Sanctions and costs in Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal
The SDT has produced written Guidance on its approach to sanctions. Each case must be judged on its merits within the broad context of the Guidance. The SDT’s Guidance gives prominence to the approach indicated by the High Court in Fuglers and others –v- SRA.
It is not essential for the SDT to indicate in advance what sanction it has in mind. It would be wrong for a Respondent to assume that a particular allegation will result in a particular sanction. The SDT has wide discretion. The SDT is required to provide adequate reasons for the sanction it imposes.
An unsuccessful Respondent is likely to be ordered to pay the costs to the Applicant of the proceedings and investigation.
It may sometimes be inappropriate or excessive to make an order of costs in addition to a sanction, particularly, if the amount is large and difficult for the Respondent to pay.
The discretion of the SDT to award costs is wide and could in principle include a case in which the Respondent was not found guilty of any allegation.
A Respondent’s means are relevant to the consideration of both sanction and costs. However, the SRA must be given a reasonable opportunity to test the evidence as to means relied upon by the Respondent. If a Respondent is without means to pay, costs may be ordered on the basis that the order may not be enforced without leave of the Tribunal.
Following the issue of proceedings in the SDT it is open to a Respondent to consider whether it is appropriate to enter into discussions with the SRA to try to reduce the scope of the allegations or the approach adopted.
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Often we are able to assist in that process and the SRA is willing to listen to representations made by us on the scope of the clients case and withdrawal of doubtful or unmeritorious allegations.
Representation by an experienced advocate in the Tribunal can make a significant difference. I have unique insight and unrivalled experience in presenting cases to the Tribunal.
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