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Access to Justice Act 1999


148.The Act makes various changes about the provision of legal services and complaints against lawyers. It reforms the law about lawyers’ rights of audience and rights to conduct litigation by:

  • abolishing the Lord Chancellor’s Advisory Committee on Legal Education and Conduct (ACLEC) and creating a new body, the Legal Services Consultative Panel, which will take over ACLEC’s functions in advising the Lord Chancellor on legal education, changes to authorised bodies’ rules and the designation of new authorised bodies;

  • simplifying procedures for approving changes to rules and the designation of new authorised bodies;

  • giving the Lord Chancellor power, with the approval of Parliament, to change rules which unduly restrict rights of audience or rights to conduct litigation or the exercise of such rights;

  • establishing the principle that all barristers and solicitors should enjoy full rights of audience, and in particular enabling employed advocates, including Crown Prosecutors, to appear in the higher courts if otherwise qualified to do so, regardless of any professional rules designed to prevent their doing so because of their employed status; and

  • enacting a statutory statement that lawyers’ ethical duties override all their other legal obligations.

149.The Act also amends the law about complaints against providers of legal services, and makes various other changes (see paragraph 14 above). In particular, it:

  • widens the powers of the Law Society to investigate unprofessional conduct and inadequate professional service by solicitors’ firms, and to take action against them;

  • empowers the Legal Services Ombudsman to make binding determinations in appropriate cases;

  • provides for the appointment of a Legal Services Complaints Commissioner with powers to investigate the complaints handling procedures of the professional bodies, make recommendations and set targets; and

  • enables the Lord Chancellor to require professional bodies to contribute towards the cost of the Ombudsman and the Complaints Commissioner.

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Text created by the government department responsible for the subject matter of the Act to explain what the Act sets out to achieve and to make the Act accessible to readers who are not legally qualified. Explanatory Notes were introduced in 1999 and accompany all Public Acts except Appropriation, Consolidated Fund, Finance and Consolidation Acts.


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