Regulator must provide robust evidence to Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal

The solicitor profession maintains exceptionally high professional standards in the interests of their clients, the public and the rule of law, the Law Society of England and Wales has said as the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal (SDT) announced it will apply to adopt the civil standard of proof when it hears cases brought by the regulator.

"Solicitors are highly trained, quite rightly highly regulated and are held to exacting professional standards,” Law Society of England and Wales president Christina Blacklaws said.

“When someone falls short of these rigorous standards, there are robust processes to hold them to account. The high success rate for prosecutions at the SDT - 98% in 2015-16 - shows the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) has been perfectly able to bring cases meeting the criminal standard of proof 'beyond reasonable doubt’.

"We reflected our members' views in our response to the tribunal's consultation, together with the case law that supports the tribunal in establishing facts on the basis that they are beyond reasonable doubt, so it is disappointing that the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal (SDT) intends to move to a standard of proof that is merely ‘in the balance of probabilities’.

"There is an inequality of arms between an individual solicitor and the well-resourced regulatory body, and so the SDT’s assurance that it will continue to require the regulator to meet a high standard of proof where any misconduct has been alleged is reassuring.

“Retaining a solicitor majority on SDT panels, as the Law Society recommended, will ensure a range of legal expertise continues to inform the tribunal’s decision-making.’’

Notes to editors

Read the Law Society's consultation response

If the Legal Services Board approves the rule changes, the standard of proof will change from criminal to civil on 25 November 2019.

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