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Written Answers. - Proposed Legislation.

Wednesday, 6 February 2002

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 547 No. 4

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 196. Mr. Timmins Information on Billy Timmins Zoom on Billy Timmins  asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform Information on John O'Donoghue Zoom on John O'Donoghue  his plans to establish the position of a legal ombudsman; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3902/02]

Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform (Mr. O'Donoghue): Information on John O'Donoghue Zoom on John O'Donoghue The Solicitors Acts 1954 to 1994 provide for a disciplinary tribunal to deal with complaints of misconduct against solicitors. The tribunal consists of ten solicitor members and five lay members. The lay members are appointed on my nomination. A member of the public or the Law Society may apply to the tribunal for an inquiry into the conduct of a solicitor. In addition to the functions of the tribunal in relation to misconduct, the Solicitors Acts give power to the Law Society to impose sanctions on solicitors for inadequate services or for charging excessive fees.

A member of the public who is dissatisfied with how the Law Society handles a complaint made to it may refer the matter to the adjudicator appointed under the Solicitors (Adjudicator) Regulations 1997. The adjudicator can require the production of documents and make conclusions of fact and recommendations. He may direct the society to re-examine or re-investigate the related complaint made to it about a solicitor where he is not satisfied that the society has investigated the complaint adequately. He may also direct the society to make an application to the disciplinary tribunal for an inquiry into the conduct of the solicitor on the ground of alleged misconduct.

While I am aware that individual members of the public do feel aggrieved from time to time, the existing system for dealing with complaints against members of the legal profession appears to operate in a generally satisfactory manner. However, amendments which I have tabled to the Solicitors (Amendment) Bill, 1998, which is at Committee Stage in the Dáil having been passed by the Seanad, will make the disciplinary regime for solicitors more effective in a number of respects.


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