The Scottish Legal Complaints Commission is about to start work next week as its remit comes into force from 1st October 2008.
While many within and outwith the legal profession regard the SLCC as being little more than a front organisation for the Law Society of Scotland, some are determined to give the impression there will be a level of independent regulation for solicitors (laugh).
SLCC ... a take it or leave it description :
The Commission is a neutral body, created under the 2007 Act to operate independently of the legal profession. Furthermore, although it has legal status, it is not to be regarded as “a servant or agent of the Crown”, and so is also independent from Government.
The Commission has both public body and private body characteristics. Public in the respect that it is not a Government department (or connected to one), and isn’t staffed by civil servants, but is still subject to requirements relating to freedom of information, standards in public life, and The Human Rights Act 1998. And private in the respect that the Commission has responsibility for certain aspects of its own finances, such as setting its annual budget, and will not be funded by the public (instead it will be funded by levies on the legal profession).
Membership of the Commission
To further enhance its independent status, the 2007 Act places some requirements on the Commission as to how it is composed. In general, the Commission is made up of both non-lawyer members and lawyer members, and currently must consist of a person to chair it and 8 other members. These members are ultimately appointed by Scottish Ministers, and although the Ministers may change the number and balance of the members, they must always ensure that the majority (including the chairing member) are non-lawyer members. Membership of the Commission is for 4 to 6 years depending on the position held, and members can be removed by the chairing member (with the consent of the Lord President of the Court of Session) or disqualified for a number of reasons laid down in the 2007 Act.
Responsibilities of the Members
All members of the Commission are expected to act in the best interests of the Commission, and must respect and act in accordance with a number of requirements, including:
• The Legal Profession and Legal Aid (Scotland) Act 2007;
• The governance arrangements of the Commission, including the Scheme of Control;
• The declaration and registration of members’ interest;
• The Commission processes, standards and rules;
• The Commission financial, operational and personnel policies.
Furthermore, because the Commission has an important function in serving the public in Scotland, its members are expected to follow the Seven Principles of Public Life set out by the Committee on Standards in Public Life. These are:
I. Selflessness: Holders of public office should take decisions solely in terms of the public interest. They should not do so in order to gain financial or other material benefits for themselves, their family, or their friends.
II. Integrity: Holders of public office should not place themselves under any financial or other obligation to outside individuals or organisations that might influence them in the performance of their official duties.
III. Objectivity: In carrying out public business, including making public appointments, awarding contracts, or recommending individuals for rewards and benefits, holders of public office should make choices on merits.
IV. Accountability: Holders of public office are accountable for their decisions and actions to the public and must submit themselves to whatever scrutiny is appropriate to their office.
V. Openness: Holders of public office should be as open as possible about all the decisions and actions that they take. They should give reasons for their decisions and restrict information only when the wider public interest clearly demands.
VI. Honesty: Holders of public office have a duty to declare any private interests relating to their public duties and to take steps to resolve any conflicts arising in a way that protects the public interests.
VII. Leadership: Holders of public office should promote and support these principles by leadership and example.
Members of the Commission are also expected to declare any interest that may conflict with their duties, and must not hold any political post or engage in any political activity or matter that directly affects the Commission.
Jane Irvine (Chairing Member)
Jane Irvine has been the Scottish Legal Services Ombudsman since April 2006. She is a specialist in consumer complaints having held a number of positions as a mediator, arbitrator and adjudicator of consumer complaints. Between 2001-05 she was HM Lay Inspector of Constabulary, and considered the handling of complaints against the police in Scotland. She later prepared a report on modernising police complaint and conduct systems for the Justice Minister. She also sat on a range of disciplinary tribunals and currently sits on the Discipline Board of the Institute of Actuaries.
“This new Scottish Commission is an important body. It will provide a modern system for resolving complaints about legal services that both the profession and the public can have confidence in. I am delighted to have been appointed with such a strong group of commissioners who bring with them a diverse and exceptional range of skills and experience.”
Douglas Watson was a police officer for 30 years and is currently an adult protection development officer for Edinburgh, Lothian and Borders Executive Group. Mr Watson has previously been a chairing member of the Child Protection Committee, Scottish Borders Council and Edinburgh Drug and Alcohol Action Team. He was a lay Committee member for the Law Society of Scotland and is a Sessional Inspector with the Social Work Inspection Agency.
Linda Pollock has had a broad based career in the NHS with clinical, teaching, research and management experience. She was an Executive Nursing Director until 2006, and interim Board Nurse Director (2002-2003). Her last role, before leaving the NHS, was a full time secondment as the Chief Nursing Officer's Advisor for Nurse Prescribing. Dr Pollock was a part time nurse member of the Mental Welfare Commission (1997-2005) and is currently a registrant member of the Nursing and Midwifery Council Appointments Board
George L Irving CBE
George Irving was Director of Social Work North Ayrshire Council and during the period 1999-2000 he served as President of the Association of Directors of Social Work (Scotland). From 2001-2006 he was Chair of NHS Ayrshire and Arran. He led the National Support Team, Management of Offenders 2005-2007 and is currently a Visiting Professor to Glasgow Caledonian University School of Health and Social Care.
Ian Gordon OBE, QPM, LL.B (Hons)
Ian Gordon is a retired Deputy Chief Constable of Tayside Police. He is currently an associate professor in policing for Charles Sturt University (Australia). He was Chair of the Association of Chief Police Officers in Scotland (ACPOS) Professional Standards Business Area and Vice-Chair of ACPOS General Policing Business Area.
Alan Paterson is Professor of Law and Director of the Centre for Professional Legal Studies at Strathclyde University, an independent "Think Tank" on the Scottish Legal System. He has researched in, and published on, the regulation of lawyers and the provision of public legal services for over twenty years. Although he is qualified as a solicitor in Scotland, Professor Paterson has never practised. He served as a co-opted member of the Council of the Law Society between 2001-2008. He is currently a research adviser to the Scottish Legal Aid Board, and a member of the Judicial Appointments Board.
David Smith is a retired solicitor. He was a commercial property partner with Shepherd and Wedderburn LLP for 34 years, including 6 years as Chairman. He has extensive experience of client relations, professional negligence and risk management.
Margaret Scanlan is an accredited specialist in family law at Russells Gibson McCaffrey. She has also tutored in family law at Glasgow Caledonian University. Mrs Scanlan was a member and latterly Deputy Chair of the Scottish Legal Aid Board between 1997-2007. She has also been Director of the Legal Defence Union between 1998-2002. Mrs Scanlan was a founder member of both Strathkelvin Women’s Aid and the Family Law Association. She held the post of Chair of the latter between 1992-93.
David Chaplin was the senior partner in Anderson Fyfe for 17 years until his retiral in 2008. He is a specialist in insolvency law. He was the Client Relations partner for ten years and he advised in pre litigation resolution of commercial disputes for clients. He was a member of the Education Committee of the Royal Faculty of Procurators in Glasgow during 2004-05