Legal Complaints and Regulations Bill as Introduced

Legal Complaints and Regulation Bill - As Introduced - 08-06-15.pdf (244.86 kb)

Legal Complaints and Regulation Bill

[AS INTRODUCED]

CONTENTS

PART 1

THE LEGAL SERVICES OVERSIGHT COMMISSIONER FOR NORTHERN IRELAND 

1.         The Legal Services Oversight Commissioner for Northern Ireland

2.         General powers of the Commissioner

3.         Duty of certain bodies to consult Commissioner

4.         Duty of Commissioner to review certain matters

5.         The levy

6.         The levy: supplementary provisions

7.         Payments by Department

8.         Privilege for certain publications

9.         Lay observer

10.       Interpretation of Part 1

PART 2

COMPLAINTS AGAINST BARRISTERS

Complaints procedures for barristers

11.       Complaints procedures for barristers

Bar Complaints Committee

12.       Bar Complaints Committee

13.       Jurisdiction of the Bar Complaints Committee

14.       Excluded complaints

15.       Complainants

16.       Orders under section 15

17.       Procedure for complaints

18.       Notification requirements

Determinations by Bar Complaints Committee

19.       Determination of complaints

20.       Alteration of compensation limit

Appeals

21.       Appeals

Information

22.       Information and documents

23.       Reporting failures to provide information or produce documents

24.       Enforcement of requirements to provide information or produce documents

25.       Reports of investigations

Defamation

26.       Protection from defamation claims

Rules

27.       Consultation requirements for Bar Complaints Committee rules

Interpretation

28.       Interpretation of Part 2

PART 3

COMPLAINTS AGAINST SOLICITORS

Complaints procedures for solicitors

29.       Complaints procedures for solicitors

Solicitors Complaints Committee

30.       Solicitors Complaints Committee

31.       Jurisdiction of the Solicitors Complaints Committee

32.       Excluded complaints

33.       Complainants

34.       Orders under section 33

35.       Continuity of complaints

36.       Procedure for complaints

37.       Notification requirements

Determinations by Solicitors Complaints Committee

38.       Determination of complaints

39.       Alteration of compensation limits

Appeals

40.       Appeals

Information

41.       Information and documents

42.       Reporting failures to provide information or produce documents

43.       Enforcement of requirements to provide information or produce documents

44.       Reports of investigation

Defamation

45.       Protection from defamation claims

Rules

46.       Consultation requirements for Solicitors Complaints Committee rules

The Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal

47.       The Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal

Interpretation

48.       Recognised bodies

49.       Interpretation of Part 3

PART 4

GENERAL

50.       Interpretation

51.       Further provision

52.       Minor and consequential amendments

53.       Repeals

54.       Commencement

55.       Short title

SCHEDULES:

Schedule 1         The Legal Services Oversight Commissioner for Northern Ireland

Schedule 2         The Bar Complaints Committee

Schedule 3         The Solicitors Complaints Committee

Schedule 4         Minor and consequential amendments

Schedule 5         Repeals

 

A

B i l l

to

Make provision for the establishment of the office of the Legal Services Oversight Commissioner for Northern Ireland; to make provision as regards complaints against members of the legal profession in Northern Ireland; and for connected purposes.

BE IT ENACTED by being passed by the Northern Ireland Assembly and assented to by Her Majesty as follows:

PART 1

THE LEGAL SERVICES OVERSIGHT COMMISSIONER FOR NORTHERN IRELAND

The Legal Services Oversight Commissioner for Northern Ireland

1.—(1) There is to be an officer known as the Legal Services Oversight Commissioner for Northern Ireland.

(2) The Commissioner must be appointed by the Department of Finance and Personnel.

(3) The Department of Finance and Personnel must consult the Lord Chief Justice before appointing the Commissioner.

(4) The Commissioner must not be, and must never have been, a solicitor or barrister.

(5) Schedule 1 has effect in relation to the Commissioner.

General powers of the Commissioner

2.—(1) The Commissioner may—

      (a)  require a professional body to provide information to, or make reports to, the Commissioner about the handling of complaints about its members;

      (b)  investigate the manner in which complaints about the members of a professional body are handled by that body;

      (c)  make recommendations in relation to the training of members of—

       (i)  the Bar Complaints Committee;

      (ii)  the Solicitors Complaints Committee;

      (d)  set targets in relation to the handling of complaints about the members of a professional body;

      (e)  make recommendations in relation to the handling of complaints about the members of a professional body;

       (f)  require a professional body to submit to the Commissioner a plan for the handling of complaints about its members; and

      (g)  do any other thing which the Commissioner has power to do by virtue of this Act or any other statutory provision.

(2) For the purposes of an investigation under subsection (1)(b), the Commissioner shall have a right of access at all reasonable times to all such documents as the Commissioner may reasonably require for carrying out the investigation.

(3) Subsection (2) only applies to documents in the custody of or under the control of the professional body to which the investigation relates.

(4) Where the Commissioner requires a professional body to submit a plan for the handling of complaints about its members but the body—

      (a)  fails to submit a plan which the Commissioner considers adequate for securing that such complaints are handled effectively and efficiently; or

      (b)  submits such a plan but fails to handle complaints in accordance with it,

the Commissioner may require the body to pay a penalty.

(5) Before requiring a professional body to pay a penalty under subsection (4) the Commissioner must consult with the body and afford it a reasonable opportunity of appearing before the Commissioner to make representations.

(6) The Department must by order specify the maximum amount of any penalty under subsection (4).

(7) No order shall be made under subsection (6) unless a draft of the order has been laid before, and approved by resolution of, the Assembly.

(8) In determining the amount of any penalty which a professional body is to be required to pay under subsection (4) the Commissioner must have regard to all the circumstances of the case, including in particular—

      (a)  the total number of complaints about members of the body and, where the penalty is imposed in respect of a failure to handle complaints in accordance with a plan, the number of complaints not so handled; and

      (b)  the assets of the body and the number of its members.

(9) A penalty under subsection (4) must be paid to the Commissioner who must pay it to the Department.

Duty of certain bodies to consult Commissioner

3.—(1) Where any body listed in subsection (2) has power to make any rules or regulations (however they may be described) which apply to or in relation to barristers, other than those made for the purposes of any functions that that body has to represent or promote the interests of barristers, that body must consult the Commissioner before making those rules or, as the case may be, those regulations.

(2) The bodies referred to in subsection (1) are—

      (a)  the Benchers of the Honorable Society of the Inn of Court of Northern Ireland;

      (b)  the Executive Council of the Inn of Court of Northern Ireland;

      (c)  the General Council of the Bar of Northern Ireland.

(3) In Article 43 of the 1976 Order (Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal), in paragraph (8), after “The Tribunal may,” insert “after consultation with the Legal Services Oversight Commissioner and”.

(4) In Article 51 of the 1976 Order (orders of Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal on inquiry), after paragraph (11) insert—

“(11A) Before making an order under paragraph (11), the Department of Finance and Personnel shall consult the Legal Services Oversight Commissioner.”.

(5) In Article 71 of the 1976 Order (orders as to remuneration of solicitors for non-contentious business), in paragraph (6)—

      (a)  in sub-paragraph (a), for “the Council” substitute “the Legal Services Oversight Commissioner and the Council”;

      (b)  in sub-paragraph (b), for “the Council” substitute “the Commissioner or the Council”.

(6) In Article 75 of the 1976 Order (regulations and rules) after paragraph (1) insert—

“(1A) Before making regulations the Society shall consult the Legal Services Oversight Commissioner.”.

Duty of Commissioner to review certain matters

4.—(1) At the request of the Department, and within such time as the Department may specify, the Commissioner must review, and submit a report to the Department on, such matter or matters relating to the organisation or regulation of the professional bodies as the Department may specify.

(2) Each report published by the Commissioner under subsection (1) must be published by the Commissioner in such manner as the Commissioner may determine.

The levy

5.—(1) The Department must make regulations providing for the imposition of a levy on each professional body for the purpose of raising an amount corresponding to the expenditure of the Legal Services Oversight Commissioner incurred under or for the purposes of this Act or any other statutory provision.

(2) A levy imposed under this section is payable to the Commissioner.

(3) Before making regulations under this section, the Department must satisfy itself that the apportionment of the levy as between each professional body will be in accordance with fair principles.

(4) No regulations shall be made under this section unless a draft of the regulations has been laid before, and approved by resolution of, the Assembly.

The levy: supplementary provisions

6.—(1) In this section—

“the levy” means the levy payable by virtue of section 5;

“the levy regulations” means the regulations made in accordance with that section.

(2) The levy is to be payable at such rate and at such times as may be specified in the levy regulations.

(3) Any amount which is owed to the Commissioner in accordance with the levy regulations may be recovered as a debt due to the Commissioner.

(4) The levy regulations must include provisions requiring the Department—

      (a)  to calculate the amount of the levy payable by each professional body;

      (b)  to consult each professional body on the amount of the levy payable by that body;

      (c)  to notify each professional body of its liability to pay an amount of levy and the time or times at which it becomes payable.

