SRA to consult on discipline

The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) is seeking opinions on introducing more lenient sanctions for those who disclose their breaches of the Code of Conduct.

The SRA’s Board has agreed to consult on its draft Co-operation Agreement Policy.

A key objective of the policy is to enable the SRA to receive information that will help it to take public protection action when necessary.

If the policy is adopted, the Authority would enter into co-operation agreements with possible witnesses who might also be in some regulatory difficulties.

They would provide full disclosure and, if necessary, give live evidence in a court or tribunal. Their own conduct would be part of the agreement.

David Middleton, SRA Director for Legal Enforcement said: "We see a number of cases that might benefit if potential witnesses, who may themselves have been involved in some wrong-doing, could come forward and be offered leniency as part of a co-operation agreement.

“Respondents to investigations are already aware that the early correction of problems and co-operating generally with us can significantly mitigate any failures on their part.

Earlier identification of problems could reduce the impact on clients and the Compensation Fund or insurers.

The SRA believes that a co-operation agreement scheme would be another step forward in encouraging disclosure and co-operation as well as providing greater transparency.

The SRA will also be publishing its Whistle-blowers Charter, which sets out the SRA’s approach to receiving information about serious regulatory failure or risk from both the regulated community and members of the public.

It’s thought that having a Co-operation Agreements Policy in place would speed up these types of investigation.

The consultation will go live later this month and will appear on the SRA’s website at www.sra.org.uk/consultation.

The Board paper is available at http://governance.lawsociety.org.uk/secure/meeting/199655/SRA_Board_Paper_Public_Item_6_-_Cooperation_agreements.pdf

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