Different people, different justice

November 2nd: Seven men arrested for alleged attempted robbery.

Three days later:

November 5th: Men hauled before court under armed guard to receive justice.

Sum involved: €1.2 million.

October 15th: Story breaks of solicitor allegedly involved in massive property fraud.

Twenty days later:

November 3rd: Judge is considering whether such matters might warrant investigation by those charged with criminal law.

Sum involved: At least €70 million.

The law outside the law?

Yet another solicitor is under scrutiny for allegedly robbing his clients. Michael Lynn, solicitor and property developer is under investigation by the Law Society for what they sheepishly describe as ‘acts of dishonesty’ possibly involving millions of euros.

On Liveline last Thursday (18th Oct.) a caller related how his mother and father were robbed by another solicitor, a case that demonstrates just how well protected this privileged group is from real justice.

In 1981, the couple bought a property in Nassau Street Dublin. Unfortunately, they employed a corrupt solicitor by the name of Johnathan Brooks.

He never disclosed to them that he was the owner of the property and on the day they bought the property Brooks changed the leases on the two shops on the ground floor so that they reverted to him after a number of years. This crooked solicitor also robbed the registration and stamp duty on the property.

When the corruption was discovered in 1985 a complaint was made to the Law Society but they didn’t want to know. This is not unusual behaviour for this august body.

After over a year of stalling the matter eventually came before the disciplinary committee of the High Court. This court has the power to strike off a solicitor.

The caller related how badly he was treated by the three sitting judges and claimed that they were sitting in judgement of him rather than the corrupt solicitor. Eventually, Brooks admitted that he had ‘forgotten to do the paperwork’. (A case of tribunalitis?).

He assured the judges that he had paid all the fines, settled with Revenue and stamped all the deeds. The learned gentlemen never asked for proof of these claims and some years later the caller discovered that Brooks had lied to the court.

In all, Brooks robbed about €15 million from clients in his short criminal career, he committed suicide in 1992.

Joe Duffy naively asked about reimbursement for the victims of this rogue solicitor from the Law Society. In fact, the Law Society did everything they could to keep this very valuable property for themselves. It was only when they were threatened with the High Court and given a sum of money that they relented.

It took this family 24 years to get what was rightfully theirs back from this criminal solicitor and the greed of the Law Society. The caller said that of about 100 solicitors he had dealt with in his life, only about five were honest – he’s lucky.

He also said that solicitors should be put in stocks and pelted with rotten vegetables – I agree.

Thieving solicitors and angry citizens

There was an excellent example today (19th item) of how effective and efficient the legal system can be in our little banana republic.

It seems that a group of people, fed up with being allegedly ripped off and abused by certain members of the legal profession gave vent to their anger on a website – rateyoursolicitor.com. A barrister took exception to remarks made about her and is suing a Mr. Gill, the alleged administrator of the site, for defamation.

A supporter of Mr. Gill apparently ‘snorted’ today in court while the judge was speaking and refused to apologise. The judge fined him €10,000 on the spot for contempt of court.

So, what have we here? A serious dispute between two angry citizens – a barrister and Mr. Gill. The case is dealt with in open court where everybody can see justice being done. The public can attend; the media can attend and report.

Both sides are equally represented and allowed make their case which will be decided in due course. One citizen was found to be in contempt of court and received instant justice in the form of a heavy fine.

All these activities and procedures are normal in any legitimate democracy.

Just over a year ago it was discovered that at least twenty solicitors had robbed tens of thousands of Euros from their clients.

These particular clients had been abused, both physically and sexually, for years by both the State and Church in various institutions. The money robbed was part of a meagre compensation for their years of torture and abuse. Many of them are illiterate and were therefore easy prey for these legal vultures.

None of these thieving solicitors will be brought to a court of law like Mr. Gill and his supporters. Their cases are being judged by fellow solicitors, behind closed doors, in secret by the Irish Law Society.

Only one case has been completed to date and the solicitor in question was completely exonerated by his peers. Despite this outrageous outcome, the money robbed, €11,670, was repaid to the victim who lives in England and survives on benefits of stg£116 per week.

The judge dealing with Mr. Gill and his supporters delivered a stern warning to them on the seriousness of their alleged actions.

“In a civilized society, there were some things you were not permitted to do. Mr. Gill and his members had crossed that line.”

Apparently, there is no line for some members of the legal profession.

Solicitors secret court delivers first verdict

I see the Irish Law Society’s secret court has delivered its first verdict concerning the theft of tens of thousands by its members from abuse victims appearing before the Residential Institutions Redress Board (Irish Independent).
These vulnerable people, already sexually and physically abused by State and Church were again abused by their sleazy solicitors who robbed a sizeable portion of their modest compensation awards.
No solicitor, of course, will appear before a real court. It’s all dealt with behind closed doors, solicitors passing judgement on fellow solicitors with a token lay representation.
The solicitor in question, a Mr. Michael Buggy, practicing in Kilkenny was found to have deducted fees from an award granted to an abuse victim and failed to provide the victim with a full bill of costs.
These transgressions are direct breaches of law under the Solicitors (Amendment) Act, 1994, Section 68 (1) (3) yet the State shows no interest in charging this solicitor under this act.