(5) Without prejudice to subsections (2) to (4), the levy regulations may—

      (a)  make provision about the collection and recovery of the levy;

      (b)  make provision about the circumstances in which any amount of the levy payable may be waived;

      (c)  provide that if the whole or any part of an amount of the levy payable under the levy regulations is not paid by the time when it is required to be paid under the regulations, the unpaid balance carries interest at the rate determined by or in accordance with the levy regulations.

Payments by Department

7.—(1) The Department may pay to the Commissioner such sums as the Department may determine as appropriate for the purpose of meeting any expenditure of the Commissioner incurred under or for the purposes of this Act or any other statutory provision.

(2) The Department may—

      (a)  determine the circumstances in which the sums mentioned in subsection (1) are to be paid;

      (b)  determine the manner in which and times at which those sums are to be paid; and

      (c)  impose conditions on the payment of those sums.

Privilege for certain publications

8. For the purposes of the law of defamation, publication by the Commissioner of any matter which the Commissioner is required or authorised to publish under this Act shall be absolutely privileged.

Lay observer

9.—(1) The office of lay observer (within the meaning of the 1976 Order) is abolished.

(2) Article 42 of that Order is repealed.

(3) Where any allegation has been duly made to a lay observer under Article 42 of the 1976 Order but the lay observer has not concluded his or her examination of the allegation before the repeal of that Article has effect, the Commissioner may exercise the functions of a lay observer under the 1976 Order in relation to that allegation.

(4) Where the Commissioner exercises the functions of a lay observer by virtue of subsection (3), the 1976 Order shall have effect in relation to the Commissioner’s examination as if this Act had not been passed.

Interpretation of Part 1

10. In this Part—

“the Bar Complaints Committee” means the committee established under section 12;

“the professional bodies” are—

      (a)  the Honorable Society of the Inn of Court of Northern Ireland;

      (b)  the Law Society;

“the Solicitors Complaints Committee” means the committee established under section 30.

PART 2

COMPLAINTS AGAINST BARRISTERS

Complaints procedures for barristers

Complaints procedures for barristers

11.—(1) The General Council of the Bar must make provision requiring every barrister to participate in, or make arrangements to be subject to, procedures for the resolution of relevant complaints established and maintained by such person or body as may be specified by the General Council of the Bar, and provision must be made by the Council for the enforcement of that requirement.

(2) Before making the provision mentioned in subsection (1), the General Council of the Bar must consult the Legal Services Oversight Commissioner.

(3) In subsection (1) “relevant complaint” means a complaint which relates to professional services provided by a barrister.

Bar Complaints Committee

Bar Complaints Committee

12.—(1) The Benchers of the Honorable Society of the Inn of Court of Northern Ireland (in this Part referred to as “the Benchers”) must, in accordance with the provisions of this Part, establish and maintain a committee to be known as the Bar Complaints Committee to deal with any complaint made by or on behalf of a complainant within section 15 in relation to professional services provided by a barrister.

(2) Schedule 2 makes further provision in relation to the Bar Complaints Committee.

Jurisdiction of the Bar Complaints Committee

13.—(1) A complaint which relates to an act or omission of a barrister (“the respondent”) in the course of providing professional services is within the jurisdiction of the Bar Complaints Committee if—

      (a)  the complaint is not excluded from the jurisdiction of the Committee by section 14; and

      (b)  the complainant is within section 15 and wishes to have the complaint dealt with by the Committee.

(2) The right of a person to make a complaint to the Bar Complaints Committee, and the jurisdiction of the Committee to investigate, consider and determine a complaint, may not be limited or excluded by any contract term.

Excluded complaints

14.—(1) A complaint is excluded from the jurisdiction of the Bar Complaints Committee if the complainant has not first used the respondent’s complaints procedures in relation to the complaint.

(2) The respondent’s complaints procedures are the procedures which the respondent participates in, or is subject to, in accordance with section 11.

(3) Rules made by the Committee under section 17(1) must provide that subsection (1) of this section does not apply in such circumstances as may be specified in the rules.

Complainants

15.—(1) A complainant (“C”) is within this section if C—

      (a)  meets the first and second conditions; and

      (b)  is not excluded by subsection (4).

(2) The first condition is that C is—

      (a)  an individual; or

      (b)  a person (other than an individual) or body of a description prescribed by order made by the Department in accordance with a recommendation made under section 16.

(3) The second condition is that—

      (a)  the services to which the complaint relates were provided by the respondent to C;

      (b)  the services to which the complaint relates were provided by the respondent to a solicitor who procured them on C’s behalf; or

      (c)  C satisfies such other conditions, in relation to the services to which the complaint relates, as may be prescribed by order made by the Department in accordance with a recommendation made under section 16.

(4) C is excluded if, at the time when the act or omission to which the complaint relates took place—

      (a)  C was a solicitor and the services to which the complaint relates were procured by C on behalf of another person; or

      (b)  C was a person or body of a description prescribed by order made by the Department in accordance with a recommendation made under section 16.

(5) An order made under this section is subject to negative resolution.

Orders under section 15

16.—(1) An interested body may recommend to the Department that the Department make an order under section 15(2)(b), (3)(c) or (4)(b).

(2) An interested body must, if requested to do so by the Department, consider whether or not it is appropriate to make a recommendation under subsection (1).

(3) An interested body must, before making a recommendation under subsection (1)—

      (a)  publish a draft of the proposed recommendation;

      (b)  invite representations regarding the proposed recommendation; and

      (c)  consider any such representations which are made.

(4) Where the Department receives a recommendation under subsection (1), the Department must consider whether to follow the recommendation.

(5) If the Department decides not to follow the recommendation, the Department must publish a notice to that effect which includes the Department’s reasons for the decision.

(6) In this section “interested body” means—

      (a)  the Bar Complaints Committee; or

      (b)  the Legal Services Oversight Commissioner.

Procedure for complaints

17.—(1) The Bar Complaints Committee must make rules setting out the procedure for—

      (a)  the making of complaints to the Committee; and

      (b)  the investigation, consideration and determination of complaints by the Committee.

(2) Rules under subsection (1)—

      (a)  must provide that a complaint is to be entertained by the Committee only if the complainant has made the complaint before the applicable time limit (determined in accordance with the rules) has expired; and

      (b)  may provide that the Committee may extend that time limit in specified circumstances.

(3) Rules under subsection (1) must make provision permitting such persons as may be specified to continue a complaint made by a person who has died or is otherwise unable to act, and for that purpose may modify references to the complainant in this Part and in the rules.

(4) Rules under subsection (1) may (among other things) make provision—

      (a)  for the whole or part of a complaint to be dismissed, in such circumstances as are mentioned in subsection (5), without consideration of its merits;

      (b)  for the reference of a complaint, in such circumstances as may be specified and with the consent of the complainant, to another person or body with a view to the complaint being determined by that person or body instead of by the Committee;

      (c)  about the evidence which may be required or admitted and the extent to which it should be oral or written;

      (d)  subject to the provisions of sections 22 to 24, for requiring parties to the complaint to attend to give evidence, produce documents and provide information;

      (e)  for the Committee, in such circumstances as may be specified, to award expenses to persons in connection with attendance at a hearing before the Committee;

       (f)  for the Committee to award costs against the respondent in favour of the complainant;

      (g)  for the Committee to award costs against the respondent in favour of the Committee for the purpose of providing a contribution to resources deployed in dealing with the complaint;

      (h)  for the Committee to award costs against the complainant in favour of the respondent if, in the opinion of the Committee, the complainant acted so unreasonably in relation to the complaint that it is appropriate in all the circumstances of the case to make such an award;

       (i)  for the Committee to award costs against the complainant in favour of the Committee for the purpose of providing a contribution to resources deployed in dealing with the complaint if, in the opinion of the Committee, the complainant acted so unreasonably in relation to the complaint that it is appropriate in all the circumstances of the case to make such an award;

       (j)  for the purpose of facilitating the settlement of a complaint with the agreement of the parties to it;

      (k)  for specified persons or bodies to be notified of complaints made to the Committee.

(5) The circumstances referred to in subsection (4)(a) are the following—

      (a)  the Committee considers the complaint or part of the complaint to be frivolous or vexatious or totally without merit;

      (b)  the Committee considers that the complaint or part of the complaint would be better dealt with by arbitration or by legal proceedings;

      (c)  the Committee considers that there has been undue delay in the making of the complaint or part of the complaint, or in the provision of evidence to support it;

      (d)  the Committee is satisfied that the matter which is the subject of the complaint or part of the complaint has previously been dealt with by the Committee or by legal proceedings;

      (e)  the Committee considers that there are other compelling reasons why it is inappropriate for the complaint or part of the complaint to be dealt with by the Committee.

(6) No person may be required by rules under subsection (1)—

      (a)  to provide any information or give any evidence which that person could not be compelled to provide or give in evidence in civil proceedings before the High Court; or

      (b)  to produce any document which that person could not be compelled to produce in such proceedings.

(7) An amount due under an award made in favour of the Committee by virtue of any provision made under subsection (4)(g) or (i) shall be payable to the Executive Council of the Inn of Court of Northern Ireland.

