Law Society: SRA’s proposal to increase fines ‘is not appropriate’

The Law Society has warned that a proposal by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) to increase its own fine powers from £2,000 to £25,000 is not appropriate.

In November, the Bar requested a consultation on three proposals: increase their maximum fine power from £2,000 to £25,000; take into account the turnover or income of businesses and individuals when setting fines; and to introduce a ‘fixed penalty’ schedule of up to £1,500 to make it easier to deal with smaller issues.

The first element of their proposals today drew condemnation from the Law Society, both in terms of the monetary increase and the integrity of the process. In response to the proposal, President of the Law Society of England and Wales, I. Stephanie Boyce noted:

Increasing the SRA’s fine powers by more than 12 times the current limit is not appropriate.

The proposed substantial increase in the threshold would potentially include many more serious or important cases that are currently before the SDT and where the full reasons for its decisions are set out transparently in judgments written and published on the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal website. (SDT).

Our members are concerned that the SRA acts as investigator, prosecutor and judge without independent review.

We suggest that a more appropriate raise – based on the statistical data from the SDT – would be between £5,000 and £7,500, based on To analyse previous fines imposed in the last three years.”

Additionally, further concerns have been raised about the fixed penalty regime which has been proposed to deal with lower level breaches of the SRA’s rules or failure to comply with its administrative requirements or failure to respond to requests. Boyce continued:

There is not enough information on this to be able to comment fully, but we are concerned about the administrative exercise of introducing such a model and the costs involved in setting it up while the benefits are not not clear..”

Boyce however conceded:

We appreciate that the moderate increase in its internal fine threshold would help the SRA to make decisions in a greater number of simple cases, which is likely to speed up the process as fewer cases would be transferred to the SDT, which would reduce costs and stress for all. parties involved.”

The SRA also offers rigid rules for dealing with cases of discrimination, harassment and sexual misconduct. Boyce commented :

It is right that discrimination, sexual misconduct and harassment within the profession be treated with the utmost seriousness.

The behaviors covered by these broad and distinct categories can vary widely and can occur in a wide range of circumstances. As such, decision makers should have the opportunity to consider the full range of possible sanctions in deciding how to proceed, including the imposition of a monetary penalty.

All sanctions should be available to a tribunal or court to ensure cases are dealt with fairly and proportionately. The regulator cannot restrict the powers of a tribunal or court.

We believe any fines framework should be fair, transparent, proportionate and consistent and deter businesses and individuals from breaching the SRA Codes of Conduct..”