Regulators are to publish data on the racial profiles of solicitors facing prosecution, more than five years after they were told to produce figures.
Last week the Solicitors Regulation Authority confirmed to the Gazette that it will publish a report later this year outlining what proportion of those taken to the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal are from ethnic minority groups.
Critics have long suggested that BAME solicitors are disproportionately targeted for prosecution. In 2012 this prompted the SRA to commission a review by academic and human rights campaigner Professor Gus John, which he published in 2014.
John found evidence of disproportionality at three stages: when a complaint is raised, during the investigation, and at the point when a sanction is imposed. Between 2009 and 2012, BAME solicitors made up 13% of the entire profession but accounted for 25% of new conduct investigations.
John said the tribunal should monitor, by ethnicity and gender, outcomes for solicitors appearing before it, and the SRA should specifically publish monitoring data on how its policies had affected BAME solicitors, sole practitioners and small firms generally.
To date, nothing has been published by the SRA. Now the SRA has committed to giving details about profiles of those subject to disciplinary action in 2018/19.
Confirmation that data would be published came after weeks of exchanges between the Gazette and the SRA following a freedom of information request. The Gazette asked for information on what proportion of people subject to SRA investigation in the past three years were BAME and sole practitioners.
Initially, the SRA said this information would take longer than 18 hours to compile, thus exceeding its cost limit. The regulator also stated that figures would be published at some point this year. The Gazette asked if this meant such information was not routinely collected and therefore not easy to access.
In its next response the SRA said the ‘balance of public interest’ was in favour of withholding such information, adding that it did not want the ‘piecemeal publication’ of data without other relevant information and context.