HC Deb 21 March 2000 vol 346 c495W
Mr. McNamara

To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what representations he has received from the Law Society and Bar Council for Northern Ireland concerning allegations of intimidation of lawyers; what surveys or research have been undertaken to determine the extent of intimidation; what assessment he has made of(a) under-reporting of intimidation and (b) malicious or unfounded allegations; and if he will commission a study to determine the extent of intimidation and make recommendations. [111946]

Mr. Ingram

[holding answer 2 March 2000]: The current Secretary of State for Northern Ireland has received no representations from the Law Society or the Bar Council for Northern Ireland concerning allegations of intimidation of lawyers.

On surveys and research, the Government are aware that the Independent Commission for Police Complaints undertook a survey into the specific area of complaints relating to allegations of improper conduct by police officers towards, or in respect of, solicitors. Furthermore, the Commission monitors and supervises all complaints of intimidation of lawyers or any attempts to undermine their professional integrity. I am not aware of other survey or research work.

On under-reporting, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers in his March 1998 report concluded that there had been under-reporting, again in relation to police complaints. I note that the Special Rapporteur recommended that solicitors should lodge formal complaints and that he welcomed the steps taken by the Law Society to introduce a complaints procedure for solicitors.

Given that there have been no representations by the Law Society or Bar Council, and that there are procedures for investigation of allegations (including the Law Society's own) and these are to be enhanced in respect of complaints about police conduct when the Police Ombudsman is introduced later this year, the Government are not currently persuaded that they should commission a study.