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Bar council warns against strong legal services reform
Thursday, 21 June 2007
The Bar Council, the professional body for barristers in England and Wales, has sent a hard-hitting brief to MPs to defend its record on complaints handling.
The government is currently in the process of launching a new Legal Services Bill, which it hopes will reform the way legal services are regulated and delivered, in the hope of aiding consumers of legal products.
In its brief to a committee of MPs, however, the Bar Council has insisted that the vast majority of complaints within the profession are directed towards solicitors. Furthermore, it adds that most consumer criticisms of complaint handling are directed towards the Law Society, while the Bar's regulator, the Bar Standards Board (BSB), retains a high industry profile for integrity.
"The performance of the Bar's independent regulator, the BSB, has been commended by the Legal Services Ombudsman (LSO) for its strong performance in handling the vast majority of complaints referred to her by consumers," said Geoffrey Vos QC, chairman of the Bar.
"Against this excellent record, we are disappointed that the government is seeking to remove the BSB's ability to award redress to consumers. They will be worse off," insisted Mr Vos.
Mr Vos called for any delegation of power resulting from the bill to be carefully considered, and only implemented when "appropriate safeguards" have been applied.
The bill was introduced by Lord Falconer at the start of 2006 and is now in the hands of the Ministry of Justice.