The recent Law Society of Scotland’s 60th Anniversary Conference got a shot in the arm from Lord Gill, who criticised the ‘Victorian” justice system which Scotland has to made do with, much to the amazement of some guests, reports Peter Cherbi’s Diary of Injustice law blog, with some equally rather unwelcome comments for the legal profession. (The same legal profession which kept Scots Law in the victorian era .. - Ed)
Lord Justice Clerk Lord Gill. Scotland's Lord Justice Clerk Lord Gill, in his speech to the recent Law Society of Scotland's 60th Anniversary conference, told the delegates a few unwelcome home truths in that Scotland's antiquated Justice system has in effect, turned into an injustice system, where outdated laws & procedures, monopolistic control by the legal profession over public access to expensive legal services, and a sense that many outcomes of cases which even get to courts are being undermined by professional interests, are combining to destroy the credibility of Scots law, and any lingering respect the public may have for our justice system, which according to the Lord justice clerk, is stuck in the Victorian era.
I would certainly agree with most of Lord Gill said to a rather stunned audience at the Law Society conference, most of whom have, themselves, helped maintain and nurture the many failures of Scots Law, and expensive legal services, simply to earn billions of pounds of profits over the years for themselves and undeserving Scottish legal firms.
Many of those solicitors present at the conference, including the 'big named' city legal firms in Edinburgh & Glasgow, lack any real 'global credibility' outside Scotland, as one American lawyer commented to me yesterday.
He claimed that "Many legal firms in Scotland have only survived and got to the positions they have, simply because their 'Bar Association' (the Law Society of Scotland) has cleaned up all their scandals and allowed them to feed off clients."
He went onto name some of Edinburgh's legal firms, several of which do business for the Scottish Government and claimed “they were not to be trusted with the documents to a second hand car and would never survive in the international marketplace if they didn't have their Scottish clients to fall back on and financially rape when it suited them to do so."
Of course, the Scots legal profession and all those who serve in it, have brought this predicament to our justice system by their own actions, which are and have always been geared up for greed, rather than providing the necessary public service which all of us must rely upon for organising our legal affairs, at some stage of our lives.
Many solicitors who attended the conference, despite Lord Gill's publicly welcomed critique of our 'banana republic' style justice system, sat smug in the knowledge they are backed by the political lobbying & arm twisting power of the Law Society of Scotland - dubbed the "World's worst regulator".
You can read more about how the Law Society has managed not only Scotland’s legal profession, but also our justice system, here : Toxic levels of complaints, poor standards of service & soaring fraud by solicitors makes Law Society of Scotland 'World's worst regulator'
Most of the big named firms from the legal profession will no doubt be hoping the Law Society's political weight and roll book of delaying tactics will again be put into play, thwarting any real reforms of Scots law which might clash with their model of a profit hungry monopolistic legal services market which forces clients to pay exorbitant fees for poor, inadequate legal services which in many cases leave clients financially ruined or in a bigger legal mess than when they first engaged a solicitor's services.
One onlooker to the conference said "It was like watching politicians feeding themselves from their parliamentary expenses accounts and not knowing when to stop. Many of the proposals put forward do not go far enough to reform Scots law because too many within the profession are concerned about maintaining expensive lifestyles & bonuses they all got used to in the good times."
Justice Secretary MacAskill fails to make the grade on justice reforms. Yes, even the Justice Secretary, Kenny MacAskill, who, rather than take a proactive stance to resolving the many inadequacies of Scotland's failed legal system, seemingly prefers to sit back and allow the rot to ruin what little there is left of any credibility of Scots Law, demonstrating to many that Scotland definitely needs a much more capable, and impartial Justice Secretary who is unconnected to the Law Society of Scotland's long time cronyism and backhander style management of Scotland's legal profession.
With respect, Lord Gill, if you want to make a start on reform, here are one of the issues which must begin the process : Truth & reconciliation fails as MacAskill follows Law Society orders to Parliament on attempt to heal public confidence in legal profession
You can read more about Lord Gill’s Civil Justice review here : Lord Gill's Civil Courts Review
Here follows the Scotsman's report on Lord Gill's speech to the Law Society conference :
Published Date: 09 May 2009 By John Forsyth and Christopher Mackie
ONE of Scotland's most senior judges has launched a savage attack on the country's "Victorian" civil courts – and said reform is vital to tackle diminishing respect for Scots law.
Lord Gill, the lord justice clerk, said the system was outdated, expensive, unpredictable and inefficient – and that it was failing society and putting economic development at risk.
Without dramatic reforms, the reputation of Scots law would continue to diminish, he said – along with public confidence in the judiciary.
He told the annual conference of the Law Society of Scotland in Edinburgh: "The civil justice system in Scotland is a Victorian model that has survived by means of periodic piecemeal reforms. But in sustance, its structure and procedures are those of a century and a half ago. It is failing the litigant and, therefore, failing society."
As lord justice clerk, Lord Gill is Scotland's second most senior judge after the lord president of the Court of Session. In 2007, he was asked by Scottish ministers to undertake a review of the entire civil justice system and will report at the end of June.
His speech suggests ministers will receive a withering critique of the system. He said immediate reforms were required to check the "drift" in the system and that more radical reforms would be included in his report.
Lord Gill also urged conference delegates to be "receptive to the conclusions of a lawyer-led programme for reform – if only for fear of something worse". He added:
"If you were to sit down and devise a justice system for the 21st century, it would be nothing like we have."
Lord Gill identified three areas that his report, due to be handed to ministers in June, will address: access to law, delay and inefficiency.
He said: "The judicial structure should be based on a proper hierarchy of courts and the procedures should be appropriate to the nature and the importance of the case, in terms of time and cost. Scottish justice fails on all these counts.
"Its delays are notorious. Its costs deter litigants whose claims may be well founded. Its procedures cause frustration and obstruct, rather than facilitate the achievement of justice."
One of the greatest inhibitors to access in the civil courts is not just the cost to businesses or individuals pursuing litigation, but also what they perceive to be the personal cost of undertaking an action. This is particularly an issue in areas of law such as family matters – especially those that involve children – and complex personal injury cases.
Delay in civil litigation is often caused by the volume and urgency of criminal case work that forces judges to interrupt or defer long-scheduled court days. Lord Gill reported a "surprising depth of feeling" among litigants caused by the long gap in issuing judgments once the case had concluded.
He said: "Unless there is major reform and soon, individual litigants will be prevented from securing their rights, commercial litigants will continue to look elsewhere for a forum for their claims, public confidence in the judicial system will be further eroded, Scotland's economic development will be hindered and Scots law will atrophy as an independent legal system."
Huge changes to be proposed in his review are likely to include a focus on an increased and better use of IT. He claimed that Scotland was "far behind many other jurisdictions" in this area.