We are not institutionally racist. SRA October 2007
This is not housing law related, but it is of significance to many in the sector.
Lord Ouseley, the former head of the Commission for Racial Equality, was jointly commissioned by the Solicitors Regulatory Authority and the Society of Black Lawyers to conduct an independent investigation into the SRA’s treatment of BME solicitors and firms, in a perhaps belated response to repeated complaints that BME firms were disproportionately targeted for interventions and that complaints and disciplinary proceedings were also handled in a discriminatory way. Even at the level of referrals of law students for character or suitability assessments, black and asian students are disproportionately represented.
The report finds that the very way the SRA operates has ‘potential discriminatory effects’, and that
Potentially this still leaves the SRA open to the charge of institutional racism, as its policies, procedures, practices and actions, however unintended, can be seen to have disproportionate detrimental and discriminatory outcomes for BME solicitors
Awareness of the problem and progress on diversity issues at the the SRA is negligible, as management
regard the commitment to equality and diversity as superficial, tokenistic and unimportant.
And some SRA staff are quite simply racist:
Not to be under-estimated is the level of prejudice and bias which exists among personnel in this and other similar organisations
some ethnic minority lawyers are judged to be guilty through racist stereotyping before an investigation is started (Guardian precis)
The report makes 39 recommendations, and demands ‘urgent, active and swift implementation’. Any chance of that? Well the current SRA leadership might have problems as the report found that:
The SRA at present lacks the drive and the equality and diversity competence within its managerial and leadership spheres to make the changes happen.
This is a pretty devastating condemnation of the practices and culture of the SRA. Let us hope it marks a watershed moment.