Standard of proof applied by the SDT - Law Society response
The Law Society has published its response to the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal's consultation. We have explained why the Tribunal should retain the criminal standard of proof, so that an innocent solicitor's career will not be ended if the Tribunal is not sure of the facts.
It is in the interests of both the profession and public to ensure that the Tribunal operates effectively, and there is no evidence that the criminal standard of proof has prevented it from doing so. In response to our briefing last year, our members told us that the serious consequences of proceedings and the extremely high prosecution success rate are good reasons for the Tribunal to apply the criminal standard of proof. We have reflected this in our response, together with the case law that supports the Tribunal in establishing facts on the basis that they are 'beyond reasonable doubt'.
It would be wrong to simply change the standard of proof in order to fall in line with other regulated professions. The disparity of sanctions and approach of other regulators, including the lack of any Fitness to Practise rules confirm that a like-for-like comparison cannot be made with other professions. The Tribunal should be consistent with other solicitors' tribunals in the United Kingdom that all establish facts beyond reasonable doubt.