The Solicitors Regulation Authority has published details of an investigation into whether black and minority ethnic (BME) solicitors are being treated fairly by the regulator.
Terms of reference have been agreed for a comparative case review, which the organisation said is ‘designed to further improve transparency’ in the way in which it makes decisions.
The review, to be conducted by professor Gus John, will consider whether there is any disproportionality in the decisions made in the cases of BME solicitors, compared with their white colleagues.
John will look at a total of 160 files, comprising: 80 files prepared for SDT prosecutions in which the SDT published its findings or judgment; and 80 which were dealt with by internal adjudication. Half the files will relate to BME and half to white respondents.
Lord Herman Ouseley, chair of the External Implementation Group (EIG), which was set up in 2008 to work with the SRA to address issues of disproportionality among BME solicitors, said: ‘This review is timely as there are claims by some BME solicitors that they are not being treated fairly, when taken through the regulatory processes. The profession needs to have total confidence that the regulatory processes are not in any way discriminatory.
‘Professor John's report will be eagerly awaited so that appropriate action can be pursued to enable the SRA and the profession to move forward positively with the implementation of the authority's equality, inclusion and diversity policies and programmes.’
SRA chief executive, Antony Townsend, said: ‘I am pleased that we have agreed the terms of reference and can proceed with the review, working constructively with EIG and the wider profession. We look forward to the findings so that we can assess what further work may need to be done, to ensure that the SRA carries out its regulatory responsibilities fairly and consistently.
‘We have made a lot of progress in the last four years in addressing disproportionality and promoting equality, but John's review will help us to identify whether there is still work to be done and how we should take this forward.’
Professor Gus John is honorary fellow and associate professor at the Institute of Education, University of London. For four years he was external evaluator for the Law Society of its performance in promoting equality and human rights. He was an adviser to former home secretary Jack Straw on race and social inclusion.
John is expected to complete the review in mid-2013. View full details of the terms of reference.