On 17th January 2023, the industry regulator, the Bar Standards Board decided to hand down an order imposing a ban on a barrister preventing him from continuing to practise after evidence emerged
Seconds out!! SRA v Law Society Round 1
On the 17th of February 2022, the Law Society released its long-awaited response to a Solicitors Regulation Authority consultation on raising the level of fines available, warning of the consequences of significantly increasing sanctions and branded the rise “inappropriate”.
What Does It Mean?
The Law Society’s response made for uncomfortable reading for the Solicitors Regulation Authority. To those unfamiliar with the story, the Law Society discussed the Proposal promulgated by the Regulator in November 2021 to significantly increase the level of sanctions it could impose on legal professionals in terms of fines. It suggested lifting the rates significantly from its current level of £2,000 to a seemingly astronomical £25,000. The SRA also wants to impose such fines without needing a hearing.
What Impact Will This Have On The Legal Profession
If the SRA manages to implement its Proposal, then solicitors falling short of the expected professional requirements will risk fines of up to £25,000. When quantifying the level of sanction the SRA appears to want the ability to consider factors such as the turnover or income of individuals and collective firms.
In its response, the Law Society were very critical of the Regulator’s Proposed changes and sought to voice the concerns of the legal professions potentially affected. It observed that the present system is overseen by the SRA and already allows cases to be heard by the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal.
One person represented by the society thought that the SRA was seemingly flexing its muscles by using the lack of a hearing to avoid public and professional criticism. They also raised the potential for a conflict of interest in the new proposals due to the Regulator’s ambition to conduct investigations, prosecute the solicitors in the spotlight and impose punishments.
The SRA would like to introduce tough new provisions to deal with sexual misconduct and behaviour which harasses or discriminates on the grounds of a protected characteristic. However, whilst welcoming the laudable aims put forward by the SRA, the Law Society was sceptical of the new measures and questioned the SRA’s motivation. The Law Society perceived this Proposal as an attempt to blunt the courts and tribunals’ teeth.
Regulators such as the SRA need the confidence of the public, profession and everyone affected by the law. The Regulator should be considering its own perceived honesty and integrity in the eyes of the public. For example, it currently bars the media and the public from board meetings. If it decided to give the green light for the public to enter these meetings when these important topics are discussed it is claimed that it may lead to greater transparency. However, nothing is guaranteed.
The SRA also needs to review the judgments it publishes. It should assess the context, quality and the level of detail included in them. The profession needs to have confidence in the regulator. There is no guarantee that increasing fines from £2000 to £25,000 will improve the quality of the published judgments the SRA hands down or the behaviour of solicitors and legal professionals as it will arguably encourage risk taking behaviour.
This development is key for the future of the legal profession and from a policy perspective the comments contained in the judgments highlight areas where important lessons can be learned and improvement is required.
The Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal also waded into the debate criticising the unfair and untransparent manner of the suggested approach as cases would be dealt with by the SRA directlywithout the need for a public hearing under the Proposals. The profession is asking the Regulator to think again and consult closely with the Law Society and Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal to avoid colossal miscarriages of justice.
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This Article was Written Using the Following Sources
 Hyde, John – Can we trust the SRA when issuing bigger fines? – Law Society Gazette – the 16th of February 2022 - Can we trust the SRA when issuing bigger fines? | Opinion | Law Gazette
 Hyde, John – Higher SRA fining powers would increase risk of miscarriages of justice – SDT – the 16th of February 2022 - Higher SRA fining powers would increase risk of miscarriages of justice – SDT | News | Law Gazette
 Hyde, John – SRA seeks big increase in fining powers – Law Society Gazette - the 16th of February 2022 - SRA seeks big increase in fining powers | News | Law Gazette;
 Today’s Conveyancer – Law Society: SRA proposal to increase fines “not appropriate” – the 15th of February 2022 - Law Society: SRA proposal to increase fines "not appropriate" | Today's Conveyancer (todaysconveyancer.co.uk)
 Todays Conveyancer – SRA consults on changes to fining powers – the 22nd of November 2021 - SRA consults on changes to fining powers | Today's Conveyancer (todaysconveyancer.co.uk)