The Solicitors Regulation Authority has announced further restrictions on press coverage of its monthly board meetings. In an email sent to journalists on Friday evening, the regulator proposes to abandon its post-meeting press briefings. The briefings took on extra significance in March when the SRA barred the press and public from its meetings.
In its latest move, announced at 5.05pm on Friday, the SRA's head of external communications, Benedict Fisher, says post-board media briefings will take place 'within 10 working days of the board session, rather than immediately after'. Journalists are assured the change will make the briefings 'easier to manage in your busy schedules'. 'We should be in a better position to discuss a fuller range of papers, so we can cover as much as possible from the board meeting,' the email states.
Currently, reporters can question SRA executives immediately after board meetings. These have been closed to the press under a policy introduced without consultation in March after it was decided that having a public session of the board meeting was ‘not proving effective’.
The next board meeting is set to be held in Birmingham on Wednesday, with the post-board briefing proposed for 26 July. The SRA has pledged to send embargoed papers to the media ahead of this week’s meeting, although none had materialised as of 11am today.
Since March, the media have been unable to discuss key decisions, such as the solicitors’ super-exam or handbook changes, immediately after board meetings because reporters have not been briefed in time.
The SRA says it also wants to avoid inconveniencing reporters when the private board meeting runs over time. 'I am sure you will let us know in due course whether this is helpful,' the email concludes.