Post Office scandal: Regulator investigating more than 20 solicitors and firms

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By Rhys Duncan on

‘Tragic’ miscarriage of justice, says SRA

The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) has issued an updated statement on its investigations into the Post Office scandal.

The regulator confirmed yesterday it is undertaking “more than 20 live investigations” into solicitors and law firms who were working on behalf of the Post Office/Royal Mail Group.

This includes examining solicitors’ case management and supervision, “the strategy and conduct of prosecutions and of litigation”, disclosure obligations and improper application of privilege. It also addresses “issues related to the operation of the Post Office Complaint Review and Mediation Scheme,” including overcharging claimants, the use of non-disclosure agreements, and the labelling of correspondence.

Media scrutiny around the scandal intensified earlier this year following the airing of Mr Bates v The Post Office, an ITV drama which documents how hundreds of innocent sub-postmasters and postmistresses were wrongly accused of theft, fraud and false accounting due to a defective IT system known as Horizon.

The updated statement stresses that this is a non-exhaustive list, and that also under the spotlight is the conduct of solicitors during the ongoing public inquiry.

“We are here to protect the public,” the SRA said. “Our rules set out that solicitors must work to high professional and ethical standards. This includes upholding the rule of law, acting with integrity, and in a way that upholds public trust and confidence in the profession.”

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“We will take action where we find evidence that solicitors have fallen short of the standards the public expects,” it continued.

The statement notes, however, that the regulator currently has no evidence to suggest that any solicitor presents an ongoing risk to the public that needs to be addressed through urgent action.

Commenting on the update, Paul Philip, chief executive of the SRA, said: “The impact of this miscarriage of justice on so many individuals is tragic. We have live investigations into the actions of lawyers in these cases.”

“Although the range of issues we are investigating is complex, the fundamentals are simple. The public expect solicitors to behave ethically,” Philip continued. “They must act independently and do the right thing in the interests of justice.”

He added:

“We will take action where we find they have failed to do so. This is vital to protect the public, maintain trust in the profession, and send a clear message that any solicitor behaving unethically should expect serious consequences. We will act as swiftly as we can, but it is important that we get this right. We owe that to everyone impacted in this case and the wider public.”

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