News In Focus
SLCC reports £394,000 surplus in first full year
The Scottish Legal Complaints Commission (SLCC) made a surplus of £394,000 in its first full year of operation, according to its second annual report laid before the Scottish Parliament today.
The report, which covers the period from 1 July 2009 until 30 June 2010, reveals that the SLCC received 3,561 enquiries in that period, resulting in 1,452 legal complaints. The majority were referred to the Law Society of Scotland or Faculty of Advocates as relating to business instructed before 1 October 2008, the SLCC's start date, or were closed as being out of the SLCC"s jurisdiction.
Out of 204 complaints accepted to be dealt with by the SLCC:
- 17 were resolved through mediation and 17 others still under consideration for mediation at the end of the year;
- 170 went to investigation, of which 92 were still in hand at the end of the year;
- of these, 23 were resolved at or before the stage of an investigation report;
- seven were withdrawn by the complainer;
- 48 complaints were referred for determination, of which eight were partially and one fully upheld, 15 were not upheld, one was withdrawn, and 23 were still being considered at the end of the year.
The largest proportion of complaints received related to residential conveyancing, followed by litigation and family law. However in a significant proportion of complaints the type of business was unspecified.
In addition 216 cases were accepted under the Scottish Legal Services Ombudsman jurisdiction, and 180 opinions completed.
Complaints about a solicitor's or advocate's conduct are still referred to the relevant professional body. In the year there were 142 such complaints against solicitors and two against advocates.
The financial surplus figure compares with one of over £1.5m for the first nine months of the SLCC's operation, following which the Commission cut the annual levy payable by solicitors to £235 for the current year. Actual reserves at year end were £1.12m, or just under five months' operating costs.
A number of legal challenges are currently before the Court of Session to determine the extent of the SLCC's powers. One has so far been resolved, against the Commission.
SLCC chair Jane Irvine said: “It is inevitable that new legislation will be challenged. Our board prepared for this by setting aside money to fund any legal processes and during the year, we received 11 challenges with the majority still being heard in the Court of Session at the year end. The outcomes of these appeals are important to us”.
Chief executive Rosemary Agnew said the number of enquiries and complaints coming to the SLCC was lower than originally predicted. She commented: "This may be due to a number of factors such as the economic downturn.
“We have responded by adopting a cautious approach to recruitment, expanding only to meet the needs of our current workload, and at the end of the financial year, we employed 29 members of staff instead of the predicted 45, which was the anticipated figure prior to our opening in 2008.
“We have successfully established the ‘gateway’ for all complaints about legal practitioners and deal directly with complaints about inadequate professional service.
“In line with our aim to resolve complaints at the earliest opportunity, we continue to develop our mediation function and aim for resolution through both formal and informal approaches.”
The transitional arrangements for referring complaints to the professional bodies ended on 1 October 2010.