High Court overturns SDT anonymity order
Topics: Regulation and compliance
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’.
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.