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SRA agrees terms of reference for comparative case review

The SRA has reached agreement with members of its External Implementation Group (EIG) on the terms of reference for a comparative case review, designed to further improve transparency in the way in which it makes regulatory decisions.

The review, to be conducted by Professor Gus John, will consider whether there is any disproportionality in the decisions made in the cases of BME solicitors, compared with their white colleagues. As part of the review, Professor John will look at a total of 160 files.

These will comprise 80 files prepared for SDT prosecutions in which the SDT published its findings or judgement; and 80 files which were dealt with by internal adjudication. Half the files will relate to BME and half to white respondents.

Lord Herman Ouseley, chair of the EIG, which was set up in 2008 to work with the SRA to address issues of disproportionality among BME members of the profession, said: "This review is timely as there are claims by some BME solicitors that they are not being treated fairly, when taken through the regulatory processes. The profession needs to have total confidence that the regulatory processes are not in any way discriminatory.

“Professor John's report will be eagerly awaited so that appropriate action can be pursued to enable the SRA and the profession to move forward positively with the implementation of the Authority's equality, inclusion and diversity policies and programmes."

SRA Chief Executive, Antony Townsend, said: “I am pleased that we have agreed the terms of reference and can proceed with the review, working constructively with EIG and the wider profession. We look forward to the findings so that we can assess what further work may need to be done, to ensure that the SRA carries out its regulatory responsibilities fairly and consistently.

“We have made a lot of progress in the last four years in addressing disproportionality and promoting equality, but Prof John’s review will help us to identify whether there is still work to be done and how we should take this forward.”

Professor Gus John is expected to complete the review in mid-2013.

Read the Terms of Reference (PDF 3 pages, 163K).

Professor Gus John is Honorary Fellow and Associate Professor at the Institute of Education, University of London. For four years he was external evaluator for the Law Society of its performance in promoting equality and human rights.

He was an adviser to former home secretary Jack Straw on race and social inclusion and advised on the Race Relations (Amendment) Act 2000.  

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