Solicitors Regulation Authority’s study condemned in recorded telephone conversation
By Alex Varley-Winter | 19 November 2013
“The fact that the SRA has allowed this situation to persist is in itself very disturbing” – Professor Gus John, secretly recorded on SRA review
Secret recordings obtained by Exaro bring into question the independence of a review into claims of institutional racism at the Solicitors Regulation Authority.
The recordings of two telephone conversations reveal that the SRA, which regulates the conduct of solicitors in England and Wales as the disciplinary arm of the Law Society, ordered evidence to be excluded from the review.
The blocked evidence centres on complaints of racism raised by two solicitors against the SRA.
Professor Gus John, who was commissioned by the SRA to conduct the review, was secretly recorded on the telephone as he told one of the two solicitors in October about the interference with his work.
He says: “My understanding all the time was that your two cases were going to be part of the 14 cases I would look at, and that I would look at – and report on them – separately.”
“But what I had started to do, which is a comprehensive review of your case, based upon the documentation that you’ve given me and they’ve given me, they said that that is not formally part of the report.”
His review, which is expected to report next month, has also been barred from including anything about a police investigation that was sparked by one of the two complaints in 2012. No action was taken against anyone following the police investigation.
Speaking about the SRA’s insistence to exclude a full account of that complaint from the review, John is clearly irritated about the block, saying: “I am a bit annoyed about that because my clear understanding was that I was going to review your two cases.
“I was going to write them up on the basis of my findings in relation to them, and that was going to form part of the other reports. They reckon that, on no account, will they accept a report that does that.”
He encourages the lawyer to take her case to the Legal Services Board, which oversees the SRA, and to the media. And he makes highly-damaging comments about the SRA.
“The only way you will get justice from these people – and I haven’t told you this, but I’m telling you this – the only way you’ll get justice from them is if you complain to the Legal Services Board, and put all the information in the hands of the media.”
In another call recorded in August, he says: “It is clear from my discussions from some people in the SRA that there is a lot of undisclosed stuff about this,” adding, “and the way that was dealt with, I think, was wholly inappropriate, to say the very least.”
John goes on to say: “The fact that the SRA has allowed this situation to persist is, in itself, very disturbing.”
A leading expert in equality and race relations, John is associate professor of education and honorary fellow of the Institute of Education, University of London. He declined to comment to Exaro about the review, referring questions to the SRA.
An SRA spokesman would not answer specific questions about John’s comments, but said in a statement: “This is an independent review, which is still underway, and we have no further comment to make.”
The SRA commissioned John to carry out an “independent comparative case review” in 2012. It has already been delayed because of a row over its terms of reference.
Peter Herbert, barrister, part-time judge and chairman of the Society of Black Lawyers (SBL), last month called for a parliamentary inquiry into extraordinary claims against the SRA of sharp practice, racism – and cover-up.