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Question

32. Deputy John Curran asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality if she has received correspondence from the Taoiseach's Office for direct reply in relation to a person (details supplied) who raised a matter in 2015; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10856/16]

Answer

Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Frances Fitzgerald): The matter raised by the Deputy has been the subject of correspondence both directly with my Department and through the Office of the Taoiseach. I also had an opportunity to discuss the situation in broad terms with the person concerned as one of my constituents in 2015. As far as I am aware, it concerns complex legal issues around a long-running dispute in relation to a probate matter. I understand that these are matters which have also given rise to allegations of misconduct by solicitors that have been the subject of complaints by the person concerned to the Law Society. Moreover, and while it is desirable that such situations be resolved effectively, I also have to respect the fact that any unresolved matters arising could give rise to future legal proceedings.
Under current law, and as previously conveyed to the person concerned, including in an e-mail reply from my Private Secretary in April 2014, it is not open to me as Minister, nor indeed to any member of the Government, to determine or to otherwise intervene in disputes or difficulties between practising solicitors and their clients or in relation to matters which are properly for determination by the Courts. Rather, these are matters to be dealt with by the designated statutory bodies or, as may be the case, through the courts. Pending the planned commencement this Autumn of the relevant provisions of the Legal Services Regulation Act 2015, it remains a matter of law that the Law Society of Ireland, the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal (to which an aggrieved client may complain directly) and the Office of the Independent Adjudicator remain the statutory bodies charged with investigating or resolving complaints against solicitors under the Solicitors Acts.
In addition to the remedies available under the current statutory complaints framework that I have just outlined, aggrieved clients of solicitors may also choose to seek redress through the courts. As with any court proceedings, it would be considered prudent that persons considering taking such legal action seek independent legal advice on the strength or otherwise of their case and its possible cost implications. It will then be a matter for the aggrieved client concerned to decide which course of action might be best suited to their particular case.
The Deputy will also wish to be aware that, under the Legal Services Regulation Act 2015, preparations are already underway for the establishment of the new and independent Legal Services Regulatory Authority which will have responsibility for the oversight of both solicitors and barristers. There will be a new framework to deal with complaints about alleged professional misconduct independent of both the Law Society and the Bar Council that will apply from the date of its commencement. This, in turn, will be backed up by the establishment of a new and independent Legal Practitioners’ Disciplinary Tribunal dealing with both legal professions. Members of the public who wish to make complaints will, therefore, no longer do so through the Law Society or the Bar Council as they do at present, but through the new and independent Legal Services Regulatory Authority. This and other reforms being made under the 2015 Act will continue to be rolled out on a phased basis between now and the end of this year.