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Decision-making criteria

Information or documents, decision to make an order to require provision or production of

Principles of regulatory decision-making, approved by the SRA Board, provide a set of standards applicable to decisions. The principles are supported by guidelines. The principles and guidelines are written, accessible to all staff and published on the website.

The reasons given by a decision-maker will normally include specific criteria applicable to the decision. SRA Policies relevant to decision-making are reflected in the criteria.

Scope of this document

This document applies to decisions to give notice to a solicitor, Registered European Lawyers, his/her employees, a recognised body or the recognised body's employees or managers requiring the provision of information or the production of documents to a person appointed by the SRA. The relevant regulations are:

Criteria

The power to order the provision of information or the examination of files or documents applies to solicitors, Registered European Lawyers (REL), employees of a solicitor or REL, an employee or manager of, or person with an interest in a recognised body or a recognised body.

The decision-maker may give a notice only if satisfied that it is necessary to do so for the purpose of investigating:

  • professional misconduct by a regulated person or body;
  • whether a regulated person or body has failed to comply with any requirement imposed by or by virtue of the Solicitors Act 1974 or any rules made by the Society,
  • whether a recognised body, or any of its managers or employees has failed to comply with any requirement imposed by or by virtue of the Administration of Justice Act 1985 or any rule made by the Society and applicable to the body, manager or employee by virtue of section 9 of that Act;
  • whether there are grounds for making, or making an application to the Tribunal for it to make, an order under section 43(2) with respect to a person who is or was involved in a legal practice (within the meaning of section 43(1A) employed or remunerated by a solicitor in connection with his practice.

Example

The example below is illustrative and does not set any type of precedent. Each matter is considered on its own facts and merits.

We commence an inspection into A & Co on the basis of a complaint from a member of the public that they have not received monies that they were due to receive from the estate of a relative.

On attending at A & Co, our officer is informed that the probate file relating to the complainant’s relative has been transferred to another firm of solicitors (B & Co). In the absence of the file the officer reviews the firm’s ledgers and bank statements and is able to ascertain that prior to the transfer of the file, large sums of money had been transferred from client account to office account in respect of costs in relation to this file. The transfers had taken place over a short period of time raising concerns that the costs were not justified.

In order to investigate the matter further the officer needs to see the original file. To enable the officer to do so, a section 44B notice is sent to B & Co requiring them to deliver the file to the officer and also asking for them to provide any relevant information about the file to the officer. A similar notice is also sent to A & Co to require them to answer questions put to them in the notice about the file.

On receipt of the notice B & Co deliver the file to the officer, who takes a full copy of the file and returns the original to B & Co to enable them to continue with their work. B & Co also provide information to the officer concerning in the circumstances in which the file was transferred to the firm. On receipt of their notice, A & Co provide information in response the questions raised in the section 44B notice.