SRA consults on publication of disciplinary and regulatory decisions
The regulator is consulting on whether it currently strikes the right balance between the interests of the public and the profession
The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) has announced it is reviewing 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’s current approach to publication was introduced 15 years ago. It currently publishes disciplinary and regulatory decisions made about individuals and firms, to give the public and other interested parties, such as employers, the information they need to enable them to make informed choices before engaging a solicitor.
Details of such outcomes are attached to a solicitor or firm’s public record. This information is published online, is available through the SRA’s Solicitors Register, and can be accessed by online search engines.
Details of sanctions imposed by the SRA – 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 after publication. Details of certain types of the most serious sanction, such as strike offs or suspensions, remain public permanently.
The SRA has launched a consultation to obtain views on whether the current approach strikes the right balance between protecting the best interests of the public and being fair and proportionate to the profession. It will consider what is published, the level of detail included, and when and for how long information should remain public. The consultation will also explore how information on disciplinary outcomes should be presented to make the information easier to understand.
Anna Bradley, chair of the SRA, said: ‘We are very much open to views on this. It is well over a decade since we established the principles of our current approach. A lot has changed since then, including significant shifts in what people can – and expect – to be able to access online.
“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. Yet there are key questions around the practicalities of this, particularly given the needs of different audiences. We are really keen to hear the views of both the public and profession as to what approach we should take.”
Based on feedback received, the SRA will prepare specific proposals for how disciplinary information will be handled and published in the future.
The consultation will run until 2 August.