Legal profession as selfish, manipulative & corrupt as ever, while Scotland awaits new government
Just because we are in the midst of election chaos, with lawyers rubbing their hands at the prospect of intervening to amend the way we voted, doesn't mean to say they haven't given up their corrupt ways.
As a steady stream of complaints still flow into the Law Society of Scotland & Faculty of Advocates over the conduct of their members, lawyers are still fleecing clients for anything they can get .. and fleecing the Scottish Legal Aid Board too by the looks of things, as the Sunday Mail reports : QUIZ OVER 'FAKE LAW FEES'
Not to be outdone by the election chaos, some in the legal profession are proposing that certain laws be repealed as soon as possible. No surprises then for guessing which of those laws come top of the list.
The Single Survey, in the words of Donald Reid today in the Scotsman, should be just one of those Laws repealed as soon as possible, so lawyers & surveyors can get back to fleecing clients for as much money on house sales ... so we know that one must be a pain in the neck to the legal profession.
Another of those laws which the legal profession would like repealed too, of course, is the Legal Profession & Legal Aid (Scotland) Bill 2007, which was passed by the last Scottish Parliament in December 2006.
You all know my thoughts on that one, and from what I hear, the idea has been floated to some politicians from the major parties in the election chaos which we now find ourselves in here in Scotland.
Kenny MacAskill from the SNP was reported last week in the Herald as saying he would not alter the LPLA Bill reforms .. although as I commented myself, his words were less than convincing .. and we are yet to hear substantive policy from the SNP on these issues of corruption within the Scottish legal profession.
I covered the MacAskill story here : It's time for Injustice to end, but will the SNP end Injustice in Scotland ?
I would still have to say, through all this - that I think only the last Executive would have given us the Legal Profession & Legal Aid (Scotland) Bill. I don't think any other political party would have done it.
On the basis of MacAskill's attitude towards those who have suffered injustice at the hands of crooked lawyers, I simply don't believe he would have recommended any changes to the way the Law Society of Scotland self regulates it's membership .. but I can't help wondering if the possible thought of his legal colleagues stepping in to wipe out an SNP victory in last week's election may temper MacAskill's lack of respect for victims of the legal profession .. since he or his party may well become a victim of injustice too if a legal challenge to the Cunninghame North Constituency vote and the prospect of yet another legal challenge in Glasgow over an alleged 9000 discarded votes go ahead ... with lawyers at the helm of both challenges.
The Conservatives wouldn't have touched reform of the legal profession with a barge pole - I think the lack of implementation of Sections 25-29 of the Law Reform (Misc Provisions) Act 1990 shows that - where some would actually say those Sections were passed into law but were never seriously intended to be implemented in the first place.
LibDems on reforming the legal profession - they don't believe in it - and would be less willing to pass it than even the conservatives. In fact, so against reforming the legal profession are the LibDems, some of their English peers were brought in to threaten the Scottish Parliament over the proposed reforms of the LPLE Bill before it was even passed .. and I covered that one here : Law Society of Scotland & Lord Lester QC challenge new legislation to protect Scottish public against crooked lawyers
Without further ado, here are the articles from the Sunday Mail on allegations of yet another lawyer fiddling Legal Aid money, the Scotsman on lawyers wanting a few laws repealed for their own benefit, and Herald newspaper on the legal challenges to the election results, links included.
QUIZ OVER 'FAKE LAW FEES'
Assistant says boss claimed Legal Aid while on holiday
Exclusive by Billy Paterson
A LAWYER is being probed over claims he took Legal Aid cash for appearing in court while he was on holiday. Former policeman Neil McPherson has been reported to the Scottish Legal Aid Board by ex-employee James Kelly.
McPherson, 50, is accused of claiming for three days of a trial at Ayr Sheriff Court during which he was in Arran and Mull. And he is claimed to have secretly faked Mr Kelly's timesheets for the same trial - when he was also on holiday.
Mr Kelly joined McPherson's Kilmarnock firm as an assistant in May last year and resigned just four months later. He has lodged a complaint accusing his former boss of "gross professional misconduct" by falsifying Legal Aid timesheets. Many relate to the Ayr trial of McPherson's client Andrew Cummings, who was found guilty of conning a woman out of £3200 in a bogus workman scam.
In a letter to the board, Mr Kelly, of Saline, Fife, claims McPherson filled out timesheets to make it look as if he was at court when he was on holiday. According to Mr Kelly, an unqualified member of staff appeared with counsel in the Cummings trial in July last year.
In his letter, he said: "During this time McPherson was absent from the office on vacation at his holiday home on Mull and with his family on the isle of Arran. "On his return he informed me that he did not require notes of attendance as he would generate timesheets for these days."
Lawyers fill in the sheets every time they consult with clients or appear in court.
Mr Kelly also alleges McPherson faked timesheets to show the former employee claimed court time and travel expenses for dates in July when he was in Ireland. His letter states: "The handwriting on these timesheets is McPherson's."
Last night McPherson denied Mr Kelly's claims, saying: "There is no truth in the allegations."
The Scottish Legal Aid Board said: "This is something we are actively investigating and we cannot comment further."
In 2003, McPherson was censured by the Law Society for professional misconduct over "derogatory comments" to two clients. In September 2002, McPherson was jailed for four months for his fourth drink-driving offence and fined £500 by the Law Society for bringing the profession into disrepute.
mailfile Legal aid toll
Scotland's annual legal aid bill last year was £146.9million.
High-profile QC Donald Findlay topped the legal aid list with claims totalling £361,800. The legal aid cost of the defence team - led by Mr Findlay - for representing Jodi Jones killer Luke Mitchell was £452,687.22.
