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Law Society withdraws practice note on Sharia succession rules

President apologises following criticism of the controversial guidance

27 November 2014

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President apologises following criticism of the controversial guidance

The Law Society has withdrawn its controversial practice note on sharia succession principles following feedback received from its members.

Earlier this year, the Society issued guidance on how to draw up wills in accordance with sharia law.

In response, the Lawyers' Secular Society (LSS) initiated a petition and called on the Society to withdraw the guidance.

In July, the SRA removed reference to the controversial practice note on drafting 'Sharia compliant' wills from its ethics guidance on wills "in response to concerns that had been raised".

The National Secular Society had called on the regulator to remove the reference, arguing that the body charged with setting standards for solicitors should play no part in legitimising religious codes as if they were law or recommending guidance that encourages discrimination.

Meanwhile, justice secretary Chris Grayling had warned the Law Society that it was at risk of "undermining the rule of law".

Grayling said: "The Law Society will need to satisfy themselves that nothing in the course of guidance undermines the principle that sharia law is not part of the law of England and Wales."

The Society initially refused to withdraw the guidance with the now former president, Nicholas Fluck, remarking: "We live in a diverse multi-faith, multi-cultural society. The Law Society responded to requests from its members for guidance on how to help clients asking for wills that distribute their assets in accordance with sharia practice. Our practice note focuses on how to do that, where it is allowed under English law."

However, the Society has now relented from its entrenched position with the current president, Andrew Caplen, observing: "Our practice note was intended to support members to better serve their clients as far as is allowed by the law of England and Wales. We reviewed the note in the light of criticism. We have withdrawn the note and we are sorry."

Commenting on the news, LSS secretary Charlie Klendjian said: "Withdrawal of this guidance was the only possible way for the Law Society to retain the confidence of the profession and the public. We welcome the decision. We are particularly pleased that the Law Society has acknowledged the criticism and apologised.

"We are also pleased that there are no plans to amend or replace the practice note. If the Law Society had decided to reissue ostensibly 'benign' or 'non-discriminatory' sharia guidance it is highly likely we would have challenged that too, because it is not the Law Society's business to issue Islamic theological guidance to its members any more than it is their business to issue any other form of theological guidance."

This article first appeared on PCA's sister publication, Solicitors Journal

Categorised in:

Wills, Trusts & Probate