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SRA Consults on Breaches of Trust

By John Hyde » The Solicitors Regulation Authority has opened a four month consultation exercise, which involves asking the profession and clients which breaches of standards should be taken most seriously. A consultation paper, ‘A question of trust’, asks solicitors and clients to answer what breaches the regulator should clamp down on hardest and which should be treated more leniently. The SRA said it wanted to explore, for example, whether something in a solicitor’s private life is relevant to their role in the law. This could include people convicted of violence or drink driving – or those who publish views offensive to minority groups. Introducing the consultation, SRA board chair Enid Rowlands said: ‘As the legal market develops and grows, the public protection offered by the fundamentals, the standards that are at the heart of everything professionals do, have never been so important. ‘We are asking lawyers and the public to consider what matters, what action we should take when things go wrong and what factors we should be taking into account.’ The SRA said its research uncovered widely differing views on such issues, and the regulator said this leads some to believe decisions are wrong or inconsistent. A policy framework is to be established that will address these issues and attempt to pinpoint the most serious breaches of standards. The consultation asks whether ‘lack of knowledge’ should be considered separately from ‘recklessness’ and which of the two is the more serious misdemeanour. The impact on the client is also under the spotlight, with the SRA questioning whether the punishment meted out to non-compliant solicitors should be the same even if no harm has been caused. The SRA also ponders whether factors such as the vulnerability of clients or their relative wealth should be a contributory factor. The consultation ends on 31 January.

[Courtesy: The Law Society Gazette].