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Plans to Increase SRA's Fining Powers Scrapped

Here at KCT we were very interested in the recent breaking news from the sector that the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) has altered its plans to dramatically increase internal powers to fine 'traditional' law firms and solicitors – as reported by both LegalFutures.co.uk and the Law Gazette.

The authority opened a consultation in July of this year into whether it should be granted increased fining powers, but has since posted a statement saying that it is willing to lower the amount they are able to fine from their original proposal. In the consultation the SRA looked to increase their fining powers from £2,000 currently to £10,000, £50,000 or £100,000. It also looked to match the powers provided by the Legal Services Act 2007 to fine alternative business structures (ABSs) £250 million for organisations and £50 million for individuals; this, however, was rebuked by the Ministry of Justice (MoJ).

The update from the SRA states that the lower of these limits is the more favourable, and even this "conservative increase" would help "improve the speed and efficiency of the imposition of financial penalties" as well as substantially reduce "the costs borne by both parties." Bearing in mind the fact that in 2012, over three-quarters of the fines imposed by the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal were for less than £10,000, this increase is bound to speed up the process as a whole.

Although the SDT did not favour the potential increase to £100,000 made by the SRA, claiming it "could realistically result in a perception by the public [...] that the SRA is acting as investigator, prosecutor, jury and sentencing judge", both the Legal Services Board and the Legal Services Consumer Panel backed the 50-fold increase.

What level of increase do you believe is most appropriate for the SRA?