Whistleblowers in the legal profession do not trust the SolicitorsRegulation Authority enough to agree to report misconduct, the Law Societysaid today.
The Society said there was no pressing need for a cooperation policy toencourage people to report colleagues for wrong-doing.
In its response to the SRA’s consultation on a new ‘cooperation’ policy, the Law Society said the idea would be undermined by tensions between the profession and the regulator. ‘In order for the policy to work as intended, witnesses will need to trust the SRA (given the SRA will give no guarantees until there has been fulldisclosure). Trust between the SRA and the profession is limited and, whilewe recognise the SRA has been attempting to improve this, we do not believethat matters have improved to the extent where this policy will act as apositive incentive for potential witnesses.’
The Law Society response also questioned why a new policy was needed beforethe new regime of compliance officers had a chance to bed in.
Unlike other regulators that have created a leniency scheme, such as theOffice of Fair Trading, misconduct was not as difficult to detect in the legal profession, the Society says. It says the new policy offers few extra incentives for witnesses to come forward than the current enforcement policy. In any case, theorganization argued, the principles of acting with integrity should act assufficient incentive for solicitors to report regulatory breaches.
There would also be ‘serious questions¹ about the reliability of evidencefrom witnesses who admit their own part in dishonest actions.
The consultation closed last month and the SRA is currently going throughresponses before finalizing its position.
When it was launched in October, the SRA said it would enter co-operationagreements with possible witnesses who might also be in regulatorydifficulties.
They would provide full disclosure and, if necessary, give live evidence ina court or tribunal. In return, their own conduct would be dealt with aspart of the agreement.