The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) for England and Wales is owed more than Stg £21 million in unpaid costs from individuals or firms it has prosecuted, according to the profession’s official journal.
The England and Wales Law Society Gazette has uncovered the figures, which show the regulatory body’s struggle to recover costs following disciplinary proceedings.
Simultaneously, outgoings on successfully prosecuting solicitors and firms are at an all-time high.
In 2017/18, the disciplinary tribunal awarded the SRA £3.4 million in costs, a 30% increase on the previous year, and more than double the amount awarded in 2014/15.
In 2017/18, the SRA retrieved £2.1 million in prosecuting costs.
Regulatory solicitor Paul Bennett, who has represented a number of lawyers before the tribunal, criticised a “cultural defect” of pursuing all allegations.
He said the SRA should have a more proportionate charging policy, which would build the profession’s confidence in its regulator.
The outstanding £21.3 million owed by prosecuted respondents refers only to cases where the tribunal had agreed to award costs, according to the Law Society Gazette.
In some other cases, the amounts claimed were reduced by the disciplinary tribunal – leaving the unrecovered costs to be paid for indirectly by members of the profession.
Last week, during the hearing of former MP Fiona Onasanya, (pictured) tribunal chair Edward Nally reduced the SRA’s claim for £22,762 to £6,562.
The SRA said that the regulator had to take “effective action” when solicitors and firms failed to maintain high professional standards.