Law Society announces independent review of consumer protections
The Law Society of Scotland has announced the setting up of a new and independent review of the consumer protections which are in place for clients buying and selling property in Scotland.
The review follows high profile and complex cases in Aberdeenshire and West Lothian where clients were left without proper title to land bought through residential property transactions. Labour MSP Jenny Marra recently tabled a motion to the Scottish Parliament which highlighted the issues involved.
The new review will be undertaken by former Sheriff Principal Edward Bowen CBE QC, who will report back to the Society's ruling Council later this year.
As part of its public interest role, the Society provides a number of consumer protections for clients using Scottish solicitors. This includes the Guarantee Fund, a fund of last resort which seeks to compensate clients who are the victims of a solicitor dishonesty. The Society arranges for the Master Policy, a single policy of professional indemnity insurance to ensure firms are covered for cases involving negligence. The Society is also able to make a direct award of compensation in specific circumstances as can other bodies, such as the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission and the Scottish Solicitors' Discipline Tribunal.
The review will look at the consumer protections in place as well as current conveyancing practice and the existing legal framework to see what improvements could be reasonably made.
The Law Society President, Bruce Beveridge, said: "We have an important duty to protect the interests of the consumers of legal services, a responsibility which we take extremely seriously. Whilst the vast majority of Scottish solicitors provide an excellent service for their clients, we also need a robust set of consumer protections to help clients in those very few occasions when things go wrong.
"These difficult and very complicated conveyancing cases in West Lothian and Aberdeenshire have understandably left some questioning whether the protections in place are as robust as they could be. That is why we want an independent review which looks at the issues arising from these cases, which considers current conveyancing practice and existing Scots law, to see what lessons can be learned for the future.
"I am very grateful to Sheriff Principal Bowen for agreeing to conduct this review. He is highly respected and brings immense knowledge and expertise. I have no doubt that he will provide a thorough and independent analysis of these issues."
Notes to editors.
- Former Sheriff Principal Bowen's biography is available via the Judiciary of Scotland website. He retired as Sheriff Principal of Lothian & Borders in May 2011. https://www.scotland-judiciary.org.uk/35/560/Sheriff-Principal-F-Bowen-QC
- The scope of the review is;
To review the circumstances surrounding the housing development on Happy Valley Road in Blackburn and the case of Mr Sinclair Brebner in Aberdeen and;
1. consider what consumer protections have been in place to assist these and other similar individuals who have been left without valid title following the purchase of their respective properties.
2. evaluate whether the protections offered by the Law Society and/or others are sufficient and what if any changes the Law Society should now make to its own policies, rules and procedures in order to maintain public confidence,
3. assess how the relevant legislative environment has changed since these cases occurred and what impact any such changes may have had in terms of minimising the risk of such issues arising in the future,
4. examine, in discussion with the Society's executive team and 'future of conveyancing working party', what further changes may be required, either through reform of the law or conveyancing practice, in order to reduce the risk of such circumstances arising again,
5. consider what other specific action the Society should now reasonably take to help avoid such issues from arising in future, including the potential for further law reform.
6. make any other relevant recommendations which respond to the issues arising from the review.
- The review is expected to last several months with a report to the Law Society Council
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