(593)  DISCIPLINING LAWYERS: BILL PASSES STAGE 1 

 

The Scottish Parliament approved the general principles of the Legal Profession and Legal Aid (Scotland) Bill in a Stage 1 debate on 7 September 2006.  The main features of the Bill are: (1) creation of a new independent Scottish Legal Complaints Commission to handle complaints of poor service against lawyers, empowered to make compensation orders of up to ¬£20,000 (this would replace the Scottish Legal Services Ombudsman); and (2) enabling the Scottish Legal Aid Board to fund non-lawyer specialist advisers.  The Law society of Scotland, which will retain a disciplinary function in relation to complaints of professional misconduct, and the Faculty of Advocates have been vocal in their concerns about the independence of the new Complaints Commission, and the Scottish Executive has said it will move to meet some of these concerns by seeking amendments to the Bill in the later stages of its Parliamentary progress.  While appointments to the Commission will be in the hands of Scottish Ministers, the process will be subject to oversight by the Scottish Commissioner for Public Appointments, while the Lord President will have a role in the removal of Commission members.  The Commission’s membership will have a majority of non-lawyers.  For the text of the Bill at the end of the Stage 1 process, see http://www.scottish.parliament.uk/business/bills/56-legalProfession/index.htm.

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