Bar’s complaints commissioner rues impending OLC introduction

The Bar Council’s lay complaints commissioner has slammed the imminent introduction of an Office for Legal Complaints (OLC), saying it will erode the quality of complaints handling.

Delivering his final annual report after nine years in the role, Michael Scott said the establishment of the OLC proposed by the Government’s recent white paper will mean that consumers are worse off.

Scott wrote: “Our record is exemplary by any standards of complaints handling. I am sorry that the Clementi proposals will erode this quality and am saddened that the bar has been dragged down by the Law Society’s inadequacy in dealing with complaints.”

The report also reveals that 10 per cent of chambers are breaching the Bar Council’s code of conduct by having no written complaints-handling procedure.

However, the newly established Bar Standards Board is to introduce formal protocols to be adopted by individual sets and will also audit chambers’ complaints handling in the future.

The number of total complaints against barristers made in 2005 rose by 31 per cent, from 667 to 877. Much of the rise was accounted for by complaints made by the Bar Council about barristers who had failed either to complete required Continuing Professional Development (CPD) hours or to acquire a practising certificate.

Scott, a former army officer, concludes his report by publishing a selection of comments received during his tenure as commissioner. These vary from praise for the “excellent, caring service” received to vitriolic criticism.