Bar Council reports third annual fall in complaints

The NUMBER of complaints made to the Bar Council has dropped for the third successive year, a report published today (21 March) reveals.

Complaints from the public – the measure of lay satisfaction with barristers – have remained almost static over the past five years.

In his annual report, Michael Scott, independent Complaints Commissioner to the Bar Council, said: “I’ve made the point before: the sad fact is that many complaints arise from a perceived failure of the justice system, the clients lost their case… or they simply haven’t understood why the arcane machinations of the law have gone against them…

“We’re not dealing here with people who’ve had to take their ‘beyond sell-by date’ sausages back to Sainsbury’s, but people who face a life-affecting disappointment, which may last forever.”

Scott also addressed the ramifications of Sir David Clementi’s review of the regulation of the legal profession, which recommends a single Office for Legal Complaints. He said this meant complaints handling would “descend into the black hole of Government bureaucracy”, and that he felt Clementi’s recommendation was due to the Law Society’s difficulties in handling complaints against solicitors.

He added: “I’m sceptical whether this will solve the Law Society’s problem with complaints handling or effectively reduce the complainant’s disappointment when a complaint is dismissed by me.”

Scott also said a report examining the effectiveness of chambers’ internal complaints investigations is due shortly.

Complaints to the Bar Council
2000 2001 2002 2003 2004
Total complaints 569 829 743 685 667
Total lay complaints 450 464 462 466 457
Lay complaints as % of total 79 56 62 68 69
Source: Independent Complaints Commissioner to the General Council of the Bar