Costs in the SDT
Faced with an investigation by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) a solicitor may not only have to defend serious allegations, but also be ordered to pay the costs of the investigation and any Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal (SDT) hearing.
The SRA can, and will, seek its legal costs — including that of any investigating accountant.
Though the SDT can choose to make such order on costs as it thinks fit — be it a contribution, full reasonable costs or a fixed amount of costs — in accordance with the SDT guidance notes on sanctions, the SDT will usually look to award the SRA its reasonable costs regardless of eventual outcome/sanction, on the basis that its regulatory function requires the costs to be expended and thus recovered where reasonable (Baxendale-Walker v The Law Society).
Furthermore, unlike the broad costs principle of ‘winner wins costs’, a solicitor successfully defending (even all) the allegations against them in the SDT, will not necessarily recover any legal costs from the SRA.
To reverse this position, we have experience in assisting solicitors to adduce:
- Separate and compelling evidence to argue against paying the regulator’s costs (Broomhead v SRA).
- Seeking own costs and the reasonableness of the regulator’s actions in pursuing any or all of the allegations.
- The proportionality of costs sought given the eventual findings and preventing costs being an additional penalty (R v Northallerton Magistrates Court ex parte Dove).
- Financial information on ability to pay.