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Offensive Communications

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Dear Solicitors Regulation Authority,

The SRA has published a warning notice on offensive communications in 2017. It publishes a topic guide on this subject on 2019.

How many solicitors have been sanctioned / referred to the SDT due to offensive communications since the warning notice was published in 2017?

Does "we consider that you are mental, corrupt, racist and a liar" or "we are producing the letter as evidence of your mental instability" or "you have reached a stage of insanity" or "you are in need of psychiatric treatment" or "your letters are racist and your intention was to blackmail people so that you get away with selling the property secretly to another person" or "this shows that you are insane" or "our members will sponsor the investigations as you have seriously harmed an innocent lawyer through your lies" pass the SRA's offensive threshold or is this acceptable / normal behaviour.

Yours faithfully,

F Lewis

SRA Information Compliance, Solicitors Regulation Authority

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Thank you for contacting the Information Governance and Compliance Team at
the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA).

We aim to respond to request for information under our Transparency Code
requests within 20 working days. Information on how we handle these
requests, including a copy of our Transparency Code, can be found on our
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We will process and respond to requests under the Data Protection
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Our registered offices are: The Cube, 199 Wharfside Street, Birmingham, B1
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References

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SRA Information Compliance, Solicitors Regulation Authority

1 Attachment

Sensitivity: General

Dear Ms Lewis

 

Thank you for your email.  Please find attached our response to your
request under our Transparency Code.

 

Many thanks, Clare

 

Clare Griffin
Information Governance Officer
Solicitors Regulation Authority

The Cube, Birmingham

[1]www.sra.org.uk

 

From: Frances Lewis <[FOI #788137 email]>
Sent: 02 September 2021 20:44
To: SRA Information Compliance <[email address]>
Subject: Freedom of Information request - Offensive Communications

 

Dear Solicitors Regulation Authority,

The SRA has published a warning notice on offensive communications in
2017. It publishes a topic guide on this subject on 2019.

How many solicitors have been sanctioned / referred to the SDT due to
offensive communications since the warning notice was published in 2017?

Does "we consider that you are mental, corrupt, racist and a liar" or "we
are producing the letter as evidence of your mental instability" or "you
have reached a stage of insanity" or "you are in need of psychiatric
treatment" or "your letters are racist and your intention was to blackmail
people so that you get away with selling the property secretly to another
person" or "this shows that you are insane" or "our members will sponsor
the investigations as you have seriously harmed an innocent lawyer through
your lies" pass the SRA's offensive threshold or is this acceptable /
normal behaviour.

Yours faithfully,

F Lewis

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show quoted sections

Dear Clare

By looking at your statistics it is very hard to believe that the SRA takes offensive communications seriously, yet this is what is published on your website. How can members of the public have any faith in what you do?
In 2017 there were 279 complaints of which 108 were investigated and closed, 4 referrals to SDT, 1 fine and 3 letters of advice. In 2020 there were 303 and only 56 investigated and 4 ongoing with only 1 referral to SDT, and 2 fines. In 2021 there are 4 closed complaints of 152 and 22 ongoing. How long will they "go on" for?

How long does it take for the SRA to decide whether an offensive comment like "you are in need of psychiatric treatment" or "you have reached a stage of insanity" is offensive? This comes from a legal professional, not a health professional. How long does it take for the SRA to determine that accusing someone of "racism, blackmail, fraud and harassment" with no substantiating evidence whatsoever is offensive and when did that ever become acceptable? How is this acting with integrity, or in a way that upholds public trust and confidence in the solicitors' profession and in legal services or in a way that encourages quality diversity and inclusion?

I have been shocked and horrified by the communications I have received which were clearly sent with the intention of causing distress and anxiety. I have been deeply upset by this abuse. Has a letter of advice been issued? Why should I have to wait months / years to find out?

You say that an investigator will update, but how long does it take for any moral-minded person, let alone an experienced legal investigator to determine that these comments are beyond the pale, especially when sent by an SRA registered solicitor? You are personally sitting on the fence as to whether these comments are acceptable or not - what message does that send? How low have professional standards fallen and how low is the SRA going to allow them to fall? How long must a consumer of legal services suffer this abuse from a legal professional before the SRA issues a warning or dare I suggest puts a stop to such abuse? This has been ongoing for several years and has escalated by LeO to the SRA as well. How is it allowed to continue? Your stats suggest that previous abusive communications have been summarily dismissed, and so they continue unchecked.

