Version 2 of the Handbook was published on 23 December 2011, and was superseded by Version 3 on 18 April 2012. For more information, click "History" above.
The parties to a discipline investigation are the SRA and the person under investigation.
The SRA may exercise any investigative or other powers at any time including those arising from:
sections 44B, 44BA, 44BB of the SA;
sections 93 and 94 of the LSA; or
rules made by the Law Society or the SRA for the production of documents, information or explanations.
Subject to rule 4.4, the SRA may disclose any information or documents (including the outcome) arising from its discipline investigation:
to an informant;
to a person who is under investigation;
to any person in order to facilitate its investigation and in particular to identify and obtain evidence, comments or information;
to other regulators, law enforcement agencies, or other persons, in the public interest.
The SRA may restrict disclosure of information to protect another person's right of confidentiality or privilege.
The SRA will give the person under investigation the opportunity to provide an explanation of the person's conduct.
When seeking an explanation from the person as referred to in rule 5.1 above, the SRA will warn the person that:
failure to reply to the SRA may in itself lead to disciplinary action;
the reply and other information may be disclosed to other persons pursuant to rule 4.3; and
the reply may be used by the SRA for regulatory purposes including as evidence in any investigation, decision by the SRA, or proceedings brought by or against the SRA.
The person must provide the explanation referred to in rule 5.1 or any other information within a time period specified by the SRA, which shall be no less than 14 calendar days from the request for an explanation and where no explanation or information is received within the specified time, the SRA may proceed to decision in the absence of an explanation.
Before making a disciplinary decision, the SRA will prepare a report for disclosure to the person under investigation.
The report will summarise the allegations against the person under investigation, explain the supporting facts and evidence, and attach documentary evidence that the SRA considers to be relevant.
The report may also include evidence of the person's propensity to particular behaviour and a summary of the regulatory and disciplinary history of the person under investigation and of any other person that the SRA considers relevant.
The report will be provided to the person under investigation for the person to provide written comments upon it within a time period specified by the SRA, which shall be no less than 14 calendar days from the date on which the report has been sent to the person.
The person under investigation will also be invited to make submissions on whether any decision which is made by the SRA, in respect of the matters in the report, should be published. Any such submissions must be made within a time specified by the SRA, which shall be no less than 14 calendar days from the date on which the report has been sent to the person.
The report may be disclosed by the SRA to any other person with a legitimate interest in the matter to enable that person to comment upon it. Any such comments shall be disclosed to the person under investigation if they are to be included in the documents referred for adjudication.
The SRA may restrict disclosure of part of the report or all or part of the attached documents in the public interest or in the interests of efficiency and proportionality, such as:
by only providing to the person under investigation or any other person documents that are not already in their possession;
by not providing to a person other than the person under investigation the report or documents if they include information that is or might be subject to another person's right of confidentiality or privilege.
The SRA may recommend an outcome or advocate a particular position in the report or otherwise.
The report and comments received shall be referred for consideration within a reasonable time after receipt of any comments or the expiry of any time period specified for the provision of comments.
The SRA is not required to adopt the procedure in rules 5 and 6 in order to make an SRA finding or an application to the Tribunal under rule 10 below.
Where the SRA considers that it is just and in the public interest to do so the SRA may dispense with or vary the procedure and the time limits set out in rules 5 and 6.
Where the SRA dispenses with or varies the procedure or the time limits in accordance with rule 6.11, the SRA shall, so far as practicable, notify the person under investigation that it has done so.