(8) Rules under subsection (1) may authorise the Committee, on making an award of costs, to order that the amount payable under the award bears interest, from a time specified in or determined in accordance with the order, at a rate specified in or determined in accordance with the rules.

(9) An amount payable to a person by virtue of any provision made under subsection (4)(e) to (i) is recoverable as a debt due to that person.

(10) In subsections (2), (3) and (4), “specified” means specified in rules made under subsection (1).

Notification requirements

18.—(1) This section applies where a complaint made to the Bar Complaints Committee—

      (a)  is excluded from the jurisdiction of the Committee under section 14;

      (b)  is dismissed, or referred to another body, by virtue of rules under section 17(1);

      (c)  is settled, determined, withdrawn or abandoned (or treated as withdrawn or abandoned by virtue of rules under section 17(1)).

(2) The Committee must notify—

      (a)  the complainant; and

      (b)  the respondent,

and, in a case within subsection (1)(a) or (b), must give reasons for the exclusion, dismissal or referral.

(3) When the Committee has determined a complaint the Committee must prepare a written statement of the determination giving reasons for the Committee’s determination.

(4) The Committee must give a copy of the statement to—

      (a)  the complainant;

      (b)  the respondent;

      (c)  the Benchers;

      (d)  the General Council of the Bar; and

      (e)  the Legal Services Oversight Commissioner.

Determinations by Bar Complaints Committee

Determination of complaints

19.—(1) The Bar Complaints Committee may determine a complaint made in accordance with the provisions of this Part by—

      (a)  upholding the complaint (or part of the complaint); or

      (b)  dismissing the complaint (or part of the complaint).

(2) A determination by the Committee upholding a complaint may contain one or more of the following—

      (a)  a direction that the respondent make an apology to the complainant;

      (b)  a direction that—

       (i)  the fees to which the respondent is entitled in respect of the services to which the complaint relates (“the fees”) are limited to such amount (if any) as may be specified in the direction, and

      (ii)  the respondent comply, or secure compliance, with such one or more of the requirements falling within subsection (3) as appear to the Committee to be necessary in order for effect to be given to the direction under sub-paragraph (i);

      (c)  a direction that the respondent pay compensation to the complainant of such amount as is specified in the direction in respect of any loss which, in the opinion of the Committee, has been suffered by the complainant as a result of the respondent’s negligence;

      (d)  a direction that the respondent pay compensation to the complainant of such amount as is specified in the direction in respect of any loss (other than such loss as is mentioned in paragraph (c)), inconvenience or distress which has been caused to the complainant as a result of any matter connected with the complaint;

      (e)  a direction that the respondent secure the rectification, at the expense of the respondent, of any such error, omission or other deficiency arising in connection with the matter in question as the direction may specify;

       (f)  a direction that the respondent take such steps for the completion of the matter in question within such reasonable time as the direction may specify;

      (g)  a direction that the respondent take, at the expense of the respondent, such other action in the interests of the complainant as the direction may specify.

(3) The requirements referred to in subsection (2)(b)(ii) are—

      (a)  that the whole or part of any amount already paid by or on behalf of the complainant in respect of the fees be refunded;

      (b)  that the whole or part of the fees be remitted;

      (c)  that the right to recover the fees be waived, either wholly or to any specified extent.

(4) Where—

      (a)  a direction is made under subsection (2)(b) which requires that the whole or part of any amount already paid by or on behalf of the complainant in respect of the fees be refunded; or

      (b)  a direction is made under subsection (2)(c) or (d),

the direction may also provide for the amount payable under the direction to carry interest from a time specified in or determined in accordance with the direction, at the rate specified in or determined in accordance with rules made under section 17(1).

(5) Where the Committee has given a direction under subsection (2)(b) in relation to the fees referred to in that paragraph, then—

      (a)  for the purposes of any taxation of a bill covering those fees the amount charged by the bill in respect of those fees shall be deemed to be limited to the amount (if any) specified in the Committee’s direction; and

      (b)  where a bill covering those fees has not been taxed in accordance with paragraph (a), the complainant shall, for the purposes of the recovery of those fees (by whatever means) and notwithstanding any statutory provision or agreement, be deemed to be liable to pay in respect of those fees only the amount (if any) specified in the Committee’s direction.

(6) Where a bill covering those fees has been taxed in accordance with subsection (5)(a), the Committee’s direction under subsection (2)(b) shall, so far as relating to those fees, cease to have effect.

(7) The amount of any compensation specified in a direction under subsection (2)(c) must not exceed £5,000.

(8) The amount of any compensation specified in a direction under subsection (2)(d) must not exceed £5,000.

(9) If a respondent fails to comply with a direction given under this section which has taken effect, any person may make a complaint in respect of that failure to the General Council of the Bar.

Alteration of compensation limit

20.—(1) The Department may by order subject to negative resolution amend subsection (7) or (8) of section 19 in accordance with a recommendation made by an interested body under subsection (2).

(2) An interested body may recommend to the Department that subsection (7) or (8) of section 19 should be amended so as to substitute the amount specified in the recommendation for the amount for the time being specified in subsection (7) or, as the case may be, (8).

(3) An interested body must, if requested to do so by the Department, consider whether or not it is appropriate to make a recommendation under subsection (2).

(4) An interested body must, before making a recommendation under subsection (2)—

      (a)  publish a draft of the proposed recommendation;

      (b)  invite representations regarding the proposed recommendation; and

      (c)  consider any such representations which are made.

(5) Where the Department receives a recommendation under subsection (2), the Department must consider whether to follow the recommendation.

(6) If the Department decides not to follow the recommendation, the Department must publish a notice to that effect which includes the Department’s reasons for the decision.

(7) In this section “interested body” means—

      (a)  the Bar Complaints Committee; or

      (b)  the Legal Services Oversight Commissioner.

Appeals

Appeals

21.—(1) The Department must, with the concurrence of the Lord Chief Justice, make regulations providing for appeals to the High Court against such determinations of the Bar Complaints Committee as are specified in the regulations.

(2) Regulations under subsection (1) may not be made unless a draft of the regulations has been laid before, and approved by resolution of, the Assembly.

Information

Information and documents

22.—(1) The Bar Complaints Committee may, by notice, require a party to a complaint—

      (a)  to produce such documents, or documents of such a description, as may be specified in the notice; or

      (b)  to provide such information, or information of such a description, as may be specified in the notice.

(2) A notice under subsection (1) may require the documents or information to be provided or produced—

      (a)  before the end of such reasonable period as may be specified in the notice; and

      (b)  in the case of information, in such manner or form as may be so specified.

(3) The Committee may require any person producing a document under this section to provide an explanation of it.

(4) If a person who is required under this section to produce a document fails to do so, the Committee may require that person to state, to the best of that person’s knowledge and belief, where the document is.

(5) No person may be required under this section—

      (a)  to provide any information which that person could not be compelled to provide or give in evidence in civil proceedings before the High Court; or

      (b)  to produce any document which that person could not be compelled to produce in such proceedings.

Reporting failures to provide information or produce documents

23.—(1) This section applies where the Bar Complaints Committee is of the opinion that a respondent has failed to comply with a requirement imposed under section 22.

(2) The Committee must give to the General Council of the Bar a report which—

      (a)  states that the Committee is of that opinion; and

      (b)  gives details of the failure.

(3) A report under subsection (2) may require the General Council of the Bar to report to the Committee the action which has been or is to be taken by it in response to the report under that subsection and the reasons for that action being taken.

(4) The duty imposed by subsection (2) is not affected by the withdrawal or abandonment of the complaint in relation to which the requirement was imposed under section 22.

Enforcement of requirements to provide information or produce documents

24.—(1) This section applies where the Bar Complaints Committee is of the opinion that a person (“the defaulter”) has failed to comply with a requirement imposed under section 22.

(2) The Committee may certify the defaulter’s failure to comply with the requirement to the court.

(3) Where the Committee certifies a failure to the court under subsection (2), the court may enquire into the case.

(4) If the court is satisfied that the defaulter has failed without reasonable excuse to comply with the requirement, it may deal with the defaulter as if that person were in contempt.

(5) Subsection (6) applies where the defaulter is a barrister.

(6) The Committee may not certify the defaulter’s failure to the court until a report by the Committee has been made as required by section 23(2) and the Committee is satisfied—

      (a)  that the General Council of the Bar has been given a reasonable opportunity to take action in respect of the defaulter’s failure; and

      (b)  that the defaulter has continued to fail to produce the documents or provide the information to which the requirement under section 22 related.

(7) In this section “the court” means the High Court.

Reports of investigations

25.—(1) The Bar Complaints Committee may, if it considers it appropriate to do so in any particular case, publish a report of the investigation, consideration and determination of a complaint made to it.

(2) A report under subsection (1) must not (unless the complainant consents)—

      (a)  mention the name of the complainant; or

      (b)  include any particulars which the Committee considers are likely to identify the complainant.

