Set up by the Scottish Government and funded by the legal profession, the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission (SLCC) replaced the Scottish Legal Services Ombudsman (SLSO) when it opened on 1 October 2008. On Monday 8 February 2010, the organisation published its first Annual Report.
Jane Irvine, the SLCC Chair and former Scottish Legal Services Ombudsman said: "This annual report covers the first nine months of our operational life and documents our journey to implement a brand new system for dealing with complaints against legal practitioners and developing our oversight functions."
"It was an intense period of time with everyone contributing a huge amount of work to put in place procedures and policies for dealing with enquiries and addressing complaints under the terms of the Legal Profession and Legal Aid (Scotland) Act 2007."
" We received 3,355 enquiries during the nine month period, and of these, a small proportion were dealt with as complaints under the 2007 Act. The majority were registered by the SLCC, but were dealt with under old powers because the complaint originated prior to our opening on 1 October 2008.
"The majority of complaints were referred to the relevant professional body with the SLCC able to investigate how the professional body dealt with the complaint but not the actual complaint. Two hundred and three of these "handling" complaints originated prior to 1 October 2008 and were dealt with by the SLCC under the powers of the former SLSO."
The SLCC also has the authority to oversee and monitor the Master Policy and Guarantee Fund under the Legal Profession and Legal Aid (Scotland) Act 2007.
Jane Irvine continued: "One of our key objectives is to fully understand the function and purpose of the Master Policy and Guarantee Fund and to understand the experiences of the individuals who have made a claim.
"The commissioning of research was a first step towards the SLCC exercising its oversight role."
Professor Frank Stephens and Dr Angela Melville from Manchester University School of Law were appointed to undertake the research which involved carrying out a literature review, interviewing people who had experienced making a claim against the Master Policy and Guarantee Fund, and contacting the Law Society of Scotland and their insurance broker who administers the Policy and Fund. The project started in March and was completed in May.
Jane Irvine commented: "The research created an important starting point for the SLCC's oversight role, which we intend to develop."
The SLCC accounts were signed-off by the Auditor General of Scotland in January 2010 and in relation to the SLCC finances, Jane Irvine said:" "We are conscious that our set up costs came from the Scottish Government and our ongoing funding comes from a levy paid by individual practitioners and a levy paid when a complaint is upheld. With this in mind, the SLCC has taken a measured approach when recruiting staff and our workforce will only increase in line with the level of work coming to us."
"I am confident that the hard work of the SLCC Board Members and staff has laid the foundations of an excellent complaints handling service, built on our core values of accessibility, independence and impartiality."
Use the link to read the Annual Report (PDF 2MB)