Wednesday, 8 May 2019

Questions (516, 538, 539)

Jim O'Callaghan

Question:

516. Deputy Jim O'Callaghan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality when the disciplinary aspect of the Legal Services Regulation Act 2015 will be commenced; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19569/19]

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Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

538. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the status of the establishment of both the review committee and complaints committee as provided for in the Legal Services Regulation Act 2015; the commencement date for when both committees will receive complaints; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19757/19]

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Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

539. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the status of the establishment of the legal practitioners disciplinary tribunal as provided for in the Legal Services Regulation Act 2015; the commencement date for the tribunal; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19758/19]

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Written answers (Question to Justice)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 516, 538 and 539 together.

The regulatory reform of the legal services sector has been taking place since the enactment of the Legal Services Regulation Act 2015 and the establishment of the Legal Services Regulatory Authority, which is independent in the performance of its functions, on 1 October 2016.

As raised by the Deputies concerned, Part 6 of the Act provides for the introduction of an independent complaints and professional conduct regime for legal practitioners including the separate establishment and appointment of an independent Legal Practitioners’ Disciplinary Tribunal. The new Tribunal will deal with allegations of serious misconduct by both solicitors and barristers and will replace the existing bodies which currently operate for that purpose and will be winding-down their existing caseloads. Extensive preparations have been on-going at the Legal Services Regulatory Authority to put the necessary procedural, staffing, IT and other supports in place with the intention of being in a position to receive and process public complaints from early October 2019. At that point, members of the public will no longer make their complaints through the legal professional bodies as they do at present but directly to the Authority and the new Disciplinary Tribunal will come into operation in its own right.

The Legal Service Regulatory Authority's forthcoming actions are set out in its Strategic Plan for 2018-2020 which was duly laid before the Houses. The Plan, under which the Authority is set to come into substantial operational mode from the middle of this year, sets out the indicative timelines for the roll-out of the Authority's key functions. For example, the roll-out of new legal business models in the form of Legal Partnerships and of Limited Liability Partnerships is now due to take place in Quarter 2 of this year.

This Autumn will also see the introduction of the new legal costs transparency regime set out in Part 10 of the 2015 Act including, separately, the transition of the Office of the Taxing-Master to that of the Legal Costs Adjudicators which will maintain a publicly accessible Register of its legal costs determinations. The new professional conduct regime being introduced under Part 6 will, therefore, underpin the new legal costs and other obligations that will apply to legal practitioners being regulated under the 2015 Act. As Minister I will, of course, continue to support the roll-out of these various functions with the timely commencement of the relevant provisions.