60 seconds with Martina Hogg
Martina Hogg, Lead Compliance Consultant in our Compli team Wednesday, January 13, 2016
Martina Hogg, Lead Compliance Consultant in our Compli team
Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal has recently criticised the SRA for prosecuting a solicitor with nearly 50 years PQE but in another case struck-off a solicitor with nearly 50 years PQE. Isn’t this a little inconsistent?
I suppose the age of the solicitors and level of qualification were notable in both cases but the facts of the two cases were very different. In the case of Mr Hemmings, there was no question of dishonesty and, whilst breaches were found, it appears that the Tribunal felt the SRA ought to have given more consideration to Mr Hemmings’ long and blemish free regulatory history. In the case of Mr Roberts, the Tribunal held that he had been dishonest in respect of the system he had implemented for handling client money and this course of conduct had persisted over a number of years.
So the SRA was right to prosecute Mr Roberts and wrong to prosecute Mr Hemmings?
We cannot be sure of that as we do not know what representations or responses either solicitor made during the investigation, enforcement or prosecution process. I would also point out that Tribunal will have certified the case in respect of Mr Hemmings when the SRA lodged proceedings so at that point they must have been satisfied there was a case to answer.
But Tribunal were very critical of the SRA and that is unusual isn’t it?
The Tribunal is an independent body and therefore free to make whatever comments it sees fit. Criticising the SRA is not something they do on a regular basis but it is becoming more frequent, one might even go so far as to say “an emerging trend”, which no doubt the SRA will review just as they require solicitors to review any emerging trend they identify.
So any solicitor might be at risk of an unwarranted referral to Tribunal?
That is a little alarmist I think. As I mentioned above, we do not know the full facts of all stages of each case. The process whereby a solicitor ends up at Tribunal is quite a long one and it usually starts with an investigation. Referral to Tribunal is not always inevitable but how the solicitor deals with the SRA can often have more of an impact than any breach they may have committed. Making early admissions as regards less serious breaches and taking remedial action to demonstrate that there will be no future breaches will go a long way to mitigating against the risk of a referral to Tribunal.
In a nutshell, it is never too early to take advice. Sometimes a solicitor needs someone to explain the process to them. Other times it is just a fresh pair of eyes, someone independent who can outline the options and help the solicitor decide which option is best for them.
If you would like any advice in relation to compliance or any other matters, please contact the Compli team on 0345 070 1047.