Tuesday, 11 June 2019

Questions (320, 323)

Jack Chambers

Question:

320. Deputy Jack Chambers asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the timeline and status of the commencement of section 212 of the Legal Services Regulation Act 2015; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23363/19]

View answer

Jonathan O'Brien

Question:

323. Deputy Jonathan O'Brien asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the scheduled date for the commencement of operations by the legal practitioners' tribunal in accordance with the Legal Services Regulation Act 2015; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23376/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Justice)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 320 and 323 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.

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 and under which the Authority is set to come into substantial operational mode from the middle of this year.

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.

Section 212 of the 2015 Act, provides that a barrister in employment whose name is entered on the Roll of Practising Barristers may provide legal services to his or her employer, including by appearing on behalf of that employer in a court, tribunal or forum for arbitration. Given that the Roll of Practising Barristers has now been established by the Authority it is also anticipated that section 212 will be commenced to coincide with the coming into operation of the public complaints and professional conduct regime of Part 6 of the 2015 Act later 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. Similarly, the roll-out of Legal Partnerships and Limited Liability Partnerships is anticipated. 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.