The Law Society Consumers Complaints Services that acts for the Protection of Lawyers
21 May 2003
Legal Services Ombudsman
Manchester M3 3JZ
Complaint to : Office for the Supervision of Solicitors
Thank you for your letter dated 6 May.
First, you are saying I cannot complain about the way etc. the OSS carried out their investigation because I failed to contact the Ombudsman's office in time when I agreed with the OSS on 1 December 2000 that my file would, for the time being at least, remain closed, the interpretation of what happened is most definitely not how you put it. So I will tell you the way it was and not how you are trying to make out.
If you look at the letter I sent the OSS dated 18 July 2000 (doc. 1) you will see I haven't heard from them for thirteen months. In August 2000 my case had reached a conclusion and as I could not get any response from the OSS, which was disgraceful, in desperation I had no option but to seek expert advice. Now if you look at the letter the OSS wrote to me on 20 November 2000 (doc. 2) and now four months since I last wrote to them, it shows the OSS had from 'some source' become aware I was or had sought legal advice, this was true due to the fact that for eighteen months the OSS had forgotten I existed and in desperation I needed advice, but now the OSS popped their head up and asked me to 'phone them, which I did. During the 'phone conversation with a member of the OSS it was suggested I should agree to my file, that still after eighteen months had not been 'allotted to a Caseworker' therefore it had not been officially opened, remaining closed and if after I had received (due in the new year, doc. 3 green highlights) advice I decided I wanted to continue my complaint with the OSS, I would be able to. From the letter the OSS wrote to me on the 1 December 2000 (doc. 3 orange highlights) it can be seen I agreed to this for as the yellow highlights show I had no option as I was waiting on this advice and three months later on 9 March 2001 (doc. 4) I asked that my complaint be reopened and on the 21 March (doc. 5) shows it was, once again, put back on, "currently awaiting allocation to a caseworker".
The point here is I was offered £250 compensation for the excessive 'delay' that had occurred and the reference to the Ombudsman in the OSS's letter (doc. 3) was totally on this issue, if you are saying otherwise it shows just how corrupt and one-sided this 'complaint procedure' is.
My first complaint against the OSS regarded the time it took to open my case and my letters and 'phone calls being ignored. As you say an apology was given, I was given £250 compensation and not only that but I am outside the 'time limit', I will accept that.
My second complaint, although it contains a time factor is more on how it was handled. Against the OSS was the fact I rang them on the 26 April 1999 to complain that Mr Luckhurst, in defiance of the 'Client Care' agreement, had refused to see me and discuss my grievances, as you know he refused again at the second request. Seventeen days later on the 13 May '99 I sent a formal complaint to the OSS and despite letters and 'phone calls by the time I heard from them, eighteen months later, on the 20 November 2000 relations had deteriorated to the point that TBW had sacked me, which was thirteen months after I first contacted the OSS. Panesar & Co. had concluded my case and in desperation I was seeking advice from elsewhere and it appears the OSS only wrote to me because they had from some source or other found out I was taking legal advice. I believe by sheer negligence and incompetence the OSS failed in the early stages, April/May '99, to sort out a problem with the Senior Partner, Mr Luckhurst's refusal to see me which would have prevented the progression of my complaint to the Legal Ombudsman. You cannot try and hide this failing of the OSS behind an 'out of time' factor, remember we are talking about 'Client Care', Mr Luckhurst would not see me the OSS failed to take steps to ensure my rights were adhered to and I fail to see your reasons for not investigating this complaint.
My third complaint the most serious concerns the 'conspiracy' between TBW and the OSS that took place on the 6 June 2000, which you are aware of and to stop an investigation you are trying to say, again, I am outside the 'time limit', so let us look at the facts. The evidence that shows a 'conspiracy' took place was in my file, this file after leaving TBW in June 2000 was with Panesar & Co. and at times with Mr Higgins QC who must have seen this evidence but said nothing, I wonder why? By the time I became in possession of my file the OSS had now opened my complaint, March 2001, so as you will understand there was no way I would have been aware, prior to the OSS opening my file, that a 'conspiracy had taken place. So, apart from what I said in paragraph two above, it's back to your 'little blue book "Special reasons' are circumstances outside your control that prevent you referring your case to the Ombudsman in time". Now with that in mind I don't see you can refuse to investigate a serious complaint of a conspiracy that must affect, to use a quote from your 'little blue book', an "unbiased investigation". Remember, you have, in your letter, put forward " caused by circumstances outside the solicitors' control" as a defence for TBW.
