As of September 2019, there were 18 SRA adjudicators. One is the Chief Adjudicator. Three of the adjudicators are employed by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) on a full time basis and are lawyers. The other 14 sit on a part time basis. Eight are lay members and six have legal qualifications.
This page summarises the SRA procedure for an adjudication against a solicitor facing a disciplinary complaint. Similar procedures apply to adjudications relating to licensed bodies and their members, SRA interventions and trainee solicitors applying for admission.
Disciplinary complaints are investigated by SRA supervisors. If the supervisor believes that a solicitor’s conduct deserves a disciplinary sanction, the supervisor will either prepare a report for adjudication (if the conduct merits a rebuke or a fine not exceeding £2000) or will ask an authorised representative to refer the matter to the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal (in the case of more serious misconduct).
Report for adjudication
The report will summarise the allegations against the solicitor, set out the SRA’s interpretation of the background facts, attach documentary evidence that the SRA considers to be of relevance and contain the supervisor’s recommendation on the sanction to be imposed. The report may also contain a separate summary of the solicitor’s disciplinary history. The recommendation will normally be for a rebuke or a fine.
After the report is prepared, a copy of the report together with any appended documentary evidence is sent to the solicitor for written comments. The solicitor must be given at least 14 calendar days from the date on which the report is sent to provide the written comments. The 14 day period runs from the date on which the SRA sends the report to the solicitor, not the date on which the report is received. The supervisor can extend that time period and usually does so on receipt of a written request.
There is no prescribed form for the solicitor’s written comments, which are often set out in a letter. Any relevant documents which have not been disclosed by the supervisor should be enclosed with the letter.
After receipt of the written comments, the supervisor will prepare an addendum to the report stating whether or not the written comments alter the supervisor’s recommendation on sanction. A copy of that addendum will be sent to the solicitor and the report and addendum will be passed to adjudication.
SRA Disciplinary Procedure Rules
The SRA Disciplinary Procedure Rules 2011 state that a disciplinary decision may be made by an adjudicator or an adjudication panel. Cases that are likely to have a ‘high impact’ are normally passed to adjudication panels rather than individual adjudicators.
Almost all adjudication decisions are reached on the basis of written representations without hearing any oral evidence. Although adjudicators have the power to direct that evidence should be given orally, and if so whether in public or private, that power is rarely exercised.
By Rule 7.7 of the SRA Disciplinary Procedure Rules 2011, the standard of proof required for any disciplinary decision is the civil standard.
The adjudication decision, and the reasons for the decision, are recorded in writing and are sent to the solicitor. The decision may also be published on the SRA’s website. There are rights of appeal internally to an adjudication panel and externally to the tribunal and the court.