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Regulator’s fining powers set to increase 1000% to £25k

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Rule-breaking lawyers beware

The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) will move forward with plans to significantly increase the level of fines it can dish out to law firms and solicitors who breach professional rules, it confirmed yesterday.

The move will see the maximum fine the regulator can issue internally to law firms, and those working in them, increase by over 1000%, from £2,000 to £25,000.

In determining the level of financial penalty, the SRA will now take into account the turnover of firms and the financial means of individuals, meaning — in theory — it could impose smaller fines on low-earning junior solicitors compared to wealthy City partners for similar offences.

In cases involving sexual misconduct, discrimination or any form of harassment, guidance will be changed to reflect that a financial penalty will only be considered in exceptional circumstances, with restrictions on practice, suspension or strike off the more appropriate sanction.

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The SRA will also introduce a schedule of “fixed penalties” for lower-level breaches, which will allow cases to be dealt with more swiftly for those involved. The changes still require approval from the Legal Services Board.

Over 7,500 people engaged with the public consultation the regulator launched last year into the proposed changes, “with most broadly in favour”.

Anna Bradley, SRA chair, said:

“The overwhelming majority of solicitors meet the standards we all expect, but when they don’t, we step in to protect the public and maintain confidence in the profession. These changes will mean we can resolve issues more quickly, saving time and cost for everyone and, importantly, reducing the inevitable stress for those in our enforcement processes.”

She added: “It was good to see broad support for our proposals, as well as getting feedback that has helped us refine our approach. It is vital that everyone can be confident that our approach is fair and transparent.”

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6 Comments

F*** the SRA

Sounds like a cash grab to me…

God I hate the SRA.

(41)(1)

Surveillance State

This is just what we need. More scope to punish junior staff for minor offences.

(42)(1)

Anon

Really? Prove it please

(3)(15)

Regulate the SRA

Our “regulator”, whose job is to…regulate, have an agenda to prosecute above everything else. They have lost sight of their purpose.

(17)(1)

Realist

TL;DR. The SRA is a distrusted and despised body which has lost credibility as a result of numerous ill-judged prosecutions. It will never win back the respect or trust of the profession. It is time for urgent reform.

Please see the top-voted comment here, from when this was first reported in December 2021: https://www.lawgazette.co.uk/commentary-and-opinion/can-the-sra-be-trusted-with-extra-powers/5110954.article#commentsJump :-

“Based on the evidence of the SRA’s own actions – the case against it can and should be put more strongly. The SRA is at best incompetent, and at worst dishonest. It has knowingly, deliberately and repeatedly made decisions both on general regulatory matters, and on prosecutions, which evidence its inherent unsustainability in its current form. Four examples:

– The succession of “people’s private life” cases, most notably Beckwith, is unedifying, and shows a regulatory body which gleefully embraced the opportunity to pry into sexual matters which were none of its business. It was however politically fashionable to do so, as when these cases began society had switched focus at whiplash-inducing speed from ’50 Shades of Grey’ to ‘Me Too’, and the SRA seemed desperate to get on the latest fashionable bandwagon.

– The abrogation of the “costs follow the event” principle which applies in ordinarily civil litigation. While I recognise the jurisprudential foundations for this in regulatory actions (so as not to fetter competent regulators), those foundations assume that the regulatory is both competent and honest. The SRA’s competence and honesty demands that the principle be displaced. Ideally, failed prosecutions which were plainly improperly brought should also have a financial and career-ending impact on the SRA bureaucrat(s) responsible. You get what you incentivise. Presently, the system incentivises witch hunts.

– An arrogant disregard for the money they spend, which comes from us. They have no “skin in the game”, and so there is a principal-agent problem: they can squander our money with no checks and balances, and no penalties for incompetence/dishonesty. And they do. In all other spheres of life, we recognise the dangers inherent when people are entrusted with “Other People’s Money”. Not here.

– The destruction of the solicitor qualification via the wholly ludicrous SQE which has replaced the LPC and training contract. SQE is a worthless social engineering project which has at its heart the unevidenced assumption that if you create new, inferior, routes to qualification then (a) more solicitor jobs will be created (they won’t: market demand won’t change, if anything it will worsen as the qualification degrades); and (b) more diverse candidates will get through (they won’t: firms will rightly become more risk adverse, and prefer Oxbridge candidates or affluent BAME candidates from overseas, etc. for ‘diversity’, to the even greater exclusion of genuinely deprived UK candidates who previously could have demonstrated their ability through clear competition on a simple playing field). Any muppet can now purport to jump through SQE1 hoops, then play at doing trivial, notionally legally-related work, and then tick boxes in SQE2. In February 2020, a 15-year-old scored almost 50% in the initial section of the SQE, despite doing no preparation and having no knowledge of the law (“Child’s play: unprepared 15-year-old scores half-marks in super-exam”, Law Society Gazette, 26 February 2020). The SRA’s lobotomised pursuit of the SQE is an immense discredit to it, and it suggests a regulator both too incompetent to realise its failure and too arrogant to admit it. We should put a stake in both the SQE and, ideally, the SRA itself.

Finally, where is the Law Society in all of this? We need a Law Society president who will take on the SRA, and do everything possible to eviscerate its powers, eliminate it entirely, then replace it and the current motley crew of apparatchiks staffing it with a fit-for-purpose organisation. The current – and entirely justified – levels of contempt for the SRA and its functionaries can neither be overestimated nor overstated.”

(21)(2)

Nooooo

This is like giving a kid who has proved they cannot drive a Golf GTI a Ferrari as a replacement.

(1)(1)

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