THE victims of disgraced surgeon Richard Neale are to make a second complaint to the Legal Services Ombudsman in a dispute about "aggressive" defence lawyers.

They are furious that the Bar Council has for the second time thrown out their complaint against barrister Malcolm Fortune, despite the Legal Services Ombudsman ruling that the professional body had not dealt with the complaint adequately.

In a long-running row, the campaigners, who fear that other victims of medical negligence will be deterred from coming forward by aggressive questioning at General Medical Council hearings, want the Legal Services Ombudsman to intervene for a second time.

The row, which dates back to a July 2000 hearing which saw the North Yorkshire surgeon struck off after botching a string of operations, highlights the difficulties facing patients who complain against doctors.

The group complained that Mr Fortune's cross-examination of former patients was over aggressive and objected to his use, without the author's permission, of a diary kept by one of the group's founders, Sheila Wright-Hogeland, of Kirkbymoorside, North Yorkshire.

Patient watchdogs say vulnerable patients must be given a fair hearing if further medical negligence scandals are to be avoided.

In a letter to the Legal Services Ombudsman, the Neale group's advisor, Graham Maloney, said he and Mrs Wright-Hogeland were "extremely disappointed" by the Bar Council's findings.

"The suggestions and criticism made by the Legal Services Ombudsman appear to have been wholly disregarded by the General Council of the Bar, and this will form the basis of our further complaint. The public deserves better," said Mr Maloney.

Read more about the Richard Neale scandal here.