Glasgow-based Ross Harper is the Scots firm which earns the most from Legal Aid. According to the latest figures they received £1.804million.
Why do politicians keep making laws?
I PEN this column before the outcome of last week's elections is known. Since, however, I know that my Holyrood masters devour my pronouncements with trembling anticipation, I can be sure this piece will be on top of the new administration's in-tray, regardless of its political colour.
We have a new set of lawmakers this week. I have said before: the trouble with lawmakers is they have to make laws. If a constituent makes a fuss about something and demands action at the local surgery, the hapless MSP promises to raise it at the Parliament. If enough of them get the same grief from their constituents we get a new act. The Dog Fouling Act, as daft a piece of legislation as you can find, is the product of this sort of lobbying.
That's not the only way, though, that we get new legislation. Politicians fancy themselves. They have a high opinion of their own abilities and sense of justice. I think these very characteristics ought to disqualify them from governing altogether, but, astonishingly, they don't agree. They want to change things. They believe their proposed changes will make things better. They campaign for election on this basis. Then they get in and off we go with the new programme. Much of it just seems to me like tinkering. For example, take local authority funding.
I am sure all the ideas to replace the Council Tax have their merits but somehow I feel it won't make a lot of difference overall if a change comes in, other than allow some politician to boast about it. But change itself will cost money, and the whole population, and their advisers, will have to learn and obey new rules.
What else can these important people do? They can hardly say one morning: "Well, we don't have any business for Parliament today, so off you go home." So, we get more and more laws and more and more subordinate rules and regulations to go with them. Meat and drink for lawyers, I suppose, but I, for one, wish they would give us a break, and let us get used to what is already there before piling more stuff on to us. I have toyed with forming a Law Society Commission for the Abolition of Law Reform, but I suspect it would only have one member.
A few weeks back, I met a leading Scottish politician to whom I expressed this point of view. To an extent the person agreed, and said that, for every new piece of legislation, the government ought to find something to repeal and be rid of. Helpful as always, I offered to send a list of proposed repeals to save a busy public figure the trouble of instructing staff to do so, but I was graciously turned down.
First on my list would probably be the Single Survey. The Holyrood beaks just can't seem to get it into their heads that lawyers have no axe to grind here, other than the public interest.
The administration decided long ago, long before any serious consultation began, that the Single Survey would be a good thing and nothing, not the absurdly useless pilot project, not the measured concerns of the RICS, not the forceful insistence by the Law Society that sellers are consumers, too, not even the market solution now prevailing of offers subject to survey, was going to stop them. Perhaps, by the time you read this, the great Scottish democratic voice will have given us a new regime. If so, I urge them, as they seize excitedly upon my column, to make the Single Survey their first victim.
Lawyers prepare landmark case over lost votes
KEVIN SCHOFIELD May 07 2007
Thousands of people could be contacted and asked which way they meant to vote in last week's election under a landmark legal challenge.
Lawyers plan to submit papers at the Court of Session challenging the result of the regional list ballot in Glasgow, where around 9000 votes were discarded.
It has also emerged Labour Party lawyers will ask for a manual recount of all the votes cast in the Cunninghame North constituency, which they lost by just 48 to the SNP.
Mike Dailly, a solicitor at the Govan Law Centre, said yesterday he had been contacted by several voters in Glasgow since Friday who believe their votes were among those disregarded.
He said they had wrongly placed two crosses on the regional ballot and none at all on the constituency form.
Mr Dailly said that if the votes had stood, it could have resulted in a seat for Tommy Sheridan's Solidarity Party or another MSP for the Greens and a different national result.
He said: "What we've got in Glasgow is a situation where people who cast their vote have had their vote discounted.
"This is quite important because if a number of those had gone to Tommy Sheridan or the Greens, then clearly that could have meant a different result on the Glasgow list.
"Obviously, given the balance of power, this is hugely important."
Mr Dailly said he planned to raise his legal challenge under Article 3 of the first protocol of the Human Rights Act, which guarantees that citizens should have the conditions in which to express freely their views in an election.
He said he would be looking for two possible outcomes from the legal challenge. "We can either rerun the Glasgow list election, or the returning officer can contact those 9000 people and ascertain their clear intention," he said.
We have people in Glasgow who cast their vote but had it discounted
Mr Dailly said contacting each of the voters would be possible because the number of the ballot paper is written beside their name when they turn up to vote.
Last night, Tommy Sheridan told The Herald he was supporting Mr Dailly's case.
He said: "It was a farce. People have expressed their opinion legitimately, but the ballot paper being so complicated wasn't their fault."
A spokesman for the Greens, which has submitted a Freedom of Information request to every returning officer in the country asking for copies of every discarded ballot paper, said they would "watch with interest" Mr Dailly's legal challenge.
The Herald revealed on Saturday that Labour officials in Ayrshire were considering a legal challenge into the result in Cunninghame North where Kenneth Gibson of the SNP narrowly defeated Labour's Allan Wilson, former Deputy Lifelong Learning Minister.
At the heart of the challenge is Labour's claim that Ian Snodgrass, the returning officer at the count, had turned down their request for a manual recount of all the ballot papers.
Allan Wilson said yesterday: "The prospective challenge arises from concerns that have been expressed to me by local party members, and more importantly local people, about the conduct of the ballot in Cunninghame North."
Mr Wilson also rejected accusations by the SNP that the potential legal challenge was "sour grapes" on Labour's part, adding: "Everybody understands a manual recount could even increase the SNP majority."
Mr Snodgrass, who is also chief executive of North Ayrshire Council, said: "We've had no contact whatsoever with Mr Wilson since the election. If he contacts us we will give careful consideration to all his concerns."