Defamation

Protection from defamation claims

26. For the purposes of the law of defamation—

      (a)  proceedings in relation to the investigation, consideration and determination of a complaint by the Bar Complaints Committee are to be treated as if they were proceedings before a court; and

      (b)  the publication of any matter by the Committee under this Part is absolutely privileged.

Rules

Consultation requirements for Bar Complaints Committee rules

27.—(1) This section applies in relation to rules made by the Bar Complaints Committee under this Part.

(2) If the Committee proposes to make any rules, it must publish a draft of the proposed rules.

(3) The draft must be accompanied by a notice which states that representations about the proposals may be made to the Committee within the period specified in the notice.

(4) Before making the rules, the Committee must have regard to any representations duly made.

(5) Before making the rules, the Committee must consult the Legal Services Oversight Commissioner.

(6) The Committee must publish any rules it makes, and rules may not take effect before the time they are published.

(7) The Committee may make a reasonable charge for providing a person with a copy of—

      (a)  a draft published under subsection (2); or

      (b)  rules published under subsection (6).

(8) In this section references to making rules include references to modifying the rules and, in relation to any modifications of rules, references to the proposed rules are to be read as references to the proposed modifications.

Interpretation

Interpretation of Part 2

28. In this Part—

“complainant”, in relation to a complaint, means the person who makes the complaint;

“the General Council of the Bar” means the General Council of the Bar of Northern Ireland;

“party”, in relation to a complaint, means—

      (a)  the complainant;

      (b)  the respondent;

      (c)  any other person who, in accordance with rules made under section 17(1), is to be regarded as a party to the complaint;

“respondent”, in relation to a complaint, is to be construed in accordance with section 13.

PART 3

COMPLAINTS AGAINST SOLICITORS

Complaints procedures for solicitors

Complaints procedures for solicitors

29.—(1) The Law Society must make regulations requiring every solicitor—

      (a)  to establish and maintain procedures for the resolution of relevant complaints; or

      (b)  to participate in, or make arrangements to be subject to, such procedures established and maintained by such person or body as may be specified in the regulations,

and provision must be made in the regulations for the enforcement of that requirement.

(2) The Law Society must consult the Legal Services Oversight Commissioner before making regulations under subsection (1).

(3) Regulations made under subsection (1) must be made with the concurrence of the Lord Chief Justice.

(4) In subsection (1) “relevant complaint” means a complaint which relates to professional services provided by a solicitor.

Solicitors Complaints Committee

Solicitors Complaints Committee

30.—(1) The Law Society must, in accordance with the provisions of this Part, establish and maintain a committee to be known as the Solicitors Complaints Committee to deal with any complaint in relation to professional services provided by a solicitor made by or on behalf of a complainant within section 33.

(2) Article 73A of the 1976 Order shall not apply to the Solicitors Complaints Committee.

(3) Schedule 3 makes further provision in relation to the Solicitors Complaints Committee.

Jurisdiction of the Solicitors Complaints Committee

31.—(1) A complaint which relates to an act or omission of a solicitor or his or her firm (“the respondent”) in the course of providing professional services is within the jurisdiction of the Solicitors Complaints Committee if—

      (a)  the complaint is not excluded from the jurisdiction of the Committee by section 32; and

      (b)  the complainant is within section 33 and wishes to have the complaint dealt with by the Committee.

(2) The right of a person to make a complaint to the Committee, and the jurisdiction of the Committee to investigate, consider and determine a complaint, may not be limited or excluded by any contract term.

Excluded complaints

32.—(1) A complaint is excluded from the jurisdiction of the Solicitors Complaints Committee if the complainant has not first used the respondent’s complaints procedures in relation to the complaint.

(2) The respondent’s complaints procedures are the procedures established by the respondent, or which the respondent participates in or is subject to, in accordance with regulations made under section 29.

(3) Rules made by the Committee under section 36(1) must provide that subsection (1) of this section does not apply in such circumstances as may be specified in the rules.

Complainants

33.—(1) A complainant (“C”) is within this section if C—

      (a)  meets the first and second conditions; and

      (b)  is not excluded by subsection (4).

(2) The first condition is that C is—

      (a)  an individual; or

      (b)  a person (other than an individual) or body of a description prescribed by order made by the Department in accordance with a recommendation made under section 34.

(3) The second condition is that—

      (a)  the services to which the complaint relates were provided by the respondent to C;

      (b)  the services to which the complaint relates were provided by the respondent—

       (i)  in the respondent’s capacity as a personal representative or trustee; or

      (ii)  to a person acting as a personal representative or trustee,

          and C is a beneficiary of the estate or trust in question; or

      (c)  C satisfies such other conditions, in relation to the services to which the complaint relates, as may be prescribed by order made by the Department in accordance with a recommendation made under section 34.

(4) C is excluded if, at the time when the act or omission to which the complaint relates took place—

      (a)  C was a solicitor and the services to which the complaint relates were procured by C on behalf of another person; or

      (b)  C was a person or body of a description prescribed by order made by the Department in accordance with a recommendation made under section 34.

(5) An order made under this section is subject to negative resolution.

Orders under section 33

34.—(1) An interested body may recommend to the Department that the Department make an order under section 33(2)(b), (3)(c) or (4)(b).

(2) An interested body must, if requested to do so by the Department, consider whether or not it is appropriate to make a recommendation under subsection (1).

(3) An interested body must, before making a recommendation under subsection (1)—

      (a)  publish a draft of the proposed recommendation;

      (b)  invite representations regarding the proposed recommendation; and

      (c)  consider any such representations which are made.

(4) Where the Department receives a recommendation under subsection (1), the Department must consider whether to follow the recommendation.

(5) If the Department decides not to follow the recommendation, the Department must publish a notice to that effect which includes the Department’s reasons for the decision.

(6) In this section “interested body” means—

      (a)  the Solicitors Complaints Committee; or

      (b)  the Legal Services Oversight Commissioner.

Continuity of complaints

35. The ability of a person to make a complaint about an act or omission of a partnership or other unincorporated body is not affected by any change in the membership of the partnership or body.

Procedure for complaints

36.—(1) The Solicitors Complaints Committee must make rules setting out the procedure for—

      (a)  the making of complaints to the Committee; and

      (b)  the investigation, consideration and determination of complaints by the Committee.

(2) Rules under subsection (1)—

      (a)  must provide that a complaint is to be entertained by the Committee only if the complainant has made the complaint before the applicable time limit (determined in accordance with the rules) has expired; and

      (b)  may provide that the Committee may extend that time limit in specified circumstances.

(3) Rules under subsection (1) must make provision permitting such persons as may be specified to continue a complaint made by a person who has died or is otherwise unable to act, and for that purpose may modify references to the complainant in this Part and in the rules.

(4) Rules under subsection (1) may (among other things) make provision—

      (a)  for the whole or part of a complaint to be dismissed, in such circumstances as are mentioned in subsection (5), without consideration of its merits;

      (b)  for the reference of a complaint, in such circumstances as may be specified and with the consent of the complainant, to another person or body with a view to the complaint being determined by that person or body instead of by the Committee;

      (c)  about the evidence which may be required or admitted and the extent to which it should be oral or written;

      (d)  subject to the provisions of sections 41 to 43, for requiring parties to the complaint to attend to give evidence, produce documents and provide information;

      (e)  for the Committee, in such circumstances as may be specified, to award expenses to persons in connection with attendance at a hearing before the Committee;

       (f)  for the Committee to award costs against the respondent in favour of the complainant;

      (g)  for the Committee to award costs against the respondent in favour of the Committee for the purpose of providing a contribution to resources deployed in dealing with the complaint;

      (h)  for the Committee to award costs against the complainant in favour of the respondent if, in the opinion of the Committee, the complainant acted so unreasonably in relation to the complaint that it is appropriate in all the circumstances of the case to make such an award;

       (i)  for the Committee to award costs against the complainant in favour of the Committee for the purpose of providing a contribution to resources deployed in dealing with the complaint if, in the opinion of the Committee, the complainant acted so unreasonably in relation to the complaint that it is appropriate in all the circumstances of the case to make such an award;

       (j)  for the purpose of facilitating the settlement of a complaint with the agreement of the parties to it;

      (k)  for specified persons or bodies to be notified of complaints made to the Committee.

(5) The circumstances referred to in subsection (4)(a) are the following—

      (a)  the Committee considers the complaint or part of the complaint to be frivolous or vexatious or totally without merit;

      (b)  the Committee considers that the complaint or part of the complaint would be better dealt with by arbitration or by legal proceedings;

      (c)  the Committee considers that there has been undue delay in the making of the complaint or part of the complaint, or in the provision of evidence to support it;

      (d)  the Committee is satisfied that the matter which is the subject of the complaint or part of the complaint has previously been dealt with by the Committee or by legal proceedings;

      (e)  the Committee considers that there are other compelling reasons why it is inappropriate for the complaint or part of the complaint to be dealt with by the Committee.

(6) No person may be required by rules under subsection (1)—

      (a)  to provide any information or give any evidence which that person could not be compelled to provide or give in evidence in civil proceedings before the High Court; or

      (b)  to produce any document which that person could not be compelled to produce in such proceedings.

