NI: MLAs approve Legal Complaints and Regulation Bill

Gerry McAlinden QC
Gerry McAlinden QC, chairman of the Bar Council of Northern Ireland

The Northern Ireland Assembly yesterday gave its final approval to legislation designed to improve how complaints against lawyers are handled and overseen.

Finance Minister Mervyn Storey told MLAs that the Legal Complaints and Regulation Bill would “lead to an improved complaints handling regime for lawyers, bring more openness and transparency and deliver a proportionate and fair outcome to all involved in the process”.

Gerry McAlinden QC, chairman of the Bar Council of Northern Ireland, told Irish Legal News: “The Bar Council would highlight that regulation is of fundamental importance in ensuring that the justice system works in the public interest and for the maintenance of confidence in the professionals with responsibility for delivering legal services.

“We welcome the steps taken by the Department in the development of the bill as an endorsement of the independent referral Bar and providing a statutory basis for the regulation of legal services provision.

“The bill will see a significant change in the oversight arrangements for the profession with the establishment of a Legal Services Oversight Commissioner. The creation of this new independent mechanism is to be welcomed and we will continue to engage constructively with the Department whilst this new structure is developed as part of an open, proportionate and transparent system of regulation.”

A spokesperson for the Law Society of Northern Ireland added: “The Law Society of Northern Ireland, as the regulator of solicitors in Northern Ireland, welcomes the passage of the Legal Complaints and Regulation Bill by the Northern Ireland Assembly.

“When the Act comes into force the new Committee will have wider powers to address those very rare situations in which clients and solicitors disagree about the standard of services provided.

“The Society has been working to prepare for these changes (which are introduced by the Act) for some time and we look forward to working positively with all those involved in the new system in the coming years.”

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