News release

Independent Comparative Case Review published

The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) has published the report of the Independent Comparative Case Review (ICCR), conducted by Professor Gus John.

The report presents the results of case reviews and of a statistical analysis of SRA data. The terms of reference of the review were: "to identify whether there is disparity in the way the SRA applies its policies and procedures in dealing with BME practitioners as compared to others with a view to identifying potential improvements to such practices, policies and procedures to maximise fairness and consistency." The 238-page report is the result of one of the most extensive pieces of independent research and analysis into regulatory outcomes for BME solicitors and builds on work previously commissioned by the SRA from Sir Herman Ouseley (2008) and Pearn Kandola (2010).

The review comprised:

  • a statistical analysis of regulatory outcomes by ethnicity and gender
  • a comparative case file review
  • a review of a sample of closed cases where discrimination had been alleged and
  • surveys, focus group sessions and follow-up interviews with a range of individuals and groups, including solicitors who had been subject to regulatory action and those who defend themselves in the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal (SDT)

It found that:

  • the data examined provided no evidence of the SRA applying its policies and procedures in a manner that amounts to discrimination against BME practitioners
  • the data did provide evidence of disproportionality at a number of stages in the regulatory process, including in the number of complaints brought against regulatory outcomes for BME practitioners, as well as in the sanctions that were imposed upon them both by the SRA and by the SDT
  • a number of factors rendered BME practitioners and small firms more vulnerable to cases being raised against them and to regulatory action than their white counterparts
  • the results of the review should not be interpreted as evidence of discrimination or racism, but that a number of complex socio-economic factors must be considered as part of a comprehensive discussion of proportionality
  • there was no evidence of discrimination in the cases reviewed where discrimination had been alleged

The report makes 50 recommendations for consideration by the SRA, SDT and Law Society.

Professor John said: "I hope this review will help to deepen the SRA's understanding and encourage it to review its approach to regulation. The issues that arise are not intrinsically connected to the ethnicity of BME practitioners themselves, but relate more directly to their structural location in the legal services marketplace, in the profession and in society generally.

"My expectation is that the SRA will examine the report, its findings and recommendations and identify the implications it has for its practices, policies and procedures, so that such assessment can feed in to its response to the report. There are also recommendations for others, such as the Law Society and other representative groups, as to how they can contribute to addressing the disproportionality which exists and support BME solicitors in providing access to justice for, typically, vulnerable communities."

Paul Philip, SRA Chief Executive, added: "I am grateful to Gus John for taking such a thorough approach, and for his analysis and insight. Disproportionality of outcomes for BME lawyers is, unfortunately, not confined to regulatory outcomes. The report identifies that there is not a simple, single, cause of this disproportionality and, similarly, there is not a single, simple, solution. Therefore addressing the issue will need the help and engagement of a wide range of individuals and organisations.

"Building on the previous body of work on this subject, we now have a better understanding of the challenges we, and others, face. We will take a short period of time to consider this comprehensive report, and use that time to engage and discuss these issues with a range of interested individuals and organisations. Our aim is to provide a full, public, response by the end of May."

Download the report at www.sra.org.uk/iccr.

 

Note to editors

Professor Gus John is an independent consultant and associate professor at the Institute of Education, University of London. He is one of the country's leading experts on equality and human rights. He was an external evaluator for the Law Society (2004-2007) and researched bias in prosecutors’ decision making on the axis of race and gender for the CPS (2001-2003) and produced the report "Race for Justice".

Anthony Robinson conducted the file review with Professor John. He was Director of Legal Services at the Commission for Racial Equality and later at the Equality and Human Rights Commission. Anthony is currently a practising solicitor at Scott-Moncrieff and Associates.

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