(7) An amount due under an award made in favour of the Committee by virtue of any provision made under subsection (4)(g) or (i) shall be payable to the Law Society.

(8) Rules under subsection (1) may authorise the Committee, on making an award of costs, to order that the amount payable under the award bears interest, from a time specified in or determined in accordance with the order, at a rate specified in or determined in accordance with the rules.

(9) An amount payable to a person by virtue of any provision made under subsection (4)(e) to (i) is recoverable as a debt due to that person.

(10) In subsections (2), (3) and (4), “specified” means specified in rules made under subsection (1).

Notification requirements

37.—(1) This section applies where a complaint made to the Solicitors Complaints Committee—

      (a)  is excluded from the jurisdiction of the Committee under section 32;

      (b)  is dismissed, or referred to another body, by virtue of rules under section 36(1);

      (c)  is settled, determined, withdrawn or abandoned (or treated as withdrawn or abandoned by virtue of rules under section 36(1)).

(2) The Committee must notify—

      (a)  the complainant;

      (b)  the respondent; and

      (c)  where the respondent is not a firm of solicitors, the respondent’s firm,

and, in a case within subsection (1)(a) or (b), must give reasons for the exclusion, dismissal or referral.

(3) When the Committee has determined a complaint the Committee must prepare a written statement of the determination giving reasons for the Committee’s determination.

(4) The Committee must give a copy of the statement to⁠—

      (a)  the complainant;

      (b)  the respondent;

      (c)  where the respondent is not a firm of solicitors, the respondent’s firm;

      (d)  the Law Society; and

      (e)  the Legal Services Oversight Commissioner.

Determinations by Solicitors Complaints Committee

Determination of complaints

38.—(1) The Solicitors Complaints Committee may determine a complaint made in accordance with the provisions of this Part by—

      (a)  upholding the complaint (or part of the complaint); or

      (b)  dismissing the complaint (or part of the complaint).

(2) A determination by the Committee upholding a complaint may contain one or more of the following—

      (a)  a direction that the respondent make an apology to the complainant;

      (b)  a direction that—

       (i)  the costs to which the respondent is entitled in respect of the services to which the complaint relates (“the costs”) are limited to such amount (if any) as may be specified in the direction, and

      (ii)  the respondent comply, or secure compliance, with such one or more of the requirements falling within subsection (3) as appear to the Committee to be necessary in order for effect to be given to the direction under sub-paragraph (i);

      (c)  a direction that the respondent pay compensation to the complainant of such amount as is specified in the direction in respect of any loss which, in the opinion of the Committee, has been suffered by the complainant as a result of the respondent’s negligence;

      (d)  a direction that the respondent pay compensation to the complainant of such amount as is specified in the direction in respect of any loss (other than such loss as is mentioned in paragraph (c)), inconvenience or distress which has been caused to the complainant as a result of any matter connected with the complaint;

      (e)  a direction that the respondent secure the rectification, at the expense of the respondent, of any such error, omission or other deficiency arising in connection with the matter in question as the direction may specify;

       (f)  a direction that the respondent take such steps for the completion of the matter in question within such reasonable time as the direction may specify;

      (g)  a direction that the respondent take, at the expense of the respondent, such other action in the interests of the complainant as the direction may specify.

(3) The requirements referred to in subsection (2)(b)(ii) are—

      (a)  that the whole or part of any amount already paid by or on behalf of the complainant in respect of the costs be refunded;

      (b)  that the whole or part of the costs be remitted;

      (c)  that the right to recover the costs be waived, whether wholly or to any specified extent.

(4) Where—

      (a)  a direction is made under subsection (2)(b) which requires that the whole or part of any amount already paid by or on behalf of the complainant in respect of the costs be refunded; or

      (b)  a direction is made under subsection (2)(c) or (d),

the direction may also provide for the amount payable under the direction to carry interest from a time specified in or determined in accordance with the direction, at the rate specified in or determined in accordance with rules made under section 36(1).

(5) Where the Committee has given a direction under subsection (2)(b) in relation to the costs referred to in that paragraph, then—

      (a)  for the purposes of any taxation of a bill covering those costs the amount charged by the bill in respect of those costs shall be deemed to be limited to the amount (if any) specified in the Committee’s direction; and

      (b)  where a bill covering those costs has not been taxed in accordance with paragraph (a), the complainant shall, for the purposes of the recovery of those costs (by whatever means) and notwithstanding any statutory provision or agreement, be deemed to be liable to pay in respect of those costs only the amount (if any) specified in the Committee’s direction.

(6) Where a bill covering those costs has been taxed in accordance with subsection (5)(a), the Committee’s direction under subsection (2)(b) shall, so far as relating to those costs, cease to have effect.

(7) The amount of any compensation specified in a direction under subsection (2)(c) must not exceed £5,000.

(8) The amount of any compensation specified in a direction under subsection (2)(d) must not exceed £5,000.

(9) If a respondent who is a solicitor fails to comply with a direction given under this section which has taken effect, any person may make a complaint in respect of that failure to the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal.

(10) The powers conferred on the Committee by subsection (2)(b) shall be exercisable in relation to a person notwithstanding that the person’s name has been removed from or struck off the roll of solicitors kept by the Law Society under Article 8 of the 1976 Order, and references to a respondent in—

      (a)  the provisions of this section so far as they relate to the exercise of those powers; and

      (b)  if a complaint is made to the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal under subsection (9), Articles 46 and 51 of the 1976 Order,

shall be construed accordingly.

Alteration of compensation limits

39.—(1) The Department may by order subject to negative resolution amend subsection (7) or (8) of section 38 in accordance with a recommendation made by an interested body under subsection (2).

(2) An interested body may recommend to the Department that subsection (7) or (8) of section 38 should be amended so as to substitute the amount specified in the recommendation for the amount for the time being specified in subsection (7) or, as the case may be, (8).

(3) An interested body must, if requested to do so by the Department, consider whether or not it is appropriate to make a recommendation under subsection (2).

(4) An interested body must, before making a recommendation under subsection (2)—

      (a)  publish a draft of the proposed recommendation;

      (b)  invite representations regarding the proposed recommendation; and

      (c)  consider any such representations which are made.

(5) Where the Department receives a recommendation under subsection (2), the Department must consider whether to follow the recommendation.

(6) If the Department decides not to follow the recommendation, the Department must publish a notice to that effect which includes the Department’s reasons for the decision.

(7) In this section “interested body” means—

      (a)  the Solicitors Complaints Committee; or

      (b)  the Legal Services Oversight Commissioner.

Appeals

Appeals

40.—(1) The Department must, with the concurrence of the Lord Chief Justice, make regulations providing for appeals to the High Court against such determinations of the Solicitors Complaints Committee as are specified in the regulations.

(2) Regulations under subsection (1) may not be made unless a draft of the regulations has been laid before, and approved by resolution of, the Assembly.

Information

Information and documents

41.—(1) The Solicitors Complaints Committee may, by notice, require a party to a complaint—

      (a)  to produce such documents, or documents of such a description, as may be specified in the notice; or

      (b)  to provide such information, or information of such a description, as may be specified in the notice.

(2) A notice under subsection (1) may require the documents or information to be provided or produced—

      (a)  before the end of such reasonable period as may be specified in the notice; and

      (b)  in the case of information, in such manner or form as may be so specified.

(3) The Committee may require any person producing a document under this section to provide an explanation of it.

(4) If a person who is required under this section to produce a document fails to do so, the Committee may require that person to state, to the best of that person’s knowledge and belief, where the document is.

(5) No person may be required under this section—

      (a)  to provide any information which that person could not be compelled to provide or give in evidence in civil proceedings before the High Court; or

      (b)  to produce any document which that person could not be compelled to produce in such proceedings.

Reporting failures to provide information or produce documents

42.—(1) This section applies where the Solicitors Complaints Committee is of the opinion that a respondent has failed to comply with a requirement imposed under section 41.

(2) The Committee must give the Law Society a report which—

      (a)  states that the Committee is of that opinion; and

      (b)  gives details of the failure.

(3) A report under subsection (2) may require the Law Society to report to the Committee the action which has been or is to be taken by it in response to the report under that subsection and the reasons for that action being taken.

(4) The duty imposed by subsection (2) is not affected by the withdrawal or abandonment of the complaint in relation to which the requirement was imposed under section 41.

Enforcement of requirements to provide information or produce documents

43.—(1) This section applies where the Solicitors Complaints Committee is of the opinion that a person (“the defaulter”) has failed to comply with a requirement imposed under section 41.

(2) The Committee may certify the defaulter’s failure to comply with the requirement to the court.

(3) Where the Committee certifies a failure to the court under subsection (2), the court may enquire into the case.

(4) If the court is satisfied that the defaulter has failed without reasonable excuse to comply with the requirement, it may deal with—

      (a)  the defaulter; and

      (b)  in the case of a recognised body, any officer of the body,

as if that person were in contempt.

(5) Subsection (6) applies where the defaulter is a solicitor.

