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Racial prejudice plagues Solicitors Regulation Authority

Results of an investigation into the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) has revealed evidence that points to Institutional racism. It seems a profession choice encouraged within many ethnic minority households is a long way from the meritocracy it conveys.

An investigation was conducted by former CRE chairman Lord Herman Ouseley after pressure from Bridgette Prentice MP, Junior Minister at the Ministry of Justice and Keith Vaz MP, chair of the Home Affairs Select Committee. The study was commissioned by minority lawyers groups such as the Society of Black Lawyers and the Society of Asian Lawyers. The controversy comes only a few months after diversity link reported on the disparity of pay for Black and Minority ethnic lawyers within the legal profession.

As well as statistical analysis, the report featured detailed accounts from ethnic minority solicitors. One of the most worrying findings was the high number of investigations of ethnic minority lawyers by the body. This has been going on while firms who recruit mainly white middle class solicitors have been very much under the radar of the SRA. Other findings include:-

• A lack of ethnic minority employees at the SRA, particularly in
management positions;
• The failure of the SRA to address issues of racism and
disproportional, which was first identified in a report back in
2006;
• The disparity in treatment evident in African and Caribbean firms
being 6 times more likely to be closed down and Asian firms 3
times more likely to be closed down as compared to white firms;
• A culture of bias and racism evident in the investigation process
and the culture within the SRA which has gone unchallenged by
managers;
• The absence of diversity and expertise on the SRA management
board itself; and
• The refusal of SRA caseworkers to disclose the nature or source
of their allegations.

Peter Herbert, chair of the Society of Black Lawyers and a member of the
working party that commissioned the report stated:

“This level of institutional racism seriously undermines the principle of equal access to justice for all. This report is a damning indictment of the failure of both the SRA and the Law Society to identify and combat the racism they were clearly aware of in 2006. We do not believe that the SRA Board has the expertise or commitment to implement these recommendations and we are therefore calling upon the chief executive and the members of the SRA including its Board who were responsible for this debacle to resign forthwith.”

The Society of Black Lawyers and other stakeholder groups are calling for the following:

1. A steering committee to be established chaired by a Government Minister to implement the recommendations.
2. All current investigations of ethnic minority solicitors to be suspended and past investigations to be subjected to an independent and impartial review.
3. A new SRA Board and chief executive to be appointed forthwith with
diversity and equalities expertise as one of the criteria for selection.
4. All SRA staff to be given equality and diversity training as a matter of
urgency.
5. All previous findings against ethnic minority solicitors since the inception of
the SRA to be subject to an independent and impartial review.
6. A coherent equality and diversity policy to be adopted and implemented
and all the recommendations made in Lord Ouseley’s report to be
implemented in full within an agreed time frame.
7. All outstanding race discrimination tribunal actions by ethnic minority-led firms to be settled forthwith.
8. The report’s action plan to be adopted and implemented in full within the next twelve months with a full progress report to be given every 4 months to an Equality Steering Committee.

The findings will no doubt send shockwave's throughout the legal profession. With a number of equality issues under the spotlight in recent times within the industry, its time for all associated professional bodies in the sector to push diversity at the top of their agenda.  

posted by

Dizali Mentha
Associate Publisher

 

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Comments for article #197
edward white - Date Posted:04/06/2014

This report appears riven with inverse discriminatory and 'politically correct' assumptions, and does not in fact accord with my experience of working in the law. I do not accept that positive discrimination, to which this nonsense piece inevitably leads, is morally acceptable, and I seriously question the interpretative assumptions behind this 'report' urged foreword by the deeply partisan keith Vaz. So long as politically motivated reports like this make such silly sweeping accusations real issues of inequality will suffer.


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