Principles of regulatory decision making
The standards we apply to our decision making across the SRA are set out in "principles" approved by the SRA Board. There are eleven principles in total.
These principles were last approved by the Board on 12 April 2011.
- Decisions should be based on the application of guidelines or criteria, which should be (a) fair to all individuals and groups regardless of any of the protected characteristics covered by the Equality Act 2010, (b) published and transparent, and (c) applied consistently .1
- Formal delegations of decisions from the board should be made to generic categories of staff, not to individuals or specific posts.2
- There should be a presumption in favour of decisions being made at the most appropriate and operationally effective level in the organisation at which fitness for purpose can be assured.3
- Decisions of similar complexity and impact should be made at similar levels throughout the organisation.
- There should be a single system for formal adjudications for the whole organisation. Departures from this structure need strong justification.4
- All final decisions should be subject to some form of appeals procedure.5 There should be only one level of appeal.6
- Decisions by panels, rather than individuals, should only occur where required by (a) the impact of the decision, or (b) the desirability of having wider (including non-lawyer) input into the decision.7
- Final outcomes of decisions which determine rights, and all related decisions, should be recorded and accessible to all staff.8
- There must be sufficient flexibility to allow matters to be taken straight to the point of decision, omitting intermediate decision-making stages which add no value.
- Decisions and the criteria on which they are based must be subject to monitoring and audit processes to (a) ensure fairness and consistency, and (b) identify and remedy any unjustifiable adverse impacts.9
- The Board should review the operation of the decision-making principles annually.
- This principle is subject to the principle of proportionality. It does not apply to trivial decisions or to decisions of an internal managerial or administrative nature. The criteria may be set out in statute, or in a board or committee policy statement, or in unit procedures. The protected characteristics defined in the Equality Act 2010 are: age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex, and sexual orientation.
- This principle is subject to the statutory requirements of section 79 of the Solicitors Act. In certain limited circumstances, where specific expertise is required, post holders may be named.
- It is the responsibility of the unit manager to confirm that staff have the skills and knowledge to fit them to make delegated decisions, and to ensure that they receive the training and support necessary to maintain this.
- The Board has agreed in principle to a single Panel of Adjudicators replacing the in-house adjudicators, the Adjudication Panel and the Professional Standards Appeals Panel. Other adjudication functions are not currently within scope.
- Final decisions which determine rights or professional standing should attract a formal right of appeal. Other final decisions in casework matters should at least be capable of being reviewed within the unit if there is an allegation of error, unfairness, etc.
- If a final decision is made within the unit, appeal will be either to a single adjudicator, or to a panel. If the final decision is made by a single adjudicator, the appeal will be to a panel.
- The Board has decided that panels of two members are acceptable.
- Related decisions are those which contribute to the outcome of the final decision. The decision to follow a particular course of action may be an in-process or investigative decision, but will have an effect on the outcome of the matter. This principle is subject to the principle of proportionality. It does not apply to trivial decisions or to decisions of an internal managerial or administrative nature.
- Responsibility for ensuring quality and consistency of decisions lies with unit managers. Monitoring quality only after the event is not sufficient.