(6) The Committee may not certify the defaulter’s failure to the court until a report by the Committee has been made as required by section 42(2) and the Committee is satisfied—

      (a)  that the Law Society has been given a reasonable opportunity to take action in respect of the defaulter’s failure; and

      (b)  that the defaulter has continued to fail to produce the documents or provide the information to which the requirement under section 41 related.

(7) In this section “the court” means the High Court.

(8) References in subsection (4)(b) to an officer of a recognised body include references to a director, manager or secretary of that body and references to a director, in relation to a limited liability partnership, are references to a member of the limited liability partnership.

Reports of investigation

44.—(1) The Solicitors Complaints Committee may, if it considers it appropriate to do so in any particular case, publish a report of the investigation, consideration and determination of a complaint made to it.

(2) A report under subsection (1) must not (unless the complainant consents)—

      (a)  mention the name of the complainant; or

      (b)  include any particulars which, in the opinion of the Committee, are likely to identify the complainant.

Defamation

Protection from defamation claims

45. For the purposes of the law of defamation—

      (a)  proceedings in relation to the investigation, consideration and determination of a complaint by the Solicitors Complaints Committee are to be treated as if they were proceedings before a court; and

      (b)  the publication of any matter by the Committee under this Part is absolutely privileged.

Rules

Consultation requirements for Solicitors Complaints Committee rules

46.—(1) This section applies in relation to rules made by the Solicitors Complaints Committee under this Part.

(2) If the Committee proposes to make any rules, it must publish a draft of the proposed rules.

(3) The draft must be accompanied by a notice which states that representations about the proposals may be made to the Committee within the period specified in the notice.

(4) Before making the rules, the Committee must have regard to any representations duly made.

(5) Before making the rules, the Committee must consult the Legal Services Oversight Commissioner.

(6) The Committee must publish any rules it makes, and rules may not take effect before the time they are published.

(7) The Committee may make a reasonable charge for providing a person with a copy of—

      (a)  a draft published under subsection (2); or

      (b)  rules published under subsection (6).

(8) In this section references to making rules include references to modifying the rules and, in relation to any modifications of rules, references to the proposed rules are to be read as references to the proposed modifications.

The Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal

The Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal

47.—(1) In Article 43 of the 1976 Order (the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal), in paragraph (6)—

      (a)  in sub-paragraph (b) for “1 lay member is” substitute “2 lay members are”;

      (b)  in sub-paragraph (c)—

       (i)  for “solicitor members” substitute “lay members”;

      (ii)  for “lay members” substitute “solicitor members”.

Interpretation

Recognised bodies

48.—(1) References in this Part to a recognised body are references to a body corporate for the time being recognised under Article 26A of the 1976 Order.

(2) References in this Part to a recognised body in relation to a complaint include references to a body corporate that was recognised under Article 26A of the 1976 Order at the time when the conduct to which the complaint relates took place.

(3) In this Part (except in section 38(10))—

      (a)  any reference to a solicitor shall be construed as including a reference to a recognised body; and

      (b)  any reference to professional services provided by a solicitor shall be construed as including a reference to professional services provided by a recognised body.

(4) The powers conferred on the Solicitors Complaints Committee by section 38(2)(b) shall be exercisable in relation to a body corporate in accordance with this section notwithstanding that it is no longer a recognised body.

Interpretation of Part 3

49. In this Part—

“complainant”, in relation to a complaint, means the person who makes the complaint;

“party”, in relation to a complaint, means—

      (a)  the complainant;

      (b)  the respondent;

      (c)  any other person who, in accordance with rules made under section 36(1), is to be regarded as a party to the complaint;

“respondent”, in relation to a complaint, is to be construed in accordance with section 31.

PART 4

GENERAL

Interpretation

50. In this Act—

“the Department” means the Department of Finance and Personnel;

“the Law Society” means the Law Society of Northern Ireland;

“the Legal Services Oversight Commissioner” means the Legal Services Oversight Commissioner for Northern Ireland and references to “the Commissioner” shall be construed accordingly;

“notice” means notice in writing;

“statutory provision” has the meaning given in section 1(f) of the Interpretation Act (Northern Ireland) 1954;

“the 1976 Order” means the Solicitors (Northern Ireland) Order 1976.

Further provision

51.—(1) The Department may by order make such supplementary, incidental or consequential provision as it thinks appropriate—

      (a)  for the general purposes, or any particular purpose, of this Act;

      (b)  in consequence of any provision made by or under this Act, or for giving full effect to it.

(2) The Department may by order make such transitional or transitory provisions and savings as it considers appropriate in connection with any provision made by an order under subsection (1).

(3) An order under this section may modify any statutory provision and any order which does so shall not be made unless a draft of the order has been laid before, and approved by a resolution of, the Assembly.

(4) In subsection (3), “modify” includes amend or repeal.

(5) Subject to subsection (3), an order under this section shall be subject to negative resolution.

(6) The powers conferred by this section are not restricted by any other provision of this Act.

Minor and consequential amendments

52. The statutory provisions mentioned in Schedule 4 have effect subject to the minor and consequential amendments specified there.

Repeals

53. The statutory provisions mentioned in the first column of Schedule 5 are repealed to the extent specified in the second column of that Schedule.

Commencement

54. This Act, apart from this section and sections 50 and 55, comes into operation on such day or days as the Department may by order appoint.

Short title

55. This Act may be cited as the Legal Complaints and Regulation Act (Northern Ireland) 2015.

SCHEDULES

SCHEDULE 1

Section 1(5).

THE LEGAL SERVICES OVERSIGHT COMMISSIONER FOR NORTHERN IRELAND 

Status

1.—(1) The person for the time being holding the office of Legal Services Oversight Commissioner for Northern Ireland shall by that name be a corporation sole.

(2) The Commissioner shall not be regarded—

      (a)  as the servant or agent of the Crown; or

      (b)  as enjoying any status, immunity or privilege of the Crown.

(3) Any property held by the Commissioner shall not be regarded as property of, or held on behalf of, the Crown.

General powers

2.—(1) The Commissioner may do anything, apart from borrowing money, which the Commissioner considers is—

      (a)  appropriate for facilitating; or

      (b)  incidental or conducive to,

the exercise of the Commissioner’s functions.

(2) That includes in particular—

      (a)  acquiring, holding and disposing of real or personal property;

      (b)  entering into contracts.

Tenure of office

3.—(1) Subject to the provisions of this paragraph, a person shall hold and vacate office as the Commissioner in accordance with the terms of that person’s appointment.

(2) An appointment as the Commissioner shall be for a term of 3 years.

(3) A person who ceases to be the Commissioner on the expiration of that person’s first term of office shall be eligible for re-appointment, but a person who has been re-appointed by virtue of this sub-paragraph shall not be eligible for appointment or re-appointment as the Commissioner at any time after the end of that person’s second term of office.

(4) A person may at any time resign from office as the Commissioner by notice to the Department.

(5) The Department may remove a person from office as the Commissioner if satisfied that that person has—

      (a)  been convicted of a criminal offence;

      (b)  become bankrupt or a composition or scheme proposed by the person has been approved under Chapter 2 of Part 8 of the Insolvency (Northern Ireland) Order 1989;

      (c)  without reasonable excuse, failed to discharge the functions of the Commissioner for a continuous period of 3 months; or

      (d)  become unfit or unable to exercise the functions of the Commissioner.

Acting Commissioner

4.—(1) The Department may appoint a person to exercise the functions of the Commissioner where—

      (a)  the Commissioner’s office becomes vacant; or

      (b)  the Commissioner is incapable of exercising those functions or considers that it would be inappropriate to exercise any of those functions in connection with a particular matter (because of a possible conflict of interests or for any other reason).

(2) A person so appointed shall have the powers of the Commissioner but shall act only in accordance with the terms of that person’s appointment.

(3) The Department may pay to any person so appointed such remuneration as it may determine.

Salary, etc.

5.—(1) The Department may pay to or in respect of the Commissioner—

      (a)  such remuneration and allowances; and

      (b)  such sums for the provision of a pension,

as the Department may determine.

(2) Where a person ceases to hold office as Commissioner otherwise than on the expiration of that person’s term of office and the Department determines that there are special circumstances that make it right for that person to receive compensation, the Department may make to that person a payment of such amount as the Department may determine.

Staff

6.—(1) The Commissioner may appoint such number of officers as the Commissioner may determine.

(2) The remuneration and other conditions of service of the officers appointed under this paragraph shall be determined by the Commissioner.

(3) The Commissioner may make such payments towards the provision of such pensions or allowances to or in respect of the officers appointed under this paragraph as the Commissioner may determine.

(4) The reference in sub-paragraph (3) to pensions or allowances to or in respect of the officers appointed under this paragraph includes a reference to pensions or allowances by way of compensation to or in respect of any of those officers who suffer loss of employment.

(5) A determination of the Commissioner under this paragraph requires the approval of the Department.

(6) Employment as an officer of the Commissioner is among the kinds of employment to which a superannuation scheme under Article 3 of the Superannuation (Northern Ireland) Order 1972 can apply and, accordingly, in Schedule 1 to that Order (employments to which Article 3 can apply) the following entry shall be inserted at the appropriate place⁠—

“Employment by the Legal Services Oversight Commissioner for Northern Ireland.”.

