The 'Breaking the Silence: Who is regulating the regulator?' report was submitted to the Legal Services Board (LSB) in response to the Board's consultation on its equality duty objectives.
The SRA has been subject to external monitoring on equality issues since 2007 as a result of its disproportionate targeting of African, Caribbean and Asian solicitors. An internal report, published in 2006 could not explain why ethnic minority solicitors were five times more likely to be investigated, suspended or struck off than their white counterparts.
In July 2008, an independent investigation conducted by Lord Herman Ouseley into allegations of racism, discrimination and victimisation within the SRA found extensive evidence of institutional racism within the regulatory body. In 2007, Asian solicitors comprised 5.5% of the professional population, yet were the targets of 18% of interventions. Black solicitors faced even starker disproportionality: at only 1.6% of the population, their professional lives were disrupted by 15% of the interventions. The Lord Ouseley’s report also revealed similarly biased statistics in other areas of SRA activity.
In 2007, all of the SRA’s interventions were into firms with four or fewer partners. Since the majority of BME solicitors practice in small firms, they are more likely to face investigation and intervention. In contrast, the large and predominantly white “Magic Circle” firms enjoy virtual immunity from regulation because the SRA has neither the expertise nor the clout to surmount the considerable defensive resources available to such large firms.
“Whilst we welcome this second review as a positive response to the deep concerns that the SBL has raised, the terms of reference for such a review must be agreed with members of the SRA’s Equality and Diversity External Implementation Group. No limitations should be placed on the case files to be examined and those members of the profession who feel that they have been treated unfairly by the SRA should be allowed to submit their case for review.”
SBL Chair, Peter Herbert OBE commented:
The Society of Black Lawyers (SBL) is the oldest organisation of African, Caribbean and Asian lawyers, jurists, academics and law students in the UK. Founded in 1969 by the late Rudy Narayan and Sigbhat Kadric QC, the SBL exists to promote diversity within the legal profession and campaign to increase access to justice and quality legal services for ethnic minority and disadvantaged communities.
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