- These rules apply where the SRA is making a decision as to whether it is satisfied regarding your character and suitability:
- on early assessment under regulation 5.2 of the SRA Authorisation of Individuals Regulations;
- at admission or restoration to the roll under regulations 1.1, 3.1, 3A.1, 3F.1, 4.1 and 5.9 of the SRA Authorisation of Individuals Regulations;
- on approval as an authorised role holder under rule 13.1 of the SRA Authorisation of Firms Rules;
- on registration or renewal of registration as an REL or RFL under regulations 6.3 or 6.4 of the SRA Authorisation of Individuals Regulations.
SRA Assessment of Character and Suitability Rules
All individuals applying for admission or restoration to the roll of solicitors or those applying for or renewing their registration to be an REL or an RFL must be of satisfactory character and suitability. Those applying to become an authorised role holder, must be fit and proper to hold the role, and for ease we use the term "character and suitability" in this context also.
These provisions set out the kind of factors we will take into account when considering your character and suitability, and the obligations you have, both at the outset and on an ongoing basis, to provide relevant information to inform the decisions we make.
These requirements are underpinned by our role to act in the public interest. For more information about the issues we consider to present a risk to the public interest, and our approach to taking regulatory action, see our Enforcement Strategy.
This introduction does not form part of the SRA Assessment of Character and Suitability Rules.
Part 1: Character and suitability requirements
- When considering your character and suitability, the SRA will take into account the overriding need to:
- protect the public and the public interest; and
- maintain public trust and confidence in the solicitors' profession and in legal services provided by authorised persons.
- The SRA will therefore consider any information available to it and take into account all relevant matters. These will include but are not limited to the criminal and other conduct or behaviour set out in rules 3 and 4 below.
- If you are applying for approval as a compliance officer, in assessing your suitability the SRA will consider whether you are of sufficient seniority and in a position of sufficient responsibility to fulfil the requirements of the role.
- If on the information available, the SRA cannot be satisfied you are of good character and suitable for the role, and it considers that any risk to the public or the public interest can be addressed by the imposition of conditions on your authorisation or approval under regulation 7.1(b) of the SRA Authorisation of Individuals Regulations, or rule 3.1 or 13.8 of the SRA Authorisation of Firms Rules, as appropriate, the SRA must impose such conditions accordingly.
- Following any decision by the SRA that it is not satisfied as to your character and suitability, you may only seek a further assessment of your character and suitability, where there has been a material change in your circumstances relevant to the SRA's assessment under these rules.
Part 2: Conduct and behaviour
- The SRA will consider criminal conduct when assessing your character and suitability, in accordance with Table 1 below, subject to the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 and the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 (Exceptions Order) 1975 and bearing in mind the public interest in supporting the rehabilitation of offenders. For the avoidance of doubt, Table 1 is a non-exhaustive list.
Table 1: Criminal conduct
(A finding in this category is likely to result in refusal)
(A finding in this category may result in refusal)
You have been convicted by a court of a criminal offence:
You have been convicted by a court of more than one criminal offence (these could be less serious offences when considered in isolation but taken more seriously because of frequency and/or repetition).
You have shown a pattern of criminal offences or criminal behaviours (eg starting from a caution but moving through to convictions).
You have accepted a caution from the police for an offence involving dishonesty, violence or discrimination, or a sexual offence.
You have been included on the Violent and Sex Offenders register.
You have accepted a caution for, or been convicted by a court of, a criminal offence not falling within the most serious category (which is likely to result in refusal).
You are currently subject to a conditional discharge or bind over by a court.
- Table 2 sets out non-exhaustive examples of the types of conduct or behaviour that the SRA will take into account when assessing your character and suitability.
Table 2: Other conduct and behaviour
|Type of behaviour||Examples|
Integrity and independence
You have behaved in a way:
You have misused your position to obtain pecuniary advantage.
You have misused your position of trust in relation to vulnerable people.
The SRA has evidence reflecting on the honesty and integrity of a person you are related to, affiliated with, or act together with where the SRA has reason to believe that the person may have an influence over the way in which you will exercise your authorised role.
|You have committed and/or have been adjudged by an education establishment to have committed a deliberate assessment offence, which amounts to plagiarism or cheating, in order to gain an advantage for you or others.|
There is evidence:
Regulatory or disciplinary findings
You have been made the subject of a serious disciplinary or regulatory finding, sanction or action by a regulatory body and/or any court or other body hearing appeals in relation to disciplinary or regulatory findings.
