SCB handling of Howells is questioned

THE WOMAN whose complaint led to a severe rebuke for ex-Law Society treasurer Mike Howells says she has asked the Legal Services Ombudsman to review the way the case was handled by the Solicitors Complaints Bureau (SCB).

Howells resigned two weeks ago after SCB papers relating to the case were leaked to The Lawyer.

Prior to the leak, Howells had appeared keen to remain in his position despite a severe rebuke by the SCB for professional misconduct and an order to pay £1,000 compensation.

Now, the personal injury victim who brought the complaint against Howells is urging the ombudsman to intervene. She wants to know why the matter was not referred to the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal.

After initial inquiries into the complaint, the SCB recommended an SDT investigation but this was successfully appealed against by Howells.

A spokesman for the ombudsman said the office had the power to order further compensation to the complainant for distress, inconvenience or financial loss. He could also suggest that the SCB refer the matter to the Tribunal.

Meanwhile, Paul Pharoah, chair of the Law Society's appeals and adjudications committee, has announced a review of the confidentiality rule regarding all internal disciplinary investigations and rebukes.

“The confidential status of committee decisions will be reviewed… though I am by no means sure it would benefit either the public or the profession for these to be generally available,” he says in a letter to The Lawyer (see page 13).

He also acknowledges that the “arcane” terminology of internal sanctions needs replacing.