The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) has announced that it is to review the way it publishes decisions about disciplinary and regulatory action. It is seeking views on the principles that will guide how information is made available to the public and profession.
The SRA states that the purpose of publishing decisions and outcomes about individuals and firms is to give the public and others, such as employers, the information they need to help them make informed choices about engaging a solicitor. Details of those outcomes are attached to a solicitor or firm’s public record and published online through our Solicitors Register, and can be accessed by external online search engines.
The SRA’s current approach to publication was introduced 15 years ago. It says details of sanctions imposed – such as rebukes or fines of up to £2,000 – prosecutions at the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal (SDT), the closure of firms, or conditions imposed on an individual solicitor – will remain publicly accessible for at least three years from initial publication. Details of certain types of the most serious sanction, such as strike offs or suspensions, remain public permanently.
The consultation is seeking views on whether the current approach strikes the right balance between protecting the best interests of the public, versus being fair and proportionate to the profession. It looks to consider what is published, in how much detail, when and for how long information should remain public.
The SRA say that there is an argument for more transparency, and that could help both the public and employers make informed decisions, while reinforcing the importance of high professional standards. Against this argument is the fact that those accessing the information may not be able to interpret what it means in terms of a solicitor’s ability to adequately represent the public, and that too much weight might be attached to findings which are procedural, which relate to situation which have been remedied or relate to former personnel in the firm.
Full details of the consultation can be found at www.sra.org.uk/sra/consultations/consultation-listing/publication-regulatory-decisions/