News In Focus
SLCC time limit to rise to three years for new business from April
An extended three year time limit for people making a complaint about a lawyer and/or the adequacy of legal services in Scotland will apply from 1 April 2017, the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission has confirmed.
The SLCC's board has approved the rule change, which will relate to complaints arising from new work which was first instructed on or after that date, or where the alleged occurrence of a specific act, omission or conviction complained of was on or after that date.
First consulted on in 2014, the change was originally intended to come into effect last July but was delayed due to other regulatory issues. However a previously proposed shorter time limit of six months from the date of conclusion of a first tier investigation by a law firm or advocate, is not now to be introduced alongside the extension. The three year period will run irrespective of any internal investigation.
Bill Brackenridge, SLCC chair said the new limit "brings our process closer to those of other complaint bodies". It was "something which we as a Board have been anxious to finalise for some time but which had been delayed for various reasons outside our control".
He commented: "We focused on a rule that is clear and simple to apply for both consumers and lawyers. Some interesting alternatives and additions to how timeframes might work were considered in detail, but our priority is always on making our process as easy to understand and as efficient to administer as is possible.
"Having agreed in principle to change the time limit some time ago, I am sure that the more simplified approach which we have now approved will be welcomed by consumers and the legal profession.”
Carol Brennan, chair of the independent SLCC consumer panel added: "Last year, 74 legal consumers who made a complaint to the SLCC found that their complaint could not be taken forward because it had been made too late. This raises questions about the public awareness of the SLCC – a matter which the SLCC continues to address, as is reflected in the significant reduction in such ‘time barred’ cases compared to 132 the previous year.
"The panel firmly believes that this extension to the time limit will further strengthen access for consumers, whilst bringing the SLCC’s complaint handling more in line with that of other complaint-handling schemes.”