SRA: Reporting requirements eased on non-material breaches

The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) announced yesterday that it plans to drop the requirement for compliance officers to annually report all non-material breaches to the SRA.

The decision is subject to approval from the SRA board and compliance officers for legal practice (COLPs) and finance and administration (COFAs) will still need to record non-material breaches in order to support the identification and management of patterns suggesting systemic risk issues.

The change will be consulted on as part of the next phase of the Red Tape Initiative, which looks to identify any unnecessary bureaucracy in the Solicitors Handbook.

The consultation will be published in April, ready for the necessary changes to come into effect in October.

SRA, executive director, Samantha Barrass, told delegates at the Law Society’s Risk and Compliance Annual Conference in London: "In light of extensive engagement with those we regulate and the increasing effectiveness of our Risk Centre, we have come to the conclusion that we can safely remove the requirement for recognised bodies to report non-material breaches.

“We recognise that the requirement to record and report non-material breaches has not been popular with firms, many of whom have told us that this is a burden that is simply not proportionate to risks.

"We are acutely alive to these concerns and have been looking closely at how we can reduce this burden, whilst at the same time ensuring that firms identify and manage their risks.

“Our main concern is, and always has been, identifying patterns of non-material breaches, that combined may amount to a material breach because of the systemic underlying issues.”

Ms Barrass said that regular COLP/COFA alerts will be produced so that the officers are the first to know of any developments which may affect their role.

A section of the SRA’s website will be dedicated just to compliance officers; while there will be opportunities for sharing information at speaking events, webinars and conferences.

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