Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Justice 2 Committee of the Scottish Parliament makes call for evidence against the legal profession - ACT NOW !

Taken from the Justice 2 Committee section of the Scottish Parliament website, we have been given the deadline of 21 April 2006 to make submissions on our dealings with the legal profession .....

So, if you have had any problems with using a lawyer or solicitor or Advocate in Scotland, now's the time to write something about it and send it into the Justice 2 Committee at the email address or the Scottish Parliament address provided at the end of the following article

There seems to be a slight problem though, with the Committee demanding that no defamatory material be included with a submission.

Who is to judge whether material is defamatory or not ? ... usually it takes a Court case to decide that .. but of course, the Scottish Parliament has it's own lawyers, who report directly to the Law Society of Scotland - and will probably be rejecting as many submissions as they can through this get out clause .... (last time, the Committee just edited out what they wanted to...)



The Scottish Parliament’s Justice 2 Committee is seeking views on the general principles of the Legal Profession and Legal Aid (Scotland) Bill.
The Bill was introduced in the Parliament on 1 March 2006 and the Justice 2 Committee has been designated lead committee for the Bill.

The Bill has two main purposes; firstly it seeks to reform the system for handling complaints against lawyers by the creation of a new statutory body, the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission and secondly it seeks to improve the delivery of all forms of publicly funded legal assistance.
The key provisions in the Bill are:

* A new Scottish Legal Complaints Commission, led by a Board with a non-lawyer majority and a non-lawyer chair, acting as a gateway to receive complaints about lawyers which cannot be resolved at source (but with an emphasis on complaints being resolved at source where possible)

* The new Commission taking over responsibility for handling complaints about inadequate professional service from the legal professional bodies, the Scottish Legal Services Ombudsman and the Scottish Solicitors Discipline Tribunal

* Maximum amount of compensation for inadequate professional service complaints being raised to £20,000

* Responsibility for professional discipline remaining with the legal professional bodies and discipline tribunals but the way in which such complaints are handled being overseen by the Commission

* First steps towards giving rights of audience and rights to conduct litigation to members of other professional or other bodies

* Transfer of responsibility from the courts to the Scottish Legal Aid Board for granting and terminating legal aid in serious criminal cases

* Enabling the Scottish Legal Aid Board to fund certain advisors other than solicitors to provide advice and assistance

How to submit your evidence

At stage 1 of the bill process, the Committee is concerned with the general principles of the Bill. As such, the Committee welcomes written views from organisations and individuals on the stated purposes of the Bill and on the extent to which improvements can be expected from the Bill’s proposed measures. It would be helpful for your submission to clearly highlight your views on the broad thrust of the policy proposals and to also flag up any particular areas of concern you may have.

Before making a submission, please read the section below entitled “What we will do with your evidence”.

The closing date for written submissions is Friday 21 April 2006. Owing to the timescale required to process and analyse evidence, late submissions will only be accepted with the prior agreement of the Convener.

Written submissions must be typewritten, short and concise (a maximum of 3-4 pages). It would be helpful if submissions could be submitted in electronic form, by e-mail, but postal submissions will be accepted.

The Committee expects to commence taking oral evidence on the Bill on Tuesday 25 April 2006 and to continue over three or four further meetings in May.

What we will do with your evidence

This information lets you know how we will deal with any information you send us in response to this call for evidence and any subsequent correspondence we have with you.

Most people who submit evidence want it to be put in the public domain.

In addition, the Committees of the Scottish Parliament are committed to being open in their dealings, in accordance with the Scottish Parliament’s founding principles.

Our normal practice is to publish all evidence on our website and we may also include it in the published Committee report. However, there may be a few situations where the number of submissions we receive does not make this possible or where submissions are excessively lengthy or we receive a large number of submissions in very similar terms. In those cases, we would normally only publish a list of the names of people who have submitted evidence.

In addition, there may be a few situations where we cannot publish, or have to edit submissions before publication, for legal reasons.

Data Protection Act 1998

The Parliament must comply with the Data Protection Act 1998. This affects what information we can make public about living people.

When we publish your evidence, we will not therefore publish your signature, your telephone number, or your address. We also have to edit information which can identify another living person who has not specifically given his or her consent to have information about them made public.

In these situations, Committee members will have access to the full text of your evidence, even though it has not been published in full.
Defamatory material

The Parliament will not publish defamatory statements or material. If we think your submission contains defamatory material, we will typically return it to you with an invitation to resubmit it without the defamatory material. If the evidence is returned to us and it still contains defamatory material, it cannot be considered by the Committee and we will have to destroy it.

Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2001

The Parliament is covered by the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2001. This also affects the way that we deal with your evidence.

If you wish your evidence to be treated as confidential or you wish your evidence to be published anonymously, please contact the Clerk to the relevant Committee, before you submit your evidence. We will do all that we can to respect your wishes where your evidence contains personal or sensitive information. In these circumstances, your evidence will be sent to Committee members but either will not be published more widely or will be published anonymously.

However, you should be aware that if we receive a request for information under the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act, while we will try to continue to comply with your wishes, we may be legally required to release the information to the person who has made the request.

So, in the circumstances outlined above, while we can assure you that your document / name will not be circulated to the general public in the context of the relevant Committee’s current work, we are unable to give you a guarantee that the document will never be released.

Evidence should be submitted to —

The Clerk to the Justice 2 Committee
Room T3.60
Scottish Parliament
Edinburgh. EH99 1SP
Email: LPLABill@scottish.parliament.uk


The Legal Profession and Legal Aid ( Scotland) Bill is published as SP Bill 56 and is available from the Stationery Office and on the Parliament’s website:

Explanatory Notes (and the Executive’s and Presiding Officer’s statements on legislative competence) are published separately as SP Bill 56-EN. A Policy Memorandum is also published separately as SP Bill 56-PM.

For information on the legislative process, you may wish to consult the Guidance on Public Bills which is also available on the website.

This Bill is intended, by the Scottish Executive, to take account of responses to its consultation Reforming Complaints Handling, Building Customer Confidence. Links to the consultation paper and an analysis of the written responses are provided below.
http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Publications/2005/05/09103027/30369 -

for the consultation document

for the analysis of responses

For specific committee information contact:

Anne Peat, Senior Assistant ClerkEmail: anne.peat@scottish.parliament.ukTelephone: 0131 348 5220Fax: 0131 348 5252RNID Typetalk: 18001 0131 348 5047

For public information enquiries, contact: 0131 348 5000 or 0845 278 1999 (local call rate)Text phone: 0131 348 3415 RNID Typetalk calls welcomeemail: sp.info@scottish.parliament.uk

Visit our website at: http://www.scottish.parliament.uk/

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