The Solicitors Regulation Authority board has announced that it is to exclude the public, including members of the profession and legal journalists, from its meetings. This raises serious concerns over transparency. It would be easy to see this policy change pass relatively unnoticed. I believe that would be a mistake.
The Legal Services Act requires approved regulators to be transparent and it is questionable if this announcement complies with the SRA’s statutory responsibilities. There is a presumption that the proceedings of public meetings are held in public. An after-the-event briefing from an SRA director is no substitute.
Scrutiny from legal journalists – access to SRA board meetings has been in place for many years – is an essential check and balance on an organisation with compulsory tax-raising powers and which regulates in the public interest.
The Bar Standards Board says its meetings will remain public. Perhaps the SRA could say why it now feels compelled to meet behind closed doors.
Tim O’Sullivan, Law Society Council member, Bournemouth