Over the last few months, we have been engaged with the Faculty of Advocates in a review of its systems for dealing with complaints and the Rules which govern its complaints handling process.
The aim of the review was to benchmark the Faculty’s current processes, for future audit and Handling Complaints investigations. We also hoped to identify areas where additional guidance from us might assist the Faculty in improving and updating its methods and systems for dealing with complaints.
Our report highlights our key findings and the Faculty’s interim response to the issues which we raised. The Faculty has already taken steps to improve various aspects of its complaints handling procedures. Those which remain outstanding are set out in the Conclusions and Recommendations section of the report.
We will be continuing to liaise with the Faculty, particularly regarding the setting of Service Standards for Advocates, and the amendments which have been identified as been required to be made to the current Disciplinary Rules, which need the Lord President’s approval before these can be adopted.
We aim to publish a progress update in 6 months’ time, which will confirm the action taken by the Faculty to implement our suggestions for change. We welcome the publication of the Faculty’s complaints handling leaflet, which will be of great assistance to consumers and advocates who find themselves engaged in the complaints process. There should be a link to this leaflet on both the Faculty’s and our website shortly.
We also look forward to discussing further with the Faculty the potential for misconduct decisions to be published, and guidance and/or a tariff being created to assist the Faculty’s decision-makers in the application of disciplinary sanctions, as we recommended in our own Sanctions Guidance which we published in May 2016.
The Faculty of Advocates commented, “The Faculty is pleased to been able to engage in constructive discussions with the SLCC within the audit process and has valued the opportunity to discuss and consider its own functions. The Faculty has now reflected on best practice in complaints handling and strives to continuously improve the way in which those matters are dealt with. The input of the SLCC in this process has been most beneficial.”