Tuesday, March 17, 2009

“On the razzle" Legal Complaints Commission ends up as drunken shambles with members clueless over roles to protect consumers

Members of the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission who were personally appointed by Kenny MacAskill, are revealed to have been less than the full shilling while working on important parts of the Commission’s remit.

In the latest episode, with shades of Douglas Mill's memo affair which depicted a policy of intervention in claims against the Master Policy, and after recent media coverage, Peter Cherbi’s “A Diary of Injustice in Scotland” law blog reveals Commission members have intervened with personal opinions against claimants to the Law Society of Scotland’s Guarantee Fund …

MacAskill must clean up law complaints body as members 'booze culture conduct' reflects lack of discipline & will to investigate crooked lawyers

SLCC squareScottish Legal Complaints Commission has lost credibility. Stunning revelations in the weekend media coming on top of my article of last Thursday on further scandals at the SLCC show that senior law figures within the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission who were personally appointed by Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill, appeared to have taken the ‘booze culture’ into their duties at the multi million pound joint taxpayer & lawyer funded independent’ SLCC which is supposed to deal with complaints against lawyers.

0011Margaret Scanlan was ‘on the razzle again’ while clients of ‘crooked lawyers’ burned. Yesterday, the Sunday Mail newspaper featured email correspondence obtained under Freedom of Information laws in which SLCC board member Margaret Scanlan, a solicitor with Russells Gibson McCaffrey in Glasgow, confessed to the Commission she was suffering from the effects of a hangover after being “'out on the razzle again last night”. Stunningly Scanlan in her emails then went on to tear apart consumers hopes the SLCC would fulfil its intended monitoring role of the ‘crooked lawyer compensation schemes, operated by the Law Society of Scotland, known as the Guarantee Fund & Master Insurance Policy which are designed to (but do not) protect consumers funds from crooked lawyers who steal money or mishandling client’s legal affairs.

Margaret Scanlan : “Was out on the razzle, again, last night so bit cross-eyed this morning. Please excuse any consequent gibberish. Here are my comments on Master Policy and Guarantee Fund…. The consultation should be viewed with some caution. It provides very little by way of a sound evidential basis for us to do anything…. One unidentified responded … reports complaints about difficulty in finding solicitors to pursue a claim under MP (Master Policy). Apart from fundamental misunderstandings about MP which is for benefit of practitioner and in respect of which consumer has no rights ..”

So, despite suffering from a hangover after ‘being on the razzle’, there was still time for SLCC board members to throw the public out the door once again on rights against crooked lawyers … but even worse was to come as new emails reveal a more serious scandal :

0012Margaret Scanlan condemns claimants against crooked lawyers as “chancers”. However, further emails from Margaret Scanlan have now emerged which depict the same Law Society style 'anti-consumer-anti-claims culture' operating at the supposedly independent Legal Complaints Commission, where Scanlan stunningly labels claimants to the Guarantee Fund as "chancers" indicating she may have personal knowledge of cases, despite the fact that claims to the Guarantee Fund are supposedly confidential.

Margaret Scanlan : "The only complaints I am aware of on the functioning and extent of the GF have come from corporate bodies eg lending Institutions whose claims have largely not been entertained on basis that is not what GF is for. This includes our friend **** (censored) whose cause is vigorously esposed by **** (censored) but is a complete chancer in my opinion."

Margaret Scanlan's comments, directed against a claimant to the Guarantee Fund, appear to reflect a level of feeling many at the Law Society of Scotland are known to have against members of the public who dare to either complain or make a claim for damages against their rogue lawyer. More seriously, Scanlan's email comments in her capacity as an SLCC board member may have potentially damaged claims to the Guarantee Fund, and sources say today, she could face the possibility of legal action over her comments disparaging the individual involved in the claim she was referring to.

A legal insider hit out at Scanlan's comments against claimants to the Guarantee Fund, claiming her words "were wholly out of place and since the SLCC hadn't even began its monitoring role of the Guarantee Fund & Master Policy, the comments against an actual claim should not have been made."

He went on "There is an all-out attempt by the Law Society of Scotland and the insurers to block any substantial monitoring by the 'independent' commission of the Guarantee Fund & Master Insurance Policy. Many meetings have taken place already between the senior members of the SLCC, the insurers, and the Law Society, who have put the profession’s own views forward on how the fund & insurance operates "perfectly well" in their own eyes."

"People who have actually tried to make a claim against the Master Policy or the Guarantee Fund have been blocked from attending the SLCC to give their actual real life experiences on what happened to their claims, probably because most financial claims against solicitors fail due to Law Society meddling with clients legal teams and court access which obviously no one wants to hear about at the commission."

The legal profession’s ‘point of view’ on how the Master Insurance Policy actually operates, is as you know, slightly askew from the truth of the matter, which I have reported previously in articles such as the following : Law Society boss Mill lied to Swinney, Parliament as secret memos reveal policy of intervention & obstruction on claims, complaints.