It is widely acknowledged by consumers of legal services and who are subject to the investigation that the SRA works at a glacial pace and is ineffective. Please refer to the comments on Trust Advisor and comments on the legal journals for proof of that. I respectfully suggest that it should not take 3+ years to take action in these cases and if the SRA doesn't mean what it says on its website then this is akin to false advertising. Why are consumers wasting their time bringing these complaints to the SRA - at the SRA's invitation - when the SRA does nothing or very little about it? The SRA should not claim what is not true because the truth, from my experience and from your statistics is that you do not take such behaviour seriously and the SRA is allowing the reputation of the legal profession to be gravely tarnished by this kind of unacceptable (and potentially unlawful) behaviour. It is allowing serious harm to come to consumers, contrary to the statutory objectives of the Legal Services Act 2007. Solicitors are supposed to be held to a higher standard, but this isn't true is it, unless consumers of legal services have the financial wherewithal to get justice through the courts. "Justice" is now only accessible to those who can afford to pay.

The SRA has received 1222 complaints about written or verbal offensive behaviour and actioned only 37 of those between 2017 and 2021. In my view, the SRA's message is very clear. It does not take offensive communications seriously. I suggest you manage consumer expectations on your website as to the reality of the situation because words and figures differ. The SRA is clearly not interested in stopping this kind of unlawful bullying (potentially an aggressive commercial practice under Consumer Protection Act 2015, and potentially harassment under the Protection from Harassment Act 1997, especially given the vicious assault on my mental health ). If the SRA was concerned, it would have taken immediate action and given immediate feedback. I submit there can be absolutely no excuse for using this kind of language in communications from a legal "professional" but I still have no confirmation of that from the SRA, and neither does the legal "professional". There is no deterrent and so it goes on. It is an absolute disgrace.

Yours sincerely,

F Lewis

SRA Information Compliance, Solicitors Regulation Authority

This is an automated response
Thank you for contacting the Information Governance and Compliance Team at
the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA).

We aim to respond to request for information under our Transparency Code
requests within 20 working days. Information on how we handle these
requests, including a copy of our Transparency Code, can be found on our
website here<http://www.sra.org.uk/sra/how-we-work/tr...>.

We will process and respond to requests under the Data Protection
Legislation ( including Subject Access Requests) within the statutory
timeframes.

This mailbox does not deal with reports about solicitors. For information
about how to report an individual or firm please see our website
here<http://www.sra.org.uk/consumers/problems...>.

 

For information on how we handle your personal data, see our [1]privacy
notice.
This email is intended for the addressee only. This includes any
attachments. Its unauthorised use, further processing, storage or copying
is not allowed. If you are not the intended recipient, please let the
sender know and then destroy all copies.
Please note the sender is not authorised to conclude any contract on
behalf of the Solicitors Regulation Authority by email.
We are the regulator of solicitors and law firms in England and Wales. The
Solicitors Regulation Authority Limited is a company limited by guarantee.
Our registered offices are: The Cube, 199 Wharfside Street, Birmingham, B1
1RN. Our company registration number is: 12608059.

References

Visible links
1. http://www.sra.org.uk/dpa

SRA Information Compliance, Solicitors Regulation Authority

Sensitivity: General

Dear Ms Lewis

 

Thank you for your email.  One of our investigation officers addressed
your concerns regarding the ‘use of inappropriate language in
communications’ in an update email dated 20 September 2021. The
investigation officer explained the matter is still being reviewed as part
of a larger ongoing investigation that you have an interest in. Please let
me know if you did not receive this email and I will arrange for it to be
resent.

 

An investigation officer will continue to keep you updated on the progress
of the investigation.

 

Kind regards

 

Clare Griffin
Information Governance Officer
Solicitors Regulation Authority

The Cube, Birmingham

[1]www.sra.org.uk

 

From: Frances Lewis <[FOI #788137 email]>
Sent: 30 September 2021 11:31
To: SRA Information Compliance <[email address]>
Subject: Re: IG TC 0595 - Response

 

Dear Clare

By looking at your statistics it is very hard to believe that the SRA
takes offensive communications seriously, yet this is what is published on
your website. How can members of the public have any faith in what you do?

