Legal Ombudsman delays complaints publication
Publication of complaints made to the Legal Ombudsman about solicitors has been deferred, the Gazette can reveal.
The ombudsman (LeO) had intended to collate all complaints from the first quarter of the 2012/13 financial year to post firm-by-firm details online this month. But the LeO’s office this week confirmed the date will be put back while information is prepared for publication. ‘We’ve been refining the process for publishing this information as we want to make sure it’s fair and accurate and unfortunately it’s taking longer than we had originally anticipated’ a spokesman said.
He denied that the delay was because of complaints from solicitors.
The decision to publish details of complaints caused widespread disquiet when it was first announced last November. There is particular controversy over the ombudsman’s decision to publish, once a quarter, a table that summarises the number of complaints each law firm has been subject to, what the outcome was and the area of law in each case.
Where there is a pattern of complaints, or the board believes it is in the public interest to publish, details of the lawyer or firm can be released immediately, regardless of whether there has been a decision on the case.
Meanwhile, it was revealed this week that 120 of the 8,000 cases dealt with by the Legal Ombudsman have resulted in the threat of a judicial review - with just 19 going as far as being issued in court. Of the 19 that were issued in court, nine were from complainants and 10 were from lawyers who had been subjected to investigation.
The ombudsman agreed to reconsider its decision in one of those 19 cases; seven were not given permission to go beyond the preliminary stage; and the rest are still awaiting a decision.
‘This means that up to now we haven’t fought and lost a single judicial review case at trial, and have settled only one of the cases that were issued,’ said chief ombudsman Adam Sampson (pictured). ‘Of course, we need to maintain this level of consistency, but overall it must be comforting for customers to know our decision-making process is working.’