High Court overturns SDT anonymity order

Topics: Regulation and compliance

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The Solicitors Regulation Authority has succeeded in a High Court bid to overturn an anonymity order made by the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal.

A news release issued by the regulator this afternoon states that the tribunal made the order because it ‘only found a respondent guilty of a technical breach of the code of conduct’.

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The release states that in November 2014, the SDT decided that just one of seven allegations levelled against Richard Spector, a former member of ELS International Lawyers LLP, had been proven to the standard required by the tribunal. No disciplinary action was taken against him. 

Despite the 15-day hearing being held in public, and Spector’s name appearing on the tribunal’s online listings as third respondent, the tribunal decided Spector should be retrospectively anonymised.

The tribunal also directed that if the SRA was contacted by anyone who had not already been informed of Spector’s tribunal appearance, the regulator could not mention it.

The SRA appealed the decision at the High Court. Its release states that Lord Justice Burnett and Mr Justice Nicol upheld the appeal in a judgment handed down today.

SRA chief executive Paul Philip said the regulator welcomed the High Court’s decision, ‘which recognises the impossible position the tribunal put us in by making this order. As the High Court points out, members of the public were present at the hearings and would have known that Mr Spector was there, and of course his name had appeared on the tribunal listings as well’.

He added: ‘Retrospectively granting anonymity was just wrong, and in light of the court’s comments on the tribunal’s flawed policy, a review might be in order.’  

Susan Humble, chief executive at the SDT, told the Gazette: ‘I have not seen the judgment because it has not been provided to me by the SRA, therefore I cannot comment on its contents.

‘However, the SDT will be pleased to have clarity from the High Court on the issue of anonymity of respondents.’

The SRA’s release states that the disciplinary judgment notes that Spector brought matters leading to an investigation to the regulator’s attention.

The technical breach he was found to have committed - failure to obtain the written consent of both parties when acting for them in a related transaction - would not have led to a tribunal appearance on its own.

Readers' comments (9)

  • I knew nothing about this decision, and have never heard of this defendant, prior to my reading this post that is. So the appeal achieved exactly the opposite effect to the one intended. They often say in politics that the attempted, but failed, cover up is worse than the offence they are trying to cover up.

    But really, do SRA and SDT have nothing better to do? And are these invertebrates too spineless to spot the ridiculous and throw it out? Did anyone complain? Did anyone lose anything? Try to find something useful to do for goodness sake!

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  • You could always try reading the judgment, which is on bailii.

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  • So the Regulator and the Tribunal go to court and spend our money on their squabbles, on a case no-one gives a monkeys about.
    Litigating on a matter of principle.
    Expensive hobby.


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  • The more alarming point is that the SRA thought that the trip to the High Court - to overturn a decision of the Tribunal which was very obviously wrong - merited a silk and a junior.

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  • They couldn't care less, Anon 5.17, they are not spending their money after all. You and I couldn't afford such largess after all.

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  • Of course we could David, we are after all, a bunch of fat-cat lawyers sipping champagne and eating caviar while we corner the "consumer" with out monopolies. And we deserve everything we get...

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  • I didn't think it was possible, but despite having the spectre of competition between regulators firmly on the horizon, the SRA are seemingly pressing the accelerator to oblivion, with a spate of reported cases and reviews, that could not have done more to make any practitioner with a brain, detest them even more, if that was possible.

    Complete idiots who appear to have no grasp on reality or budgets. Isn't that some form of regulatory breach ?

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  • Agreed with David and others SRA and Law Society itself need to be reformed it has become a business joint only feeding its teaming staff sucking blood of solicitors wasting resources on wasteful litigation and procedures. I know cases where SRA did blunders and when taken to CoA entered into compromise so those cannot afford CoA costs would suffer injustices of SRA policies. I know SRA inspected a firm twice found nothing against but are not issuing certificate of satisfaction when contacted they say we dont issue such certificates so we live in jungle of regulation.

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  • Oh well, at least they now seem to have the whole of the Indian sub-continent in their sights so that might just take the heat off the rest of us for a while. Shall we volunteer, before we are compelled, to send them on a 'fact finding' trip to Delhi in the hope that they contract the local stomach complaint?

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