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This case has caused me carefully to consider my own position, and others might like to consider theirs.

However, as a preliminary, the wording of the Suitability Test, as quoted in the Judgement in this case, is itself a matter of concern, particularly where it is stated at paragraph 10 regarding paragraph 5.2 of the Suitability Test: "If you . . . have had a County Court Judgment issued against you it will raise a presumption that there has been evidence that you cannot manage your finances properly and carefully.

A considerable number of CCJs are set aside, and of course a CCJ can arise if you happen to lose a case in court, which you might well have taken legal advice to pursue or defend as the case may be. There is no qualification in the Suitability Test to the effect that such a presumption may always be rebutted by evidence, but instead there is the provision imposing a requirement for there to be exceptional circumstances for the existance of a CCJ not to lead to the refusal of an application for admission as a solicitor.

It seems to me that this must be fundamentally wrong, and that the requirement for there to be “exceptional circumstances”, which themselves are not exhaustively defined, and therefore arguably remain subjective as far as the SRA are concerned, potentially sets the bar way too high, and could lead the SRA to conclude that the mere fact that there had been a CCJ, dictates that the person concerned is not suitable.

The Suitability Test, which also includes the words: ". . . any individual admitted as a solicitor has, and maintains, the level of honesty, integrity and the professionalism expected by the public and other stakeholders and professionals, and does not pose a risk to the public or the profession.", would appear to impose a continuing obligation for all solicitors in accordance with the provisions of the Suitability Test, to reveal the existence of any such to the SRA.

This case worries me because I am frankly not satisfied that a CCJ necessarily falls foul of the Suitability Test, or that any such should automatically raise a presumption that its existence means that an applicant (or a solicitor) cannot manage his or her finances properly and carefully.

I appreciate of course that there is another issue in this particular case as to whether or not the applicant should have disclosed it, leading to the argument that the failure to disclose is itself the leader to the issue of dishonesty.

As an aside, as readers will know, a Solicitor who accepts a Caution in respect of an alleged criminal offence might well face striking off.

My own concern arises from the fact that, in 2010, I discovered that a CCJ had been registered against me. It was fraudulent, and I immediately lodged an application to set it aside, which was granted with costs on the indemnity basis. There is no indication of that CCJ on any credit search.

I have to admit that it did not occur to me at the time to reveal it to the SRA. I knew it was both fraudulent and completely without foundation, and took immediate steps successfully to get rid of it when I became aware of its existence.

However, I will be ringing the SRA today to establish some clarification on this issue, as it occurs to me that, by not having disclosed it, I may be in breach.

This of course begs a wider question, and I shall be asking the SRA for a definitive list of those matters that they consider ought to be revealed to them by any practising solicitor, with a view to following this up with a Gazette Article on the issue. I had always taken the view in the past that this is simply a matter of common sense, but now I’m not so sure.

The "threshold" in respect of what does or does not need to be revealed to the SRA does appear to be somewhat blurred and confusing. While it might seem obvious for example that getting a parking fine or a speeding ticket might not be matters that should trouble the SRA, there are others who would not take that view. I have already mentioned this point to a senior police officer this morning, and part of his answer was interesting. He said, “Why do you think we call it the road crime unit ?”.

I will remain anonymous for the purposes of this post, at least until I've had an opportunity of speaking with the SRA on the issue !

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