Thursday, 1 February 2018

Ceisteanna (153)

Clare Daly

Ceist:

153. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Justice and Equality further to Parliamentary Question No. 495 of 16 January 2018, his plans to establish the review committee under section 62 of the Legal Services Regulation Act 2015; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5068/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

I am very pleased to be able to reply to Deputy Daly further to my Written Reply to her previous Question No. 495 of 16 January 2018.

The Review Committee provided for under section 62 of the Legal Services Regulation Act 2015 to which the Deputy has referred is part of the new complaints process that will apply to those less serious consumer level complaints dealt with under sections 60 and 61 of that Act, respectively. That is to say, complaints about behaviour around inadequate services or excessive fees at a level that would not amount to "professional misconduct" as such. This level of complaint would be considered more amenable to early, informal resolution between the client and lawyer concerned with the facilitation of the Authority. The section 62 Review Committee allows those seeking to informally resolve complaints at this more minor level the option of having their cases reviewed. The Review Committee will, therefore, only deal with those consumer level complaints received and informally processed by the Regulatory Authority as such under Part 6 of the 2015 Act when that Part is commenced. It will be set up, at the appropriate time, by the independent Legal Services Regulatory Authority under the specific terms of section 62 of the 2015 Act. A determination by the Review Committee can be appealed by the client or the legal practitioner concerned to the High Court.

The Review Committee will not be dealing with those more serious complaints alleging professional misconduct that will be processed through the Legal Services Regulatory Authority and its Complaints Committee on a separate and more formal track. This, of course, can include referral of a case to the independent Legal Practitioners Disciplinary Tribunal that will deal with allegations of professional misconduct by both barristers and solicitors and will be amenable to the High Court. Such "misconduct" will include within its scope the charging of legal fees that are deemed to be at a grossly excessive level as well as those other matters of misconduct that are set out under section 50 of the 2015 Act.

For clarity, it should also be noted that the section 62 Review Committee to which the Deputy has referred will not, when established, have any retrospective role in relation to the review of complaints that may have been made to the Law Society under the present procedures that apply under the Solicitors' Acts. Any such complaints will have to be dealt with and completed under the existing law and procedures that apply for that purpose.

The Legal Services Regulatory Authority is now established as an independent entity on a secure legislative footing and has recently appointed its first full-time Chief Executive and secured enhanced office accommodation. The Authority's current working focus is, I understand, very much on the managed roll-out of its remaining functions with the relevant staffing and supporting infrastructure properly in place. It is being supported in that endeavour by my Department. This will include the key structural reforms of Part 6 of the 2015 Act relating to public complaints on the respective consumer and professional misconduct levels. It will also include the appointment of the section 62 Review Committee, the Complaints Committee and the Legal Practitioners' Disciplinary Tribunal under the terms of the Act. As I have previously conveyed to the Dáil, I will continue to emphasise the importance which I attach as Minister to the objective of getting the Authority open for business on the core public complaints function as quickly as is reasonably possible.