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Legal Complaints and Regulation Act (Northern Ireland) 2016

Section 2: General Powers of the Commissioner

Section 2 sets out the general powers of the Commissioner relating to oversight of the complaints-handling processes of solicitors and barristers. The post is a strategic one, with the postholder able to form an overview of how complaints systems are operating. For example, the LSOC will not have the power to re-open investigations relating to specific complaints.

Subsection (1) provides the Commissioner with a range of powers relating to complaints. The postholder can require a professional body (defined as the Law Society or the Inn of Court of Northern Ireland) to provide information or make reports on how they handle complaints against their members. He or she may investigate the handling of complaints about solicitors or barristers, and can make recommendations on how members of the respective complaints committees are trained. Targets may be set and recommendations made, and the professional bodies may be required to submit plans about how they handle complaints against their members. In addition, the postholder will be able to require a professional body to provide information relating to the numbers of first-tier complaints, those complaints received “in-house”.

Subsections (2) and (3) provide that the Commissioner can access all documents from the professional body that may be reasonably required to carry out an investigation.

Subsection (4) provides that the Commissioner may penalise a professional body in circumstances where they have failed to submit adequate plans to ensure that complaints are dealt with effectively and efficiently, or where a professional body fails to handle complaints in line with a submitted plan.

Subsection (5) requires the Commissioner to consult with a professional body and give it a reasonable opportunity to make representations before requiring it to pay a penalty.

Subsection (6) requires the Department to specify by order the maximum amount of the penalty and Subsection (7) requires that such an order must be laid in draft and approved by the Assembly. Subsection (8) requires the Commissioner to have regard to a number of factors before determining the amount of any penalty and Subsection (9) requires any penalty imposed on a professional body to be paid to the Commissioner, who must then pay it to the Department of Finance and Personnel.

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Text created by the Northern Ireland Assembly 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 accompany all Acts of the Northern Ireland Assembly.


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