Concerning the above paragraph you say I "complained that the OSS 'colluded' with the firm, again, this relates to events which took place when you first contacted the OSS " that is not correct, this happened thirteen months after I 'first contacted the OSS'. In the same paragraph you state in relation to my sacking "if they have 'good reason' to do so" and also that I "considered that they had been negligent". First they cannot have a 'good reason' unless they have abided by the 'Client Care' agreement, which they had not. Second, they only knew of my 'negligence' allegation thirteen months after I made it because the OSS 'colluded' with TBW in discussing my unopened file, this is sheer 'corruption' and makes a mockery of your "detailed unbiased investigation" and you are going along with it in trying to hide it.
You say in your letter my complaint that the Senior Partner refused to see me was dealt with. Well you have all this evidence so please send this part to me so I know where and how it was dealt with for I can't find where it was mentioned by the OSS. You further state in the same paragraph that I "complained about the solicitors' decision not to act for you once you had made a complaint to the OSS". That is not true. I first 'phoned the OSS on 26 April '99 and sent a complaint on 13 May '99, I was sacked thirteen months later on the 7 June 2000 after a meeting with Tula Fitzpatrick and an 'Attendance Note' written by Tula on 6 June shows I was 'extremely angry'.
You say a delay is where "no reasonable explanation can be provided". Please 'provide' me with a "reasonable explanation" as to why, after I gave instructions, it took three years to apply for a summons? Remember, a legal expert, Mr Higgins QC has stated, "their failure to prosecute his claim with reasonable vigour was negligent". In the same breath you are saying, "Some of the delays were caused by circumstances outside the solicitors' control" this is a direct reference to the Defendants, after three years, becoming 'evasive'. How can you use a situation brought about by my solicitors' negligence (Mr Higgins opinion) as an excuse for the delays that occurred?
Let us look at this 'situation' brought about by my solicitors' negligence. First you say you are a 'layman' with little or no legal knowledge so I believe it fair to say you cannot argue with the opinion of three legal experts.
On the 8 February 1994 I gave my Solicitor, Irene Long, instructions to start proceedings and I was told this would be done on the 10th, fourteen days later we receive a letter from the Defendants solicitors. First expert, Sandra Durrant, a Solicitor from TBW, stated in a letter "it is better to deal with solicitors rather than Defendants themselves" so you must agree at this time, Feb '94, there is no way the Defendants could now become 'evasive', because my solicitors are dealing directly with the Defendants solicitors.
The second expert, District Judge Glover, who I don't believe you can disagree with, on the 4 November 1999 rebuked my Solicitor and being very aware that the Defendants had been extremely 'evasive' told her my case should still have reached a conclusion within two years.
The third expert, Mr Higgins QC, again I don't believe you can disagree with, stated in his 'opinion report' that the Defendants through being 'evasive' would have added a year to the time it took to get them to Court, remember at this point Mr Higgins has stated TBW were 'negligent' for not carrying out my instructions.
Even an idiot can see the consensus of opinions is that my case should have, with 'reasonably competent solicitors', reached a conclusion within twelve months, regardless of the outcome. So now tell me what took a further six years and why are the OSS and yourself using a situation (Defendants evasiveness) brought about by my solicitors 'negligence and incompetence' (Mr Higgins opinion) to defend them? Remember, your 'Little Blue Book', "detailed unbiased investigation".
At this point you might be tempted to say that up to November 1994 Irene Long was with Martin Tolhurst. If you look at the letter I received from TBW dated 29 November 1994 asking to 'continue' my case it states "I will inform the Court, and the other party's legal representatives" this is clearly giving the impression TBW are in touch with the Defendants and proceedings are in progress, if not, tell me why are they going to inform the Court? Again, at this point the consensus of opinions of three experts, and remember at this time we already have a 'Statement of Claim' written by Caroline Gibbons QC, is my case should even now reach a conclusion by November 1995. Again, tell me what took another five years and don't try to tell me that five years amounted to " there was a general disinterest to push the matter forward".
Your letter states TBW were entitled to sack me if relations had broken down, let us look at just a few things that we knew prior to my sacking. We know my instructions to start proceedings were ignored for three years, 'phone calls and letters were ignored, we know directly prior to my sacking Mr Luckhurst had for around two years been aware of my dissatisfaction and my file had frequently been passed to him but he had, as attendance notes showed, decided "to take no action at this time". TBW first gave the impression we had contact with the Defendants and summonses had been issued when in fact this was not true. We know after receiving a solicitors letter from the Defendants, no contact was made and three years later the solicitors had been forgotten about and the Defendants became 'evasive'. We know summonses had run out of time, addresses were being confused and two case numbers appeared at Court. Twelve months prior to my sacking we know Mr Luckhurst had twice refused to see me to discuss my extreme dissatisfaction, the OSS was aware of this and although I 'phoned and wrote to the OSS they did not respond.