In 2017 there were 279 complaints of which 108 were investigated and
closed, 4 referrals to SDT, 1 fine and 3 letters of advice. In 2020 there
were 303 and only 56 investigated and 4 ongoing with only 1 referral to
SDT, and 2 fines. In 2021 there are 4 closed complaints of 152 and 22
ongoing. How long will they "go on" for?

How long does it take for the SRA to decide whether an offensive comment
like "you are in need of psychiatric treatment" or "you have reached a
stage of insanity" is offensive? This comes from a legal professional, not
a health professional. How long does it take for the SRA to determine that
accusing someone of "racism, blackmail, fraud and harassment" with no
substantiating evidence whatsoever is offensive and when did that ever
become acceptable? How is this acting with integrity, or in a way that
upholds public trust and confidence in the solicitors' profession and in
legal services or in a way that encourages quality diversity and
inclusion?

I have been shocked and horrified by the communications I have received
which were clearly sent with the intention of causing distress and
anxiety. I have been deeply upset by this abuse. Has a letter of advice
been issued? Why should I have to wait months / years to find out?

You say that an investigator will update, but how long does it take for
any moral-minded person, let alone an experienced legal investigator to
determine that these comments are beyond the pale, especially when sent by
an SRA registered solicitor? You are personally sitting on the fence as to
whether these comments are acceptable or not - what message does that
send? How low have professional standards fallen and how low is the SRA
going to allow them to fall? How long must a consumer of legal services
suffer this abuse from a legal professional before the SRA issues a
warning or dare I suggest puts a stop to such abuse? This has been ongoing
for several years and has escalated by LeO to the SRA as well. How is it
allowed to continue? Your stats suggest that previous abusive
communications have been summarily dismissed, and so they continue
unchecked.

It is widely acknowledged by consumers of legal services and who are
subject to the investigation that the SRA works at a glacial pace and is
ineffective. Please refer to the comments on Trust Advisor and comments on
the legal journals for proof of that. I respectfully suggest that it
should not take 3+ years to take action in these cases and if the SRA
doesn't mean what it says on its website then this is akin to false
advertising. Why are consumers wasting their time bringing these
complaints to the SRA - at the SRA's invitation - when the SRA does
nothing or very little about it? The SRA should not claim what is not true
because the truth, from my experience and from your statistics is that you
do not take such behaviour seriously and the SRA is allowing the
reputation of the legal profession to be gravely tarnished by this kind of
unacceptable (and potentially unlawful) behaviour. It is allowing serious
harm to come to consumers, contrary to the statutory objectives of the
Legal Services Act 2007. Solicitors are supposed to be held to a higher
standard, but this isn't true is it, unless consumers of legal services
have the financial wherewithal to get justice through the courts.
"Justice" is now only accessible to those who can afford to pay.

The SRA has received 1222 complaints about written or verbal offensive
behaviour and actioned only 37 of those between 2017 and 2021. In my view,
the SRA's message is very clear. It does not take offensive communications
seriously. I suggest you manage consumer expectations on your website as
to the reality of the situation because words and figures differ. The SRA
is clearly not interested in stopping this kind of unlawful bullying
(potentially an aggressive commercial practice under Consumer Protection
Act 2015, and potentially harassment under the Protection from Harassment
Act 1997, especially given the vicious assault on my mental health ). If
the SRA was concerned, it would have taken immediate action and given
immediate feedback. I submit there can be absolutely no excuse for using
this kind of language in communications from a legal "professional" but I
still have no confirmation of that from the SRA, and neither does the
legal "professional". There is no deterrent and so it goes on. It is an
absolute disgrace.

Yours sincerely,

F Lewis

show quoted sections

Dear Clare

Perhaps you should read the email yourself. You say he has "addressed" my concerns, but that is the SRA's opinion. The email is vague like all SRA communications. The investigating officer has not done anything to allay my concerns or stop the alleged misconduct in 13 months' he has been on the case. We continue to suffer irreparable harm in full view of an SRA investigator, and during a forensic investigation!

