Northern Ireland news

Proposed Stormont standards watchdog Paul Kennedy was censured by a solicitors' disciplinary tribunal

Paul Kennedy was censured by a solicitors disciplinary tribunal

THE LAWYER who was this week due to be appointed as Stormont's new standards commissioner was previously censured by a solicitors disciplinary tribunal, The Irish News can reveal.

Co Down-based Paul Kennedy had been due to take up the watchdog role on Tuesday but withdrew himself from the process at the eleventh hour.

He was selected for the job after the preferred candidate pulled out because of illness.

The recruitment process to replace former standards commissioner Douglas Bain took place more than three years ago. However, the appointment could not be made due to the absence of a functioning assembly.

It is understood Assembly Commission officials were only alerted to Mr Kennedy's 2013 censure by a solicitors disciplinary tribunal in recent days after a letter was sent anonymously to a senior politician.

The Law Society confirmed to The Irish News that the Banbridge-based solicitor had faced two disciplinary tribunals in the past decade.

Both cases related to contraventions of the solicitors accounts regulations.

In August 2012, a tribunal fined and admonished Mr Kennedy.

However, the following year a tribunal ordered that he be restricted from practising on his own account and would only be permitted to work in partnership with another experienced solicitor.

Mr Kennedy left private practice in May 2014, the Law Society said.

He was unavailable for comment yesterday.

Assembly Commission officials are expected to select a new commissioner from a reserve list of candidates, thus avoiding another costly and time-consuming recruitment process.

"The Assembly Commission will now seek to identify another candidate as soon as possible," an assembly spokeswoman said.

The successful candidate will have a backlog of complaints to deal with, as there has been no process for investigating MLAs since Mr Bain stood down in 2017, after five years in post.

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