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New legal complaint body closer

Thursday, 10 January 2013
Author: Kevin Naughton, Indaily

THE State Government will shortly move to replace the Legal Practitioners Conduct Board with a commissioner.

Attorney-General John Rau will bring a Bill into parliament as early as next month that outlines a number of changes to the way complaints and compensation for unprofessional conduct is handled.

It follows a draft Legal Practitioners Amendment Bill tabled in parliament a year ago which sought comment before a final Bill was introduced.

"The Attorney-General received numerous submissions on the tabled Bill and is in the process of finalising amendments to the Bill in light of the submissions," a spokesman said.

"The new version of the Bill will be introduced early this year."

Opposition spokesman Vickie Chapman said her party had yet to decide if it would support such a move.

"We're cautious about changing the structure if there isn't also a change to the powers and resources of such a body," Chapman said.

"We'll make a decision when the final Bill is drafted. It's odd that there's been a delay in dealing with what we should do about the delays in dealing with consumers' complaints."

The March 2012 draft Bill proposed a new procedure to deal with practitioners who pose an immediate risk to the public.

"The bill would abolish the present Legal Practitioners Conduct Board and replace the board and its director with a new legal conduct commissioner," Rau told parliament last year.

"The commissioner will investigate and conciliate complaints as the board now does but will also have wider powers to impose lesser disciplinary sanctions directly without reference to the tribunal or the Supreme Court, and will be able to impose stronger sanctions with the consent of the practitioner.

"The bill proposes a new and detailed regime of mandatory cost disclosure by lawyers to their clients.

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