The SLCC has welcomed a recent Court of Session decision on an appeal case regarding an eligibility determination. The lawyer was appealing against the SLCC’s decision to accept issues of complaint against him for investigation.
The appellant submitted that the SLCC’s decision was based on an error of law, that the SLCC had acted irrationally in the exercise of its discretion, and that its decision was not supported by the facts found to be established by the Commission. However, the Court found that that the SLCC was entitled to reach the decision it did on three of the four issues concerned.
The Court endorsed the already established view that the threshold that a complaint requires to cross before the SLCC should accept it for investigation is a very low one.
Neil Stevenson, CEO said: “We welcome the Court’s opinion. In this case, our decision was that the issues we accepted for investigation should be investigated to determine whether or not there was any breach of professional conduct. Making robust decisions on whether complaints can be accepted for further investigation or not is the largest part of our workload, both in the number of cases and the number of staff.
“It is now for the Faculty of Advocates to investigate and to determine whether or not there has been a breach of professional conduct.”
Mr Stevenson explained, “there can be misconceptions about the eligibility test, one of the most complex stages within the process prescribed in statute. We have seen comments in the past that ‘too many complaints’ are let in, but the courts are once again making clear there is a high test to be met if complaints are dismissed at this stage.”
“We continue to believe the appeals process of this initial sift decision is in need of reform. No other complaints body has a decision as to whether to examine a case further or not subject to scrutiny in the highest court in the land in front of a bench of three judges. This statutory process is massively expensive and time consuming, and our proposals for legislative reform recommend that a more proportionate approach should be considered. Especially at a time of such financial pressure on the profession, we must question if this is the best use of funding.”