Mears cites Barnes over SCB dispute

MARTIN Mears has claimed the support of the Legal Services Ombudsman in his battle to bring the Solicitors Complaints Bureau in-house.

The Law Society president's response to the reform plans for the bureau, sent out for consultation before he took office, is critical of the proposal to make the SCB more independent.

And to the president's delight, ombudsman Michael Barnes agrees the regulatory functions of the bureau should be brought in-house.

In an unusual move, Mears printed and circulated the Legal Services Ombudsman response alongside his own while consultation was still in progress.

He said all SCB functions should be brought back in-house, with complaints-handling being monitored by a lay visitor, ideally a former judge.

Although Barnes advocates a more independent complaints handling body, he also calls for the society's regulatory functions to be brought back under its direct control.

Paul Pharaoh, chair of the society's adjudication and appeals committee, said there was a gap between the committee's and the president's views. But he added: “The fact the ombudsman is saying regulation should be brought back in-house and so is the president, though I think for different reasons, will have to be taken seriously.”

An SCB spokeswoman said the paper was a valuable contribution to the debate.