NI: Bar of NI chairman in defence of independent referral bar
Gerry McAlinden QC, chairman of the Bar Council of Northern Ireland, stressed the importance of an independent referral bar in a major speech delivered over the weekend.
Speaking at the World Bar Conference in Edinburgh, Mr McAlinden said the existence of an independent referral bar is “one of the cornerstones of the Northern Ireland legal system and our wider society”.
He also spoke specifically about the impact of the Legal Complaints and Regulation Act 2016, which was approved by the Northern Ireland Assembly earlier this year.
He said: “Whilst welcoming the measures contained in the Bill which are designed to improve public confidence in the independence and accountability of the profession, we lobbied heavily during its passage through the Assembly on matters such as the potential for the incremental development of regulatory overreach and the blanket ban of a lawyer or former lawyer being appointed to the position of Legal Services Oversight Commissioner.
“In our own case we are broadly content that the right balance has been struck between state appointed independent oversight and self-regulation. But this balance must be regularly assessed and scrutinised to ensure that there is no erosion of the constitutionally important independence of the profession.”
Mr McAlinden also spoke about the challenge of protecting “the enduring values of independence” as well as reacting “positively and constructively” to societal and commercial forces.