MPs on the justice select committee have endorsed the appointment of Elisabeth Davies as chair of the Office for Legal Complaints (OLC), the board that oversees the Legal Ombudsman (LeO).
In a brief report issued today, the committee said she “fully meets the criteria necessary to fulfil the role”.
The post is one that needs to be approved by the committee. Ms Davies was nominated by the Legal Services Board (LSB), with the support of the Lord Chancellor, before having to undergo this final hurdle.
The committee found that Ms Davies – a former chair of the Legal Services Consumer Panel – had “an impressive and wide-ranging record of public and voluntary appointments and executive experience”.
She currently has six other roles: independent chair of the General Pharmaceutical Council’s assurance and appointments committee; senior independent director of the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman; member of the Civil Justice Council; chair of the Prison Education Trust, a member of the Independent Review of Legal Services Regulation’s advisory panel; and deputy chair of Support Through Court (formerly the Personal Support Unit).
In a pre-appointment hearing on Tuesday, Ms Davies raised the possibility of opening up LeO to the clients of unregulated legal services providers, and also suggested it should use ‘own initiative’ powers to deal with issues arising from ‘silent sufferers’ – clients who are unhappy with their lawyer’s service but decide not to complain.
The committee also released information from the LSB that showed 21 candidates applied for the role, and four were interviewed – three women and one who did not declare their gender.
The LSB said the appointment panel’s unanimous conclusion was that Ms Davies was “well above the appointable standard”.
It explained: “The preferred candidate gave a strong and impressive performance, getting straight to the point of answers and demonstrating a clear and in-depth understanding of the challenges facing the OLC.
“Her performance was enhanced by the breadth of experience she was able to draw upon to illustrate her answers.”
She will be paid £52,500 a year for a time commitment of 60 days a year, although she indicated at the hearing that she intended to spend nearly 100 days on the role.
The other posts subject to the approval of the select committee are: chair of the Judicial Appointments Commission, the chief inspectors of the Crown Prosecution Service, prisons and probation respectively, and the Prisons and Probation Ombudsman.