7. The Commissioner may make arrangements for securing the provision to the Commissioner of such assistance by persons employed in⁠—

      (a)  the civil service of the United Kingdom; or

      (b)  the civil service of Northern Ireland,

as the Commissioner considers appropriate for or in connection with the exercise of the Commissioner’s functions.

8. The Commissioner may, with the approval of the Department, engage the services of such other persons as the Commissioner considers necessary or expedient.

Exercise of functions of Commissioner

9. Any function of the Commissioner may be exercised by any officer of the Commissioner who has been authorised (whether generally or specially) by the Commissioner for the purpose.

Seal

10. The application of the seal of the Commissioner shall be authenticated by the Commissioner’s signature or by the signature of any officer of the Commissioner who has been authorised (whether generally or specially) by the Commissioner for the purpose.

Evidence

11. A document purporting to be an instrument issued by the Commissioner and to be duly executed under the Commissioner’s seal or to be signed by, or on behalf of, the Commissioner shall be received in evidence and shall, unless the contrary is proved, be taken to be such an instrument.

Property

12.—(1) Any real or personal property vested in the Commissioner shall (unless and until disclaimed or disposed of) vest in the Commissioner’s successor in office.

(2) Where there is a vacancy in the office of Commissioner at the time when real or personal property would otherwise have vested, the property shall vest in the successor on his or her appointment.

Accounts

13.—(1) The Commissioner must—

      (a)  keep proper accounts and proper records in relation to the accounts; and

      (b)  prepare a statement of accounts in respect of each financial year.

(2) The statement of accounts must—

      (a)  be in such form; and

      (b)  contain such information,

as the Department may direct.

(3) The Commissioner must, within such period after the end of each financial year as the Department may direct, send copies of the statement of accounts relating to that year to⁠—

      (a)  the Department; and

      (b)  the Comptroller and Auditor General.

(4) The Comptroller and Auditor General must—

      (a)  examine, certify and report on every statement of accounts sent to him or her by the Commissioner under this paragraph; and

      (b)  send a copy of the report to the Department.

(5) The Department must lay a copy of the statement of accounts and of the Comptroller and Auditor General’s report before the Assembly.

(6) In this paragraph and paragraph 14 “financial year” means—

      (a)  the period beginning with the day on which the first person appointed under section 1(2) takes office and ending with the next 31st March following that date; and

      (b)  each successive period of 12 months ending with 31st March.

(7) In this paragraph “the Comptroller and Auditor General” means the Comptroller and Auditor General for Northern Ireland.

Annual report

14.—(1) As soon as practicable after the end of each financial year, the Commissioner must send to the Department a report on the carrying out of the Commissioner’s functions during that year.

(2) The Commissioner may, in addition, report to the Department at any time on any matter relating to the discharge of the Commissioner’s functions.

(3) The Department must lay a copy of every report sent to it under this paragraph before the Assembly.

The Northern Ireland Assembly Disqualification Act 1975 (c. 25)

15. In Part 3 of Schedule 1 to the Northern Ireland Assembly Disqualification Act 1975 (disqualifying offices) there shall be inserted at the appropriate place⁠—

“Legal Services Oversight Commissioner for Northern Ireland.”.

The Commissioner for Complaints (Northern Ireland) Order 1996 (NI 7)

16. In Schedule 2 to the Commissioner for Complaints (Northern Ireland) Order 1996 (bodies subject to investigation) there shall be inserted at the appropriate place⁠—

“The Legal Services Oversight Commissioner for Northern Ireland.”.

The Freedom of Information Act 2000 (c. 36)

17. In Part 7 of Schedule 1 to the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (offices and bodies which are public authorities for the purposes of that Act) there shall be inserted at the appropriate place⁠—

“The Legal Services Oversight Commissioner for Northern Ireland.”.

SCHEDULE 2

Section 12(2).

THE BAR COMPLAINTS COMMITTEE

Membership

1. The Bar Complaints Committee is to consist of the following members—

      (a)  a chair appointed by the Benchers;

      (b)  such number of other members appointed by the Benchers as the Benchers think fit.

2. The Benchers must consult the Legal Services Oversight Commissioner about the manner in which members of the Bar Complaints Committee are to be appointed.

3. The Benchers must consult the Legal Services Oversight Commissioner before appointing members of the Bar Complaints Committee.

4.—(1) In appointing members of the Bar Complaints Committee, the Benchers must ensure that—

      (a)  a majority of the members of the Committee are lay persons; and

      (b)  none of the members of the Committee are members of the General Council of the Bar.

(2) The chair of the Bar Complaints Committee must be a lay person.

(3) In this Schedule a reference to a lay person is a reference to a person who is not and has never been a solicitor or barrister.

Terms of office

5.—(1) Subject to the provisions of this Schedule, a member of the Bar Complaints Committee shall hold and vacate office in accordance with the terms of that member’s appointment.

(2) A person shall not be appointed as a member for more than 5 years at a time, and a person appointed to fill a casual vacancy shall hold office for the remainder of the term of the person in whose place that person is appointed.

(3) A person who ceases to be a member on the expiration of that person’s first term as a member shall be eligible for re-appointment, but a person who has been re-appointed as a member by virtue of this sub-paragraph shall not be eligible for appointment or re-appointment as a member at any time after the end of that person’s second term as a member.

(4) A member may at any time—

      (a)  resign by giving notice to the Benchers;

      (b)  be removed from office by the Benchers.

(5) The Benchers may not under sub-paragraph (4)(b) remove a member (including the chair) from office unless the Benchers are satisfied that the member has—

      (a)  failed to handle complaints in accordance with a plan submitted to the Legal Services Oversight Commissioner under section 2(1)(f);

      (b)  failed to comply with any recommendation made by the Legal Services Oversight Commissioner in relation to the handling of complaints;

      (c)  been convicted of a criminal offence;

      (d)  become bankrupt or a composition or scheme proposed by the member has been approved under Chapter 2 of Part 8 of the Insolvency (Northern Ireland) Order 1989;

      (e)  without reasonable excuse failed to exercise that member’s functions for a continuous period of 6 months;

       (f)  become unfit or unable to exercise that member’s functions.

(6) The chair may only be removed from office under sub-paragraph (4)(b) with the consent of the Legal Services Oversight Commissioner.

(7) The Benchers must consult the chair and the Legal Services Oversight Commissioner before removing a member (other than the chair) under sub-paragraph (4)(b).

(8) A member (including the chair) may only be removed from office under sub-paragraph (4)(b) for a reason mentioned in sub-paragraph (5)(a) or (b) with the consent of the Legal Services Oversight Commissioner.

Remuneration, etc. of members

6.—(1) The Benchers must make arrangements for the payment to the members of the Bar Complaints Committee of such remuneration and allowances (if any) as the Benchers may determine.

(2) If—

      (a)  a person ceases to be a member of the Committee; and

      (b)  it appears to the Benchers that there are special circumstances which make it right that that person should receive compensation,

the Benchers may make arrangements for that person to be paid such amount as the Benchers may determine.

Arrangements for assistance

7.—(1) The Bar Complaints Committee may make arrangements with such persons as it considers appropriate for assistance to be provided to it.

(2) Arrangements may include the paying of fees to such persons.

Sub-committees

8.—(1) The Bar Complaints Committee may establish sub-committees.

(2) Subject to the following provisions of this paragraph, the Committee may authorise a sub-committee to exercise, on behalf of the Committee, such of the Committee’s functions, in such circumstances, as the Committee may determine.

(3) Only members of the Committee may be members of a sub-committee.

(4) A majority of the members of a sub-committee must be lay persons.

Proceedings

9. Subject to the provisions of this Schedule and Part 2 and any rules made under that Part, the Bar Complaints Committee may regulate its own procedure and the procedure of its sub-committees, including quorum.

SCHEDULE 3

Section 30(3).

THE SOLICITORS COMPLAINTS COMMITTEE

Membership

1. The Solicitors Complaints Committee is to consist of the following members—

      (a)  a chair appointed by the Law Society;

      (b)  such number of other members appointed by the Law Society as the Law Society thinks fit.

2. The Law Society must consult the Legal Services Oversight Commissioner about the manner in which members of the Committee are to be appointed.

3. The Law Society must consult the Legal Services Oversight Commissioner before appointing members of the Solicitors Complaints Committee.

4.—(1) In appointing members of the Solicitors Complaints Committee, the Law Society must ensure that—

      (a)  a majority of the members of the Committee are lay persons; and

      (b)  none of the members of the Committee are members of the Council of the Law Society.

(2) The chair of the Solicitors Complaints Committee must be a lay person.

(3) In this Schedule a reference to a lay person is a reference to a person who is not and has never been a barrister or solicitor.

Terms of office

5.—(1) Subject to the provisions of this Schedule, a member of the Solicitors Complaints Committee shall hold and vacate office in accordance with the terms of that member’s appointment.

