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Raab backs jump in watchdog’s fining powers
Dominic Raab

30 Jun 2022 / regulation Print

Raab backs jump in watchdog’s fining powers

The Law Society of England and Wales has criticised what it has described as a “disproportionate” increase in the fining powers of the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA).

Britain’s Ministry of Justice yesterday (29 June) increased the watchdog’s maximum fine from £2,000 to £25,000.

The society’s vice-president Lubna Shuja said that the ministry had ignored the majority views of opposition expressed in response to the SRA’s consultation on the issue.

Safeguard ‘not adequate’

“We remain concerned about the lack of independence within the SRA between decision-makers and prosecutors, as well as the lack of transparency around SRA decisions,” said Shuja.

“We do not think that the right of appeal to the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal (SDT) is an adequate safeguard,” she added.

The organisation believes that the SDT is the most appropriate jurisdiction for more serious and complex matters, and those that may involve higher fines.

Currently, disciplinary matters requiring fines of more than £2,000 are referred to the SDT, an independent body.

“It guarantees independence, transparency, objectivity, has adequate safeguards and much greater powers – including the ability to impose fines and strike off a solicitor,” said Shuja.

“We will monitor the impact of the increased fining powers to ensure regulation is proportionate and effective,” she concluded.

Russian sanctions

The Ministry of Justice said that, as nearly 90% of the fines currently issued by the SDT were under £25,000, the changes would allow the body to focus on fewer, more significant allegations.

Justice secretary Dominic Raab (pictured) said the move would allow “swifter and firmer” action to be taken against solicitors who broke their codes of conduct.

“We’re freeing up the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal to focus on the most serious breaches, such as those involving Russian sanctions,” he added.

Gazette Desk
Gazette.ie is the daily legal news site of the Law Society of Ireland