Wallace and Baillie back Law Society\'s call for reform
TWO influential MSPs have backed the Law Society of Scotland’s concerns and will bring forward vital amendments to the legal Profession and Legal Aid (Scotland) Bill tomorrow (Thursday 14 December). Jim Wallace MSP, former Deputy First Minister and Justice Minister, and Jackie Baillie, former Social Justice Minister and current member of the Justice 2 Committee, are among those who have put forward amendments to the Legal Profession and Legal Aid (Scotland) Bill. The Society has warned consistently that the Bill, which includes setting up a Scottish Legal Complaints Commission to handle service complaints against lawyers, could breach the European Convention on Human Rights. Unless its flaws are addressed it could become the first Act of the Scottish Parliament to be struck down as incompetent. The former ministers’ amendments, as well as a series of amendments by the Scottish Executive and David Davidson MSP, seek to correct flaws highlighted by the Society. They include the need to provide a right of appeal to the courts against SLCC decisions and involvement of the Lord President in the appointment of Commission members. Douglas Mill, the Chief Executive of the Society, stressed that the Stage 3 debate tomorrow (Thursday December 14) was the final chance for MSPs to ensure that the new process for making complaints against solicitors is better than the current system. He said: “The Society backs the principle of establishing an independent body to handle service complaints against solicitors in Scotland but that must be an improvement on the existing system for the public and legal profession alike. “We have made our concerns known on a number of occasions and a large number of amendments have already been tabled during the parliamentary process which have led to some improvements but the question of ECHR compliance and the independence of the SLCC from government are fundamental and must be addressed tomorrow. “The Society hopes the amendments brought forward at the Stage 3 debate will correct the flaws in this Bill and ensure it does not face a court challenge at a later stage.” Other changes that the Society hopes will be agreed during the debate include lowering the maximum compensation levels for individual findings of poor service by lawyers from £20,000 and ensuring greater accountability of the work and costs of the SLCC.