IHRC calls for the independence of the Legal Services Regulatory Authority to be strengthened

The Irish Human Rights Commission (IHRC) today published its Observations on the Legal Services Regulation Bill 2011 ("LSRA Bill 2011"), calling for the independence of the proposed Legal Services Regulatory Authority (LSRA) to be further strengthened.

The IHRC submitted its Observations on the LSRA Bill 2011 to Mr Alan Shatter T.D., Minister for Justice, Equality and Defence, in line with the IHRC’s statutory remit. The LSRA Bill 2011 aims to provide for greater standard setting and regulation of the legal profession in the State.

In reviewing the Bill, the IHRC examined the human rights standards set out in the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), the jurisprudence of the European Court of Human Rights as well as other standards set by the Council of Europe and the UN, all of which emphasise the paramount importance of an independent legal profession, free of undue interference from the State.

Dr Maurice Manning, President of the IHRC said

"the IHRC welcomes aspects of the Bill that will have a positive outcome for users of legal services. We consider that robust independent oversight of the legal profession is important. Greater transparency and accountability in relation to legal costs can also increase access to justice."

Dr Manning continued

"From a human rights perspective the Legal Services Regulatory Authority must however be able to discharge its functions independent of Government or any Government Minister. The IHRC considers that the LSRA can be strengthened by using the concept of independence drawn from the United Nations principles (Paris Principles) upon which the IHRC has been established."

Elaborating on the principles that can ensure greater independence for the LSRA, Mr Des Hogan, Acting Chief Executive of the IHRC said

"independent appointment of the LSRA Board and recruitment of its staff are essential. The LSRA must also be able to publish reports of its own volition and agreement on Codes of Conduct for the Legal Profession should not require the consent of the Minister for Justice. In relation to the LSRA’s remit to inspect complaints, there should be sufficient safeguards built into the legislation to ensure that any encroachment into solicitor-client confidentiality is minimal and directly proportionate to the purpose of the investigation."

The IHRC also called for reform of the civil legal aid system, recommending in conjunction with the LSRA Bill that the Civil Legal Aid Act 1995 be reviewed to remove any unnecessary exclusions from the Act.

ENDS/

Mr Des Hogan, Acting Chief Executive of the IHRC is available for comment

For further information, please contact:
Fidelma Joyce, IHRC, Tel: 01 8589601 Mob: 087 783 4939

Notes to Editor

  • The IHRC published its Observations on the LSRA Bill 2011 of its own volition

Under Section 8(b) of the Human Rights Commission Act 2000 ("the Act"), if requested by a Minister of the Government, the Commission shall examine any legislative proposal and report its views on any implications of such proposal for human rights. Under Sections 8(a) and (d) of the Act, the Commission may of its own volition keep under review the adequacy and effectiveness of law and practice in the State relating to the protection of human rights and make such recommendations to the Government as it deems appropriate in relation to the measures which the Commission considers should be taken to strengthen, protect and uphold human rights in the State. The IHRC’s Observations to Government are being made pursuant to these latter functions.

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