Over 90% of solicitors responding to a Law Society survey oppose the application of a lower standard of proof in disciplinary cases, ahead of a consultation on the subject expected soon.
Some 37 of 40 solicitors who responded favoured retaining the current criminal standard. They cited the serious consequences of cases and the high prosecution success rate as good reasons for cases to be established ‘beyond reasonable doubt’, rather than on the ‘balance of probabilities’. Respondents rejected a like-for-like comparison with other professions because solicitors are regulated differently.
The three solicitors who demurred said it was ‘in the public interest’ for the lower civil standard to be applied, and that this would bring solicitors into line with other professions. The bar’s regulator opted to lower the standard last November.
’We will present our members’ views on this important issue when the SDT publishes its consultation,’ said the Society.
Last October Chancery Lane published a discussion paper putting forward both sides of the argument and acknowledging the perception that the criminal standard protects solicitors rather than clients. Its formal position has been and remains to support the criminal standard.
Law Society president Joe Egan said: ’The Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal can end a solicitor’s career. The large majority of people who responded to our paper felt the tribunal should be sure it is making the right decision before it does so. We hope this summary of responses from the profession is useful evidence to inform the tribunal’s rules.’