In the Media

SDT publishes first guide to sanctions-setting process

PUBLISHED August 24, 2012

Friday 24 August 2012 by Catherine Baksi

The Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal (SDT) has for the first time explained in a single document the sanctions it can expose and the processes by which it reaches decisions. A Guidance Note on Sanctions published today follows calls for the tribunal to improve its transparency.

The SDT said that the 14-page publication brings together in one document all the existing SDT sanctioning principles applied and developed with due regard to case law over the years. It is intended to assist the parties, the public and the profession in understanding the tribunal's decision-making process.

Tribunal president Andrew Spooner said: 'The guidance effectively codifies in one document the approach to sanctions that has been adopted by the tribunal for many years. We hope that it will be of assistance to members of the public and the profession and to those who appear before the tribunal.'

The document stresses that 'every case is fact-specific' and the guidance 'is not intended in any way to fetter the discretion of the tribunal when deciding sanction'.

A press release from the SDT said the tribunal will continue to apply the principles set out in the guidance to all current and future cases, and that the document will be updated from time to time in the light of case law and best practice.

The move follows renewed criticism of the tribunal from the Society of Black Solicitors and its call for it to demonstrate greater transparency, impartiality and independence.

Clerk to the tribunal Susan Humble welcomed the publication of the guidance as 'further evidence' of the SDT's transparency. She said: 'Save for in a very few exceptional cases where the tribunal has heard submissions from the parties and directed otherwise, hearings take place in public and fully-reasoned judgments are published on the tribunal's website available to all to download free of charge.

'Publication of this guidance builds on the SDT's existing transparency and enables the parties, public and the profession to understand clearly how the SDT reached a particular decision on sanction.'

The guidance is available on the SDT site.