BLS concerned at SRA’s new approach to financial penalties

The Birmingham Law Society Consultation Committee has responded to the SRA discussion paper on Financial Penalties: Detail of New Approach.

The Chair of the Committee Jayne Willetts said: “ The Birmingham Law Society welcomes the SRA’s acceptance that “higher fining powers bring with them the need for greater accountability” and its acknowledgment that its adjudication function needs to be functionally separate and independent from the investigation process. However, this important objective appears to have been overlooked in the proposals for adjudicators to interview witnesses in the absence of the respondent and/or to unilaterally order public hearings. We are also concerned by the SRA’s commitment to imposing higher fines just because a firm is successful financially – contrary to the traditional approach of determining the seriousness of the breach followed by consideration of affordability. Of similar concern is the proposal to base fines for individuals upon gross income as opposed to net income, the latter being a better measure of wealth. There is much in this paper which should be of grave concern to the profession and is likely to lead to unfairness and arbitrary treatment.”

Read the consultation paper here