Report reveals racism at the heart of the UK legal profession
The in-depth study was commissioned by minority lawyers’ groups which included the Society of Black Lawyers; the Society of Asian Lawyers; the Association of Muslim Lawyers and the Black Solicitors Network following pressure from Bridgette Prentice MP, Junior Minister at the Ministry of Justice and Keith Vaz MP, chair of the Home Affairs Select Committee. Both the Law Society and the SRA co-operated with the investigation.
Lord Ouseley’s methodology involved not only statistical analysis of the SRA’s treatment of ethnic minority solicitors over the last five years, but interviews with members of staff and minority solicitors who were able to make representations.
The damning report spoke of a “lack of leadership” and “a culture of bias” against ethnic minority solicitors, leading to a disproportionate number experiencing serious interference with their professional practice and reputation.
Peter Herbert, chair of the Society of Black Lawyers and a member of the working party that commissioned the report stated:
“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 SBL and other stakeholder groups are calling for:
- A steering committee to be established chaired by a Government Minister to implement the recommendations.
- All current investigations of ethnic minority solicitors to be suspended and past investigations to be subjected to an independent and impartial review.
- A new SRA Board and chief executive to be appointed forthwith with diversity and equalities expertise as one of the criteria for selection.
- All SRA staff to be given equality and diversity training as a matter of urgency
- All previous findings against ethnic minority solicitors since the inception of the SRA to be subject to an independent and impartial review.
- 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.
- All outstanding race discrimination tribunal actions by ethnic minority-led firms to be settled forthwith.
- 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.