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Saturday 23 August 2014

Shatter bows to fears over political control of new legal watchdog

Dearbhail McDonald Legal Editor

Published 16/07/2013 | 05:00

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JUSTICE Minister Alan Shatter has bowed to pressure to de-politicise appointments to the new body that will handle complaints against the legal profession.

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Mr Shatter came under sustained criticism by international bodies amid concerns that the planned Legal Services Regulatory Authority (LSRA) would be subject to ministerial control.

But he has responded to concerns about the independence of the authority and has tabled a series of amendments to the long-awaited Legal Services Regulation Bill.

He has proposed that appointments to the regulatory authority, which will have a lay majority, will be nominated by a range of bodies including the Competition Authority, the Human Rights Commission and the Legal Aid Board.

The Law Society and the Bar Council, the representative bodies for solicitors and barristers, will also be designated as a nominating body.

Fianna Fail, Sinn Fein and Independent TD Finian McGrath have each tabled amendments to the bill, which Mr Shatter says will "revolutionise" the legal profession.

The mammoth Legal Services Bill will fall for consideration tomorrow as Mr Shatter faces mounting pressure from the insurance and legal sectors to abandon plans to raise the ceiling for personal injuries actions.

The Courts Bill 2013, which will see the limit in the District Court rise from €6,350 to €15,000, and from €38,092 to €60,000 in the Circuit Court has, in a rare feat, united insurers and lawyers.

Insurance companies fear the increase in limits will lead to an increase in the size of awards and more disputes going to the courts.

Irish Independent

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