SLCC Rules Change Consultation October 2014

In October and November 2014, SLCC held a consultation on a number of proposed changes to our Rules.

The 2015 Rules have now been finalised and came into effect on 1 January 2015. The consultation had raised the prospect of the SLCC’s time bar being extended. The transposition of the EU directive on alternative dispute resolution (ADR) must be completed in July and forthcoming regulations by the UK Government will set out how this is to be done. The SLCC has taken the view that it would be unhelpful and confusing for the public and for practitioners for the time bar provisions to change prior to those regulations being published. Consequently the time bar provisions will be altered in July 2015 to coincide with the ADR directive coming into force and with the start of a new operating year for the SLCC.

The Commission still intends to extend the time bar as suggested in the consultation paper, moving from a one year to a three year time bar. A comparison with time bars operated by other professional bodies and an analysis of the high number of complaints currently excluded by the time bar are strong arguments for change. The Commission will introduce a shorter one year time limit where the practitioner makes it clear to the complainer that they will take no further action on a complaint and provides details of how a complaint may be raised with the Commission.  The Commission will be publishing more detailed guidance on the changes to the time bar in spring 2015 before new provisions come into force in July 2015.

Further details of the consultation are below:

"There are a number of reasons why our Rules need to be reviewed.

Firstly, with the exception of some clarification around the time bar provisions and the removal of the requirement for a draft determination decision, the Rules have not been reviewed since 2009. With the benefit of five years’ operating experience, we are taking the opportunity to ensure that our Rules are fit for purpose. In particular, we are including sections relating to oral hearings and handling complaints which have not previously been part of our Rules.

 Secondly, there have been changes made to the Legal Profession and Legal Aid (Scotland) Act 2007. A stakeholder group made up of consumer interest groups and the relevant professional organisations wrote to the Scottish Government in Autumn 2013 to suggest changes which it was agreed would improve the 2007 Act. The Scottish Government conducted a further consultation on these proposals which were subsequently approved by the Justice Committee of the Scottish Parliament in August 2014. These changes have an enactment date of 1 January 2015 and some of them require to be reflected in the Rules. A link to the relevant Justice Committee papers is below, since these provide fuller background on the changes.

Thirdly, the Commission proposes to change the time bar provisions. Additional detail is set out in the attached document and the proposal is that the Commission moves from a one year to a three year time bar. A comparison with time bars operated by other professional bodies and an analysis of the high number of complaints currently excluded by the time bar are strong arguments for change. The proposal aims to encourage swift and transparent complaint handling by practitioners in the first instance. It introduces a shorter six month time limit where the practitioner makes it clear to the complainer that they will take no further action on a complaint and provides details of how a complaint may be raised with the Commission. 

Under section 32 (5) of the Legal Profession and Legal Aid (Scotland) Act 2007, the Commission must, before varying its rules, consult with the Lord President of the Court of Session; the Scottish Ministers; the relevant professional organisations; such groups of persons representing consumer interests as it considers appropriate, as to the proposed content of the rules to be varied."

The consultation opened on October 14th 2014 and was closed November 17th 2014.

2015 Rules Letter

Enclosures:

SLCC Rules 2014

Proposed 2015 Rules

Explanatory Note on Rules Changes

Paper on 2007 Act changes for the Justice Committee