Closed petition PE1851: Justice for the public in the legal system
Calling on the Scottish Parliament to urge the Scottish Government to urgently review and reform the Scottish legal system, including an update of the systems and practices to ensure bodies, authorities and institutions are fit for purpose.
Previous action taken
We have contacted Alex Neil MSP and Maurice Cory MSP. We have also submitted two previous petitions.
MSP’s throughout Scotland must be aware of the complaints constituents present regarding their treatment under the SLCC. We have submitted two petitions on this subject previously. We believe these were inappropriately handled by the petitions department and Committee. We allege that potential collusion as to how the petitions should be handled took place and coincidence or not the allegation furnished matched the treatment the petitions received. This process will not allow us to request an external investigation.
The Scottish Legal Complaints Commission (SLCC) has been in operation, at some financial cost to the tax payer, for twelve years and we would submit that there has been no improvement in the servicing of complaints as opposed to the old system through the Law Society. We would go so far as to suggest that the system is not fit for purpose and negatively impacts on the Scottish public. We believe every unfair dismissal of a complaint witnesses a member of the public paying a legal invoice for a sub-standard service.
This includes the SLCC approving a solicitor setting up agreements with the opposing party without reference to their client, assessing “one of their own” and exonerating them despite the actions of that solicitor. We believe these actions risk serious detriment for the client.
They rarely or will not entertain criticism or an appeal pertaining to their judgements, they will not give the complainant the right to reply and if too many questions are asked they disconnect communication.
The SLCC are allowed to select the cases they wish to “investigate” and we believe this is open to major abuse. It is alleged they can take cognisance of the Member Solicitors of the Law Society and sanitize the data as to ensure membership fees are not being paid as well as lost invoice revenue.
The task of a complaint about an investigation should be carried out by an independent body responsible to Government Ministers which would enable complainants to take the matter forward. Self-policing simply does not work and by its very nature is bias.
It is our understanding that in one case the SLCC automatically took the word of a solicitor and not the member of the public. The complainant was allegedly informed that this decision was made by Committee, which appears not to be their normal decision making route and the majority of the Committee wished to uphold the complaint with one not supporting the motion. The situation is clear to me that the minority rules the majority and we hold the opinion, if so, that such behaviour is simply iniquitous. We believe this situation forced the complainant to pay a considerable amount for legal “services” that could have been extremely detrimental to the client.
The SLCC has created this shell as there is no “Body” that can or is willing to address this situation. After a complainant has lodged their complaint, the complainant is not allowed to obtain a copy of the solicitor’s response. If the complainant has no right to see a response then it seems the solicitor can change fact to fiction.
The Law Society seems to have no interest in the activities of the SLCC. They appear not to have a great deal of interest in any form of complaint review whether managed by the SLCC or themselves.
In my experience the Law Society refuses to become involved with SLCC practices and decisions. Involvement by the Law Society has been dismissed even when approaching their President. They have allegedly tinkered with the SLCC but none of this has been efficacious or improvement worthy.
We believe attempts are made to cut genuine complaints off at the pass by interjecting with their impatient desire to set up an internal review. This is simply another term for self-policing and keeping the matter low key within the control of the powers that be.
Possibly a prime example of this is the recent Roberton Report which we feel is simply inadequate as it was written not adhering to the full brief, rejected offered contributions from the public, introduced no public input and wrote this with contributions from “in-house” contributors including at least one mentioned within complaints.
One assumes that the purpose of such a report was to improve the efficacy of the legal system within Scotland yet not to ask those experiencing the system first hand i.e. the public, is simply woeful. This is merely an exercise in academia without actually encompassing the reality required.
Until complaints are handled and adjudicated on properly the standard of practice within the Law will never improve and continue to deteriorate year on year. It is contented this includes Solicitors and the Judiciary. Brief reference was made as to examples of poor Solicitor behaviour and there are many examples across the legal sphere. A Register of interest should be mandated and put in place immediately. The World Bank looked at just over one hundred countries that considered introducing a register and of that sum ninety nine adopted that policy. Not only was the register found to be helpful but co-related with this was the fact the corruption within the legal world reduced. If the argument is that corruption does not exist within the Scottish legal professional then a register is no threat.
The aspiration of this Petition is many fold;
Review with the Law Society and other Bodies the level of efficiency of the law practice that the public receives and the value for money;
Address any and all misgivings within the core of the Scottish judiciary taking action to replace and introduce more transparency;
To review the levels of corruption, if any, within all sectors of Scottish law, with public input;
Establish a register of interests for the judiciary and solicitors;
Create a new Body to replace the SLCC that is transparent and can be reviewed independently;
Introduce a new process for SLCC investigations including allowing the complainant to refute a solicitor’s response to any complaint;
Create a more precise administrative conduct and require that clients must agree and sign any new actions;
Introduce an easier route for the public to appeal other than the Court of Sessions.
The foregoing sets out a blue print for real reform which is very likely going to meet serious resistance as have the two previous Petitions we have previously submitted. Until someone stands up to the system the public in Scotland receive legal disservice on a daily basis.
Although the article to which you are being directed is specific to one case we ask that you read it and assess for yourself the potential legal morass. We suggest this is not alone. Within some of those standing beside us their treatment appears to reveal some formulaic process to “attack” them. We simply say, “IT IS TIME”.
This petition was considered by the Scottish Parliament