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Solicitors given new appeal route for regulatory decisions

4 June 2014

Solicitors seeking to challenge regulatory decisions of their professional body have a new means of appeal, following the setting up of a new body by the Law Society of Scotland.

The Appeals and Review Subcommittee (ARSC) will provide a right of appeal against decisions of other regulatory subcommittees of the Society, where none is available at present other than challenge by judicial review.

It will also allow review by members of the public affected by decisions of the Guarantee Fund Subcommittee, and those seeking admission to the profession.

Formal appeal procedures are already in place in relation to decisions of the Client Relations, Complaints, Professional Conduct, and Quality Assurance Civil Legal Aid Subcommittees. The ARSC will apply for example to matters regarding admission as solicitor, practising certificates, or rules and waivers.

The ARSC will hear appeals against decisions taken by the relevant regulatory subcommittees since 1 June 2014. Appeals must be brought on one of the following grounds:

  • There has been a material change in circumstances that was not originally considered.
  • New evidence, not reasonably available for the original decision, is now available.
  • An error in fact or law has been made.
  • There has been procedural irregularity in the decision making process.
  • There has been a failure to give adequate reasons for the original decision.

A time limit of 21 days from notification of the decision challenged will apply. Forms to initiate an appeal will be available shortly on the Society's website.

ARSC convener Colin Dunipace, Council member for Airdrie, Hamilton and Lanark, said: "The purpose of the ARSC is to allow a transparent and proportionate right of appeal from decisions of all our regulatory committees where there are no existing statutory rights of appeal.

"Until now, appeals from regulatory subcommittee decisions have been considered by various other subcommittees within the Society, rather than the same single body, or by judicial review to the Court of Session. The latter can be costly for individuals, so is not always an option.

"The ARSC will for the first time provide a single, identifiable and constant point of appeal for those who wish to challenge a decision of a regulatory subcommittee. The ARSC will also identify any patterns in the appeals that it receives and will consider whether these patterns indicate any need for change to the regulatory processes of the subcommittees making initial decisions. The existence of this single appeal body will also ensure that a consistent approach is taken in relation to all relevant appeals."

Carole Ford, convener of the Regulatory Committee, added: "We felt that there was a gap in the regulatory landscape of the Society and that a subcommittee dedicated to reviews and appeals was a much needed addition."

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