The Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal has confirmed that it will consult on where to set the standard of proof for proving allegations of misconduct against solicitors.
The tribunal confirmed its intention as part of a guarded response to the Bar Standards Board consultation on the same issue.
The barristers’ regulator is looking at a new civil standard of proof for practitioners who are accused of misconduct, downgrading it from the current criminal standard of proof. Unlike the BSB, the SRA does not have the power to make such a change, which must instead come from the tribunal or from parliament.
In its consultation response, SDT clerk and chief executive Susan Humble says the tribunal is not permitted to make public statements which might give rise to a future complaint of having apparent bias in its decision-making.
The tribunal therefore makes no direct response to questions in the consultation, but it does confirm it will itself consult on the ‘appropriate’ standard of proof to apply as part of its proposed new rules. The tribunal adds it would not wish its decisions to delay or accelerate the BSB’s reflections on its rules.
The BSB consultation asks why lawyers are subject to different rules to most other professions and suggests they might be seen as enjoying ‘preferential treatment’.
More than 103 consultation responses were made to the BSB's request and the regulator will discuss the matter at its board meeting in October.
The SRA has urged the barristers’ regulator to press on with introducing a civil standard of proof, but has noted a similar change for solicitors is not imminent.
The SRA response added: 'The higher standard of proof creates higher costs and increases the chances of a person who is not safe to practise remaining within the profession.’