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The SRA is investigating 20+ solicitors/firms for misconduct

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The SRA is investigating 20+ solicitors/firms for misconduct

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Update on the Solicitors Regulation Authority investigation on the Post Office Horizon IT scandal

The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) has provided an update on its ongoing investigation into the conduct of solicitors and law firms involved in the Post Office Horizon IT scandal. This update includes details on the number of investigations and the types of issues under scrutiny.

Between 2000 and 2015, numerous sub-postmasters and mistresses (SPMs) were wrongfully prosecuted based on faulty data from the Horizon electronic accounting system, which falsely indicated financial discrepancies. The consequences were devastating, leading to wrongful convictions, financial ruin, and severe personal hardships for hundreds of SPMs.

Investigation Overview

The SRA’s role is to protect the public by ensuring solicitors adhere to high professional and ethical standards, including upholding the rule of law and acting with integrity. The current investigation involves over 20 active cases against solicitors and law firms associated with the Post Office/Royal Mail Group.

Key Issues Under Investigation

The SRA is examining a range of issues, including:

  • Management and supervision of cases
  • Strategy and conduct of prosecutions and litigation (e.g., Bates vs. The Post Office)
  • Duties related to expert witnesses
  • Disclosure obligations and misuse of privilege
  • Conduct in the Post Office Complaint Review and Mediation Scheme, including overcharging claimants, use of non-disclosure agreements, and mislabeling correspondence

The SRA is also investigating the conduct of solicitors in their cooperation with the ongoing public inquiry.

Evidence Gathering

To ensure comprehensive understanding and protection of public interest, the SRA is gathering evidence through various means. This includes exercising its powers to call in evidence, obtaining court orders for documents from the Post Office/Royal Mail Group, and reviewing publicly shared information from the statutory inquiry. So far, the investigation has involved examining tens of thousands of pages of evidence.

Taking Action

The SRA is committed to taking action where there is evidence of misconduct. As the public inquiry continues to reveal new issues and evidence, the SRA remains vigilant and prepared to respond accordingly. The investigation is ongoing, and further evidence is expected as the inquiry progresses.

The SRA has a range of powers to enforce actions against solicitors and firms, including fines up to £25,000 and practice controls. In cases of severe misconduct, the SRA can escalate matters to the independent Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal, which can impose unlimited fines and practice suspensions or disbarments.

Statement from the SRA Chief Executive

Paul Philip, SRA Chief Executive, emphasised the importance of ethical behavior among solicitors and the necessity of thorough investigation:

"The impact of this miscarriage of justice on so many individuals is tragic. We have live investigations into the actions of lawyers in these cases. Although the range of issues we are investigating is complex, the fundamentals are simple. The public expects solicitors to behave ethically. They must act independently and do the right thing in the interests of justice. We will take action where we find they have failed to do so. This is vital to protect the public, maintain trust in the profession, and send a clear message that any solicitor behaving unethically should expect serious consequences. We will act as swiftly as we can, but it is important that we get this right. We owe that to everyone impacted in this case and the wider public."

The SRA will continue to monitor developments and take appropriate actions to uphold the integrity of the legal profession and protect the public.

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