(2) A person shall not be appointed as a member for more than 5 years at a time, and a person appointed to fill a casual vacancy shall hold office for the remainder of the term of the person in whose place that person is appointed.

(3) A person who ceases to be a member on the expiration of that person’s first term as a member shall be eligible for re-appointment, but a person who has been re-appointed as a member by virtue of this sub-paragraph shall not be eligible for appointment or re-appointment as a member at any time after the end of that person’s second term as a member.

(4) A member may at any time—

      (a)  resign by giving notice to the Law Society;

      (b)  be removed from office by the Law Society.

(5) The Law Society may not under sub-paragraph (4)(b) remove a member (including the chair) from office unless the Society is satisfied that the member has—

      (a)  failed to handle complaints in accordance with a plan submitted to the Legal Services Oversight Commissioner under section 2(1)(f);

      (b)  failed to comply with any recommendation made by the Legal Services Oversight Commissioner in relation to the handling of complaints;

      (c)  been convicted of a criminal offence;

      (d)  become bankrupt or a composition or scheme proposed by the member has been approved under Chapter 2 of Part 8 of the Insolvency (Northern Ireland) Order 1989;

      (e)  without reasonable excuse failed to exercise that member’s functions for a continuous period of 6 months;

       (f)  become unfit or unable to exercise that member’s functions.

(6) The chair may only be removed from office under sub-paragraph (4)(b) with the consent of the Legal Services Oversight Commissioner.

(7) The Law Society must consult the chair and the Legal Services Oversight Commissioner before removing a member (other than the chair) under sub-paragraph (4)(b).

(8) A member (including the chair) may only be removed from office under sub-paragraph (4)(b) for a reason mentioned in sub-paragraph (5)(a) or (b) with the consent of the Legal Services Oversight Commissioner.

Remuneration, etc. of members

6.—(1) The Law Society shall pay to the members of the Solicitors Complaints Committee such remuneration and allowances as the Society may determine.

(2) If—

      (a)  a person ceases to be a member of the Committee; and

      (b)  it appears to the Law Society that there are special circumstances which make it right that that person should receive compensation,

the Society may make a payment to that person of such amount as the Society may determine.

Arrangements for assistance

7.—(1) The Solicitors Complaints Committee may make arrangements with such persons as it considers appropriate for assistance to be provided to it.

(2) Arrangements may include the paying of fees to such persons.

Sub-committees

8.—(1) The Solicitors Complaints Committee may establish sub-committees.

(2) Subject to the following provisions of this paragraph, the Committee may authorise a sub-committee to exercise, on behalf of the Committee, such of the Committee’s functions, in such circumstances, as the Committee may determine.

(3) Only members of the Committee may be members of a sub-committee.

(4) A majority of the members of a sub-committee must be lay persons.

Proceedings

9. Subject to the provisions of this Schedule and Part 3 and any rules made under that Part, the Solicitors Complaints Committee may regulate its own procedure and the procedure of its sub-committees, including quorum.

SCHEDULE 4

Section 52.

Minor and consequential amendments

The Northern Ireland Assembly Disqualification Act 1975 (c. 25)

1. In Schedule 1, in Part 3, omit the entry relating to the lay observer appointed under Article 42 of the Solicitors (Northern Ireland) Order 1976.

The Solicitors (Northern Ireland) Order 1976 (NI 12)

2.—(1) In Article 3(2) (interpretation), at the appropriate place insert—

““the Legal Services Oversight Commissioner” means the Legal Services Oversight Commissioner for Northern Ireland;”.

(2) In Article 38(a) (solicitors guilty of undue delay in certain matters), omit the words “or Article 51A”.

(3) Omit Article 41A (power of Council to impose sanctions for inadequate professional services) and the cross-heading immediately preceding that Article.

(4) In Article 41B (power of Society to examine files in connection with complaints), in paragraph (1), for the words from “to the Society” to “the Society may” substitute “to the Society alleging professional misconduct by a solicitor, the Society may”.

(5) In Article 46 (procedure on application or complaint against solicitor), in paragraphs (1) and (2), omit the words “or a lay observer”.

(6) In Article 51 (orders of Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal on inquiry)—

      (a)  omit paragraph (2);

      (b)  in paragraph (3)—

       (i)  for “Article 41A(8)” substitute “section 38(9) of the Legal Complaints and Regulation Act (Northern Ireland) 2015”;

      (ii)  for “Article 41A” substitute “that section”;

     (iii)  omit the words “or Article 51A”;

      (c)  in paragraph (6), omit the words “, Article 51A”;

      (d)  in paragraph (8), omit the words “, Article 51A”.

(7) Omit Article 51A (power of Tribunal to impose sanctions for inadequate professional services).

(8) In Article 52 (effect, etc., of orders), in paragraph (2), omit sub-paragraph (d) and the word “or” preceding that sub-paragraph.

(9) In Article 73A (committees of the Council), in paragraph (5), omit “41A or”.

(10) In Schedule 1A (recognised bodies)—

      (a)  in paragraph 1(2)—

       (i)  for the words from “in relation to” to “include references to” substitute “in relation to a complaint (other than such a complaint as is mentioned in paragraph 19(1)(a)) include references to”;

      (ii)  omit the words “or application”;

      (b)  in paragraph 14(a) omit the words “or Article 51A”;

      (c)  omit paragraph 16 and the cross-heading immediately preceding it;

      (d)  in paragraph 17(1) for the words from “investigating” to “a recognised body” substitute “investigating any such complaint as is mentioned in head (b), (c) or (d) of paragraph 19(1)”;

      (e)  omit paragraph 18 and the cross-heading immediately preceding it;

       (f)  in paragraph 21 (powers of Tribunal)—

       (i)  in sub-paragraph (1)(d) for “Article 41A by virtue of paragraph 16” substitute “section 38 of the Legal Complaints and Regulation Act (Northern Ireland) 2015”;

      (ii)  in sub-paragraph (3) for “paragraph 16(3) relating to a direction given under Article 41A” substitute “section 38(9) of the Legal Complaints and Regulation Act (Northern Ireland) 2015 relating to a direction given under that section”;

     (iii)  in that sub-paragraph omit the words “or paragraph 22”;

      (g)  omit paragraph 22 (powers of Tribunal in respect of inadequate professional services) and the cross-heading immediately preceding it;

      (h)  in paragraph 25 (effect, notice and recording of orders of Tribunal), in sub-paragraph (1), omit head (b) and the word “or” immediately preceding it.

The Solicitors (Amendment) (Northern Ireland) Order 1989 (NI 14)

3. In Article 16 (solicitors’ discipline), omit paragraph (1).

4. Omit Article 17 (lay observers).

The Immigration and Asylum Act 1999 (c. 33)

5. In section 86 (designated professional bodies), in subsection (4)(d) for “lay observers appointed under Article 42 of the Solicitors (Northern Ireland) Order 1976” substitute “Legal Services Oversight Commissioner for Northern Ireland”.

6. In Schedule 5 (Immigration Services Commissioner) in paragraph 4(2)(d) for “lay observers appointed under Article 42 of the Solicitors (Northern Ireland) Order 1976” substitute “Legal Services Oversight Commissioner for Northern Ireland”.

The Freedom of Information Act 2000 (c. 36)

7. In Schedule 1 (public bodies and offices: Northern Ireland), in Part 7, omit the entry relating to the Lay Observer for Northern Ireland.

SCHEDULE 5

Section 53.

REPEALS

 

Short Title

Extent of Repeal

The Northern Ireland Assembly Disqualification Act 1975 (c. 25).

In Schedule 1, in Part 3, the entry relating to the lay observer appointed under Article 42 of the Solicitors (Northern Ireland) Order 1976.

The Solicitors (Northern Ireland) Order 1976        (NI 12).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In Article 38(a), the words “or Article 51A”.

Article 41A and the cross-heading immediately preceding that Article.

Article 42.

In Article 46(1), the words “or a lay observer”.

In Article 46(2), the words “or a lay observer”.

In Article 51, paragraph (2).

In Article 51(3), the words “or Article 51A”.

In Article 51(6), the words “, Article 51A”.

In Article 51(8), the words “, Article 51A”.

Article 51A.

In Article 52(2), sub-paragraph (d) and the word “or” preceding it.

In Article 73A, in paragraph (5), the words “41A or”.

In Schedule 1A⁠—

      (a)  in paragraph 1(2), the words “or application”;

      (b)  in paragraph 14(a), the words “or Article 51A”;

      (c)  paragraph 16, and the cross-heading immediately preceding it;

      (d)  paragraph 18, and the cross-heading immediately preceding it;

      (e)  in paragraph 21(3), the words “or paragraph 22”;

       (f)  paragraph 22, and the cross-heading immediately preceding it;

      (g)  paragraph 25(1)(b) and the word “or” immediately preceding it.

The Solicitors (Amendment) (Northern Ireland) Order 1989 (NI 14).

In Article 16, paragraph (1).

Article 17.

The Freedom of Information Act 2000 (c. 36).

In Schedule 1, Part 7, the entry relating to the Lay Observer for Northern Ireland.

 

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