Monitoring and investigation by the SRA

Version 9 of the Handbook was published on 1 April 2014. For more information, please click "History" above.

Part 5: Monitoring and investigation by the SRA

Rule 31: Production of documents, information and explanations

31.1

You must at the time and place fixed by the SRA produce to any person appointed by the SRA any records, papers, client and trust matter files, financial accounts and other documents, and any other information, necessary to enable preparation of a report on compliance with the rules.

31.2

A requirement for production under rule 31.1 above must be in writing, and left at or sent by post or document exchange to the most recent address held by the SRA's Information Directorate, or sent electronically to the firm's e-mail or fax address, or delivered by the SRA's appointee. A notice under this rule is deemed to be duly served:

(a)

on the date on which it is delivered to or left at your address;

(b)

on the date on which it is sent electronically to your e-mail or fax address; or

(c)

48 hours (excluding Saturdays, Sundays and Bank Holidays) after it has been sent by post or document exchange.

31.3

Material kept electronically must be produced in the form required by the SRA's appointee.

31.4

The SRA's appointee is entitled to seek verification from clients and staff, and from the banks, building societies and other financial institutions used by you. You must, if necessary, provide written permission for the information to be given.

31.5

The SRA's appointee is not entitled to take original documents away but must be provided with photocopies on request.

31.6

You must be prepared to explain and justify any departures from the Guidelines for accounting procedures and systems published by the SRA (see rule 26).

31.7

Any report made by the SRA's appointee may, if appropriate, be sent to the Crown Prosecution Service or the Serious Fraud Office and/or used in proceedings before the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal. In the case of an REL or RFL, the report may also be sent to the competent authority in that lawyer's home state or states. In the case of a solicitor who is established in another state under the Establishment Directive, the report may also be sent to the competent authority in the host state. The report may also be sent to any of the accountancy bodies set out in rule 34.1(a) and/or taken into account by the SRA in relation to a possible disqualification of a reporting accountant under rule 34.3.

31.8

Without prejudice to rule 31.1 above, you must produce documents relating to any account kept by you at a bank or with a building society:

(a)

in connection with your practice; or

(b)

in connection with any trust of which you are or formerly were a trustee,

for inspection by a person appointed by the SRA for the purpose of preparing a report on compliance with the rules or on whether the account has been used for or in connection with a breach of any of the Principles or other SRA Handbook requirements made or issued by the SRA. Rules 31.2-31.7 above apply in relation to this paragraph in the same way as to rule 31.1.

Guidance notes

(i)

The SRA's powers override any confidence or privilege between you and the client.

(ii)

The SRA's monitoring and investigation powers are exercised by Forensic Investigations.

(iii)

The SRA will normally give a brief statement of the reasons for its investigations and inspections but not if the SRA considers that there is a risk that disclosure could:

(a)

breach any duty of confidentiality;

(b)

disclose, or risk disclosure of, a confidential source of information;

(c)

significantly increase the risk that those under investigation may destroy evidence, seek to influence witnesses, default, or abscond; or

(d)

otherwise prejudice or frustrate an investigation or other regulatory action.