Letter: Complaints lost in a legal tangle

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The Independent Online
Sir: Shortly before the prorogation of Parliament an early day motion had already attracted the signatures of some 18 MPs, with more promised. It called for an end to the self-regulation by the Law Society of complaints against solicitors and the establishment in its place of a genuinely independent body.

Of some 20,000 formal complaints made each year only around 250, or 1.25 per cent, are upheld and complainants, among whom I number myself - who have the stamina left after inordinate delays and other obstacles, seemingly designed to wear them down - who then turn for justice to the "independent" Appeals Committee, fare little better. Those who still persist may then refer to the Legal Services Ombudsman, but apart from the limitations of his powers, the experience of many who have made submissions to him does not inspire confidence in his real independence from the decision- making bodies of the Law Society.

Since the Ombudsman is appointed by the Lord Chancellor and paid from public funds, there ought to be some public accountability for his decisions, but the branch of the Lord Chancellor's Department responsible for liaison with the professional regulatory bodies refuses to intervene.

Now that there has been a change of administration in Whitehall, with a hopefully refreshing end to the "never admit to a mistake let alone say sorry" culture which has permeated public life over these past 18 years, it is to be hoped that the opportunity will be provided for a debate on a promised fresh early day motion for the new parliament and that this will have the backing of the Government and its newly appointed Lord Chancellor. Certainly such support will find a sympathetic echo among the tens of thousands of citizens whose lives in varying degrees have been marred by the sense of injustice and frustration with which they are left after having run in vain the gamut of the present legal complaints machinery.

Fellow victims of the present system are urged to lobby their MPs to support the new early day motion.