Eileen MastermanEileen Masterman, SLCC Chief Exec. Insiders to the SLCC reported over the weekend that Eileen Masterman, the SLCC’s Chief Executive apparently did not reprimand the poor conduct of board members, and rather than keeping above the bitter exchanges, agreed with lawyers hostile sentiments towards consumer groups. It is worth noting Eileen Masterman had a long history of involvement with the Law Society of Scotland prior to her joining the SLCC as Chief Executive, having actually served on Law Society committees on the flawed regulator which the SLCC was designed to replace.

MacAskill tight lippedJustice Secretary MacAskill appointed ‘on the razzle’ hung-over lawyers to the SLCC. Given the state the SLCC currently finds itself, where decisions taken by Mr MacAskill's appointees have restricted its investigations of consumer complaints against crooked lawyers to issues which occur only after 1st October 2008, millions of pounds of taxpayers money has evidently been wasted on a commission which is self serving, and has no obvious intention to deal with the sins of the legal profession, which the Law Society of Scotland has so far failed to clear up after decades of being the self regulator of all Scottish lawyers.

A client of a solicitor the Law Society is currently investigating over complaints of poor service & severe misconduct agreed the SLCC needs to be reformed in the wake of recent scandals and said “This SLCC is just another version of the Law Society and is full of lawyers and others who just want to close ranks with their legal world friends no matter how crooked they are.This commission needs to be cleaned up and made to do what it is supposed to be doing, not what the Law Society and crooked lawyers want it to do.”

One solicitor today who did not wish to be named said the comments against the Guarantee Fund claimant made by Scanlan in her capacity as an SLCC board member may amount to possible defamation of the so-far unidentified claimant, who now faces the prospect their claim against the Guarantee Fund will not be met.

He said “There may be cause for the claimant to sue the SLCC for damages over the Board members accusations. At the very least the matter merits a full investigation and an apology to whoever Margaret felt strongly enough to refer to in this way in her emails.”

While recent news leaks show SLCC board members engaged in some kind of free for all party-on approach to their duties & mission to offer increased consumer protection against crooked lawyers, I would remind you all from two previous articles the same board members were quick enough to threaten resignation if they didn’t secure greater perks from the taxpayer, such as personal insurance cover and increased pensions, which you can read here :

Legal Complaints Commission in crisis amid funds shortage & resignation threats over lack of insurance protection &

Complaints Commission 'unfit for purpose' as secret meetings with insurers & pensions take focus over consumer protection against crooked lawyers

I’d say the conduct of the SLCC to-date is evidence enough if more were needed the SLCC needs a clean up of its present structure which appears biased towards the legal profession it was put there to regulate, and a representative element from consumer organisations & actual users of legal services added to its staff & board.

The Sunday Mail reports :

Margaret Scanlan - Called to the Bars - Sunday Mail  15 March 2009 email Called to the Bars : Top lawyer admits talking gibberish at work due to hangover

Mar 15 2009 By David Taylor

A TOP legal watchdog admitted to her boss she was talking gibberish - because of a hangover. Lawyer Margaret Scanlan made the confession in a email which described herself as "cross-eyed" after a night on the tiles.

Scanlan was appointed to her job in the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission by anti-booze crusader Kenny MacAskill. She wrote: "Was out on the razzle, again, last night so bit cross-eyed this morning. Please excuse any consequent gibberish."

Divorce lawyer Scanlan sent the lengthy email at 11.30am one day in November last year to watchdog chief Eileen Masterman. It was also copied to Alan Paterson, a law professor at Strathclyde University.

Campaigner Peter Cherbi, who champions legal and consumer issues, said: "This is not the sort of service the people of Scotland deserve. "It's not very good conduct for people who are supposed to be in some of the most respectable positions in the legal profession."

Scanlan was hand picked by Justice Secretary MacAskill as one of five lawyers to serve on the SLCC - a "one-stop shop" for complaints against lawyers. MacAskill plans to enforce mimimum prices for drink to combat alcoholism and drink-related problems.

The SLCC was set up by the Scottish Government to "modernise the legal complaints" system and ensure gripes are resolved quickly and effectively. It was formed after complaints that self-regulation by the Law Society of Scotland often protected crooked lawyers through cronyism.

Scanlan's email - about an insurance policy to cover solicitors' mistakes and misuse of clients' cash - was released to legal reform campaigners through a Freedom of Information request. The request also released emails from Scanlan attacking outspoken legal reform group Scotland Against Crooked Lawyers.

In one email, she wrote: "I would prefer that we not give any recognition to SACL. "I do not see why we have to name them even if we are bound to engage with them. "Their website is offensive and so far as I am aware no reputable organisations has anything to do with them"

Scanlan is a specialist in family law at Glasgow-based Russells Gibson McCaffrey.

She has also tutored in family law at Glasgow Caledonian University and was deputy chair of the Scottish Legal Aid Board between 1997 and 2007. She was also director of the Legal Defence Union between 1998 and 2002. She earns £350 a day plus expenses for her work with the SLCC.

When asked about the emails, Scanlan told us: "I have nothing to say."

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