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It is looking increasingly likely that the standard of proof in the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal will be lowered from the current criminal standard of ‘beyond reasonable doubt’ to the civil standard of the 'balance of probabilities’.
The current standard of proof appears to have evolved partly through decisions of the SDT in which solicitors' behaviour was expressed as 'tantamount to a criminal offence', therefore justifying the higher standard. However, for some time, the Legal Standards Board has been of the view that the civil standard is the more appropriate for use by all regulators, tribunals, and appellate bodies and the Insurance Fraud Taskforce (published in Jan 2016) was also of the view that it was not acceptable for someone who is a danger to the public to continue practising, subject to conviction by such a 'disproportionate' burden of proof.
A case earlier in 2016 saw the SDT quash a decision of the SRA, stating that the civil standard had been wrongly used. Without ruling on the standard of proof specifically, the High Court (on appeal) referred to it as ‘unsatisfactory and illogical’ that a different standard was applied in the SDT.
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The Law Society has issued a practice note about the risks to solicitors posed by this new legislation, which came into force on 30 September.
The SRA has urged all practices to check HM Treasury’s consolidated list of asset freeze targets, which lists designated persons subject to financial sanction under EU or UK legislation.
The practising certificate renewal period opened on Monday 2 October.
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