I was receiving improper communications in 2018, 2019, 2020 and more in 2021 and have brought them all to the attention of the SRA (and LeO). How about this one from December 2018 (flagged to the SRA at the time):
"We understand that you are writing to various people against us. We advise you to stop doing this. If you do not refrain from your insulting and hostile activities, we shall issue proceedings against you. We shall also apply to the court for you to be examined by an expert psychologist".
Is this a good fit with the SRA principles / code of conduct? How is a solicitor sending this kind of communication in December 2018 still sending improper communications in 2021 and why did I have to wait until 20.09.21 for an email to "address" my concerns that I have been reporting for years. Four years on, "my concerns" have still not been addressed and it is disingenuous for the SRA to claim that they have.

Why hasn't the SRA even sent a warning letter? Perhaps because it does not share the sense of outrage and shock that I felt upon receiving these communications or because this is the standard of communications which is acceptable in modern society?

What justification is there for allowing such communications to go on for 4+ years unchecked?

What is the average length of investigations you have detailed in your table of complaints / investigations?

How is allowing such improper communication to go on for 4 years unchecked:

(a)protecting and promoting the public interest;

(b)supporting the constitutional principle of the rule of law;
[...]
(d)protecting and promoting the interests of consumers;
[..]
(g)increasing public understanding of the citizen's legal rights and duties;

(h)promoting and maintaining adherence to the professional principles.

Please explain how the email communication of 20.09.21 has achieved any of these things, or indeed a 13-month investigation (which has yielded no action), and only instigated after 3+ years of complaining.

Let's be clear, some of these vile communications were sent while your investigators were conducting their forensic investigation. Your FIO might even have been in the offfice when they were sent (!) and these are only the tip of the iceberg of alleged misconduct, as you well know. However, perhaps standards have fallen so low that these comments are acceptable and hence the SRA's inaction - please tell me if this is the case and I will stop wasting your time.

So there are 4 questions here:
1. What is the average time for your investigations into the use of inappropriate language? Is four years the norm?
2. Does the SRA combine more than one course of action i.e. a warning letter followed by a fine, followed by an SDT prosecution?
3. Are the examples of inappropriate language I have given considered acceptable in modern society?
4. How is the SRA achieving its LSA 2007 objectives by allowing alleged misconduct to go on under its nose for more than four years and even during a forensic investigation?

Yours sincerely,

F Lewis

SRA Information Compliance, Solicitors Regulation Authority

This is an automated response
Thank you for contacting the Information Governance and Compliance Team at
the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA).

We aim to respond to request for information under our Transparency Code
requests within 20 working days. Information on how we handle these
requests, including a copy of our Transparency Code, can be found on our
website here<http://www.sra.org.uk/sra/how-we-work/tr...>.

We will process and respond to requests under the Data Protection
Legislation ( including Subject Access Requests) within the statutory
timeframes.

This mailbox does not deal with reports about solicitors. For information
about how to report an individual or firm please see our website
here<http://www.sra.org.uk/consumers/problems...>.

 

For information on how we handle your personal data, see our [1]privacy
notice.
This email is intended for the addressee only. This includes any
attachments. Its unauthorised use, further processing, storage or copying
is not allowed. If you are not the intended recipient, please let the
sender know and then destroy all copies.
Please note the sender is not authorised to conclude any contract on
behalf of the Solicitors Regulation Authority by email.
We are the regulator of solicitors and law firms in England and Wales. The
Solicitors Regulation Authority Limited is a company limited by guarantee.
Our registered offices are: The Cube, 199 Wharfside Street, Birmingham, B1
1RN. Our company registration number is: 12608059.

References

Visible links
1. http://www.sra.org.uk/dpa

SRA Information Compliance, Solicitors Regulation Authority

1 Attachment

Sensitivity: General

Dear Ms Lewis,

 

Thank you for your email.

 

Please find our response attached.

 

Yours sincerely,

 

Jack Baraczewski
Information Governance Officer
Solicitors Regulation Authority

The Cube, Birmingham

[1]www.sra.org.uk

 

 

From: Frances Lewis <[FOI #788137 email]>
Sent: 01 October 2021 11:48
To: SRA Information Compliance <[email address]>
Subject: RE: IG TC 0595 - Response

 

Dear Clare

Perhaps you should read the email yourself. You say he has "addressed" my
concerns, but that is the SRA's opinion. The email is vague like all SRA
communications. The investigating officer has not done anything to allay
my concerns or stop the alleged misconduct in 13 months' he has been on
the case. We continue to suffer irreparable harm in full view of an SRA
investigator, and during a forensic investigation!

