As Minister with delegated responsibility for legal services, I regularly meet with officials of the Law Society. The length of time taken to call meetings of the solicitors disciplinary tribunal was raised at a meeting I had with Law Society officials in March of this year. DCA officials also regularly update me and have regular contact with the Law Society.
For the year 1 May 2005 to 30 April 2006, the solicitor's disciplinary tribunal (SDT) sat on 136 days for the hearing of applications. Each tribunal consists of three members in total, two of whom are solicitor members and one of whom is a lay member.
The Law Society does not maintain statistics on the time between a Law Society adjudication and the solicitors disciplinary tribunal hearing. As far as the SDT is concerned, a case starts with the lodgement of an application. A survey of all cases heard to the year ending April 2006, shows that 26 per cent. were concluded within six months of being placed before the SDT. A further 68 per cent. were concluded between six months and a year.
The Law Society does not maintain statistics on the basis of whether the misconduct alleged was a breach of the practice rules or of other regulations. It does keep statistics on solicitors who have been subject to sanctions by the Law Society and the solicitors disciplinary tribunal.
The number of solicitors subject to a penalty by the solicitors disciplinary tribunal in the last four years is as follows:
Number 2006 (To date) 141 2005 211 2004 236 2003 232
2006 (To date)