Scottish Legal Complaints Commission expertise questioned by Inner House
30 June 2015
The Inner House has cleared David Bartos, Advocate, of Inadequate Professional Services (“IPS”) in a landmark ruling issued on Friday 26 June 2015. The SLCC had found IPS established after a proof in which Mr Bartos represented the pursuer. In overturning this decision and replacing it with a definitive ruling that Mr Bartos did not provide an inadequate service, the Inner House ruled that (as SLCC had conceded) the reasons given for the decision were lacking, and moreoever that the whole approach of SLCC betrayed a “fundamental error which … goes to the heart of the reason given for upholding the complaint [and which] is not a matter of form or pocedure, but of substance”.
The Court then went on to note that, whilst consumer confidence in SLCC is important, "it is also important that the Commission is mindful that it has a different role from the pre-existing Scottish Legal Services Ombudsman. It has a statutory quasi-judicial function. It adjudicates upon disputes, some of which previously would have been directed to the courts in order to resolve issues of alleged professional negligence. The Commission can make orders providing for financial compensation on questions of considerable importance, not just to complainers, but also to practitioners, whose careers may be prejudiced by an adverse finding…. when it comes to its adjudicative function, the Commission must be, and be seen to be independent, objective and impartial as between the parties. Only then will the confidence of all involved be maintained.”
The Court concluded by expressing some concern at the lack of litigation expertise on the Commission, saying that "in its recruitment processes, no doubt the Commission will bear in mind the need to ensure that the professionals involved have the appropriate background and standing.”
Mr Bartos was represented by Roddy Dunlop QC, and the SLCC by Mark Lindsay QC – both of Axiom Advocates.
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