Saturday, January 05, 2008

England names & shames crooked lawyers as MacAskill remains determined to prevent Scotland following suit

Kenny MacAskill certainly doesn't want to upset his colleagues in the legal profession by allowing the naming & shaming of crooked lawyers, nor does he want to allow independent regulation of the legal profession or a fully opened legal services market.

We could do with a new Justice Secretary who acts for Scotland, not his colleagues and his own interests ...

The Times reports :

Public shame for lawyers who break the rules

Frances Gibb, Legal Editor

Thousands of solicitors who are found guilty each year of a range of crimes and misdemeanours, from ignoring letters to plundering clients’ money, are to be identified publicly.

Solicitors in England and Wales found guilty of breaching professional rules will be listed on a Solicitors’ Regulatory Authority (SRA) website open to the public.

The move took effect at the start of the year and is the latest initiative by the SRA, which is responsible for the training, standards and discipline of 100,000 solicitors. Details are expected to appear at the end of this month.

The Solicitors’ Disciplinary Tribunal, which deals with the most serious cases of misconduct, publishes its findings. By the end of this year it will have dealt with more than 300 cases, 20 per cent up on last year. But hundreds more solicitors are disciplined by the authority for lesser offences of misconduct, which are dealt with privately. In the past 12 months from November 2006 1,984 solicitors had conditions put on their practising certificates and 351 were given warnings, rebukes and reprimands.

Peter Williamson, chairman of the board of the SRA, said: “The findings of misconduct that we deal with are not those most serious ones that go to the tribunal. But they are the majority, and you could say that any finding of misconduct is a serious matter in itself.

“This is about making our decision-making process transparent, which in turn helps create public confidence in the system for regulating solicitors by demonstrating where action has been taken. That is the most important thing.

“It will also provide information to the public to enable prospective clients to make a more informed choice, as well as enabling people to decide if a solicitor’s behaviour is such that it should be reported to us.”

All cases leading to a reprimand, rebuke, fine or conditions on practising certificates will remain on the website for three years, along with cases where the regulatory authority steps in to take over the running of a firm, for example when a solicitor has absconded with clients’ money. The website will also give details where the solicitor takes action to remedy a failing, such as refunding a client.

The regulatory authority came into effect a year ago as a body run independently from the Law Society, in a move to distance the regulation of the profession from the representative or trades’ union activities.

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