Election triggers West Country row

A WRANGLE over constituency representation has cast a shadow over the first Law Society council elections since the elevation of Martin Mears to the presidency.

Polling for former Law Society president Tony Holland's West Country and Gwent seat is taking place amid claims the election may leave Cornwall and Plymouth Law Societies unrepresented on the council.

Two of the four candidates do not come from the region and one, Sole Practitioners Group chair David O'Hagan, lives in Bristol.

The two law societies say it was agreed years ago that one of the five council seats shared by the eight law societies in the West Country and Gwent multi-member constituency should come from their area.

But the emergence of contested elections means candidates nominated by the Association of South Western Law Societies are no longer guaranteed a seat.

Alan Butterfield, secretary of the Cornwall Law Society, has written to all four candidates, calling on them to make a commitment to attend the committee meetings of both societies.

But O'Hagan says he plans to pay particular attention to the counties of Gloucestershire, Wiltshire and Somerset which currently do not have “local” representation.

Holland, senior partner of Plymouth-based Foot & Bowden, said a victory for a non-local candidate would probably lead to calls for the region to be broken up into single constituencies. “I think people are pretty fed up here,” he said.

Polling for the election closes on Friday. The other three candidates are Kay Firth-Butterfield, from Devon, Robert Spouse, from Cornwall, and Helen Davies, from Cornwall, who was nominated by the Association of South Western Law Societies.