I was receiving improper communications in 2018, 2019, 2020 and more in
2021 and have brought them all to the attention of the SRA (and LeO). How
about this one from December 2018 (flagged to the SRA at the time):

"We understand that you are writing to various people against us. We
advise you to stop doing this. If you do not refrain from your insulting
and hostile activities, we shall issue proceedings against you. We shall
also apply to the court for you to be examined by an expert psychologist".

Is this a good fit with the SRA principles / code of conduct? How is a
solicitor sending this kind of communication in December 2018 still
sending improper communications in 2021 and why did I have to wait until
20.09.21 for an email to "address" my concerns that I have been reporting
for years. Four years on, "my concerns" have still not been addressed and
it is disingenuous for the SRA to claim that they have.

Why hasn't the SRA even sent a warning letter? Perhaps because it does not
share the sense of outrage and shock that I felt upon receiving these
communications or because this is the standard of communications which is
acceptable in modern society?

What justification is there for allowing such communications to go on for
4+ years unchecked?

What is the average length of investigations you have detailed in your
table of complaints / investigations?

How is allowing such improper communication to go on for 4 years
unchecked:

(a)protecting and promoting the public interest;

(b)supporting the constitutional principle of the rule of law;

[...]

(d)protecting and promoting the interests of consumers;

[..]

(g)increasing public understanding of the citizen's legal rights and
duties;

(h)promoting and maintaining adherence to the professional principles.

Please explain how the email communication of 20.09.21 has achieved any of
these things, or indeed a 13-month investigation (which has yielded no
action), and only instigated after 3+ years of complaining.

Let's be clear, some of these vile communications were sent while your
investigators were conducting their forensic investigation. Your FIO might
even have been in the offfice when they were sent (!) and these are only
the tip of the iceberg of alleged misconduct, as you well know. However,
perhaps standards have fallen so low that these comments are acceptable
and hence the SRA's inaction - please tell me if this is the case and I
will stop wasting your time.

So there are 4 questions here:

1. What is the average time for your investigations into the use of
inappropriate language? Is four years the norm?

2. Does the SRA combine more than one course of action i.e. a warning
letter followed by a fine, followed by an SDT prosecution?

3. Are the examples of inappropriate language I have given considered
acceptable in modern society?

4. How is the SRA achieving its LSA 2007 objectives by allowing alleged
misconduct to go on under its nose for more than four years and even
during a forensic investigation?

Yours sincerely,

F Lewis

show quoted sections

Dear SRA Information Compliance,

Usual vague response from the SRA showing zero accountability. This is an individual that has been under the SRA's scrutiny for 10 years (!) and is still being allowed by the SRA to break all the rules; systematically and repeatedly.

The investigator's update threw no light on the matter, which is par for the course.

I understand that it will take at least 2 years for the SRA to confirm any misconduct which is of little use to anyone. The reputation of the legal profession is being brought into disrepute BECAUSE of its regulator.

Yours sincerely,

Frances Lewis

SRA Information Compliance, Solicitors Regulation Authority

This is an automated response
Thank you for contacting the Information Governance and Compliance Team at
the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA).

We aim to respond to request for information under our Transparency Code
requests within 20 working days. Information on how we handle these
requests, including a copy of our Transparency Code, can be found on our
website here<http://www.sra.org.uk/sra/how-we-work/tr...>.

We will process and respond to requests under the Data Protection
Legislation ( including Subject Access Requests) within the statutory
timeframes.

This mailbox does not deal with reports about solicitors. For information
about how to report an individual or firm please see our website
here<http://www.sra.org.uk/consumers/problems...>.

 

For information on how we handle your personal data, see our [1]privacy
notice.
This email is intended for the addressee only. This includes any
attachments. Its unauthorised use, further processing, storage or copying
is not allowed. If you are not the intended recipient, please let the
sender know and then destroy all copies.
Please note the sender is not authorised to conclude any contract on
behalf of the Solicitors Regulation Authority by email.
We are the regulator of solicitors and law firms in England and Wales. The
Solicitors Regulation Authority Limited is a company limited by guarantee.
Our registered offices are: The Cube, 199 Wharfside Street, Birmingham, B1
1RN. Our company registration number is: 12608059.

References

Visible links
1. http://www.sra.org.uk/dpa

We don't know whether the most recent response to this request contains information or not – if you are Frances Lewis please sign in and let everyone know.