Now let us look at what we subsequently found out. We know that an attendance note written by ?ula ?itzpatrick in relation to our meeting on the 6 June, a day prior to my sacking, shows Mr Luckhurst was aware of my extreme annoyance and anger and a second note shows Mr Luckhurst, Mr Smith and ?ula ?itzpatrick discussed my case and 'colluded' with the OSS in my sacking, the OSS being aware that twelve months previous Mr Luckhurst had refused to see me. Don't you think Mr Luckhurst had a duty, Client Care and all that, to see me or at least write to me personally? We know Mr Higgins' opinion is they were 'negligent and incompetent' and in my file evidence shows TBW believed I had sufficient cause to sue them also my file shows they were dishonest, deceitful and told numerous lies and we know from the consensus of opinions of three experts my case should have been over in twelve months but we know it took seven years. Your conclusion is because 'Silly Old Me' complained they were quite 'Within Their Rights' to sack me. I do now understand regardless of this useless shit sent to solicitors' clients referred to as 'Client Care Information' that we, the paying Client, have no rights whatever.
Tell me one thing, anything short of murder is there any other reason the 'Office for the Supervision of Solicitors' would take 'disciplinary action' against solicitors? If they did commit murder the OSS would probably write to them and say 'don't do that again' and if you do 'don't get caught'. Sorry I misspelled 'Supervision' I think it should be correctly spelt 'Protection'.
On the 3 December 1993 an 'Attendance Note' written by Irene Long states I was prepared to pay "whatever it takes". I didn't start this case to get any putrid compensation or part of my costs refunded, as you seem to think. What I expected was what was written in the 'Client Care Letter' I received on 6 December 1993: -
"Thank you for your instructions in this matter. I, and everyone here, will do our best to see that everything proceeds as smoothly as possible.
We aim to offer all of our clients an efficient and effective service and I am confident that we will do so in this case".
But you people won't even honour or discuss this 'bit of dog shit' you refer to as a 'Client Care Agreement' or say what it's relevance is in relation to solicitors and their clients. But then again when it comes to your 'Little Blue Book' it appears the same rules apply.
Finally as I understand, by law, any commodity you buy, hire, rent or work carried out is supposed to be up to a standard which it is meant for, well you don't have to be Albert Einstein to see my solicitors' work was substandard in the extreme and you and the OSS are trying, in their defence, to convince me that the way in which I have been treated and the delay I suffered were acceptable, not only that but you are using a situation caused by my solicitors in their defence. In the mentioned 'situation' you are using "caused by circumstances outside the solicitors' control", to avoid an investigation of delays but in my complaint concerning the 'collusion' on 6 June 2000 between the OSS and TBW you fail to apply the same rule, 'unbiased detailed investigation'?
The last point I will make is, how can solicitors be labeled by their peers as, negligent, incompetent, inadequate, a statement by 'Ann Abraham' " their work was so bad", took at least five years longer than they should have and evidence shows they were dishonest, deceitful, told numerous lies, colluded with the OSS in sacking the client to save further costs being awarded against them and refuse to abide by the 'Client Care Agreement', then fail to be 'disciplined' in any way at all by The Office for the Supervision of Solicitors and without any reprimand at all, leave Mr Luckhurst in charge of 'Client Care' and 'complaint procedures', instead the OSS and the Legal Ombudsman use every rule in the book, refer to evidence that doesn't exist and use situations caused by the solicitors' negligence/incompetence to defend them. Well as Peter Herbert, Lawyer and Vice Chairman of the Metropolitan Police Authority, said 'I do dot think the public are treated equally' shows that that at least one of your own is of the opinion the public are severely disadvantaged by self appointed complaint procedures.
I get the feeling from your letter that there is a touch of annoyance, maybe it is because a mere 'peasant' should complain so bitterly about a member of the Law Society, or is it after I have been 'caned' I won't 'lay down' or maybe you believe I am wasting your time? As you probably know when an investigating Officer gets 'annoyed' with the Complainant he or she is then definitely at a disadvantage, it would not have been so bad if you and the OSS had got the facts right and not used 'situations' caused by negligence/incompetence and fictitious evidence in the solicitors' defence. I hope you will remember, I don't make statements I can't back-up with evidence.
Ps It would appear from the 'collusion' between the OSS and TBW also the OSS finding out I was seeking legal advice that the Law Society have their own 'information service', well maybe the public are due to develop their own information service. Already filtering down to me is information that there is a gentleman sitting outside the offices of Nabarro Nathanson on Theobald's Road with placards. It appears he is starting a campaign to find the worst 'solicitors' I think I can certainly give him some competition. However I believe I have the tools to make this campaign truly 'national' or maybe 'international' then again what is there to stop it going 'global'.
PSS I will in the next week publish this letter on my website then, make Janet Paraskeva, the Law Society chief executive (see her enclosed comments) and Kevin Martin, the new Deputy Vice President of the Law Society, from him I might get an answer to the 'Client Care Agreement'. Oh yes, I will certainly make the "thelawyer.com" aware of my existence just so I can keep track of what they make of this 'Complaints' system.