Law Society Ructions

Phoenix Magazine reports on consternation within the Law Society about it’s dual role as regulator and representative of solicitors interests.

The High Court challenge is against the Law Society’s complaints committee’s determination that the two solicitors charged excessive fees for processing claims by two abuse victims before the Residential Institutions Redress Board and
also against the society’ decision to investigate their conduct.

The case is regarded as a critical one in the Law Society establishment as d’Esterre Roberts is a former member of the society’s
council – he represented the Southern Law Association on council for many years – and also sat on the society’s High Court
Disciplinary Committee. That d’Esterre Roberts should now find himself charged and convicted, so to speak, by the complaints
committee is ironic, but it is also an indication of a growing tension within the Law Society itself.

Solicitors up and down the country have been muttering into their G&Ts that the society needs to decide whether it is a body
representing members or regulating them. A specific argument advanced by the two solicitors in last week’s High Court hearing
was that the society is so concerned about bad publicity that it is taking a “hard line” against its own members.

This mirrors the growing noises amongst the profession who believe that they are the butt of media and political pressure for an
independent, lay regulation of professionals. The restive solicitors are now arguing that the Law Society should be stripped entirely of its regulatory powers – which should be devolved to an independent body outside of the profession – and concentrate instead on representing and defending its members.

Director general Ken Murphy, president Michael Irvine and other leading legal eagles on the Law Society council are not likely to
lead any campaign to divest themselves of any such powers, but a caucus is forming that will lead a charge on this issue shortly.

This is in light of the recent Prime Time investigation into solicitor malpractice and incompetence in the State.

Two laws

After every horror involving child abusing priests (and there has been many) there is much wringing of hands and promises from the State and Church about accountability and bringing in laws to protect children.

When public anger subsides, however, the church and State usually revert to form – putting the interests of the church above the protection of children. The recent Ferns case is no different.

According to Colm O’Gorman director of One in Four, the Catholic church has produced guidelines that essentially will continue to protect the church and leave children open to sexual abuse.

‘Within the very policies they have issued today, they have one set of rules for those working within the church and another set for the rest of us. If an allegation is made against somebody working within church they adjudicate as to whether or not to refer to the civil authorities’

This system of protection for the church is similar to that afforded to solicitors and financial institutions, especially the banks. A filter is how Ken Murphy (President of the Law Society) described it on Liveline last Friday.

This is how it works. If an ordinary citizen rapes a child, robs a client or steals from a customer, they are immediately subject to the law and if found guilty, usually end up in jail.

Under the Catholic Church filter, the local Bishop will decide whether or not the civil authorities should be informed. To date, nearly all decisions have favoured the Church rather than its victims.

Solicitors operate a system of filters that gives them virtual immunity from the law. If a solicitor robs his/her client of thousands, the whole case is dealt with by other solicitors, behind closed doors. Neither the State, courts nor police play any part whatsoever.

The rogue solicitor can present all the evidence he wishes in his own defence in front of his own peers. The impression I picked up from last Friday’s Liveline is that the victim is afforded no such opportunity.

In addition, the Law Society operates virtually as a secret society. For example, try to find out how many solicitors have been reprimanded, fined or struck off in the last five years or just for the fun of it ask for access to the society’s annual reports – you’ll be waiting.

The filter for financial institutions comes in the guise of The Financial Regulator . Most people think that the regulator is there to protect citizens from the excesses of the financial world – Wrong. The regulator exists to protect the financial institutions, not Joe Bloggs. Here’s just one of many examples.

259 cases of overcharging have come to light since May 2004, involving 32 financial institutions. None of the offenders have been punished and all their identities are kept secret by the regulator. All they are required to do is repay the money overcharged/stolen.

This policy of secrecy is of enormous benefit to the financial institutions but puts the citizen at a great disadvantage in that he doesn’t know who the “cowboys’ are.

The only real protection the ordinary punter has from these so-called pillars of society is investigative journalism or whistleblowers.

So, the message is – if you want virtual immunity from the law, become a priest, banker or solicitor.

Thieving solicitor goes free

We learned today on RTEs Liveline, of the first thieving Irish solicitor to get away scot free with robbing a client.
Jack, the victim, rang in to say that the solicitor who robbed him of €5,000 has been given the lowest possible “punishment’ by the Law Society’s Complaints Committee – a reprimand.

This committee has decided that there is no need to forward Jacks case on to the Disciplinary Committee, which is the next level of the Law Society’s “justice’ system

Meanwhile, in the UK, it has been revealed that lawyers double charged clients involved in a compensation scheme for miners.