You have failed to disclose information to a regulatory body (including the SRA) when required to do so or have provided false or misleading information.
You have significantly breached the requirements of a regulatory body.
You have failed to comply with the reasonable requests of a regulatory body resulting in a finding against you.
You have been rebuked, reprimanded, or received a warning about your conduct by a regulatory body.
You are a corporate person and other matters that call into question your fitness and propriety are disclosed or come to light.
You have committed an offence under the Companies Acts.
Part 3: Aggravating and mitigating factors
- Table 3 sets out a non-exhaustive list of the types of aggravating and mitigating factors the SRA will take into account where you have disclosed, or it has received, information which raises a question as to your character and suitability.
Table 3: Aggravating and mitigating factors
|Aggravating Factors||Mitigating Factors|
Part 4: Disclosure and evidential requirements
- Subject to rule 6.3 below, on making an application under any of the provisions set out in rule 1.1, you must disclose all matters, wherever they have taken place (including overseas), which are relevant to the SRA's assessment of your character and suitability, including, where practicable, any information set out in Table 4 which is relevant to the matter in question.
- On making an application under any of the provisions set out in rules 1.1(a) to (c), you must also provide a certificate from the Disclosure and Barring Service, or equivalent, which is no more than three months old.
- If you are making an application for:
- If the SRA requests any further information in order to assess your character and suitability, including a certificate from the Disclosure and Barring Service, or equivalent, you must provide it by the date specified (which will be no less than 14 days from the date of the request).
- You have an ongoing obligation to tell the SRA promptly about anything that raises a question as to your character and suitability, or any change to information previously disclosed to the SRA in support of your application, after it has been made. This obligation continues once you have been admitted as a solicitor, registered as an REL or an RFL, or approved as a role holder.
- The onus is on you to provide any evidence relevant to the SRA's consideration of your character and suitability. However, the SRA may undertake any investigation as it considers appropriate to determine your character and suitability and may verify any evidence you provide with a third party.
- If you fail to disclose any information relevant to the SRA's assessment of your character and suitability, the SRA will take this into account when making a determination as to your character and suitability.
Table 4: Information and evidence relevant to matters disclosed
- Credible references, where possible written in the knowledge of the matters reported. Credible references will generally be written in the knowledge of the matters reported by an independent person who knows you and your work well, such as a current or former employer or an academic tutor.
- Evidence of any rehabilitation that shows you have learnt from an experience or event, such as probation reports, references from employers or tutors.
- Documentary evidence in support of your case and, where possible, an independent corroboration of your account of the event.
- A statement from you including details of the event leading up to the matter disclosed and which reflects your attitude towards the event.
- Proof that you have also disclosed the matter to any professional or other body to which you have an obligation to do so.
Evidence relating to criminal offences
- At least one independent report relating to the event such as a report from the police, a court, or a solicitor.
- Any sentencing remarks for your case.
- Any Memorandum of an Entry on the Court Register.
- Proof you have paid any penalty or fine imposed or costs ordered for you to pay as a result of the matter you disclosed.
- In relation to any motoring offence, your online driving licence.
Evidence relating to assessment offences
- Any minutes from any meeting and any transcripts from any hearing relating to the offence.
- Outcome of any investigation, any decision, sanction or appeal relating to the offence.
- Details which describe the extent to which you could reasonably have been expected to realise that the offence did not constitute legitimate academic practice.
Evidence relating to financial conduct/events
- In relation to county court judgments or Individual Voluntary Arrangements, proof that you have met the creditor's agreement in full or that it continues to be met; a copy of any judgment; a certificate of satisfaction from the court or a Registry Trust Limited report; and a credit report of no more than one month old.
- In relation to bankruptcy, a copy of the bankruptcy petition; or if you have been discharged from bankruptcy, a copy of the Certificate of Discharge; and a credit report no more than one month old.
- Details of any actions you have taken to clear any debts, satisfy any judgments and manage your finances.
Made by the SRA Board on 30 May 2018.
Made under sections 28 and 31, of the Solicitors Act 1974, section 9 of the Administration of Justice Act 1985, section 89 of, and paragraphs 2 and 3 of Schedule 14 to, the Courts and Legal Services Act 1990 and section 83 of, and Schedule 11 to, the Legal Services Act 2007.