to the Police - which is now currently in the Court of Session .. Decision 068-2005 (pdf document)

15th-century law brings police chief to court
ALAN MacDERMID January 03 2007

A former businessman who claims to have been ruined by faked police reports has invoked an ancient Scottish law to have a chief constable brought to court.

Jim Duff used an action known as lawburrows, dating to 1429, to obtain a warrant citing David Strang, head of Dumfries and Galloway Constabulary, to appear.

It was granted by Sheriff Smith at Dumfries Sheriff Court and the hearing is due to take place there on January 18.

In his court papers Mr Duff, a former housebuilder from Lochmaben, Dumfriesshire, stated he was in business until 1976 when he was "illegally made bankrupt".

He alleged that Mr Strang's officers had for years been involved in defrauding him of his lands, house and money by conspiring with a former Dumfries solicitor.

Lawburrows is described as an ancient Scottish remedy against anticipated physical harm to a person or damage to property. To obtain an order for lawburrows, the applicant must show he has reasonable cause to believe the respondent will cause bodily harm to him, his family or property. It is easier to obtain than an interdict and could require Mr Strang to post a bond of up to £10,000 for his future behaviour.

Mr Duff claimed he had "a vast amount of evidence" to prove his cases, including fake police reports. He said that, in January 2005, he applied under the Freedom of Information Act for copies of the reports, and claimed that, when he received them, officers' names were blanked out on the orders of the chief constable. He had been ordered later by the commissioner to name the officers, which he had done.

Mr Duff said he had written to Mr Strang 83 times between 2004 and 2006 advising him that reports had been fabricated and requesting him to ask another chief constable to investigate. He said Mr Strang refused and "incited his officers to further fabricate reports in order to mislead the procurator-fiscal and the Crown Office."

Mr Duff said he had been living in fear for years and believed the chief constable "would continue his vendetta against him".

His action calls for the sheriff to order Mr Strang to find caution of £10,000 "or such other sum as the court considers appropriate" and if he fails to do so to grant warrant for his imprisonment for a period not exceeding six months.

Last year, Mr Duff raised a similar action against the Lord Advocate at Edinburgh Sheriff Court. It was dismissed, but he is appealing and a hearing has been set for January 23.

Mr Strang was not available for comment yesterday.

How lawburrows 'terrify evil doers'

Lawburrows was first enacted by the parliament of James I in 1429 as a remedy against threats to the safety of members of the public. The aim stated in the Act was " prevent such delinquencies (the issuing of threats) and terrify evil doers..."

It has a number of advantages over the interdict – the most common action against someone who threatens violence – which can be refused by the court on the grounds of public interest, requiring witnesses to be provided by the applicant. It also leaves uncertainty about what happens should the defender disobey the interdict. If it is a first offence, a nominal punishment or warning may be imposed.

Lawburrows, however, is noted for its simplicity, speed of execution, low cost of process and the absolute certainty of the exact penalty should the order be contravened. Neither the police nor procurator-fiscal is initially involved.

In an initial writ to the Sheriff Court, the pursuer asserts that he fears harm to his person, property, family, tenant or employees from the defender. He asks the sheriff to obtain a certain sum of money (a "caution") or a bond as security against being molested or troubled further by the defender.

As soon as this writ is received, the sheriff must immediately order it to be served on the defender and a date for an early hearing has to be fixed.

At the hearing, the standard of proof is "on the balance of probabilities" as in other civil actions, so only one credible witness is needed if there is evidence to show there are reasonable grounds for the pursuer's fear of harm.

If the pursuer is successful, the sheriff can order a sum of money to be found (or a bond to be given) and he can order that, should the defender fail to provide this, he shall be imprisoned for up to six months. If the defender does any harm of the kind specified in the writ, the pursuer may raise an action for "contravention of lawburrows" asking that the money be divided equally between the Crown and himself

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