Enquiries have been launched by the Law Society of England, The Department of Trade Industry and most tellingly by The Serious Fraud Squad.

So, in England we see the legal profession, the Government and the police all immediately involved in investigating these serious criminal allegations.

In the corrupt state of Ireland, solicitors are allowed to decide for themselves, in secret, what “punishment’ they will mete out to their colleagues. The State has no involvement or interest whatsoever.

This serves as a good example of the difference between a hopelessly corrupt state like Ireland and a functioning accountable democracy.

More later…

Solicitor intimidation

The murky events continue in the solicitor’s theft case. On last Monday’s Liveline

Noel Barry of the survivors group Right of Place related how some solicitors are intimidating clients who made complaints against them. The solicitors are putting pressure on their clients to say that they only made an enquiry rather than a complaint regarding “overcharging’.

One of the complainants, Mary, who was robbed of €10,500 a year and a half ago, got her money back but her request for interest on the sum was refused. A very interesting aspect of this case is that Mary got her money back through the Law Society and was given no explanation of why it was taken in the first place.

It seems, therefore, that in addition to acting as judge and jury on solicitors found guilty the Law Society is also acting as a kind of buffer between the accused and their victims.

This, of course, is related to the fact that the Law Society operates in a conflict of interest environment. It represents solicitors while at the same time making the regulations that they must abide by. It is obvious from Mary’s case that the Society favours its members over their victims.

There are some other “interesting’ aspects of this case that should be kept in mind.

1.The allegations against the solicitors amount to very serious criminal charges yet the Law Society is allowed to conduct its own “court’ behind closed doors, in secret. A spokesman for the Law Society in England informed me that in a similar situation it would be unlikely his society would be granted such powers.

Under the 1994 Solicitors Amendment Act, it is illegal for a solicitor to deduct a percentage of any damages awarded to a client by a court. There is evidence that this law has been repeatedly broken by solicitors and could amount to the theft of millions from clients. Despite this there is no interest whatsoever from the Law Society or the Government in conducting an investigation.

There are dozens of so-called regulators in Ireland that cost the taxpayer millions every year. None of them are effective in doing their jobs. Practically every incidence of corruption revealed in the last twenty five years has been by the media, by error or in recent times by whistleblowers.

Irish (secret) Law Society

Constitution of the Republic of Ireland
Article 34 (I)

Justice shall be administered in courts established by law by judges appointed in the manner provided by this Constitution, and, save in such special and limited cases as may be prescribed by law, shall be administered in public.

The above constitutional provision does not apply to Irish solicitors. They are allowed to conduct their own private justice system, in secret, behind closed doors. In addition, if the Law Society finds any of its members “guilty’ it will be allowed to dispense justice as it sees fit according to its own rules.

Of course, to maintain some semblance of accountability, the society will disclose some details but its principal concern will be to protect its members. How do we know this?

Firstly, the Law Society operates in a conflict of interest environment. It is responsible for regulating but at the same time representing its members. Secondly, it effectively operates as a secret society. I have spent the last two weeks emailing and phoning the society asking some very basic questions. For example: How many solicitors have been struck off, reprimanded or fined in the last five years? I have been met with a stone wall of waffle but no answers.

We can already see how the society is carefully “managing’ information in order to minimise damage to its members. Here is what Ken Murphy, president of the Law Society, had to say about the victims of his society on RTE News on November 2nd ‘

‘A great many of these will not turn out to be complaints about overcharging fees, they will turn out to be amounts that were deducted from the awards cheque for unpaid medical certificate charges which is really quite legitimate.”

Of course, this is a ridiculous statement. We are being asked to believe that the cost of medical certificates amounted to the tens of thousands of Euros that have already been paid back to the victims.

But it doesn’t matter what waffle the Law Society come out with because the State is not interested in obtaining justice for the society’s victims and nobody else is allowed challenge this very well protected section of Irish society.

11 firms to appear before independent body

The slow wheels of ‘justice’ turn in regard to the theft of tens of thousands of euros from victims of abuse. The Irish Times report:

In an interim report, the Law Society revealed that 11 firms of solicitors, in relation to 20 individual complaints, had been referred to the disciplinary tribunal for inquiry in relation to their conduct in redress board cases.

When a complaint is made, it is first considered by the society’s complaints committee.

In each of the complaints referred to the disciplinary tribunal, the committee has required the solicitor to make a refund of fees to their client with interest and without delay.

He said the disciplinary tribunal was independent of the Law Society and was the final forum. He estimated that the hearings could be heard in early 2006 and the process concluded around February or March.

If the solicitors were found to be guilty of misconduct their names and the rulings would be published, he said.

Normally, tribunal hearings are in public but under the redress board legislation claimants are guaranteed confidentiality so an application for privacy could be made.

Tribunal orders are as enforceable as High Court orders.

It is Day 42 since the controversy arose. Still no arrests.