Controlling and Coercive Behaviour: Widening the Net
The Financial Services Authority has announced revised proposals to improve mortgage underwriting practices and to prevent a return to the type of high risk lending frequently engaged in by financial institutions prior to 2008.
Principally the Mortgage Market Review proposals aim to ensure that underwriters consider whether potential borrowers will be able to repay loans without relying on a future rise in the price of their property; that borrower affordability assessments take into account the possibility of future interest rate rises; and that interest-only mortgages should be assessed on a repayment basis unless the borrower can demonstrate a ‘believable strategy’ for paying off the value of their loan without relying on a future rise in the price of their property.
The consultation remains open until 30 March 2012, with a target for a final set of rules to be prepared by Summer 2012 and eventual implementation in or after 2013.
The Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors has announced a consultation to explore alternative options for dealing with negligence claims made against registrants.
The rising quantity and costs of negligence claims made against surveyors has lead to significant rises in the cost of professional indemnity insurance for RICS registered professionals as a whole. The consultation is motivated by a concern that the scale of these rises may have a negative impact upon the overall number of RICS registered professionals operating in the UK, decreasing consumer choice and lowering levels of competition in the market.
Of particular interest to the legal profession are the consultations key recommendations to ‘examine whether an alternative approach to the current claim system can work’ and to ‘explore the option of an alternative scheme to assist with claims above a given value threshold’.
The Bar Standards Board is in the process of consulting on potential amendments to the Bar’s Code of Conduct which would increase the scope of the current public access rules. At present the public access rules do not permit individuals who may be eligible for public funding to instruct barristers directly; a state of affairs that the current consultation seeks to change. In order to facilitate such a change the consultation also proposes new duties for barristers accepting such instructions, requiring them to ensure that the client is in a position to make an informed decision about whether to apply for legal aid or to proceed with public access representation.
The Solicitors Regulation Agency (‘SRA’) is now accepting applications from organisations seeking to become licensed as Alternative Business Structures, having officially become the licensed regulator for such organisations on 23 December 2011. The SRA anticipates announcing the first successful applicants in ‘the early part of 2012’.
General Pharmaceutical Council
The General Pharmaceutical Council (‘GPhC’) has agreed a new prosecutions policy which places an increased emphasis on selecting ‘appropriate and cost-effective’ approaches to resolving cases. The GPhC has reiterated its policy of using regulatory proceedings to deal with concerns about registrants in the ‘vast majority’ of the matters referred to it. It is anticipated by the GPhC that the overall number of criminal prosecutions initiated by the organisation will be ‘very low’.
General Optical Council
The General Optical Council (‘GOC’) has published new guidance for the employers of registered optical professionals. The guidance seeks to assist employers in taking appropriate action where they have concerns about a registrant’s fitness to practise and how to deal with complaints received by the public that concern employed registrants.
Crucially, the guidance document has been designed to help employers to distinguish between employment disciplinary issues and potential fitness to practise issues, in order to assist them in taking the action necessary to protect the public where required.
General Medical Council
The General Medical Council (‘GMC’) is in the process of drafting new guidance for case managers and investigating committees in order to assist them in dealing with allegations that a medical professional has assisted an individual to commit suicide.
The GMC stresses that the proposals are not an attempt to alter or undermine the position of the criminal law on suicide, but rather are intended to assist GMC decision makers in dealing with cases where registrants are alleged to have engaged in actions that relate to suicide but which fall short of the level of involvement that would make them criminal offences, e.g. where a doctor has provided information to an individual about a foreign jurisdiction in which assisted suicide is lawful.
Public consultation on the proposed guidance document will be invited by the GMC later in 2012.
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