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Outcomes

At the end of an investigation, the SRA will reach a decision – on the balance of probabilities – as to whether there has been misconduct and, if so, whether and what any further action is required for it to fulfil its statutory duties as regulator. The SRA has a broad discretion as to how it achieves its regulatory objectives but only a limited number of options open to it at this stage. Here, you’ll find some brief information about some of the most common outcomes.
 
 

Notification of no further action 

This is, of course, the best possible outcome and essentially brings the matter to a close. The SRA may also write a letter of advice or warning about future conduct, setting out steps you should consider taking to minimise the risks of similar issues arising in the future.

Internal SRA disciplinary decision / adjudication

The SRA can make a disciplinary finding and impose a sanction where it determines that misconduct has taken place and that a sanction within the SRA’s internal disciplinary powers is appropriate. These decisions can be made either by an authorised decision maker within the SRA or one or more of its adjudicators. The SRA’s internal sanctioning powers are limited but include: 
 
  • written rebuke;
  • reprimand / severe reprimand;
  • a fine of up to £2,000.

Referral to the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal 

Where the SRA believes misconduct has taken place and that its internal powers of sanction are inadequate for the severity of the alleged misconduct, the SRA will normally decide to refer the case to the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal (SDT). The referral will usually have to be authorised internally at the SRA by an authorised decision maker within the SRA or one or more of its adjudicators. The SDT has far greater powers of sanction, including:
 
  • restrictions on practice;
  • suspension;
  • strike-off; and
  • fines in excess of £2,000.

Regulatory Settlement Agreement

A Regulatory Settlement Agreement (“RSA”) is a form of regulatory ADR aimed at resolving a matter without a full hearing before the SDT. It’s important to note that RSAs require admissions by the solicitor or firm of breaches of rules or principles in return for a level of sanction agreed with the SRA. Given the need for admissions, often at an early stage, negotiations are without prejudice. RSAs can be proposed by either side at any time in the investigation and prosecution process, although they are generally entered into before a case has been referred to the SDT. Significantly, RSAs have to be approved by the SDT before they take effect and the SDT can refuse to approve them or require changes to the terms before it does so.

Appeals 

It is possible to appeal against an internal SRA finding and decision to sanction. The first stage of appeal is to an SRA adjudicator or adjudication panel, depending on which body within the SRA made the first decision. Any further appeal is to the SDT.

There is no right of appeal against an authorisation of a referral of a matter to the SDT. Whilst in theory it is possible to bring a judicial review of the decision, the most effective means of avoiding a full SDT hearing at this stage is most likely to be through seeking to enter into a RSA with the SRA.

If you have any questions about the SRA’s internal disciplinary powers, you can contact us on 020 3780 0406 or at RDteam@leighday.co.uk.

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