Referral to the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal
Following the investigation stage the SRA Adjudicator/Authorised Officer can refer a solicitor to the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal.
Rule 10 of the SRA Disciplinary Procedure Rules 2011 provides that in order to make a referral to the SDT, the SRA must be satisfied that;
- there is sufficient evidence to provide a realistic prospect of success;
- the allegation is sufficiently serious to warrant a sanction which the SRA does not have the power to impose; and
- it is the public interest to make a referral.
The SRA have the power to impose fines up to £2,000 on solicitors.
Ordinarily, an allegation against a solicitor will not be referred to the SDT unless the SRA believe that the SDT will impose a fine in excess of £2,000.
In relation to Alternative Business Structures, the SRA has the power to impose a fine of up to £250million on a licensed body and a fine of up to £50 million on managers and employees of licensed bodies.
It is difficult to challenge a decision to refer a matter to the SDT. There is no right of internal appeal pursuant to the SRA Disciplinary Rules 2011. There is no statutory right of appeal to the High Court in respect of a referral decision.
Whilst it is possible to seek a judicial review, an application for permission to the High Court is almost bound to fail because the SRA’s decision to refer is not a final decision in respect of the underlying complaint.