Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal to implement lower standard of proof
The Solicitors (Disciplinary Proceedings) Rules 2019 (“the New Rules”) are due to come in to force in November 2019.
The Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal (“SDT”) is an independent tribunal that adjudicates on fitness to practice proceedings brought against solicitors by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (“SRA”). The SRA is the regulatory body that regulates solicitors' conduct. Fitness to practice proceedings involve allegations of misconduct and breaches of the Code of Conduct.
Until now solicitors facing disciplinary proceedings brought by the SRA have been the subject to the criminal standard of proof. This requires that the allegations made against solicitors are proven ‘beyond all reasonable doubt’. From November Rule 5.5 of the New Rules will implement the civil standard of proof, to fall in line with the approach of many other regulators, such as the General Dental Council. The civil standard will require the SRA to prove the allegations ‘on the balance of probabilities’, that is that it is more likely than not that the allegations are true. The lower standard of proof should mean that it will be easier for the SRA to prove allegations against solicitors.
In the Law Society’s response to the SDT’s consultation regarding the New Rules, it commented that ‘...it would be unfair and unjust to end a solicitor’s career unless the Tribunal can be sure of the facts on the evidence heard and tested before it'. It highlighted the need to avoid the risk of miscarriages of justice and noted the SDT’s already extremely high prosecution success rate under the criminal standard.
A copy of the New Rules can be found here.
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Articles are intended as an introduction to the topic and do not constitute legal advice.